Cornwall permits duplex, triplex development

CORNWALL — The Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously approved a regulation to allow for two-family and three-family homes to be built by private developers in town.

Previously, multi-family homes could only be built by nonprofit organizations for affordable housing. By allowing private developers to construct multi-family homes, it is the hope of P&Z that more rental options will become available in Cornwall.

“It may allow more people with modest incomes to live in Cornwall,” said P&Z Chair Anna Timmel.

Commission approval came following a public hearing at Cornwall Library Tuesday, June 12. Of the 11 residents that voiced testimony and the one received written testimony, no public commentors were opposed to the regulation. Most spoke passionately in favor.

“The current housing crisis, as we know, it’s hit Connecticut very hard,” Selectman Rocco Botto said. “People that work in our town can’t live in the same town that they work in.”

First Selectman Gordon Ridgway noted that before the pandemic, the average price of a home in Cornwall was about $350,000. “Now it’s over $800,000 and heading toward a million dollars.”

“The situation is dire and I regard this set of regulations as a good way to attack the problem,” said Jill Cutler, chair of the recently formed Affordable Housing Commission. “This type of housing is not affordable in the technical sense, but it might be affordable in the real sense.”

Some residents spoke cautiously, addressing the potential for short-term rental units to be built.

“Make sure we’re accomplishing the goal here,” said resident Stacey Marcin, emphasizing the units should be used for long-term rentals, “Not turned into money machines for people of means.”

Timmel addressed concerns over large-scale development. She cited the mountainous topography in Cornwall and plentiful waterways as natural deterrents to big construction.

“As well as the lack of a centralized water supply system and sewer system means that in fact very little big scale development is possible here,” said Timmel.

The regulation passed along with a change to restaurant permitting in town. Restaurants no longer need to go through public hearing to receive approval. Restaurants applying for special permits can be approved by P&Z following a site plan review.

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