Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Vernon sets hearing date for changes in housing rules

By Jason Rowe
Journal Inquirer
September 19, 2005

VERNON — A plan to remove provisions for age-restricted housing took a step forward last week when the Planning and Zoning Commission scheduled a public hearing on the issue for the first week in November.

On Thursday, the PZC formally accepted an application from Town Planner Thomas J. Joyce Jr. requesting that provisions defining "housing for the elderly" be removed from zoning regulations.

The public hearing has been scheduled for the commission's Nov. 3 meeting, which is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. in the senior center on Park Place.

If the proposed changes are approved, developers looking to build age-restricted housing would be required to abide by the same housing density regulations as developers proposing traditional housing developments.

Any changes to the zoning regulations would not affect housing developments that already have been approved or built.

The idea of removing the housing definitions surfaced early last month when Joyce recommended to the PZC that it consider making the changes.

In 1985, officials added a provision to the zoning regulations allowing public agencies and nonprofit organizations to set up low-cost housing for elderly residents on fixed incomes to live together in a community setting.

In 1999, that regulation was amended to define age-restricted housing as being directed at people 55 and older.

As a result, developers suddenly could construct unsubsidized, market-rate homes, Joyce said last month.

And in many cases, developers could develop more housing units if the proposed development was an age-restricted community.

For example, a developer with a 40,000-square-foot property in the R-10 zone would be able to develop a maximum of four single-family or two-family homes on four 10,000-square-foot lots.

But if a developer were to propose age-restricted housing, that number could increase to as many as 20 units for the entire parcel, Joyce said.

In recent years, the number of age-restricted housing developments in town has increased.

One of the biggest projects is the Quail Hollow development off Dart Hill Road, which has grown into three phases with 160 units.

The original 74-unit phase of the development, which is located in a mixed-use zone, was approved in April 2000.

At least two more developments are under construction or approved for construction, while another development is before the Inland Wetlands Commission.

A tentative deal that would allow the Greater Hartford YMCA to construct a regional facility off Mile Hill Road also contains a provision for age-restricted housing on a nearby parcel.

But officials have said the proposed changes in regulations should not adversely impact the town's effort to attract the YMCA facility.