December 12, 2018

Letter to the Editor: Fair Process Needed for Fair Housing

To the Editor:

I believe in open, careful and deliberative government for our democracy.  As a member of the Board of Finance, I try to raise material issues to achieve the best process for open discussions and careful decision making, not rushed, rubber-stamping votes.

My observation of the effort to allow multifamily zoning for the site at Exit 70 and Route 156 has raised my alarm very significantly.  On the face of it, the location puts potential residents at obvious and significant risk of getting t-boned by folks exiting I-95, which calls into question the initial decision to choose that site in the first place and spend so much time and effort, especially with other much better sites in town.

This is the largest multifamily project ever in Old Lyme, and its application has seemed rushed, though with a welcome slow down Monday evening by the Zoning Commission.  The application has been consistently incomplete before the Zoning Commission and Inland Wetlands Commission (IWC), and material facts seem to change at each presentation.  Inlands Wetlands actually approved the application May 22nd without having our Town engineer or other Town expert offer their opinion on the facts presented.  Such approval is wrong and inconsiderate of the Town residents whose interests the Commission is supposed to represent.  Proper process is for our Town engineer and other consultants to be engaged in the process and offer their expert opinions upon which our commissions should act in the safety and environmental interests of the Town.

As I began to learn more about the advanced nature of the project earlier this year (despite HOPE portrayals of an early conceptual stage at a late January informational meeting), Chuck Hinckley and I decided that it was important to engage our own affordable housing attorney and environmental consultants to offer their opinions on the circumstances of the process and on the site itself.  We were right to do so, given the result of the IWC decision derived from revised applicant plans presented the meeting night of the decision and made without the input of the Town attorney.

I support efforts to bring smart affordable housing to those who need it.  I don’t support those who seek to achieve that goal through rushed incomplete or preliminary information that has not been vetted by our own Town experts.  This is an important Town decision that we need to get right.

Sincerely,

David Kelsey,
Old Lyme.

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