P&Z approves affordable apartment, welcomes new member

Newly appointed P&Z alternate Alison Sternberg participates in the April 10 meeting. — Brad Durrell photo

Newly appointed P&Z alternate Alison Sternberg participates in the April 10 meeting. — Brad Durrell photo

An affordable accessory apartment on Burr Street has received zoning approval.

During its April 10 meeting, the Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously voted in favor of the residential apartment at the Linnane family home, 101 Burr Street, near the Fairfield border.

The vote came after a public hearing on the proposal, during which no one spoke for or against the plan. One neighbor submitted a letter seeking information and raising some concerns that were discussed by the P&Z.

The two-bedroom apartment will be 933 square feet and have two dedicated on-site parking spaces. It is to be built above a three-door garage in a barn connected to the main house with a structure containing a mudroom and laundry room. A flight of stairs from the connecting structure will go to the apartment.

Land Use Director John Hayes said the plan “appears to comply quite well” with the town’s affordable accessory apartment regulations.

To qualify as an affordable accessory apartment, the Linnanes will need to comply with state affordability rules that determine what rent can charged, based on a region’s income levels and housing costs. The owners will need to show the town annually they are meeting these affordability rules.

The 3.1-acre property has a well and a septic system built to serve six bedrooms. There are no wetlands issues, and the property is not in the public drinking water supply watershed. The existing house has three bedrooms.

The application states the plan would be “in harmony” with the adjacent neighborhood and have a limited impact on traffic, and the apartment could “readily” be turned into part of the single-family home if necessary in the future.

The approval motion that noted the affordable accessory apartment “will serve a community need” by providing housing for those with moderate incomes, and have a “minimal” impact on the surrounding area.

The town’s affordable accessory apartment regulations are intended to allow affordable rental housing units to be created in Easton, but the regulations come with restrictions from the state affordability guidelines. The town currently has 15 affordable accessory apartments.

Three members of the Linnane family were present at the meeting — Michael Jr. and Patricia and their son Matthew. After the vote, Michael Linnane Jr. thanked zoning and building staff for their assistance with the application process.

Norton Road

The P&Z looked over a draft agreement with the owner of a Norton Road property who has been accused of preparing firewood for commercial purposes in a residential zone, and violating a prior agreement with the town in the process.

Attorney Daniel Silver, representing Nathan Brito of 33 Norton Road, submitted the draft of a new agreement based on conversations with zoning staff and P&Z Chairman Robert Maquat.

The draft agreement would allow Brito to cut and store firewood for personal use only on his land. Wood-cutting activity would be limited to 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays, and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays, with none allowed on Sunday.

The new agreement would allow Brito to store one limited-size commercial vehicle, a tractor and a wood splitter on his property, and to enter the rear of his property by an accessway for maintenance purposes. It would prohibit any on-site commercial activity, such as preparing and storing wood for sale.

“The emphasis is on personal use only,” P&Z Chairman Robert Maquat said.

Several neighbors have complained about activity on Brito’s property, and in December 2016 the town issued a zoning violation notice against him.

Maquat said the 2012 agreement with the town had sharply limited Brito’s ability to use a second accessway to get to the back of his property. Now Brito might be given more access as long as what he is doing on the property is non-commercial, he said.

Maquat said the idea is to set ground rules on what is allowed and not allowed. “This is supposed to tone this down,” Maquat said of the new agreement.

Member Wallace Williams said he would like the agreement to offer more “clarity” on specifically what is allowed and prohibited, perhaps through more input from Zoning Enforcement Officer Phil Doremus. For instance, Williams wondered if it would be acceptable for someone to cut wood every day and store as much as 50 cords of wood on their property.

Other members appeared to agree with Williams’s concerns. Voting member Ross Ogden said he could “sympathize” with neighbors’ concerns about the 2012 agreement being allegedly violated. “They cut a deal, and now that deal is being rearranged,” Ogden said,

Driveway grade

The P&Z unanimously voted to allow a driveway on Honeysuckle Hill Lane to have a steeper than normal grade for 50 feet.

Applicant Margaret Mary Kane was seeking to have a grade above 12% but below 15% for up to 50 feet in a driveway. The regulations state that the P&Z “may” allow such an exception in a driveway section with no curves.

Hayes said the submitted driveway plan might have to be altered slightly to eliminate any curve within the steep grade.

Joseph Giacobbe, general contractor on the project, said the issue will be addressed. “That’s what we’ll end up doing,” he said.

Giacobbe, of Joseph Giacobbe Construction LLC, represented the property owner at the meeting. The approval motion said the proposal was “within the regulations.”

Winery, brewery rules

During its ongoing discussion to update the town’s zoning regulations, the P&Z discussed possible rules for allowing wineries and breweries at farms in Easton.

The idea is to make agricultural land financially sustainable by allowing certain uses consistent with the town’s long-term goals.

Some of the issues involve how much land a farm would need to have to host such an operation (perhaps a minimum of 25 or 50 acres); if a minimum amount of land would need to be dedicated to growing items related to the wine, beer or hard cider; and whether only products made on-site — or perhaps within Connecticut — could be sold or consumed at the facility.

It’s likely a winery or brewery would have to be an accessory use to a primary residence, meaning the owner or operator would have to live on the property.

Demolition extension

The P&Z gave a one-month extension, through June 7, for the demolition of an existing house at 24 Mills Lane. Ralph and Katherine Kuhn are constructing a new house on the property, and plan to knock down the old home.

The demolition is expected to take place in May, once the certificate of occupancy has been secured for the new house.

New member

Newly appointed alternate Alison Sternberg attended the April 10 meeting but did not vote on matters because she had yet to be sworn in to the position.

Sternberg, a 25-year town resident and real estate agent, was welcomed by Maquat and other members. “You’ll be up to speed soon enough,” said Maquat, noting there can be a learning curve to getting to know the zoning regulations.

P&Z member Wallace Williams, left, and Land Use Director John Hayes, right, look at a site plan during the April 10 commission meeting, with P&Z clerk Margaret Anania seated in the middle. — Brad Durrell photo

P&Z member Wallace Williams, left, and Land Use Director John Hayes, right, look at a site plan during the April 10 commission meeting, with P&Z clerk Margaret Anania seated in the middle. — Brad Durrell photo

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