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Date: Fri 04-Oct-1996

Date: Fri 04-Oct-1996

Publication: Bee

Author: ANDYG

Quick Words:

P&Z-lawsuit-Stefanko-HHH

Full Text:

Couple Sues Over Habitat Housing Plan

B Y A NDREW G OROSKO

A Sandy Hook couple that lives next to the Philo Curtis Road site planned for

the construction of two affordable houses has sued the Planning and Zoning

Commission (P&Z) and the developer over the town's approval of the project.

In documents filed in Danbury Superior Court, John and Carina Stefanko of 71

Philo Curtis Road sue the P&Z and Housatonic Habitat for Humanity (HHH) over

the P&Z's September 5 decision to permit HHH to build two owner-occupied

affordable single-family houses for low- and moderate-income families next to

the Stefanko residence.

The town owns the 3.5-acre parcel upon which the P&Z gave HHH permission to

create a two-lot residential subdivision. The town has planned to give HHH the

land for the affordable housing project.

In the suit, the Stefankos state they are aggrieved by the decision to allow

the subdivision because they own land next to the site and will suffer the

direct adverse effects of traffic and hazardous waste from that site.

The Stefankos claim that in approving the subdivision, the P&Z acted

illegally, arbitrarily and abuse of the discretion vested in it because: the

P&Z improperly created rear house lots in violation of the town zoning

regulations; excavation and filling planned for the subdivision will uncover

or disturb hazardous waste or petroleum products buried on the site by the

town in the past; the contaminants are likely to harm the Stefankos and others

in violation of the town's zoning and subdivision regulations; and traffic

from the site will interfere with the Stefanko's driveway easement granted by

the town.

The HHH subdivision was one of the last such subdivisions to be considered

involving one-acre, rear lot zoning. The P&Z repealed one-acre rear-lot zoning

August 12. The commission accepted HHH's development proposal for review on

August 1, thus allowing the application to be considered as a rear-lot

development project.

The affordable housing proposal encountered various delays before reaching the

P&Z for review. The delays involved deed restrictions on the land proposed for

development.

At past public meetings on the HHH proposal, John Stefanko has said he fears

that if low-income housing is built nearby, his property's value would

decrease. "I don't want anything taken from me that I've worked so hard to

achieve," he said recently.

Mr Stefanko has said he doesn't object to one house being built next to him,

but two houses are one house too many, crowding the area.

Other people at public meetings, however, have stressed the need for local

affordable housing. Nancy Gossling of Country Squire Road has said the

development proposal provides an opportunity to build two affordable houses,

an opportunity which should be seized because it's unclear when another such

opportunity might arise again.

HHH is an independent, non-profit affiliate of the international Christian

housing ministry based in Americus, Georgia. Volunteers and low-income

families work together using tax-deductible donations of money and materials

to build new homes.

The Stefankos are represented by Danbury Attorney Ward Mazzucco in the lawsuit

against the P&Z and HHH. The town and HHH are scheduled to appear in court

November 12 to answer the claims made in the suit.