Affordable housing in Southington continues to face questions

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SOUTHINGTON – An attorney for a proposed affordable housing development on Laning Street questioned whether town officials were giving more scrutiny to the project than others without an affordable component.

During Tuesday night’s meeting,  Planning and Zoning Commission members said they have concerns about safety with a 30-unit age-restricted housing development that local business owner Frank Fragola hopes to build. Some of the units would qualify as affordable, according to state statute.

Since the town doesn’t meet the state’s goal of having 10 percent of its housing stock priced as affordable, Southington officials can only reject affordable housing developments based on public health and safety.

The proposed housing development of 15 duplexes has one entrance and exit. Commissioners asked what would happen if there was a fire or other emergency at the entrance to the development. Bob Salka, a commission member, said a fire could also spread to duplexes farther up the proposed road and leave residents trapped in the back of the development.

“How do those people get out?” he said. “Why don’t we have a second access?”

Bryan Meccariello, an attorney representing Fragola, said the site plans for the development were approved by the town’s Fire Department. He said many other developments have been approved in town with only one way in and out.

Meccariello said two other developments approved by the town at 45 Pacern Lane and 792 South End Road had only a single access point but didn’t include affordable housing. He questioned whether it was a case of the affordable housing project being “picked on” and subject to greater scrutiny.

“They were approved with the same design, the same internal road network,” he said of the other projects. 

Meccariello asked whether there was “different safety (criteria) with affordable housing versus a conventional site plan.”

Salka responded that one application doesn’t set a precedent for all others. Despite hearing the explanation for the single access point, Salka said he still saw the potential for residents to be trapped in an emergency.

“That’s my concern. I don’t feel any better based on what I’ve heard,” he said.

The commissioners also discussed the impact additional houses would have on traffic on Laning Street and nearby intersections. Experts hired by Fragola said the additional traffic would be minimal. Commission members had concerns about more cars traveling in a busy area.

Most of the residents who spoke Tuesday night opposed to the plan.

The commission had not voted on the plan by press time.

jbuchanan@record-journal.com203-317-2230Twitter: @JBuchananRJ

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