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North Canaan P&Z weighs affordable housing goals

NORTH CANAAN — Several months of meetings of the local six-member affordable housing steering committee have resulted in distribution of a town-wide survey of residents, analysis of the results, and the drafting of an affordable housing plan with six specified goals.

Goals being suggested include:

Support for first-time homebuyers and assisting existing homeowners with repairs and renovations to help them to remain in their homes;

Expanding housing options for seniors;

Supporting local employers by encouraging homeowners to create rental options, supporting creation of accessory apartments, and assisting residents facing the prospect of homelessness, directing them to existing resources.

The drafted plan is available for review and another survey is open for residents to complete, providing comments on the goals presented in the plan.

Planning consultant Jocelyn Ayer, director of the Litchfield County Center for Housing Opportunity, reviewed the process and the timetable at the regular monthly meeting of the Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z), held on Monday, July 11. 

Ayer reviewed some of the survey findings, including that 230 households are spending half of their income on housing. That statistic, Ayer noted, impacts local businesses and therefore the local economy.

Responses to the survey also indicated that 74% of residents and employers feel that housing costs discourage young families, and 57% saw an impact on numbers of people who work in town being able to live locally.

Ayer explained the role of the P&Z in the process is to review the plan and to certify that the proposed plan is consistent with the town’s Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD).

The P&Z agreed to review the proposed plan, offer suggestions for amendments and reach its determination at its monthly meeting in August.

In the meantime, Ayer urged residents and business owners to review the drafted plan and comment using an on-line survey found at www.surveymonkey.com/r/DRAFTHPNC.

The drafted plan is available for review on the town’s website page devoted to the affordable housing committee and another survey is open for residents to complete, providing comments on the goals presented in the plan.

Comments received through the survey will be considered as the final draft is being prepared to be ready by the end of the summer, Ayer explained.

According to state regulations, Ayer explained, 10% of a town’s housing stock needs to be affordable. At present, North Canaan stands at around 9%. Ayer noted that there are consequences in the form of state action for towns who fail to meet the 10% number.

Preliminary plans for Honey Hill development 

Preliminary drawings for a condominium development on 114 acres bordered by the Housatonic River to hold 51 upscale homes were reviewed by George Johanneson of Allied Engineering in North Canaan. Three homes would front on Honey Hill and the remainder to be constructed in phases would stand along an interior road. There would also be hiking trails and a clubhouse, all to be governed by a homeowners’ association. Plans describe two septic pumping stations that would connect to lines leading to the town’s treatment facility. Or, the developers might decide on individual septic tanks for each home or every few homes. Johanneson said that the homes would likely be used as weekend or vacation homes by their owners.

P&Z Chairman Tim Abbott noted that if and when the application is brought forward for consideration by the P&Z, he would need to recuse himself because of his professional connection with the Housatonic Valley Association.

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