Old Lyme – A local businessman is pursuing another option now that sewerage doesn’t seem like a possibility for his affordable housing development.
Mark Diebolt, owner of local pipe maker Diebolt and Company, is testing the feasibility of a septic system to service the 220-240 unit complex he hopes to build near the East Lyme border.
He said the concept for the 20.6-acre site includes easy access to Interstate 95, a mix of one and two-bedroom apartments, amenities like a pool, and a financial component to make some of the units available. on a larger income bracket – but only if he knows what to do with the wastewater he produces.
Up to 72 units would be leased at rates considered “affordable” by state and federal standards. In Old Lyme, that means families earning between $ 55,080 and $ 73,440 a year could live there without spending more than 30% of their income on rent.
If Diebolt can solve the wastewater dilemma, he said construction will not begin until 2023. He is exploring options for installing a septic tank after authorities denied his requests to hook up to a sewage system. planned at Old Lyme.
Diebolt said he did not have any partners on the project at the moment.
He compared his vision for the resort to Saybrook resort in downtown Old Saybrook, which is touted as a luxury development on 12 acres with 186 units and amenities, including a pool, fitness center and gym. games. Thirty-eight of these units are considered affordable.
âI know 220 or 240 units seem like a lot,â he said. ” What does it look like ? Go to Old Saybrook and check this out.
He estimated that about one-third to one-half of the Hatchett Hill project would consist of two-bedroom units.
Diebolt, who described himself as a businessman and not a professional developer, stressed that his buildings will be spread over a wider strip than the Old Saybrook project. His current 20.6 acres were part of a larger property that housed his company’s headquarters until he sold it and subdivided the land in 2008, he said.
Now he plans to buy an adjacent 16.3-acre parcel so that he can install a septic tank. He told The Day he was under contract to buy it for an undisclosed sum.
âBasically without a septic tank the project is dead,â he said, before changing his statement to say that maybe he should stay there for a long time until sewerage becomes an option.
Testing to determine the suitability of the adjacent site for a septic system began this summer and will continue until February, according to the developer. He described using a septic tank as a last resort, as he cannot access the sewers for the estimated 50,000 gallons per day that the development would produce.
A year ago, the Old Lyme water pollution control authority officially rejected its request to hook up to a sewage system project that will connect four of Old Lyme’s seaside communities to a factory treatment in New London, according to meeting minutes.
President Rich Prendergast said this week that the city would have lost about $ 2 million in federal Clean Water Act funds for the sewer project if authorities used it to subsidize economic development. The fund is dedicated to improving water quality and protecting public health.
The city’s share of the sewer project was estimated to be around $ 9.4 million, which was approved in a referendum in 2019. Officials said Sound View taxpayers are required to pay the amount not covered by Clean Water Act grants.
The sewer project has been in the works for years since the state ordered seaside communities – including three private associations and the Sound View district under city jurisdiction – to address groundwater pollution issues.
Diebolt said 30% of the units would be leased at rates considered affordable by state standards, with half reserved for families earning less than 60% of the median annual income and the other half for those earning less. by 80%.
The median income in Old Lyme is $ 91,800, according to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The affordable housing process outlined in state law makes it easier for developers to build a large number of apartments that they might not otherwise get approval for.
Commonly referred to as â8-30gâ, the Affordable Housing Act is an incentive to promote equitable and diverse housing options in municipalities where less than 10% of the housing stock is considered affordable. As the Nonprofit Partnership for Strong Communities describes, this means that cities that have not met this threshold must allow the construction of affordable or mixed-income housing proposals, unless they can prove to the Superior Court that rejection is necessary to protect public health and safety.
Once a community reaches the 10% affordable housing threshold, it is no longer subject to the 8-30g law. Then it’s up to a developer to convince the city that the project needs to be built, instead of requiring a zoning commission to convince a judge why they shouldn’t.
According to the Old Lyme Affordable Housing Commission, 85 units in the city are currently considered affordable, or less than 2% of the city’s housing stock.
First Selectman Tim Griswold at this week’s Board of Selectmen meeting updated newly elected Selectmen Martha Shoemaker and Matt Ward on the project. He said a project of this magnitude would certainly “move the needle” towards the 10% affordable housing threshold.
Griswold said being able to install a septic tank on the adjacent plot would put the Diebolt project “in great shape”.
Diebolt, a resident since 1987, emphasized his connection to the community as a resident and business owner. He said he sees the project as a way to provide city housing options to more people, including those just starting out or older people downsizing.
âLet’s do it and do it the right way – how we want it,â he said, âinstead of something coming from an outside part that kind of shoves it down your throat. . “