The Mansfield Planning and Zoning Commission voted unanimously to pass a nine month moratorium on new multi-family housing development Tuesday evening.
Beginning Sept. 12, the commission will not receive applications to establish or expand multi-family housing development in Mansfield for a period of up to nine months. The commission suggested the moratorium to give themselves time to update the town’s multi-family housing regulations to align with its Plan of Conservation and Development without having to consider new applications, said director of planning and development Linda Painter at a Sept. 6 public hearing at Mansfield Town Hall.
If the commission is able to update the regulations in less than nine months, the moratorium may be ended early, Painter said.
The moratorium could delay construction of a new apartment complex at the former Huskies location on King Hill Road by up to two years, said spokesperson Susan Hays on behalf of Wilmorite, the project’s developer. The new development, which has not been approved under the commission’s current regulations, would allow students to rent individual rooms in two, three or four bedroom apartments.
Hays requested that the commission exempt Wilmorite’s King Hill Road development from the moratorium because it would need to come online at the beginning of the University of Connecticut’s fall semester in order to be profitable.
“With the type of housing that we’re talking about, you have a very limited window in which to lease up,” Hays said. “If you miss that window, you basically lose an entire year.”
Making an exemption for multi-family developments closer to campus would also prevent students from moving into single-family homes in Mansfield, said Ben Wiles, speaking as an attorney for Wilmorite.
“In my view, the King Hill project would reduce the pressure of conversions and divert students to a different area,” Wiles said.
Approving the moratorium could also impair Mansfield’s ability to meet Connecticut’s requirement that towns contain at least 10 percent affordable housing by 2020, said Dorian Reiser Famiglietti, an attorney speaking on behalf of the Mansfield Nonprofit Housing Development Corporation. Plans for a development on Eagleville Road that would contain over 40 percent affordable housing will be delayed, and projects cannot apply for grants until they are approved locally, Famiglietti told the commission.
“We will have to pick up in nine months from where we left off, the plans we have developed to date could be meaningless,” Famiglietti said. “Who knows what kind of money will be available in the future.”
Committee member Kenneth Rawn, who motioned to approve the proposal, said that the regulations need to be updated to address the difficulties that have prevented these projects from being approved under the current system.
“All of the cases have certain merits and I’m particularly attracted to the ideas about affordable housing, but I do find in at least two of the cases the projects don’t work because of current regulations, so it seems to me that it strengthens the argument that we need the time to write these new multi-family regulations,” Rawn said before the vote.
Allison Hill, a Mansfield resident, told the commission she opposes exemptions to the moratorium due to environmental concerns in the plan of conservation and development.
“I am not in favor of exemptions to any moratorium because it plays to favorites and because many of the environmental issues that would affect a project are constant regardless of use,” Hill said.
David Freudman, also a Mansfield resident, said putting a moratorium on multi-family housing will cause students to move into more single-family homes in the area and interfere with the free market.
“As a rule I don’t like the idea of the government saying to developers, business people, that we’re going to throw a wrench in their work,” Freudman told the commission. “I’m not carrying a torch for any of these developers, I have no dog in this fight, I just don’t think it’s fair to say to people you can’t get a permit under any circumstances.”
The moratorium will have no impact on student renters living in converted single-family homes in Mansfield, or on what UConn can do on its own property said Joann Goodwin, chair of the Planning and Zoning Commission.
Kimberly Armstrong is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.