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Heroes Village to Pursue Section 8 Housing

The group will now pursue a Section 8 housing development following the town's rejection of the organization's previous application of an affordable housing complex for returning veterans along Route 80.

After their application to build a 24-unit affordable housing complex for returning military veterans was denied by East Haven's Planning & Zoning Commission, Heroes Village officials say they will now pursue a federal Section 8 rental housing development at the same Route 80 site.

Antonio St. Lorenzo, Heroes Village founder and a decorated Vietnam War veteran, told East Haven Patch this morning that, prior to the earlier project's rejection, his group attempted to negotiate with town officials in order to address their concerns — and hopefully find a middle ground to allow the veterans condominium development to move forward.

But, he said, the organization was "met with roadblocks at every turn."

Because of this, St. Lorenzo said he has no choice "but to utilize federal law and place Section 8 affordable rental housing on the site to accommodate the needs of our veterans."

The housing choice voucher program, administered by the U.S. Housing and Urban Development agency, assists very low-income families, the elderly and the disabled to affordable housing in the private market.

“It’s puzzling that our veterans can fight and die for our country, but they can’t live in East Haven," St. Lorenzo said.

Previous Project Rejected

Heroes Village currently is looking to build a series of "affordable, state of the art, 'green,' customizable homes" throughout the region.

Among those locations was 142 and 150 Foxon Road (Route 80) in East Haven. The Connecticut-based company purchased the two parcels this past October from previous owner Mark Dilungo.

The application for the proposed project, however, was unanimously rejected by the Planning & Zoning Commission earlier this month because, they said, it was not a suitable project for the site.

Racial Bias Allegations

But Heroes Village officials allege the site plans were rejected not because they failed to meet town regulations or zoning codes — but due to the fear of some in the East Haven community that the condominium homes there, if built, could one day be occupied by non-white minorities.

To support their allegations, company officials pointed to an incident that occurred following the planning board's November 2011 meeting during which racial and sexual slurs were allegedly hurled at Sean Richardson, Heroes Villages's chief business and legal affairs officer, and St. Lorenzo. Richardson is black.

Project 'Too Large' for Site

East Haven Planning and Zoning Chairman Gene Ruocco, however, strongly denied that racial bias had anything to do what so ever with the commission's rejection of the project.

Ruocco told East Haven Path earlier this month that the site plan was rejected by the commission because the 24-unit project is "too large" for the two parcels, which currently are zoned only for the construction of single-family homes.

In addition, he said town planners also had safety concerns regarding the proposed development, which would sit along the busy Route 80 corridor.

Ruocco also said Richardson's presentation before the commission did not adequately answer the questions commissioners, other town officials and neighboring residents who spoke during the Feb. 1 public hearing regarding the project.

"His presentation was the weakest, most ill-prepared presentation we've ever had before the the P&Z," Ruocco said at the time.

Committed to Veterans

But St. Lorenzo said he remains committed to providing affordable housing here in East Haven, as well as throughout the region.

Heroes Village renovated the former VFW Post at 48 High Street in Norwalk, which now houses some 30 female veterans who are currently homeless. And facilities are also scheduled for construction in Meriden, Bridgeport, Rocky Hill and the Hartford area.

"The national numbers are clear: this country desperately needs affordable, dignified and accessible housing for military veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan," he said. "We owe them that much.”

