In a December 17 opinion piece titled Zoning reform must consider the character of each town, Alexis Harrison of Fairfield argued in opposition to HB 5132, a invoice that might reform zoning legal guidelines within the state. This was not her first opinion piece within the Mirror objecting to zoning reform and housing growth. On September 4 she wrote in opposition to proposed developments in Fairfield, blaming state regulation 8-30g and warning about dire penalties if HB 5132 handed sooner or later. In these articles she argued that zoning reform in Connecticut should be stymied with a view to:
- preserve native wetlands and the surroundings, and
- defeat density and forestall “massive, monstrous developments”
- protect “neighborhood character”
- keep native management over land
As Katherine Levine Einstein specified by her e book Neighborhood Defenders: Participatory Politics and America’s Housing Crisis, these are widespread arguments in opposition to constructing extra houses, however they need to not cease us. We want a bigger, various providing of market-rate and inexpensive houses in each neighborhood Connecticut, ideally in walkable, transit-friendly locations.
Earlier than objecting to her arguments, let me say that I respect Harrison’s civic engagement and desire to preserve her town. As a historical past trainer and avid hiker, I additionally love Connecticut’s historic buildings and climbing locations. Nonetheless, housing advocates will not be proposing to bulldoze Fairfield’s outdated city inexperienced, nor are they suggesting changing Sleeping Large with a collection of condominiums. As an alternative, they’re proposing incremental development in all of our cities and cities. If we construct extra housing in all communities –and never simply “inexpensive housing”– will assist develop our financial system, develop house possession alternatives, and scale back racial and socioeconomic segregation.
Let’s handle her arguments so as, beginning along with her issues concerning the surroundings and native wetlands. In her December 17 piece Ms. Harrison wrote “As an area environmentalist… I’ve seen the worth of when native residents make choices on their land and wetlands.” This appears suspect. How many people are consultants about our native wetlands and their impacts on the ecosystem? Even when we take her declare at face worth, subsection 10 in HB 5132 particularly requires housing developments to think about the impression on the state’s ecosystem and the habitat of Lengthy Island Sound particularly. The invoice additionally goes additional and encourages and incentivizes “energy-efficient patterns of growth, using photo voltaic and different renewable types of vitality, and vitality conservation.” Denser, multifamily developments could assist scale back carbon footprints and struggle local weather change. It’s exhausting to see how the invoice represents an assault on the surroundings.
Her different claims revolved round fears about density and neighborhood character. In her September 4 piece she known as out two particular proposals in Fairfield, one at 15-21 Beacon View Drive and the opposite at 980 Excessive Road, terming them “massive” and “monstrous.” Each of those initiatives contain buildings that can be three tales tall and include 60 models mixed—hardly monstrous density.
When it comes to neighborhood character, each developments could be roughly a half mile (or 10 minute stroll) from Fairfield’s Blackrock Turnpike business district, a logical place for moderately-sized residences. Certainly, if individuals object to residences being constructed there, in a metropolis of 62,000, it’s exhausting to think about the place they might approve them.
And talking of neighborhood character, we all know that the neighborhoods individuals stay in have an unlimited impression on their future (see Harvard’s Opportunity Atlas). Constructing extra homes in a profitable, opportunity-rich place like Fairfield will assist develop the state’s financial system and supply extra probabilities for kids of all races, ethnicities, and SES to succeed.
Finally, Harrison desires to keep up native management over land-use within the state, however that’s precisely the issue. The advantages of constructing extra housing models are diffuse, whereas the prices are concentrated. I empathize with property homeowners who by no means need their neighborhoods to alter, however native management over housing has Connecticut caught in a vice: unattainable housing costs, excessive property taxes, and a rising price range however shrinking inhabitants. Solely state-level, structural reforms can handle these dynamics.
It is a nice state. We’ve got a remarkably educated workforce, stunning shoreline, and prepared entry to the tradition and jobs of Boston and New York Metropolis –however we have to develop. In her December 17 article, Harrison gestured to a “myriad of inventive options to attain the aim of increasing housing variety whereas retaining native management.” Zoning reforms like HB 5132 are the product of such pondering: makes an attempt to stability the necessity for extra development with sufficient native protections to keep away from a repeat of the city renewal period. Regardless of how honest her arguments, Harrison’s need to freeze our state’s constructed surroundings within the current is stopping Connecticut from making a extra dynamic and simply financial future.
Thomas Broderick lives in Trumbull.
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