Special needs housing proposal draws concerns
DARIEN — A plan to build housing for seniors and adults with special needs has some neighbors worried.
Residents expressed concerns that Baywater Properties’ proposal to construct two buildings containing a total of 12 affordable housing units on East Lane near Old King’s Highway North would leave disabled residents isolated from the community. The developer previewed its plans with the Planning and Zoning Commission and the public during a meeting July 27.
Catherine Piorkowski, a Darien resident, said the town has to think about where these settings are located and how they are integrated. People have a right to live in an integrated setting in their community, she said.
“My fear is that an unintentional consequence of this type of zoning will place people in a segregated setting,” Piorkowski said. The project could place special needs residents away from downtown, their jobs, their volunteer work and limit the social opportunities they have with nondisabled residents, she said. “This is an opportunity that could radically change lives for the better if it’s fully integrated into the community.”
Other residents worried the location of the project would isolate those living there.
Wilder Gleason voiced his displeasure with the location of the project. “Why would you move it outside of downtown?” Gleason said. “Seniors, whether they’re age-restricted or not, would like to be downtown with all the amenities.”
Resident Veronica Scribano said she wasn’t opposed to a home for seniors or residents with disabilities. “I think it’s a wonderful idea,” she said.
However, she was concerned with the project’s impact on Wakeman Road and that Baywater Properties would change the zoning of a residential area. She also worried about future zoning changes in other residential areas.
“I feel he should of sought out a property that was zoned for his project and not burdened the residential neighborhood,” she said. “By burdening I mean the potential impact it has on our neighborhood.”
Edward Piorkowski said it’s important to integrate people with special needs into the community. He also said they should have the appropriate support and have a choice to how they live.
“Our issue is not who the people that will be living on this property,” Edward said. “If anything we’re very happy for the potential for people with disabilities to live there.”
However, he said the density of the project in a residential zone is problematic — there could be couples living in the units, leading to a many as 24 people with 24 cars in the area.
“If the board is going to approve this, you need to approve it on the worst-case scenario,” he said.
Planning and Zoning Commission Chairman John Sini, said there were two traffic experts hired to address these concerns. There are also talks about the location of the housing.
“The applicant has been asked if he could add more units on site and why he chose the ratio,” Sini said.
Deliberations will continue at the next Planning and Zoning meeting on Aug. 28.