Wallingford planners consider options to boost town center housing development

WALLINGFORD — The Planning and Zoning Commission is considering redesigning the Incentive Housing Zone to allow for higher residential density in the area around North Cherry Street and Railroad Green.

At a density workshop the commission hosted on Thursday, members discussed how to encourage more residential development in the lower downtown, particularly from the perspective of affordable housing, to create more activity in the region.

“One of the things that creates a viable downtown is having people there and certainly in that area we indicated or felt a while ago that was one of the key areas to look for development or redevelopment in this area,” the Commission said. President Jim Seichter.

Planner Kevin Pagini will develop alternative plans for the Incentive Housing Zone with a set of sub-districts with different permitted densities. He said commissioners are currently considering increasing the allowable density to 50 units per acre for a stretch of North Cherry Street north of Hall Avenue. They also plan to increase density for the rest of the incentive housing area, clustered around the historic train station, above the current 26 units per acre, but the undetermined figure would be lower than North Cherry Street.

Commission member Jim Fitzsimmons said the state’s encouragement of higher-density residential development around train stations and transit hubs has led to redevelopment in other towns, particularly the along the coastline.

“The changes you see along the Metro North line…but specifically Milford, Milford has really converted its factories during the pandemic into residential housing,” he said. “…Eventually people will want to go back to the office and or they will take the train because gas is more expensive, parking, I mean all these problems.”

No development has used the incentive housing area since its inception in 2014, although a request from Vigliotti Construction was to build a four-story mixed-use development at 28 N. Colony Rd. that would have had more than 40 units . The PZC denied this request on March 14, 2022 due to increased density, as well as several other changes to the city’s zoning regulations that would have been required, although commissioners said discussions on the increased density could allow such projects in the future.

Economic development specialist Tim Ryan said Vigliotti is a proven developer in the city who has submitted a strong bid, but the city needs to finish its density conversation before such a project can proceed. The Branford-based company is run by Alex Vigliotti, according to state records.

“Mr. Viglioti, at 50 units per acre, he has the vision, he has the energy, he has the capital. He is a successful developer, he is a buy and hold developer as he l did with Parker Place,” Ryan said. “…So I think we have the right developer, we just have to find the right combination to make his project work.

Ryan said he believes the problem that has prevented development in the incentive housing area is the current housing market, rather than density, and the cost to developers of buying some of the particular plots in the area. area.

“I don’t want anyone to think this isn’t happening because the regulations are too strict. The market will always be more powerful than any regulator can be and the market right now, owners say:” We are not willing to assemble, we are not willing to sell at a reasonable price,” he said.

Ryan said developers have also highlighted the need for affordable housing as a barrier to the financial viability of projects, due to tight margins that make it difficult to include units whose deed is limited to lower rent that can be invoice.

“In our conversations over time with developers, the affordable component has been a sticking point for many of them because what it does is it leads to act restrictions on the property that make ownership somewhat difficult to manage,” he said.

Deed restrictions are a state requirement for affordable housing to be considered part of a municipality’s affordable housing inventory. If less than 10% of a municipality’s housing is not considered affordable, local zoning boards have reduced authority to deny applications with an affordable component under state law.

Journalist Devin Leith-Yessian can be reached at [email protected]

David H. Henry