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Developer is suing CT Town after warning it would build a large affordable housing complex

Facing a barrage of public opposition and a unanimous “no” vote from city commissioners, a controversial developer has filed a lawsuit to move forward with his plan to build luxury mansions on a 39-acre wooded area in Litchfield.

Michael Peloquin had warned the city in April that he was willing to build a sprawling affordable housing complex on the land if his townhome proposal was rejected, but he has gone to court instead.

More than seventy residents sent letters to the planning commission this spring, urging rejection of Peloquin’s plan. More than 200 showed up at a hearing in April.

In a lawsuit filed in late May, Peloquin filed suit in Litchfield Superior Court seeking to overturn that decision. He claims the commissioners acted arbitrarily, prejudged some of the issues involved and voted against most of the evidence.

But as of this week, Peloquin had not yet filed for the much more drastic response he warned about during the committee hearing on April 15. An audio tape of the meeting shows that onlookers laughed as he introduced himself, and that Peloquin then dismissed comments that his plan would worsen traffic on nearby Route 202.

“Don’t tell me about the traffic,” he said before declaring he would propose affordable housing if the zone change for luxury townhouses failed.

“I can promise you that if you turn it down, I’m coming in with affordable housing, I’m coming in with three 35-foot buildings and 250 apartments,” Peloquin told the crowd in the Litchfield Intermediate School auditorium. “If I have to go bankrupt here, I will go bankrupt here.”

But Peolquin also emphasized to the audience that he had experience as a developer in Arizona, and that he expects to do well.

“You don’t have to count my money,” he said. “I’m not going to go bankrupt here.”

Last fall, Peloquin and business partners asked the commission to rezone the woods east of Milton Road and Beach Street, a few blocks from Route 202 and about a mile from downtown.

The zone change was necessary as the first step in Peloquin’s plan to clear some of the land for just over 100 luxury mansions. The plan primarily calls for two- and three-bedroom units from 1,900 to 2,300 square feet, each with a two-car garage.

Land along Milton Road in Litchfield proposed for 102 luxury townhouses.  (Don Stacom/The Hartford Courant)
Land along Milton Road in Litchfield proposed for 102 luxury townhouses. (Don Stacom/The Hartford Courant)

Public opposition was fierce, with nearby property owners signing a petition against the proposal and hiring an attorney to oppose it. Among them is Martin Connor, a retired land use planner and director of the Litchfield Land Trust. In a letter to the commission, Connor said the Peloquin land is properly zoned for low-density, low-impact development and should not be rezoned for multifamily use.

The area contains extensive wetlands and some steep slopes, and is surrounded by mostly single-family homes built before the mid-1990s, Connor wrote. In addition, the Litchfield Land Trust owns adjacent property that provides a wildlife corridor that extends onto Peloquin’s land, Connor wrote.

“As a neighbor of the project, I am well aware of the traffic conditions in the area. Speeding is a problem in the area where the only proposed entrance and exit to this major project is proposed,” Connor wrote.

Many neighbors said traffic at the Milton Road and Route 202 intersection would be exacerbated by the development. But Peloquin consultants presented a traffic study that concluded the impact would not be serious; According to the lawsuit, the committee did not take this into account.

In claiming that he would propose much larger affordable housing development, Peloquin did not specifically cite Connecticut’s 8-30g law, which gives affordable housing developers wide leeway when proposing projects in communities where less than 10% of homes are considered is considered affordable. . The most recent data from Connecticut shows that Litchfield has 4.77% affordable housing.

The minutes of the commission hearing show that commissioners discussed whether 8-30g would apply to Litchfield, but without a final conclusion.

The commission refused to implement the zone change in early May. Last week, Peloquin’s appeal was transferred to Judge Edward O’Hanlan in Hartford, who is handling the land use disputes. He has advised attorneys for both sides to prepare for a status conference before June 27.