State Senator Tony Hwang’s bill that would amend Connecticut’s Affordable Housing law to exclude Easton from the affordable housing appeals process will not move forward according to statements from state legislators and other local officials.

Hwang’s proposed Senate Bill No. 877 “An Act Concerning the Affordable Housing Appeals Process and Watershed Protection Land” sought to amend 8-30g, the state’s affordable housing law, to exempt Easton and other other municipalities with over 70 percent of watershed-protected land from the affordable housing appeals process. 

Current law 8-30g allows developers to bring municipalities with less than 10 percent affordable housing to court for rejecting proposals that do not conform to local zoning regulations.

Hwang’s bill was referred to the Joint Committee on Housing but did not advance out of the committee because several committee members felt 8-30g already protects municipalities from high density housing being built on watershed-protected land.

During a Feb. 28 Housing Committee public hearing, State Rep. Geoff Luxenberg, House Chair of the Housing Committee, pointed out that the protections being sought for Easton are already in place.

“The protection you are looking for already exists. You will win any appeal under current law if there is serious environmental or water safety [issues]. Public safety is one of the stated reasons why you can successfully win, and you have the additional layer of protection locally of inland and wetland and commission that any project has to get through,” said Luxenberg.

It is also unlikely that the bill will be attached or included as an amendment to any other housing bill coming before the end of the legislative session which ends June 7.

“Unfortunately, during the public hearing on this proposal, Democratic leaders of the committee made it clear they don’t feel the legislation is necessary as current 8-30g laws would protect municipalities,” said Republican State Rep. Tony Scott, who represents Easton, Monroe and Trumbull, and is a ranking member of the legislature’s Housing Committee.

Hwang’s bill would not have exempted Easton from achieving the required 10 percent threshold of affordable housing stock, but sought only to exempt Easton from the appeals process if a developer seeking to build high-density housing challenges a decision made by local boards and commissions.

Many Easton residents wrote and testified in support of the bill or amending it to any existing housing bill or any modification of 8-30g that comes out of the Housing Committee. Local groups and residents also previously fought a lengthy legal battle against a proposal from Saddle Ridge Developers LLC that sought to build affordable housing units on watershed land in Easton.

Scott said he would have backed the bill because of the significant amount of time and money it will take for a municipality to defend itself against future lawsuits brought against the town as part of the current appeals process.

In a March 3 message to the town, First Selectman Bindelglass said “it is widely expected that the bill will never make it to the senate floor and will never be approved,” but he thanked Easton residents for participating in the process. “It is important that this issue be kept in the forefront, particularly as affordable housing is an important issue in our state.”

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