Stefanoni v. Planning and Zoning Commission of the Town of Darien
A zoning commission can deny an application for affordable housing or attach conditions as a result of serious concerns about traffic and fire safety. The plaintiffs requested zoning permission to raze a single-family residence and to construct 30 2-bedroom units that range from 985 to 1,390 square feet. Units would be restricted to the elderly, and 30 percent of units would be designated as affordable housing. The proposed building would be 3 stories and 39 feet, although the maximum building height in the zoning district is 2.5 stories and 30 feet. The plaintiffs' application included 47 parking spaces. The defendant planning and zoning commission expressed concern that there was inadequate space for emergency vehicles and that the large building obstructed the fire department's access. The planning and zoning commission also was concerned about potential collisions between motor vehicles exiting the property and eastbound traffic. The planning and zoning commission found that substantial public interests in health and safety were greater than the need for affordable housing. The planning and zoning commission granted approval, conditioned on installation of a traffic signal; addition of sidewalks to permit residents to walk safely in front of the property; relocation of a driveway; reduction in the building height to a maximum of 2.5 stories and 30 feet, to provide easier access to firefighters; and inclusion of additional parking spaces. The plaintiffs appealed to the Superior Court. The planning and zoning commission failed to prove that the risk of harm from the building height, to which the fire marshal did not object, was greater than the need for affordable housing. The planning and zoning commission's expert testified that 1.5 parking spaces per unit probably were adequate, and the court found that the commission failed to establish two parking spaces per unit were required. The planning and zoning commission proved that serious safety and traffic concerns were greater than the need for affordable housing. The plaintiffs should receive the opportunity to present a modified plan to address these concerns. The court approved the planning and zoning commission's conditions related to traffic, emergency access and fire safety and remanded to consider modifications.