Submitted by George Fox
As a 33-year-old state law snuffs out local zoning control and jeopardizes a key feature making Fairfield County so special, I can’t help but recall my father’s observation from decades ago: “You get the quality of government you deserve.” He meant that if you don’t weigh in on the political process or you cast uninformed votes, don’t complain about the results.
Today is the moment when residents of this area must step up and engage or risk losing forever the beautiful bucolic environment most of us came here for. Super-sized, high density, apartment complexes getting a green light – without any input from local planning and zoning officials – thanks to state law. Developers are using that state law to take over and overdevelop properties across the region. Our right to have a say in the type of community we want to live in is being destroyed.
Efforts are underway to reconsider the egregious law, 8-30g, or the Affordable Housing Land Use Appeals Act of the Connecticut General Statutes. One such effort is Senate Bill 169, introduced by State Senator Ryan Fazio and State Reps. Kimberly Fiorello and Harry Arora. This bill, which calls for a re-examination of 8-30g, also saw support from some House Democrats like state Reps. Steve Meskers and Raghib Allie-Brennan. This issue is not a partisan question of big or small government, but a commonsense question of self-governance.
Democracy is a bedrock principle of this country, because it recognizes our natural equality and ensures representative government–namely that key political decisions are made by legislators accountable to the constituents those laws will most impact. 8-30g is an example of the opposite – where a state body is forcing an unpopular policy on a community by stripping it of the authority to make its own decisions. There are few things more fundamental to the American identity than leaving governance over daily life to local communities.
Instead, we find ourselves with Hartford bureaucrats dictating land use in Greenwich, Stamford, and elsewhere. Their obsession with a “densification agenda” wrecks the single-family home character that has defined many communities, steadily replacing it with multi-family units that are usually rented. Certainly, bypassing local zoning boards enriches lobbyists and developers who could not care less about the livability of our region. But as a long-time resident of this area, I know of no evidence that most people who actually live here want to live cheek-to- jowl.
For generations, the cities and towns of Fairfield County have done an excellent job ensuring the ingredients for a wonderful community — safe neighborhoods, fine schools, beautiful parks, and yes, thoughtful zoning favoring single-family homes. Now, with Hartford urban planners doing their best to impose their lifestyle parameters on our unwilling citizens, we must do our part to preserve our communities for subsequent generations.
Contact your elected officials, write editorials, and inform your friends right now about the urgent need to reform 8-30g. And, in November, elect leaders who have stood up on the issue. It is left to us to step into the breach to preserve our communities for our children and their children. If we hesitate and the region devolves into just another formerly nice area, we can blame only ourselves. And so will our children.
(George Fox has lived in Greenwich and Stamford for 26 years, currently residing and managing a business in Stamford.)