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Letters to the Editor - The Lakeville Journal - 10-8-20

Let’s keep the science straight

Foggy science used by well-intentioned environmental advocates undercuts credibility and progress against pollutants, and we who care about our planet need to be extra meticulous in our communication if we aim to win over allies. Otherwise people will have every reason to doubt us. A recent letter suggests that burning methane to generate electrical power “spews pollution”, and generates small particles (“particulates”).

Not so: A 2014 publication by the environmentalist-friendly Union of Concerned Scientists points out what any high school chemistry teacher can tell you, that “combustion of natural gas produces negligible amounts of sulfur, mercury, and particulates,” particularly when compared with other fossil fuels like coal or petroleum. Methane plus oxygen plus heat creates carbon dioxide (gas) and water (liquid).

That doesn’t make natural gas “clean”, because smog-enhancing nitrogen oxides (gases) get produced (air is 70% nitrogen) during combustion, and leakage from wells and pipelines puts greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Drilling also has adverse impacts on water and air quality. So we do need better solutions than Cricket Valley. 

I’m all in favor of re-electing politicians who fight to restore environmental controls we desperately need… but please, when we they do so, let’s stick to real science, not moral panic and half-truths. (And don’t get me started on 5G.)

Rob Buccino

Salisbury

 

Holley Block will work

I am writing in response to George Mason’s Oct. 1 letter about affordable housing on the Holley Block parking lot site. As a member of the Salisbury Affordable Housing Commission, I am very aware of the challenge of finding the right location for much needed affordable rental apartments in Salisbury. 

A professional traffic analyst will present “formal” data to the Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) on Oct. 8 that will show that the Holley Block Parking lot is not heavily used and the streetside parking surrounding the commercial strip on Rt. 44 consistently has empty space. 

We on the Commission and others working to provide needed homes understand and greatly sympathize with nearby businesses about their concerns regarding construction disruption and will try to limit it as much as possible. 

The Perry Street lot is very small that was contaminated by a dry cleaners on the site. Once safe, the Housing Trust hopes to build something on the lot.

The Pocketknife Square buildings have been vacant for many years due to the high purchase price and need for major investment to bring them up to code and reconfigured for contemporary use. There are also limitations due to their historic landmark designation. The economics are unworkable for affordable housing. 

The original building on the Holley Block parking lot was torn down because it had deteriorated badly. P&Z appears happy with the proposed design since it fits into the character of the town and neighboring properties. By including affordable units the building complies easily with zoning regulations.

The traffic experts said that the traffic generated by the building will be safe and appropriate for the location. I trust their judgment and decades of experience. I’m not aware of any potential liability for the town due to  accidents on any of our roads.  

The way “affordable housing” works guarantees that the rents will stay affordable in compliance with government guidelines. The Housing Committee or Connecticut Real Estate Management (CREM) can give you an idea of how the deeds work and what the restrictions are. The town would not incur costs for construction on the site as the funding will need to come from the state.

There are huge cost savings in building on town owned land in areas with access to town water and sewer. Development without those resources would incur significant costs to purchase the land, create a large septic field and build wells for water. 

The project was extensively compared to other possible sites in public forums held at Salisbury Central School. The public chose Holley Block as the most favored site for housing. I’m sorry you weren’t there to voice your opinion. The many notes submitted to P&Z in support of the proposed building on Holley Block reflect the public’s enthusiasm.

I’m confident that affordable homes for working families in Lakeville will enhance the vitality of our town, allow more children to enjoy our excellent schools and help local employers find housing for their staff.

Mary Oppenheimer

Lakeville

 

Political signs

Three feet by five feet political yard signs are obscenities, defiling our landscape. Whatever your political leanings, do you really want to desecrate the Earth with these bombasts?  You cannot get your message across without these boastings?

Bigger, stronger?  YUGER?  Really?

Lonnie Carter

Falls Village

 

Prize for first housing built?

I am a member of the Board of Directors of the Falls Village Housing Trust (FVHT). At the public hearing by Planning and Zoning on Oct. 1, I for one was very happy to hear of the enthusiasm for expanding affordable housing in the Falls Village town center, using different state grants.  

That is quite a different program than the one that FVHT has operated under.  The program that we use is for larger projects, and sixteen units, as a practical matter, is the smallest that we can build and get approval by Department of Housing.  DoH uses a point system to award grants, and less than 16 units subtracts too many points.  

