During Thursday’s Board of Selectmen meeting there was discussion of the proposed legislation impacting zoning across the state.
On Tuesday several pieces of legislation were proposed, but SB 1024 includes all of the platform of DeSegregate CT, a group founded by Sara Bronin of Hartford. The group’s premise is that increased housing density and supply will result in lower housing costs. The group was formed last summer after protests against police brutality, and Bronin has spoken widely on zoom panels about the group’s goals.
In fact the DeSegregate CT website features a photo of Hartford’s capital building and says, “SB 1024 contains all of our proposals.”
During Thursday’s Board of Selectmen meeting, after a vote to add the proposed zoning legislation to the agenda, First Selectman Fred Camillo said every municipality in the state was “under assault.”
“I’ve never seen in all my years in Hartford I’ve never seen it this bad,” he said, adding that Greenwich had already been working hard to increase its affordable housing stock.
“This local control issue is extremely dangerous,” Camillo said.
Camillo said the proposed legislation would take away the architectural consistency of neighborhoods to the point they would not be recognizable.
“It’s very dangerous path they’re going down,” he continued.
“It’s a heavy handed assault on every single municipality in the state of Connecticut,” added Camillo, who said he planned to testify at the hearing on Monday.
“Municipalities control zoning only because the state delegated authority to municipalities. When the state takes it back, the argument many people proposing these bills are making is the state its taking back something that it always had, and had delegated to us. But we didn’t do what they wanted, so now the state is withdrawing that. ….We have to obey state law.”P&Z chair Margarita Alban
(Senate Bill 1024, will be included in a public hearing of the Planning and Development Committee on Monday, March 15th at 10:00am. The hearing is via Zoom. It can be viewed via YouTube Live. Click here to register to testify.)
As for “access,” Camillo said the town already provided access to all, and that his grandmother lived in public housing for many years.
Selectwoman Lauren Rabin agreed, noting that she had not lived in a single family home until she was 29, and had participated in the reduced lunch program as a child.
“I understand some of the issues because I lived them. When I think about the favorite places where I lived, it wasn’t on a busy street next I95. It was a place where as a child I had a yard to play in.”
Rabin said in her opinion the proposed legislation was not based on what a resident would choose if they had options.
“I don’t believe in a one-size fits all approach, would work,” she said, adding that not every town had the same infrastructure or natural resources.
Camillo suggested the board consider issuing a statement, but Ms Oberlander said she had not read the proposed legislation, but that equity in education was top of mind for her.
P&Z commission chair Margarita Alban explained that the legislation was not intended to increase affordable housing availability per se, but rather to increase housing density with the assumption that that would result in lower housing costs.
“Their goal is to increase housing supply, and thus reduce overall housing prices in the state.’”
Alban said Frances Pickering of WESTCOG (Western Connecticut Council of Governments) had brought up the possible impact on state revenue as the result of reduced housing prices.
WESTCOG has also pointed out that many municipalities have neither jobs to offer, nor transit, which begs the question how they offer greater opportunity for low income people?
“Their (DeSegregate CT) position is that the reason you have exclusion in Connecticut is because of the low density in certain parts of the state, and that if you increase overall housing supply and drive down housing prices, you will de facto create access,” Alban said.
She noted that SB 1024 does not address affordable housing, with the exception of the requirement that 10% of units in developments with over 10 units be affordable.
Specifically, 10% is mandated to be at 80% of AMI (area median income).
That would only work toward fulfilling the State’s mandate that towns have 10% of their housing affordable if it was assisted by a town trust fund the town helps finance.
She said the per the proposed legislation, the town would have to pick a train station in town – the main Greenwich train station – and allow multi family housing in excess of 4 units.
“What that means in Greenwich is you are creating $1 Million, $800,000 condominiums,” she said. “You’re not creating affordable housing, you’re creating more supply.”
Alban said the legislation would also require towns to choose 50% of an area within ¼ mile of a main street – which in Greenwich would be Putnam Ave – to facilitate 2-4 unit housing with no prescription for affordability. Alban said this would be “as of right,” and the public would not provide input. In fact, the applications would not be heard by the P&Z commission.
“That means neighbors can not opine on any of the housing developments that go up as a result of this,” Alban said.
Alban said one of the reasons the town might not support the bill would be because it does not prioritize creating affordable housing.
Ms Rabin said she did not believe the bill addressed inequities in education, which Ms Oberlander had said was important.
“We should be spending our resources on addressing issues where they exist,” Rabin said. “We send a lot of tax dollars out of this municipality to Hartford. We should be investing in areas that need it – education in our cities, opportunity in our cities, job growth in our cities.”
Alban said it was important to acknowledge that municipalities control zoning only because the state delegated that authority to local zoning commissions.
“When the state takes it back, the state its taking back something that it always had, and had delegated to us, but we didn’t do what they wanted, so now the state is withdrawing that,” Alban said. “We have to obey state law.”
Senate Bill 1024, will be included in a public hearing of the Planning and Development Committee on Monday, March 15th at 10:00am. The hearing is via Zoom. It can be viewed via YouTube Live. Click here to register to testify.