Apartment building proposed for Save the Children property

March 8, 2018 GMT

WESTPORT — A new 16-unit condominium building was proposed for a portion of the Save the Children Property, with an interesting twist to how the developers hope to meet the affordable housing requirements for the project.

Per Planning and Zoning statutes, most new construction developments require a component of the units proposed be designated affordable housing, but recently, several Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) members have touted the benefits of off-site affordable housing.

Democrat Danielle Dobin campaigned on the idea, promoting off-site affordable housing as a way to preserve antique homes in town.

Developers can purchase and restore older homes, Dobin explained, converting them to affordable housing as a way to satisfy the affordable housing component of new construction projects. This, she said, would allow the new construction project to be sold, or rented, at market rate, rather than “affordable” prices.

Since Dobin was elected in November, March 1 was the first time a developer went before P&Z, looking to take advantage of off-site affordable housing.

The 16-unit apartment building project at 54 Wilton Road would be built with no affordable component because David Waldman proposed the affordable housing be located off-site at 136 Riverside Ave. The plan is in its preliminary stages and both components — 54 Wilton Road and 136 Riverside Ave. —are still separate items before P&Z.

On March 1, P&Z did not make a decision on whether to approve a special permit and coastal site plan for the 16-unit building, choosing instead to continue the hearing until its next meeting on March 8.

STC Green LLC bought the Save the Children property in 2013 for $11,925,000 and Waldman has worked as the developer on the project ever since.

“We’re already under construction for the first stage of the project — a 26,000-foot two-story office building, which is an adaptive reuse of the old Save the Children property,” Waldman said. This next proposal for the 16 dwelling units would demolish the remaining structure on the Save the Children property to make way for the condominiums, Waldman added.

Meanwhile, the town currently owns 136 Riverside Ave., the property Waldman hopes to convert to affordable housing to satisfy the requirement for the proposed Save the Children condos.

Speaking on behalf of First Selectman Jim Marpe’s administration, former Selectwoman Helen Garten said the town bought 136 Riverside Ave. in connection with the expansion of Saugatuck Elementary School and turned part of the property into a parking lot and new entry for the school. The 1882 Queen Anne-style home on the property was originally intended for school and office space, but the space is no longer needed so the town has decided to sell the property.

“The town already owns a number of similar residential properties that are sitting completely empty,” Garten said.

After putting the property on the market, Waldman, under the auspices of his firm, David Adam Realty, gave the highest bid, Garten said, with an offer of $615,000, which was in excess of the towns offering price of $550,000.

“David would like to use this property to fill a real housing void in our community: the need for high quality, safe and affordable living space for developmentally-disabled young adults,” Garten said.

Waldman, who has a 21-year-old daughter who is developmentally disabled, said the home would house six developmentally-disabled adults in addition to caregivers.

“The biggest issue we have for all of us is when our kids are 21, the state doesn’t have funds that are identifying this as a need and it’s difficult,” Waldman said.

While P&Z delayed the vote on 54 Wilton Road, they unanimously voted to provide the first selectman with a positive report regarding the sale of 136 Riverside Ave.

P&Z is expected to take up debate over the application for the former Save the Children property at its March 8 meeting.

svaughan@hearstmediact.com; @SophieCVaughan1