Stratford rejects Broadbridge Avenue multi-family housing plan

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Sporting ear tags, a female deer is among the diverse wildlife living on the Remington Woods property in Bridgeport, Conn. on Monday, September 21, 2015. The property, which occupies over 400 acres in both Bridgeport and Stratford, is being cleaned up with plans for redevelopment by Dupont.

STRATFORD — The Zoning Commission has unanimously voted down a text amendment that would have allowed developers to build multi-family housing on either side of a stretch of Broadbridge Avenue.

The change would have repealed existing zoning code section 5.3 and re-written the measure to allow multi-family residential housing on both sides of Broadbridge between Emerald Place and Success Avenue, which is about three-quarters of a mile, up to a depth of at least 200 feet from the street.

Town Planning and Zoning Administrator Jay Habansky said this could have had an impact on the Remington Woods property. Remington is owned by Sporting Goods Properties Inc., which is a subsidiary of Corteva Agriscience. Habansky said he has not heard anything from Sporting Goods Properties on what the company intends to do with the 70-acre portion of the Woods that is in Stratford.

The state chapter of the Sierra Club put out a petition to voice its concerns with the development of Remington Woods and has garnered over 1,200 signatures from state residents.

“From a broader environmental perspective, protecting Remington Woods can help to cool city air, stabilize local climate, mitigate floods & storms, support biodiversity, stop soil erosion and so much more,” Sierra Club Connecticut community outreach coordinator Jhoni Ada said in a letter to town Planning and Zoning officials in late March.

One side of Broadbridge Avenue is zoned as “single-family housing” and the other, which includes part of the Remington Woods property, is “light industrial,” according to the town’s zoning code.

Ada said that Remington acts as the “last lungs” of the area and that wildlife does not know the difference between Bridgeport and Stratford — the two localities that share the 422-acre property.

The Bridgeport section of the woods was re-zoned from “light industrial” to “residential office center” in December.

“There is just so much of wildlife there that can be preserved,” Ada said. “But if folks aren’t interested in wildlife, there’s a lot of human benefits that comes from saving this amazing piece of land.”

The commission denied it without prejudice, meaning Gold Coast Properties — the firm that forwarded the proposal — could come back to the commission again with modifications in the future. The commission did not receive a hard-copy text to vote on, members said.

The proposed amendment did not include a requirement to deed restrict 15 to 20 percent of units for affordable housing. Stratford is currently shy of the state-required 10 percent housing affordability threshold in Connecticut General Statute 8-30g, which allows for developers to bypass local zoning regulations if a planned project is made up of 30 percent or more in affordable units.

“It should be noted that by not requiring an inclusive housing approach (requiring 15-20% be deed restricted per 8-30g), the Town would be widening the gap that needs to be crossed to reach a 10% affordable housing stock,” Habansky wrote in his analysis of the proposal.

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A pristine lake is one of the many features of the Remington Woods property.

The proposed amendment, which had over 20 clauses, had too many changes needed to be consistent with the town’s Plan of Conservation and Development, he said. The state requires each municipality to create or amend its POCD every 10 years, otherwise the locality will be ineligible for state discretionary funding, according to state law.

The commission also thought that the area text the amendment would cover was incomplete and poorly defined, members said.

Board commissioner Harold Watson, who represents the third zoning district, asked that the Planning and Zoning office to begin drafting its own revisions of section 5.3, which has not been revised in over three decades, according to the zoning code. Watson said it is “critical” to include types of housing discussed in the housing partnership in the revised version of 5.3 — two-, three- and four-family dwellings, town houses, courtyard apartments, cottage courts and live work units.

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The entrance to the Lake Success Business Park and Remington Woods property at the north end of Asylum St., in Bridgeport, Conn. Oct. 12, 2021.

“Those are the types of housing we thought would meet the needs of Stratford above and beyond everything else,” Watson said.

Laura Dancho, who represents the fourth district on the town council, said she hopes to see section 5.3 revised by the Zoning Commission “as intended” in the POCD and not specifically to Broadbridge. Dancho also said she has spoken out in opposition of the text change, citing traffic and safety concerns.

Corteva and attorney Barry Knott, representing Gold Coast Properties, could not be immediately reached for comment.