The West Hartford Town Council voted Thursday night to approve the application for a 47-unit apartment building in Elmwood submitted by the West Hartford Housing Authority.
The application was approved by a roll call vote of 5-3.
Deputy Mayor Shari Cantor and council members Harry Captain, Judy Casperson, and Leon Davidoff voted in favor of the proposal. Bernard Kavaler, an alternate for Mayor Scott Slifka, also voted in favor.
Minority Leader Denise Hall and council member Clare Kindall voted against the application, as did Brian Coates who was an alternate for Burke Doar. Council member Steven Adler was absent.
The West Hartford Housing Authority project was previously the subject of lengthy public hearings on both Nov. 13 and Nov. 27, where capacity crowds packed council chambers to express opinions about the proposed apartment building.
A petition against the project was submitted by 300 Elmwood residents at the Nov. 27 forum, and that petition had to be validated before the council could vote on the project.
Corporation Counsel Joseph O'Brien said Thursday night that the petition submitted at the last meeting was insufficient to trigger the need for super-majority approval for the application to pass, and that only a majority vote was required for approval.
Many Elmwood residents who spoke at the public hearings strongly opposed the building of The Goodwin, a three-story building of 47 units on 1.59 acres at 189 and 203 Newington Road. The application stipulates that 32 of the units would be offered at market rates of approximately $1,400 per month, and 15 "work-force" units would be offered at a reduced rent of $1,000 per month.
Concerns focused primarily on the size and density of the apartment building, and some residents said work-force housing could change the character of the neighborhood.
Prior to voting Thursday, many Town Council members said they had changed their minds two, three, or more times before arriving at a decision about the project. Most also said it was one of the hardest zoning decisions they had ever faced.
“I support [the West Hartford Housing Authority's] efforts 100 percent. My decision is not about affordable housing," said Hall. She said that although the building is beautifully designed, “I think this building overpowers the residential homes on either side of the lot and is not in harmony with them.”
Captain said he had walked around the area of the property several times, and although he agreed that the building would be large, he determined that it would fit with the neighborhood which in addition to single-family homes includes an apartment building, multi-family homes, and a shopping center containing a Stop & Shop and other retail businesses.
Captain said that what could be built on the site as it is currently zoned “could actually be more detrimental to the neighbors than a housing complex.”
“I cannot support this. It is too big. It is too dense. It is surrounded by single-family housing," said Kindall. She also said that she did not think the housing authority did a very good job planning space for children.
Davidoff said he did not think the applicant did a very good job with neighborhood outreach, and he expressed some concerns about the project. However, in the end he determined that "the things in favor outweigh those against" and believes new housing will be an investment in an Elmwood neighborhood which already has many vibrant businesses and will soon be home to a Pepe's Pizza and Sliders Bar & Grill.
Cantor, who said she visited the property multiple times, said it was a difficult public hearing and a difficult proposal. "There are many people who want to live in West Hartford, in an area with vibrancy," she said, but much of the housing is too costly. This project would give young people with entry-level jobs the opportunity to live in West Hartford.
Approval of the project results in a zoning change and creation of a Special Development District for property at 189 and 203 Newington Rd. The property at 189 Newington Rd. was formerly a power supply company and is now a vacant lot and zoned BN (neighborhood business). The lot at 203 Newington Rd. is zoned R-6 for single-family housing and is currently occupied by a vacant single-family home that will be demolished in order to accommodate the project.