There will be no Section 23 of the Bethany Zoning regulations, at least for now.
The zoning board on Wednesday voted unanimously to deny Green Haven’s application for an Open Space Housing District, and the decision was greeted with applause from the audience.
The proposal allowed up to 35 housing units on the property known as Halter Estates at the corner of Old Amity and Myers Road. The property by court order currently is zoned for 48 elderly housing units, with an affordable housing component.
Instead of designating their development for age 55 and up, Green Haven members, some of whom are Bethany residents, envision a mixed-age community. By clustering the buildings closer together than under typical zoning regs, the group was hoping to leave 50% of the property as open space and for farming.
But the proposal unleashed a storm of opposition in Bethany. The commission received hundreds of cards, most of them in opposition. Anthony Esposito, a resident of Myers Road, said he collected in excess of 1,300 signatures petitioning the commission to deny the project.
In discussing the application May 1, Commissioner Kim McClure Brinton said she was concerned a development of that scope would stress town resources such as the schools, fire department, etc., while it would create less income for the town, given that a large part of it would be farmland.
Her main concern however was the density, she said. It was irreconcilable with the Plan of Development, which promotes “smart and responsible growth,” she said.
Hearing residents’ concerns at the first night of public hearing, Green Haven submitted a revised proposal in an effort to soften the impact of the development.
In the end, the commission considered the revisions so significant, “they cannot be considered the same regulation that was originally submitted,” according to Zoning Board Chairman Melissa Spear, and the board voted it down.
The vote was unanimous.
“More legal research needs to be done for it to be viable,” Spear said. “I’m not convinced it wouldn’t be challenged.”
Reacting to public criticism, Commissioner Patricia Weiner, a neighbor to the Halter property, recused herself. She said the original application was a general amendment to the Bethany zoning regulations and not specific to the Halter property.
However, since the revision limits the applicability to a “Housing Opportunity Development Zone” — the Halter Estates — she removed herself from the vote.
Instead, Alternate Donna Shae was seated.