August 19, 2018

Letter to the Editor: Two “Inescapable Facts” About Affordable Housing in Old Lyme

To the Editor:

In considering the debate over the suitability of 16 Neck Road for development of affordable housing under CT 8-30g as proposed by the HOPE Partnership, there are two inescapable facts in play.

First, Old Lyme has a woefully inadequate supply of affordable housing. As a result, the people who teach our children, respond to our 911 calls, earn wages in local businesses or are starting an independent life often cannot afford to live in the community in which they work and serve, and where they may have grown up. The beneficiaries of this project could be our children, or our parents. This reality seems to have been lost on June 5.

Second, 8-30g is specifically written to encourage towns like Old Lyme to develop affordable housing, and, importantly, to accelerate and simplify the path to approval of such developments. The chair of the zoning commission, Ms. Cable, was clear on June 5 when she reminded the commission members that, in considering any denial of an application under 8-30g, the role of the commission was effectively reversed, and that the burden of proof was on the commission, not the applicants.

While there have been legitimate concerns cited about traffic safety and the water supply that should be resolved, there have also been attempts to artificially raise the bar for this application, and to transfer the burden to the applicants. This includes attempts to link affordable housing to eliminating the need to own and operate an automobile. In rural southeastern Connecticut, this is, as we all know, frankly absurd. There is no requirement that that affordable housing must include development of a pedestrian mall. I also doubt that scare tactics about surface soil contamination near interstate highways would be employed if this development involved multi-million dollar homes. Concerns about the all-to-frequent times when accidents on I-95 cause increased traffic on Rt. 156 are not specific to the proposal, as this affects all intersections and properties along 156 west, south, and east. The commission should not and cannot be influenced by red herrings.

Regarding the tenor of the meeting on June 5, suffice to say that the 11-13 year old students that typically use the Middle School auditorium are held to a higher standard of behavior than was demonstrated by some members of the public. Thanks to the commission, particularly Chairwoman Cable, and to the HOPE Partnership presenters for maintaining composure and decorum in the face of that behavior. Volunteer public servants on the zoning commission, and the HOPE Partnership applicants whose only interest is doing good works in good faith deserve better. I hope that the continuation of the meeting on June 11 can be a more civil discourse.

I can’t help but think that if the creativity, time and expense that have been marshalled in opposition to this project were used to solve problems rather than create them, we would all be, quite literally, in a better place.

Sincerely,

Michael Fogliano,
Old Lyme.

 

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