The Plan to Seize Power from Towns and Change CT
Updated: Oct 28, 2020
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
In recent months, there has been extensive discussion about the need for affordable housing. These discussions have been scant on specific details about proposed zoning legislation will impact our 169 unique towns.
Nor have any alternative proposals been provided for how best to create more housing options. Most disturbing is the lack of in-depth reporting by the press on these proposals. That is why I believe it is necessary for voters to understand what is on the ballot this year.
First, I want to be very clear. I oppose any attempt to seize local control of zoning by the state. Planning and zoning decisions must remain under local control within municipalities. We should consider all viable options in determining what policies are right for our towns and how best to open up housing options to more residents. We can create better opportunities with careful consideration of unintended consequences.
Two important aspects of this debate that we should all consider:
1.) Is Connecticut actually "segregated" as some claim?
In context, Connecticut is largely the same as most of the Northeast, and diversity in our suburbs has been steadily increasing over the last five decades.
See a storymap here for a timeline of Connecticut's non-white population evolution from the 1970's to today.
2.) Do you believe your town needs more types of housing and/or affordable options?
In many cases, I agree. Some towns could do more to offer housing options to current and prospective residents.
However, we should not be forced by legislators and bureaucrats in Hartford to do so. Towns like Westport and Ridgefield have already taken the steps the believe are appropriate to create different types of housing. In some cases those efforts were controversial and went through the appropriate local political process.
Why not leave these local issues... to the localities... where they belong? Politicians in Hartford have a terrible record of mismanagement and poor leadership. Our towns are smaller and more accountable to residents. Let them determine how to operate.
Below are some of the highlights from these zoning proposals:
Sources of zoning proposals:
Senate Democrats have proposed this legislation.
Connecticut Voices for Children Research Paper.
HB 5132 (2020 Session) - the bill is already drafted and ready for the next session.
Desegregate CT - A coalition outside of the legislature. A recent Zoom discussion on the topic was held with a member of Westport's Planning and Zoning Commission. Note: information provided on the site does not accurately reflect the zoning rules within those communities.
Sen. Saud Anwar (Housing Committee co-chair) draft bill LCO 3508.
New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker's Op-ed in CT Mirror advocating to Tax "segregation" in CT suburbs.
A Hands Off Our Zoning Zoom call discussing all of the issues with the current zoning proposals:
State Rep. Terri Wood's OP-ED on zoning.
An article from the Greenwich Free Press about Desegregate CT and single family zoning.
A Hartford Institute Research Paper that contradicts the arguments for regionalization, demonstrating that decentralization is actually better for schools. This study was mysteriously removed from the Institute's page shortly after the zoning proposals were released.
Some consequences of the proposals:
Requires zoning regulations to provide for housing needs identified in the state housing plan and the state POCD.
Takes away LOCAL CONTROL of planning and zoning to the state in a one-size-fits-all model.
Requires “as-of-right” multifamily zoning "middle housing" in 50% of the area within .5 mile radius of train stations, but stops or other transit hubs or .25 mile radius of areas with concentrated development (see map below).
Eliminates single-family zoning in up to 50% of the targeted areas while requiring that middle housing and apartment buildings on at least 10% of the land in municipalities of at least 5,000 persons.
Prevents “town character” justifications for zoning decisions.
Prohibits considering traffic impacts or municipal capacity to respond to a fire.
Prohibits grandfathering of new laws so nonconforming uses will not be permitted.
Creates a “segregationist” designation for towns and penalizes them if not meeting arbitrary criteria.
Below are maps of two of our district's larger towns with indications of aspects of these proposals:
Local Housing Authorities may be subject to expansion from other nearby public housing authorities
Municipalities can be subject to decisions approved at multiple different housing authorities within a 15 mile radius - For Westport, this means Stamford, Norwalk and Bridgeport Housing Authorities.
Enables public housing authorities to expand area of operation by 15 miles to “high or very high opportunity census tract[s]” as designated by DOH.
Current opportunity definitions are statistically questionable (potential for abuse by builders).
No power of eminent domain in an expanded area of operation.
These zoning proposals have unintended consequences and will not accomplish their intended goal, greater access to affordable housing
Economic factors determine where people can afford to live. There are people of different races that live in every town in the state and make that decision based on cost.
Can the State mandated threshold of 10% affordable housing be met by towns? If not, penalties will be imposed on towns = a "segregation" tax.
Creating more affordable homes does not necessarily mean a town itself is affordable or that public transportation is enough, or that enough jobs exist locally.
Cost per unit for affordable housing in New Canaan based on a recent project and the construction guidelines for development is $400K PER UNIT, not including the land cost. It would cost BILLIONS to achieve a 10% affordable housing stock just in this one town.
The real winners will be the builders who will exploit the ambiguities in this bill which will lead to forced high-density housing on towns.
Without local zoning review, town infrastructure can become overburdened: state zoning does not give consideration of capacity of town water, town sewer, fire department services, roads, sidewalks, etc.
Most importantly, this costly policy will take a long time to implement without benefiting a material number of low income earners.
The implied policy is to create a new tax on towns in the 26th District
This legislation is really not about desegregating and other altruistic goals, since no town itself can hit that percentage without overwhelming their town's mill rate.
Our towns receive very little in ECS grants for all we provide to the state through our income taxes.
Since they give so little, there is no more to take away from our towns. This bill provides a new way to tax our towns separately.
Read Democrat Mayor Justin Elicker’s oped from 7/16/20 in the CT Mirror (link below), "Let's Tax Connecticut's Segregation. If wealthy families are going to continue to use exclusionary zoning to prevent black families from moving in - let's at least tax them for it."
You have the power to Save Connecticut
Democrat controlled legislature creates new taxes and user fees every year without directly addressing the most challenging issues facing our state.
Increasing state spending without due consideration of affordability for our residents and the unintended consequences adversely impacts our state's ability to attract new businesses and grow existing ones.
Legitimate issues like access to good education for all and the widening income gap have been ignored due to poor public policy.
If instead of this zoning proposal, the current 8-30g affordable housing policy was revised to allow for vouchers in already existing "middle housing" in our towns, it would make already existing homes more accessible to everyone in a cost effective way that does not overburden our towns.
Our 169 towns are all unique and one size does not fit all when it comes to local infrastructure limitations and environmental/natural resource constraints in each town. Local control of zoning is best to address these unique concerns and constraints.
Your vote in this election is critical to preventing overburdening of local infrastructure, preserving your property values, and maintaining good schools. These proposals open the door to high density development in areas currently zoned for single family -- all without input or votes from local residents.
I will bring my professional experience as an accountant and auditor at PwC with me to Hartford. I will directly address the critical issues facing our state, not kick the can down the road. I am a problem solver, not an insider or a politician, and I will advocate for the interests of our towns, not special interests. I will work to ensure that all of our residents in Connecticut will have a brighter future.