Windsor approves rental housing

Published 3:31 pm Monday, November 19, 2018

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Windsor’s Town Council voted 5-1 to approve a local developer’s plan to bring rental housing to the town.

William Leitner of Walters, owner of The Cullen Group LLC, had requested that a vacant Bank Street lot measuring 0.53 acres be rezoned from R1 residential to high density residential to allow him to construct two 861-square-foot rental homes on the lot. Each unit will have two bedrooms and one bathroom, and will likely rent for between $800 and $1,000 per month.

Leitner’s original plan called for the construction of three units, which would have exceeded the town’s definition of high density residential, this being five units per acre. As such, the original plan would have required him to obtain not only a rezoning but also a conditional use permit. However, by eliminating one of the proposed units and a portion of the shared driveway that would have gone to that unit, Leitner’s current plan no longer needs a CUP.

The town’s Planning Commission, in September, had voted to recommend that the council deny Leitner’s original rezoning and CUP request. Town Manager Michael Stallings said the reason the commission had voted to recommend denial was not as much to due with the proposed housing density as it was the amount of the lot that would be covered. Planning and Zoning Administrator Ben Sullivan added that the Planning Commission had also expressed concerns regarding the site’s potential for flooding and its impact on Bank Street’s neighborhood character.

The dissenting vote on the rezoning came from Councilman Walter Bernacki. He said that when he had knocked on doors to show residents the architectural drawing of the three proposed units, no one had been in favor of it.

Two Windsor residents who spoke during citizens’ time on the matter had also expressed opposition to the project. Jim Laule, who recently ran unsuccessfully for Town Council, said he felt it was irresponsible to try and attract population growth for the town at this time, and instead suggested the Town Council focus on attracting businesses. He also expressed concerns regarding the project’s impact on public school populations. Jason March echoed Laule’s concerns regarding the schools.

Responding to Laule’s concerns, Leitner, who also spoke during citizens’ time, said, “We’re not trying to overcrowd anybody.” He explained that his intention in constructing the units was to provide a more affordable option to those seeking to live in Windsor but who could not afford to purchase their own home.

Leitner’s wife, Christy, added, “We’re only talking about a difference of one or two families … It may not affect the schools at all.”

When it came time for the council to discuss the issue, Sullivan said that he felt there had been “almost a gross misunderstanding” of the project on the part of some Windsor residents, claiming that someone had started a rumor of a four-story, low-income housing complex coming to the town.

“Certainly, that is not the case,” Sullivan said, explaining that the proposed rent for the units would require an annual income of at least $32,000. “We’re not talking about low income.”

He added that there are no rental houses available in Windsor.

Councilman Greg Willis then asked if each unit would have its own utility hookups and if the lot could be subdivided at a future date should the owner wish to sell one or both units as individual, non-rental homes. Sullivan replied that he thought the answer to both questions would be “yes.”

Though the rezoning is now approved, Leitner will still need to finalize his site plan and get that approved before he can begin construction.