Jacob Rose, via Wikimedia Commons

CT169 Strong is a non-partisan group dedicated to local zoning control to ensure thoughtful and appropriate development of our communities through prudent land use decision making. We are thankful to the many supporters and especially to the Democrat and Republican legislators who rejected the burdensome and poorly crafted “top down” zoning bills that were introduced to the House.

We continue to fight for policies that work and make Connecticut better – and demand effective reforms that create true affordability, not just density.

Before adjourning, the Senate voted to pass SB 998, which had been amended in a late night session of the House to add several provisions from the failed and rejected “Fair Share” bill. These provisions include empowering the Office Of Policy and Management (OPM) and an expanded Office of Responsible Growth to establish a methodology and allocate affordable housing development quotas to the towns and cities of our state, at up to 20% of each municipality’s total housing stock. The bill also sets up several high level housing development advisory groups that exclude any environmental or climate change stakeholders or experts, and has only token zoning participation.

While the mandatory development portions of Fair Share were not added to SB 998, the bill language legitimizes the reckless and unworkable methodology proposed by the housing advocates of Open Communities Alliance (OCA). The very same bill language in SB998 failed to pass in the two prior legislative sessions when the extremely high fair share numbers for every municipality were disclosed. This session, the bill’s proponents did not disclose the actual Fair Share numbers of each municipality, but SB998 has set up the bureaucratic structure to impose extreme development mandates without regard to local capacities, constraints or needs, and without consideration of environmental issues, or open space and historic resource preservation.

We are hopeful that Gov. Ned Lamont, who supports local control over land use decisions, will reaffirm his commitment to municipalities throughout the state against this ill conceived scheme and veto SB 998 given that it sets overburdened taxpayers up to pay $20 billion in new taxes and it will be the largest unfunded mandate in our state’s history. Make no mistake, this one bill dwarfs any tax relief he has achieved thus far. For the average resident, more than 90 percent of their wealth is tied up in their homes.

Appropriate development, growth and positive change are best achieved through long-standing beneficial zoning and regulatory practices. This ensures that changes in land use and our natural environment are done in a thoughtful, considered, fair and equitable manner that encourages public participation by all residents.

However, each year the same bills are introduced by well funded housing development groups, some backed by out of state development interests, which do little more than erode zoning for the benefit of developers and corporate real estate interests. These lobbying efforts have resulted in multiple bills proposed over the past several years intended to usurp the authority of local planning and zoning commissions, eliminate public hearings and silence public voices, degrade environmental protections, override local concerns and impose central planning by unaccountable state officials.

The bills seek to destroy local decision-making and replace it with top down “as of right” development, thereby shredding any notion of thoughtful land use planning in both large cities and small towns, and severely impairing the ability of towns and ultimately the state to ensure protection of its open space and natural resources.

There has been significant bipartisan opposition to most of these anti-zoning bills, including Fair Share and SB 988, in both the House and Senate, as well as by municipal officials and state residents, and for good reason: centralized planning does not work in land use decision making. Residents from around the state, as well as local and state officials have recognized these legislative threats to the ability to plan and manage the orderly and optimal development of each of our 169 municipalities.

We have received enormous positive feedback which far exceeded our expectations. It is clear that the residents of Connecticut want common sense, well founded solutions achieved through a process that emphasizes inclusion, transparency and a true diversity of stakeholders. We are thankful for this outpouring of support for our mission, and will continue to work towards development initiatives that are in the best long term interests of our State.

Alexis Harrison and Maria Weingarten are Co-Founders of CT169Strong.