Darien’s affordable housing moratorium has once again been upheld by a state superior court judge, The Darien Times learned late Wednesday.
New Britain State Superior Court Judge Carl J. Schuman upheld the moratorium, which was once again called into question by a lawsuit filed by potential developers Chris and Margaret Stefanoni against the state Department of Economic & Community Development, which granted the moratorium, and the town of Darien.
First Selectman Jayme Stevenson told The Darien Times she had just received the decision, which as about 16 pages long, and hadn’t read through it entirely yet.
“From a general perspective the validity of the moratorium has now been scrutinized at least three times and we’re very pleased that the courts have again ruled that the integrity of the moratorium stands,” she said.
Selectman Dave Campbell, who was first selectman at the time the town applied for and received the moratorium, said that he always had confidence in the moratorium.
“The DECD reviewed it and reviewed it again and upheld it,” Campbell said Wednesday. “And I’m glad it’s now been upheld again by the courts. I’m just sorry the town had to spend money to defend a decision that was right in the first place.”
The Stefanonis say the fight will continue despite this being the fourth time that state officials have validated the moratorium.
“This decision was not in any way about the validity of the moratorium itself. The decision was only about whether the moratorium can be challenged in court,” Chris Stefanoni said in an emailed statement to The Darien Times.
“It doesn’t really matter anyway since either way, the case was automatically going to end up in the Appellate Court. This is a long war and we are still just at the beginning,” he said.
Town attorney Wayne Fox pointed out the number of times the moratorium had been upheld after review.
“The application was filed and it was granted, it was reviewed based upon a complaint by the Stefanonis and confirmed a second time, a new commissioner came in and there was a declaratory ruling filed and it was reviewed, confirmed and approved a third time, and this appeal, where a judge of the superior court ruled and approved the fourth time,” he said.
State statute 8-30g allows developers to overstep local zoning laws in towns such as Darien that do not have 10% of its housing classified as affordable. A developer may get around zoning laws if a proposal includes affordable housing.
The town was granted the four-year moratorium by the state in October 2010.
The Darien couple sued the state and the town last year to overturn the affordable housing moratorium granted to Darien.
Another New Britain Superior Court denied a request by the town to dismiss the case in October.
In 2011, the state Department of Economic & Community Development denied a request from the couple that it file a declaratory ruling on the eligibility of some points awarded for the town’s affordable housing moratorium.
Though the department said it considered the town’s moratorium closed, at the time, the couple vowed at the time the “war” with Darien will continue.
Check back for more on this story as it develops.