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KAH Housing Project is Stalled by ‘Piece of Paper’

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KENT –The Planning and Zoning Commission last week tabled an application from Virginia Bush Suttman to convert an existing building at 8 Bluff Road to a deed-restricted detached dwelling unit accessory to a two- family dwelling. The building would be used for affordable housing.

Suttman owns the property, which has a two-family house on it and an ancillary building used as a studio/office. Formerly, only one additional dwelling unit was allowed on a lot, but last year Suttman, president emeritus of Kent Affordable Housing, spearheaded a change to the zoning regulations that allows a third unit if it is restricted to affordable housing.

Land Use Officer Tai Kern said Suttman’s application is “as usual, very complete” and fulfilled all the requirements except one. “There is only one issue,” she said. “The studio/office has water, but when we reached out to the sewer commission, it was never approved. It has to have a retroactive approval and you can’t issue a permit without sewer and water permission.”

Suttman seemed frustrated. “That’s the story of affordable housing in Kent. There is always something. What is missing is a piece of paper, which we can’t get until the Sewer Commission meets next month,” she said. “I would like to provide a home for a person of modest income to lease in Kent. That’s the whole point of this. I look forward to getting it done when all the T’s are crossed and I’s dotted.”

The construction has been approved by the town building inspector, she related, and no problems are expected. She asked the PZC to approve the application on condition of the water approval, which she said she would present in November. But PZC chairman Matt Winter said, “We should keep the hearing open so we can get the additional documentation. I agree it’s a piece of paper, but a paper we need.”

Suttman said she is doing this to encourage others to create accessory dwelling units on their properties that can be rented or leased to those of lesser means. She referred to the parcel program put in place in the first decade of the new millennium. That program asked landowners with larger properties to donate a lot for the construction of affordable housing. Only one parcel was donated under that program. 

“Only one person bent over backwards to help the KAH with the parcel program,” she said. “I am doing this to inspire someone [else to create an accessory dwelling unit]—and I expect the same response, which is zilch. We have 60 people on the waiting list that are already certified, and I reserve the right for other people to apply who are not on the list. It will cost a minimal amount for this [project].”

Justin Potter, KAH president, said the group is “very much looking forward to getting up and running” on the property.

Winter said that, based on Kern’s report, a couple of conditions would be put on the application, the first being the deed restriction.

In other affordable housing business, First Selectman Jean Speck withdrew her referral to the PZC seeking its stamp of approval for transfer of town-owned land to KAH because a survey is not complete. The deadline for the PZC to make its decision was Oct. 17. 

Kern said a meeting had been held that Thursday afternoon to review what could have been the property line. “There was some discussion about everyone getting a good property line and a usable parcel,” she said. “The wetlands are not yet determined so we will get that delineated. When the map is ready, they will resubmit.”

Kathryn Boughton
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