Op/Ed: CT 169 strong —What your representative isn’t telling you

Send letters to the editor to: Editor@DarienTimes.com

Send letters to the editor to: Editor@DarienTimes.com

Hearst Connecticut Media

This legislative session, with remote Zoom meetings, has been turned on its head. A series of zoning bills that could fundamentally change the fabric of our towns and cities have been voted favorably out of the Planning and Development and Transportation Committees, awaiting a vote in the General Assembly. While some of the most problematic language has been stripped, there is still an opportunity for lawmakers to put it back in or amend it further until the session ends in June.

Do residents even know what is written in the bills? Most likely not.

Democratic legislators, who hold a super majority in both chambers have not informed their constituents about the contents in these bills. Dissection of the bills have not taken place, instead only talking points are regurgitated by legislators and housing activist groups including a group called DesegregateCT, founded by Hartford’s First Lady, Sara Bronin. In this void, supporters of the bills have focused solely on the good intentions and the marketing spin from Democratic leadership and Ms. Bronin’s road show, without delving into the unworkable provisions and frightful language laid out in the bills.

The duplicity of these proposals is that it serves to benefit developers by relaxing permitting standards and placing greater legal burdens on municipalities. Thus allowing exponential market-value development instead of providing intended affordability. SB1024, coined the DesegregateCT bill, undercuts local inclusionary zoning policies and affordable housing funding from developer fees, eliminates P&Z public hearings on individual projects and requires towns to permit higher capacities of community septic systems to push greater density. HB6611 mandates towns to build an unfair “fair share” of affordable units, eliminates the need for aggrieved parties to have legal standing and obligates the court system to play a bigger role for enforcement of affordable housing development. The fair share calculations are critically flawed, making the allocated units completely unachievable (it would result in doubling or tripling the entire housing stock) for any town.

Deleted DesegregateCT bill language can also be reinserted to allow “as of right” 15+ units per acre market value development with no required off-street parking in transit and main street areas. While some of the zoning concepts are worthy of consideration, they must be optional and implemented at the discretion of local Planning and Zoning Commissions, who have better knowledge of the unique constraints within their towns. One-size policies will never fit every town.

Clearly 8-30g, the State’s affordable housing law enacted 30 years ago is not meeting affordable housing needs and must be reworked, but these bills neither improve affordability nor create better housing policy.

As a result, none of the current zoning bills should be passed this session in their current form. Effective housing policy is created by enlisting a balanced working group that includes municipal stakeholders from all over the state, not just housing advocates. The group must be truly inclusive of small town and suburban planning boards, conservation, environmental, sanitation and soil experts. A repeat of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities (CCM) rubber-stamping of SB1024 without first vetting the provisions with zoning experts is unacceptable. By coincidence, Ms. Bronin’s husband, Luke, is president of CCM and seemingly "approved" his wife's proposal during a CCM working group with only 37 out of 169 votes when CCM was supposed to represent all municipalities.

When provisions buried across 12+ bills, in five different committees do not actually create affordable housing; when the so-called “fair share” bill is devised entirely out of a textbook and not based in any economic reality; when bills' sponsors attempt to summarize but contradict what is actually in the bills; one has to ask themselves, “What is happening?”

Will you be asking that question? You should. It is time.

Connecticut needs nuanced solutions, crafted to reflect the unique characteristics of each of our 169 cities, suburbs and rural communities. Residents and municipalities deserve an open, inclusive legislative process and this session has proven there is great need for checks and balances.

Good intentions are no excuse for poor public policy. Please visit CT169Strong.org to read the bills and an analysis of the impacts.

Sincerely yours,

CT 169 Strong