LETTER: Thank You to State Rep Kim FIorello, First Selectman Fred Camillo, State Rep Harry Arora for Their Efforts on Zoning Bills

Submitted by Jane Sprung

I am writing to thank State Representative Kimberly Fiorello, First Selectman Fred Camillo, and State Representative Harry Arora for their work to inform our community on all the zoning bills and for their efforts to help us retain local zoning decision rights to best balance our town’s housing, environmental, safety and other local considerations.  Following their lead, I too testified at the various public hearings.  I was surprised that I did not hear any testimony at these meetings from Senator Alex Kasser or State Representative Steve Meskers on this vitally important issue.  

While the topic of zoning is complicated and the details are hard to explain, every day more and more regular citizens are learning about these zoning bills (6611 the Fair Share bill, 1024 DesegregateCT’s bill, 6107 state-wide working group for affordable housing, 6570 state- or municipal-owned properties to be studied for multi-unit development, 1026 mandated training for zoning officials, 961 expands alternative sewer systems for development, and 1066 and 6638 dummy bills).  The more we learn, the less partisan the issue becomes.  Some of these bills contain good ideas, but the key words “municipalities may adopt” must be in every section of these bills.  More unfunded, one-size-fits-all mandates on our towns are not the way to go.

I am finding that many regular Republicans and Democrats agree how important it is to retain the public hearings process for all potential projects.  We agree that decision-making at the local level is best and that often the local people have higher expectations for affordable housing than do the new laws being proposed!  Instead, many of us are concerned that these laws seem designed for special interests – outside developers and litigious activists.  How does making it easier to outsiders – developers and attorneys – to boss us around make housing in Connecticut more affordable?

The Fair Share proponents say CT should follow NJ’s example.  However, it is not clear that New Jersey should be a role model for good government ideas. Just this week, it was in the news (New York Post) that developers are tearing down Rosie O’Donnell’s mansion and building 60 units on 5 acres where the locals say has no public transportation.

Hartford legislators keep saying that Greenwich doesn’t care about affordable housing, but they don’t know our town.  The hospital and our many private schools provide housing for their staff.  That is hundreds of units of tax-exempt non-profit middle housing.  But these don’t count? Greenwich Communities, our housing authority, is always working to break ground on new units.

I am very grateful for Kim Fiorello, Fred Camillo and Harry Arora for standing up against zoning bills that sound well-intended but are actually poor public policy.   This conversation is very bi-partisan.  Many of us do not trust Hartford’s laws will do anything to make housing more affordable.  I am disappointed that we have not heard more from Senator Alex Kasser or State Rep Steve Messkers on these important bills.  I urge everyone to email the Governor at https://portal.ct.gov/Office-of-the-Governor/Contact/Email-Governor-Lamont to let him know this is not the way to improve housing affordability.