Spinnaker’s Maritime Village up for a vote Wednesday

NORWALK, Conn. – A proposed South Norwalk development that carries with it a request to amend the affordable housing regulations is up for a public hearing Wednesday.

“I don’t think we should do that for a development,” Zoning Commissioner Nora King said at last week’s Plan Review Committee meeting. “I think if we want to change our affordable housing for zoning we should be doing that as a commission, based on what is in the best interest of the city, not in the best interest of a project.”

The project would also amend the parking regulations and the height requirements.

Spinnaker Real Estate Partners LLC is proposing to construct Maritime Village, a three-building complex at 17 and 19 Day Street, which would include one studio apartment, 46 one-bedroom apartments and 23 two-bedroom apartments. A six-story building would face the Washington Village project at 20 Day St., and a two-story building would house two duplex units, each with three bedrooms. An existing building is also part of the complex, and was referred to be commercial at last week’s meeting.

Spinnaker would like to lower the overall affordability of the project from 30 percent of the units to 20 percent of the units. Of that 20 percent, 10 percent would be workforce, with rent at 80 percent of state median, and 10 percent would be open to those making 100 percent of state median income, to create a “middle tier” of housing.

An “affordable” one-bedroom apartment would rent for $1,127, Senior Planner Dori Wilson said. That same unit would be $1,451 for the “middle tier,” she said. Market rate would be $1,750, Attorney Frank Zullo, who is representing Spinnaker, said.

The project is in Norwalk’s Transit Oriented Development (TOD) zone, where the goal is to increase the density of housing in proximity to the South Norwalk train station. Zoning regulations allow for one housing unit for every 1,650 square feet if the developer includes 10 percent workforce housing, according to Zullo. But a developer can build one unit for every 800 square feet if it includes 30 percent workforce housing, he said. The allowable height of a building also plays into this, as the 800-square-foot option allows for a six-story building, he said. For 1,650 square feet, it’s four stories.

The maximum building height in the revised Transit Oriented Development (TOD) area, near the South Norwalk railroad station, is five stories, so Spinnaker is asking for a modification of the regulations regarding that. Spinnaker also is requesting modified parking regulations. Spinnaker is requesting that it be allowed to put in one parking space for each studio apartment, one for each one-bedroom apartment and two for each two-bedroom apartment, with an average of no less than 1.3 spaces per unit, according to Wilson. That’s a little less than what is required now, she said. The idea is to also apply this zoning regulation amendment to other design districts, including Putnam Reed, Washington Street and South Norwalk business districts, she said.

Talk at last week’s meeting concerned the affordable housing modifications and the proposed width of the sidewalks. Adam Blank and King debated the merits of the rental figures, while most commissioners were silent.

“I would rather have them come to me and say ‘I want to add a couple more stories, I’m going to give you the wide sidewalks, I’m going to give you the parking.’ But I have a problem with someone coming to me, trying to change how we look at affordable housing,” King said.

“I don’t love the tiered model that’s been set up, but the model that I prefer is 10 percent in all zones that allow multifamily housing,” Blank said. “That’s what we have everywhere else. My model would make them a lot more money and would create less of that second tier of workforce housing, so what they are proposing, compared to what I personally like to see, is not as financially beneficial for them. In fact, down the road, we are going to have it at 10 percent.”

“We’re being reactive to a certain developer instead of crafting what we want and put some planning behind it,” King said.

“I don’t disagree that planning is great, it makes a lot of sense and we probably ought to do more,” Blank said. “But in almost every municipality, every regulation is going to be tweaked at one time or another.”

Commissioner Nate Sumpter asked if the sidewalks would have granite curbs, as the new Washington Village will have granite curbs across the street.

The answer was no.

“We don’t have granite curbs,” Zullo said. “We don’t have the subsidy that Washington Village has from the government so they can provide those very expensive curbs.”

An engineer said they were talking about 480 linear feet of sidewalk, but he did not know how much granite curbing would be.

Paxton Kinol of Belpointe Capital, who was at the meeting because The Berkeley application was being given a brief review, said that granite curbs are $48 a linear foot.

King’s issue was the width of the sidewalks. Zullo said they would be on average 9 feet wide, while the regulation calls for 5 feet.

A new sidewalk on Connecticut Avenue, as shown on Oct. 1.
A new sidewalk on Connecticut Avenue, as shown on Oct. 1.

“You’re getting that number, Frank, from DPW,” King said. “We as a city are trying to move forward. We want wider sidewalks. We want 11- to 15-feet sidewalks with new developments. I mean, that’s what we have been asking people for. What you’re doing is you’re saying let’s go to the DPW number.”

“It’s not what DPW tells us, it’s what the regulations say, commissioner. I mean, we have to deal with what is there.  A 9-foot sidewalk is a pretty wide sidewalk,” Zullo said.

Planning and Zoning Director Mike Greene said the new “passable” sidewalk on North Water Street is less than nine feet.

Blank said the new sidewalks on Connecticut Avenue are “probably 5 feet with a telephone pole in the middle.”

“I don’t have an issue with the 9 on Day Street,” Blank said. “I have an issue with what’s on Connecticut Avenue. Nine on Day is OK with me.”


6 responses to “Spinnaker’s Maritime Village up for a vote Wednesday”

  1. John Hamlin

    Approve the proposal. There’s enough low income housing in the area and there’s a need for balance in the City. Norwalk needs to integrate its low income housing throughout the city, not segregate it in SoNo. Easy for those who live in Rowayton to make pronouncement on where to put affordable housing — somewhere else — and to jeopardize development by killing a proposal on that basis.

  2. Taxpayer Fatigue

    I agree with John Hamlin. We need this project to add density to SONO and increase the Grand List. Let’s stop messing around, otherwise we will miss the opportunity – no repeat of 2002-2007 expansion where we missed the board.

  3. Don’t Panic

    From the workforce housing regulations:
    G. Fee-In-Lieu Payment
    (1) Alternative method of Compliance: Pursuant to an application for a Special Exception, the Commission shall allow an alternative method of satisfying the workforce housing requirement, including the payment of an appropriate in-lieu housing fee.

    The city already has a mechanism for a special exception for the workforce housing.

    This is not “Low Income” Housing, but workforce housing meant to be available for people who work and live in Norwalk. $17,000 a year is hardly affordable for someone making $35,000 year or less.

  4. John Hamlin

    Or locate it elsewhere in the city where there is no affordable housing.

  5. Bill

    We have enough affordable housing, it is called south Norwalk, we need more market rate housing and more investment. Only the anti-business, pro-economic malaise people would say no to this development.

  6. Maritime Yards Condo Owner

    Agreed – we need more market rate housing, more population density and more skin in the game form local residents. Approve the project – developing towards the train station will eventually link mass transit to SoNo’s main downtown.

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