Compromise is probably not a word that comes to mind in Darien when it comes to potential affordable housing developers Chris and Margaret Stefanoni.
But maybe now, it will be.
The Stefanonis are currently in litigation with the town on two 8-30g affordable housing projects, one on Hoyt Street and one in Toekeneke. The court recently decided in favor of the Stefanonis on their appeal on the town’s denial of an 8-30g project at Leroy and West Avenues. The town is hoping to appeal that decision.
State statute 8-30g allows developers to overstep local zoning regulations if the town doesn’t meet the 10% requirement set by the state. Darien was granted a four-year moratorium from the statute in late 2010 — one of only a handful of towns in the state to acheive it. The Stefanonis have also contested the validity of that moratorium for the last few years in court.
Chris Stefanoni told The Darien Times he has had at least one buyer interested in one of if not all three of the couple’s properties active in the court system right now. He also said he is interested in returning to discussions with the town to reach a compromise on the projects.
Stefanoni said he initially proposed opening up a dialogue with the town at a recent court date with one of the town’s attornies.
The couple originally proposed a 16-unit, age-restricted condominium complex on their 0.47 acre property at the corner of Leroy and West in 2008. The town approved a modified plan saying that some aspects and sight lines caused safety hazards. A judge earlier this year decided in favor of the Stefanonis, saying the need for affordable housing outweighed the safety concerns.
The town’s Planning & Zoning Commission denied two other 8-30g projects in 2011 — one on Hoyt and one on Pheasant Run. In both cases, the commission said the projects could not move forward without modifications for safety reasons. The Stefanonis appealed both of those decisions and both of the court battles over those projects began this summer.
The town has spent about $500,000 in legal bills over the last two fiscal years on Stefanoni issues.
The Department of Justice recently closed a two-year investigation on the town’s housing regulations, saying that no further action is required.
First Selectman Jayme Stevenson told The Darien Times she had no first-hand knowledge of what the Stefanonis might be thinking.
Stefanoni told The Darien Times it is “such a bad idea for taxpayers to keep paying untold hundreds of thousands of dollars to the town’s lawyers to fight my senior housing developments.”
“I politely stated to the town’s lawyers more than a month ago that I was amenable to open communication with the town’s leaders to find a solution that was better for the town, but perhaps not for its lawyers,” he said.
“I originally set out to get needed senior housing built in Darien, not to have litigation costs drain the town’s coffers,” Stefanoni said.
“The taxpayers and leaders in Darien have to realize that the town’s interests are totally at odds with those of the town’s lawyers, and this is basically a case where the fox should not be minding the hen house,” he said.