Editorial: Good intentions

There are few towns in Connecticut that have struggled more with state statute 8-30g than Darien.

In fact, it is rare to pick up an issue of this paper that doesn’t include the following phrase:

“State statute 8-30g allows developers to overstep local zoning laws in towns such as Darien that do not have 10% of its housing classified as affordable. A developer may get around zoning laws if a proposal includes affordable housing.”

While some may argue the point, the law was likely put in place with good intentions — to give everyone, regardless of income level, a fair chance to live in every town or city in the state. The statute was also put in place to make it harder for towns with higher income demographics to turn down affordable housing projects for cosmetic or elitist reasons.

Did that happen before 8-30g? If not in Darien, certainly it has somewhere in Connecticut.

Good intentions do not always equal good outcomes.

Fairfield County is often at odds with the rest of the state in terms of what it invests versus what is returned from Hartford. This state statute is another example of how different the state can be. To create a state statute that equally applies to Darien, and to New Haven, with a population of 120,000, doesn’t make sense — and doesn’t work.

Affordable housing is important, and necessary — everywhere. But 8-30g needs to be revisited. On Friday, First Selectman Jayme Stevenson will address Darien’s experience with 8-30g in Hartford.

There are also several suggested modifications put forward during this legislative session, including allowing some towns to be exempt from the statute if affordable housing incentives and plans are put in place.

Also, currently, senior housing is given less of a point value than family housing. Family housing is important, but towns should not be incentivized to build it over senior housing.

Retaining our seniors is the right thing to do for taxpayers who have long-invested in the community — and on a practical side, seniors are taxpayers who cost less than families with school children.

Both are vital parts of a town’s demographics and should be viewed equally under the state statute.

As most anyone in town knows, Darien has also struggled with lawsuits pertaining to 8-30g proposals over the last several years, proposals that have caused anger, expense and great divides in the town’s neighborhoods.

You can be angry at the Town, or angry at the developer — but in the end, the true place to put your blame is on state statute 8-30g — a statute that, despite its good intentions, needs some good changes.

And Darien, of all Connecticut communities, should support them.

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