Baywater proposes affordable housing for disabled adults in conjunction with Corbin Project

As a part of its obligations to local zoning, Baywater Properties must provide at least a dozen affordable apartments in conjunction with its downtown redevelopment, the Corbin Project.

However, rather than setting aside units in the project’s site area between Post Road and Corbin Drive, Baywater is proposing a separate assisted living facility for adults with disabilities that would be located on East Lane.

Baywater first introduced the idea for special needs housing in 2016, before deciding to overhaul the Corbin Project as a whole. Though developing a dozen apartments for an under-served community may seem like an small task in comparison to Baywater’s 7.2-acre redevelopment downtown, providing special needs housing creates new requirements at the state level.

In order to ensure compliance and a long-term vision for the project, Baywater plans to enlist the help of Abilis, a local nonprofit that serves adults with disabilities, to help find tenants and live-in staff for the facility. During an Aug. 28 Planning & Zoning meeting Baywater was joined by Abilis CEO Amy Montimurro, who said the project would fill a need within the community. Abilis currently operates 34 residential options and assists more than 700 families in the state.

“We provide recreation, therapy, skill development leading to employment services and residential options to meet their individual needs,” Montimurro said during the meeting. “Our focus is to integrate people into their community and build independence.”

Members of the Planning & Zoning Commission questioned if the East Lane development would satisfy affordable housing and quality of life requirements for the state. Specifically, they asked if tenants would match the income restrictions for the new affordable housing and what sort of support the residents would need.

Darien is required to show growth in affordable housing to maintain its moratorium on state statute 8-30g, which calls for municipalities to provide at least 10% affordable housing stock. As a part of the moratorium process, the town is attributed points to show progress for each new deed restricted unit. To improve the local affordable housing stock, Darien has an inclusionary zoning regulation requiring new multifamily developments to make at least 12% of the new units affordable.

First Selectman Jayme Stevenson also said that the special needs housing could address the joint need for more affordable housing in town while serving an underprivileged community.

“During my tenure we’ve dealt with the issue of housing choice, and I want to thank the commission and the town in general, we’ve done an exceptional job of building our affordable housing,” Stevenson said. “And this is a really unique opportunity to partner both affordable housing and developmentally disabled people whose housing options have been limited throughout the state. Darien can be a leader in this, a model for other communities.”

Baywater Principal David Genovese said he had reached out to the state’s Department of Housing and Department of Developmental Services to make sure the project would meet their expectations. Also, Baywater had previously proposed the East Lane development with STAR, Inc, another nonprofit working with disabled adults. Genovese said would consider working with both organizations to make sure the housing requirements were satisfied.

The Planning & Zoning Commission closed the hearing Tuesday on the Corbin Project, which would add 117 apartments to downtown Darien, along with revamped restaurant, office and retail space. The hearing on East Lane will be next Tuesday, Sept. 11.