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Can agreement be found on a solution for housing now?

The Lakeville Journal Editorial

Right around this time in 2018, Salisbury took the positive step of approving at town meeting the Holley Block option for the Salisbury Housing Committee to lease property on Millerton Road in Lakeville owned by the town, and then began the process of analyzing it as a site for 12 to 18 affordable housing units. It was just the beginning of the plans that were presented twice for approval this year, were approved, and are now on hold due to a lawsuit from Lakeville landowners who would prefer not to have such housing be a part of their neighborhood. The targets of the lawsuit are the Salisbury Planning and Zoning Commission and the Salisbury Housing Committee.

Why did a crowd of Salisbury residents in 2018 approve that first step toward building some of the 60 affordable housing rentals and 15 individually owned homes their town hoped to add to its available housing by 2028? It was not a goal that was unrealistic or cavalier. Its success would bring the town closer to the 10% affordable housing desired by Connecticut, and would provide to people who otherwise could not live in the town the opportunity to do so. 

It is possible that some readers may start to find this topic tiresome. But if so, they should ask around and find out from people who are key to the strength of the Salisbury community because of their work, or their ability to volunteer, where they live. For those who believe people who work at the local food stores, or restaurants, or town halls, or schools, or medical offices, or local newspaper don’t need to live near where they work, they should think of life from another’s point of view. So, consider the perspective of young parents who have to work outside the home but want to spend as much time as possible with their children, or older workers who find a long drive at the end of the day in the dark or bad weather quite difficult.

This newspaper predicted in 2018 that there would be residents who would express shock, surprise and anxious discontent at the direction solid plans have taken toward the end of the process. It does seem to happen at the conclusion of every initiative that there is a small but highly vocal group who had no idea what was planned and who disagree with whatever form the project has taken. Then, they do their level best to derail it. The question is, if they are successful, what replaces it and when? Will it be too late to maintain any kind of balance of a diverse population in the Salisbury community?

The issue of affordable housing has now become the most contentious topic in the town of Salisbury — and in other towns in the state. Friends are finding themselves on different sides of an issue they believed they could agree on in less disagreeable times — like 2018? Can they resolve this conflict in any civil way now that it’s entered the courts? Hope for any more constructive communication about the Holley Block initiative, which would be good for the entire community and result in a positive outcome, has now waned to the point of invisibility. 

See Mary Close Oppenheimer’s column this week that is part of her ongoing series on affordable housing. This story Mary tells has a good and encouraging ending. But single family housing through Habitat cannot serve the full population of a town and a region where pricing has risen astronomically in the past year.

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