Richard Poulton February 21, 2012 at 08:37 PM
Just amazing. When someone didn't get their way, right away the race card comes flying out. Just because two people get into an argument and supposedly "words' were said that shouldn't had been said, doesn't mean a anything to what was being presented. This town, as in all towns by the way, have zoning rules that govern what can or can not be built in a certain location. The proposal was to big. Reduce the plan and it just may be welcomed by the community. If the developers felt they had been given a bad deal by zoning why not file an appeal to Superior Court. But don't play this out as a race thing. Spend some time and read the EH zoning requirements, read Chapters 124 & 126 of the Ct General Statutes. Oh and by the way, they should get familar with the wetlands regulations as well, especially the definition of a "significant activity" and requirements found in Section 10 of the Regulations. Present a better plan and keep the race card out of the story.
FCF February 21, 2012 at 09:15 PM
Good comment Richard.
Rosie February 21, 2012 at 10:11 PM
I agree Richard. Well said.
Hardy Stone February 21, 2012 at 10:30 PM
The initial proposal put forth by this veteran for a veteran housing project was 24 units...Ruocco and P&Z were utterly against this from the start...When Heroes Villages CUT THEIR PROPOSAL IN HALF, Roucco and company still said no. The wetlands laws were researched and HV was in compliance... Our tax base in small enough as it is...I say let the veterans move in and join the community, we'd be better off. As it will end up, Section 8 housing will make HV housing look great.
DonnaR February 21, 2012 at 11:15 PM
Hardy Stone, When was a proposal for 12 units presented to the zoning board??
Ivanna D. Truth February 22, 2012 at 12:43 AM
Too big? But this board had no problem with the 3 Stone pillars project... JUST SAYIN'
Richard Poulton February 22, 2012 at 12:45 AM
When was the proposal cut in half to 12 units? And by the say, P & Z has no jurisdiction over wetland regulations. P & Z can approve something and wetlands can reject the application. I suggest everyone know the rules, statutes and regulations before comenting on something like this. There was no proposal presented to the wetlands commission so next time get your facts in order.
Richard Poulton February 22, 2012 at 01:21 AM
Know the facts. The 3 Stone Pillar presentation was reduced in size by the wetlands commission. There was no reason by statute to have a public hearing since there was no actual intrusion into a wetland area. Know the regulations before you comment. Don't get drawn in by politics.
Ivanna D. Truth February 22, 2012 at 02:25 AM
I wasn't refering to I & W commission Richard, I was refering to the hypocritical handling of two projects by Planning and Zoning. They did everything to try to push 3 stone pillars through.
Ann Della Camera February 22, 2012 at 04:18 AM
Ivanna that is so true, they tried to put in 51 units, and its part wetlands. If the people from the area and from the town did not come in to aid in our puttingit down, P&Z would have past it. The people here that it would have affected had no notice of it until someone found out and made sure we were all awear. I have no objection to home for Veterans, no matter what their color, race of creed. They would good enough to fight for our country so they deserve a place to settle in the country town the want.They will soon be coming after Stone Pillers again, if I remember right they got an illegal extention. perhaps Richard can correct me on this.
Ann Della Camera February 22, 2012 at 04:23 AM
Richard, you know I respect you and your comments, however, it would affect the houses that border Farview. When Clementi built five house on Farview, it created a problem of land flooding for all of us. Stone Pillers is what saves us as a water shed. I know this because I could only walk 5 feet in to my yard after they were build, after that is was ankle deep mud. The town had to put a drain in my lawn to aid the situation from happening. Also one house I belive has water problems, since in 8 years it has been sold 3 times and is again up for sale.
Ann Della Camera February 22, 2012 at 04:24 AM
Got that right Ivanna, for once we agree
Richard Poulton February 22, 2012 at 12:50 PM
Three Stone Pillars is another story, off track from above story. We can go with that situation on the other "general" site set up for that purpose. As far as the RT-80 project at hand, I will ask again, when was a second designed "reduced" plan submitted to P & Z.? And to Hardy Stone, you mention the wetland laws were "researched", what does that mean? Again, P & Z has no jurisdiction over a wetlands issue. I, even though have not seen any plans, feel there is a serious issue with storm water run off into the Farm River. Just a foot note, if there is an increase of storm water run off into any river/wetland area, above what currently happens, it is a regulated activity and must be permitted or action denied. Hydrolic numbers are based on what is called a 100 year storm. But the increase in storm water issues can be resolved with implamentation of retention ponds on the site. But again, this area is to small for all to be built, housing, parking lot, retention ponds.
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