AP NEWS

Morningside condo plan held up in Conservation Commission

April 11, 2019

WESTPORT — A proposal to build a 19-condo affordable housing development on the property of a historic Greens Farms home is being held up by the town’s Conservation Commission.

“Additional information was submitted by the applicant, and the commissioners and peer reviewers need more time to analyze the information,” Conservation Department Director Alicia Mozian said of the commission’s decision to continue the hearing on the 20-26 Morningside Drive South application until its May 9 meeting.

Morningside Drives Homes LLC submitted the application in October to Westport’s Planning and Zoning Department and wrote in the application that they plan to, “demolish the farmhouse on 26 Morningside, and in its place, construct 19 three-bedroom townhouse dwelling units in five buildings.”

Six of the units are proposed to be income restricted, which allows the application to qualify under the 8-30g statute of the Connecticut General Statutes.

Westport received a four-year moratorium on 8-30g applications last month, but Morningside Drive Homes submitted its application before the moratorium went into effect on March 15, and thus the statute still applies to the project.

In towns without a moratorium, any 8-30g application brought before the town’s zoning board can skirt local building regulations and only be denied on traffic, safety or environmental grounds. The Conservation Commission’s assessment, therefore, has the power to stop the project or greenlight it to the Planning and Zoning Commission for final review.

“We’re looking obviously at what, if any, impact there is to wetlands and watercourses. That is our purvey. We look at things like water quality, sediment and erosion control, repairing, buffers, flooding, drainage, and grating,” Mozian said.

Morningside’s lawyer, Hartford-based attorney David S. Hoopes, said he believes the commission should approve the application because a number of engineers and soil scientists who have testified before the group say the project will not harm the wetlands whatsoever.

“We’re actually going to improve the flooding situation rather than worsen it, and that is really not subject to scientific debate,” Hoopes said.

A group of seven Westport residents who live near the proposed project, meanwhile, disagree with Hoopes and have filed as intervenors in the case under the Connecticut Environmental Protection Act.

The intervenors even hired their own lawyer, Bridgeport-based attorney Patricia Sullivan, who did not respond to call for comment, in addition to outside experts to testify about the project’s impact on the wetlands.

“This whole area is overflooding with so much construction that these people are trying to really build on top of wetlands. Flooding is a big concern,” said Aurea de Souza, one of the residents listed in the intervenor case.

The Morningside application will next come before the Conservation Commission on May 9.

svaughan@hearstmediact.com; 203-842-2638; @SophieCVaughan1