Affordable Housing Development Rejected for Lack of Third Staircase in Connecticut

The New Canaan Planning Commission rejected a development proposal, including 31 below-market-rate apartments, for lack of a third staircase, among other reasons, at a time when advocates are pushing to relax two-staircase requirements.

2 minute read

March 31, 2023, 6:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

A red sign reads, “Welcome to New Canaan.”

Miro Vrlik Photography / Shutterstock

One of the emerging causes of the pro-development (YIMBY) movement in the United States is a push to allow single-staircase buildings. The argument: the standard requirement in U.S. building codes for two staircases in every multi-story buildings adds costs and diminishes the designs of new development. The New York Times recently published a long-read on the subject, raising the prominence of the issue of the movement to change staircase requirements as another component of the zoning and development reforms intended to spur new development, such as Missing Middle Housing and parking requirement reform.

Don’t tell any of that to the New Canaan Planning Commission in Connecticut, which recently rejected a proposed affordable housing development for lacking a third staircase, among other issues.

“The Planning and Zoning Commission voted unanimously Tuesday night to deny resubmitted plans for a 102-apartment complex at 751 Weed St. Thirty-one of the dwellings would have been rented out below market rate,” reports Jared Weber for the Stamford Advocate.

“The Weed Street proposal was first rejected in November on the grounds of fire safety, vehicular and pedestrian safety; weaknesses in the storm water management plans; and protection of adjacent and nearby properties,” adds Weber. For this second rejection, the Planning Commission said “the plan’s stormwater management ‘may not adequately capture stormwater’” due to a proposal to expand drainage on a nearby property that the developer doesn’t own. The commission also cited the lack of a sidewalk connected to the property. “The project aimed to rezone the property into a transit-oriented multifamily zone less than a half-mile from the New Canaan train station in the downtown area. But there is currently no sidewalk directly connected to the property, so walkers would have to cross Elm Street at Weed Street, which officials said experiences a ‘large volume of traffic,’” according to the article.

Finally, the commission also rejected the proposal for a lack of a third staircase: “The building’s two stairwells would be located on opposite ends of the building, which would create long travel distances for occupants evacuating and firefighters entering the premises,” reports Weber.

Wednesday, March 29, 2023 in Stamford Advocate

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