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Laying out the facts for housing hearing

CORNWALL — A public hearing on a special permit application for an elderly housing development in Cornwall Bridge has been set for Feb. 8 by the Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z).

The Cornwall Housing Corporation (not a town agency) is proposing to build a 10-apartment complex on Route 7 in the village center. The homes will be available to anyone who meets age and income requirements, regardless of where they currently live. The development will be subsidized under Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Section 202.

The project has its detractors. Among them is Cornwall Bridge resident Joanne Wojtusiak, who chairs the Zoning Board of Appeals. She says the project does not fit within the guidelines of the Town Plan of Conservation and Development.

During a discussion at the Jan. 11 P&Z meeting, Wojtusiak asked if information on a recently completed final plan would be made available prior to the hearing.

CHC President Maggie Cooley said they are not interested in “surprising anybody.†They will aim to have information available by Feb. 1 at Town Hall and online at cornwallhousingcorporation.com.

 P&Z members nixed an idea for CHC to also post the information at cornwallct.org after Wojtusiak demanded the opposition should get equal space. Since the Cornwall website is controlled by a committee of citizens, not the town, P&Z determined it should not endorse the idea.

CHC has been holding well-attended informational meetings during the lengthy process. There is still a wealth of misinformation circulating. After the last meeting in the fall, they issued a written statement answering the most common concerns raised.

In summary:

• Under the HUD Section 202 program, the homes are available to those age 62 and older. Disabled people under the age of 62 would not qualify.

• Bonding for the project was considered, but rejected because it would become a tax burden CHC wanted to avoid. The federal HUD subsidies will not only help with the more than $2 million in construction costs, but also with a projected $50,000 annual operating cost.

• Bonding may have provided autonomy in decision-making. Some have said the homes should go to current Cornwall residents first. But fair housing laws prohibit discrimination based on residency.

• Making the one-bedroom apartments bigger would work against the goal of providing affordable housing. Similar projects elsewhere have waiting lists. The standard is rent that is 30 percent of income.

“According to our explorations in neighboring towns,†the statement read, â€people who chose to come live here will be extremely happy with the trade-off of space for economy.â€

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