Submitted by Dick Schulze, Northeast Greenwich Association Board Member
For most of us, our family home is one of the largest financial assets we own and may eventually want to leave to our children or others. Increasingly there are local and State government actions taking place that are eroding that value.
If you live in a single-family home and a developer or your neighbor was to convert their home into a multi-family home, the value of your home will drop. If a neighbor sells their home to a “not-for-profit” which is then used to generate revenue, your home value likely will drop. Even if it is not used to generate revenue, it will come off the Town’s tax base (“Grand List”), resulting in you having to pay a larger share of the Town’s expenses.
If that worries you, now is the time to speak to your elected officials, here and in Hartford, to preclude that from happening. When we bought homes in Greenwich we presumed that prudent zoning and regulations would remain consistent, i.e. the “character” of our neighborhoods would not change. Essentially we considered we had an unspoken contract with the Town that those protections would not be changed at the expense of Town residents. Zoning is an inducement to invest, and to have that investment protected. Hartford trying to override our local zoning laws is NOT in accordance with our tradition of local ability to make land-use decisions that fit the unique needs of our community.
• Your neighbor wants to permit a second family to live in their home. They can and have received permission from P&Z to do so. Under pressure from Desegregate CT, our state legislature is considering permitting that without a hearing – requiring that a Town agency approve it based solely on safety issues, etc. Your only recourse is to hire a lawyer, at your expense, to try to enforce the existing zoning requirement. This will result in a drop in home values that will impact all of the neighbors, not just you.
• If one of our excellent private schools or the hospital wants to buy a home for use by their staff, either as a home or for an office, that property will come off the tax rolls. If the former Helmsley home is sold to a school, that also will come off the Grand List. Guess who then pays an increased share of the Town’s expenses through higher mil rates?
• If a “not-for-profit” 501(c)(3) purchases a home in a residential area that is then used to generate income for those working there, it is dropped off the Grand List, despite increased business traffic, etc.
Some alternatives to consider:
• If a change of use of a property is requested from P&Z that will depreciate property values of neighbors and that area of town, owners seeking such Special Permits should be obligated to have a financial impact study conducted by an independent appraiser, paid for by the applicant. Neighbors should be “made whole” by investors who will lower the neighborhood property values in order for the investor to make money.
• If a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(4) “charity” purchases a property in a residential area, and uses it to generate income for that owner, that is essentially a commercial / professional use, but comes off our Grand List. That revenue generation should be required to be disclosed to the Agency involved (P&Z or ZBA) Instead of the whole community having to essentially subsidize that “charity” and be bothered by increased traffic, noise, pollution, etc., they should either not be given permission to operate, or be required to make “payments in lieu of taxes”.
• The encroachment of not-for-profit organizations on our tax base is making Greenwich increasingly expensive – or even unaffordable. All Town agencies should consider imposing “payments in lieu of taxes” when special approvals are requested that impact tax revenue from the Grand List.
• New appointments to P&Z, the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA), and the Inland Wetlands and Waterways Agency (IWWA) should be of people who are receptive to and responsible for protecting neighborhoods from development that affects their character and ultimately values and residential property taxes. Those issues should be part of the responsibilities of those agencies.
If you are concerned by these possibilities, speak with or write to your local elected officials and your State legislators. We should not permit these erosions of the character of our community and our property values to happen without trying to mitigate their impact. Also tell your State legislators that Hartford overriding our local zoning laws is NOT in accordance with our tradition of local ability to make land-use decisions that fit the unique needs of our community.
Dick Schulze, NEGA Board Member