Across Fairfield, from High Street to Beacon View Drive, to Beach Road to Ruane Street and more, large, monstrous developments, all under the State’s 8-30g Affordable Housing law, are either being built or in the midst of being heard by the Town Plan and Zoning Commission. Our town isn’t unique as it’s taking place across our state.
Some people may not be aware that these large monstrosities are popping up all over our town due to the State law, 8-30g that allows developers to by-pass local zoning laws and create huge developments onto lots where single-family homes were.
For background, this state affordable housing law is intended to encourage more affordable housing in towns that have less than 10 percent of their housing certified as affordable. Under 8-30g, local zoning regulations governing building height, lot coverage, distance from other properties and roads, density and property values can be ignored. Because zoning laws are superseded, profit motivated developers can get extreme density by building out to lot lines with no restriction on height.
Aside from the ones listed, there are many more in the pipeline and every month we seem to see a new one. We can all agree that affordable housing is a laudable goal but a blanket law such as this one has severe unintended consequences which harms our neighborhoods, destroys natural habitats for natural flood control and wildlife, and puts an immense burden on infrastructure.
Your neighborhood could be next. And it may get worse- if a proposed new bill further changing state zoning laws is approved in Hartford.
Development of any nature has a permanent impact on an entire town, and for this reason, it is critically important that local control of land use decisions remain with each town’s zoning commissions. However, a new bill, co-sponsored by State Rep. Cristin McCarthy Vahey – HB 5132 would end up removing even more local control from local towns. The bill would erode local zoning regulations and as it currently reads, because the assumption is that towns like Fairfield aren’t attempting to support the construction of more affordable housing.
There is no paid lobby to help neighbors protect their land, and to do so, they have to hire expensive attorneys and experts to defend their most valuable possession and investment – their homes. I’ve personally sat at TPZ meetings where I’ve seen scores of citizens like you and me who hope common-sense prevails, and that over-sized developments that enrich developers don’t pass. It’s almost like David vs. Goliath. It’s wrong and unfair. Yet it continues to happen.
What to do? There is one thing to do – vote. There is an election underway now for the General Assembly, the place where laws such as these are created each year. We have the opportunity to elect people who want reform when it comes to affordable housing laws and who want local control for zoning. Educate yourself. As you hear from candidates of all stripes who want your vote, ask them if they believe there should be reform when it comes to affordable housing and if they believe that zoning laws should be in the hands of local zoning boards, not politicians and lobbying groups.
In addition, hold politicians who represent their constituents accountable for what they are doing. And more importantly, for what they are not doing – representing their constituents and interests.
Alexis Harrison lives in Fairfield.