As the speakers rightly pointed out, there are other DoH programs for smaller projects.  We of FVHT encourage others to take up the cause of affordable housing and to create more rental housing units in Falls Village, using any public or private means.  We are happy to lend our experience to any such projects, and we welcome the competition.  

Maybe we should have a prize? First completed units buys the other group dinner!  

Martha Miller

Treasurer, FVHT

Lakeville

 

Why support the efforts of NWConnect in the region?

I read with interest Caroline Nastro’s letter to the editor (Lakeville Journal, Oct. 1, 2020) regarding the granting of Northwest Hills Council of Governments funds to Northwest ConneCT. I agree with Ms. Nastro that we might have better transparency in the manner in which Northwest ConneCT intends to use its funds received from the NHCOG and to whom those funds would be dispersed.

Beyond that, there are significant problems with Ms. Nastro’s letter. First, necessity. Northwest Corner towns have largely been passed over when it comes to deploying optical fiber for high-speed Internet. It’s expensive to roll out in rural regions. Yet we desperately need it for work-from-home, remote learning, telemedicine, entertainment and communicating with family and friends. Without fiber, those who want to live and work here will go elsewhere and many of those who are already here will move away for better connectivity. 

Second, Northwest ConneCT is a planning and consulting organization, founded to support local towns in bringing high-speed Internet to every residence and business in those towns. So Ms. Nastro’s complaint that Northwest ConneCT “has laid no fiber” is a red herring. Moreover, while Ms. Nastro correctly asserts that no Northwest Hills town has signed on to build its own fiber network, Norfolk has a mature plan ready to present to its voters and at least three other Northwest towns have committees looking into the prospect—with support from Northwest ConneCT.

Third, Ms. Nastro is willing to bet everything on a vague pledge by Optimum ”to bring fiber to all of its customers in the near future.” The key words here are “pledge,” “all,” and “near future.” Where is this pledge? What fiber deployment plan is associated with that pledge? What funding has Optimum put behind that plan? Is that plan only for a library, school, or business center, or is it indeed for every residence and business in town? What specific timeline is associated with that fiber rollout? As a member of Cornwall’s Internet Expansion committee, I know of a number of contacts made by local citizens and political representatives to Optimum, each receiving a similar vague pledge, but no concrete plan. 

So we have a choice. Sit by. Wait two years or more to find out that Optimum still has no deployment plan and funding to lay fiber to every residence and business in the Northwest Corner. Or each town could develop its own fiber contingency plan, use it to pressure Optimum and our politicians, and hope we never have to use that plan. Meanwhile, I urge our representatives to advocate for state, federal, and utility company funding to roll out fiber to our rural areas, much as was done in the 1930s for electric and telephone.

Johan Winsser

West Cornwall

 

This housing should not be built; keep to the scale of the town

Everybody likes a mystery. Tune into the continuance of the Falls Village Public Hearing on Oct. 14 at 6:30 p.m. to find out if the mystery of the missing Transit Station is solved. 

The Incentive Housing Zone application submitted by Jocelyn Ayer of the NWCT Regional Planning Collaborative in 2013 states that the 66-acre parcel on River Road in Falls Village meets the eligibility requirements for an Incentive Housing Zone because it is in a suitable location with the explanation given that the “IHZ site is just outside the town’s village priority funding area and can access NWCT Transit.”  

The site is in fact 2.5 miles from the town’s village priority funding area and NWCT transit is a Dial-A-Ride service that of course does not meet the requirement for proximity to public transportation.  At the second session of this continuing hearing  Planning and Zoning Commissioner Fred Laser stated in jest that the development is at Lime Rock Station. The train station has long been gone and is now a home.  

While it was a relief to have moment of levity in this hearing, this proposed development is no laughing matter. It was upsetting and frustrating to hear First Selectman Henry Todd, refer to the legitimate concerns of the taxpayers about the costs surrounding this project  as “rumors.”  Meanwhile participants were told firmly that they could only speak about the site plan. Therefore,  the well-informed taxpayers of Falls Village, including  members of the town Board of Finance, retired finance executives, investigative journalists and attorneys, all of whom are Falls Village homeowners, have been denied a platform in which to voice their well-researched and well-reasoned assertions that this development will in fact have a serious economic impact of the town’s mill rate.

What is affordable housing? The Falls Village Housing Trust website answers this questions as follows: “Affordable is a term used by the state and federal government that establishes guidelines based on the area median income (AMI).”  For taxpayers of Falls Village, affordable housing is defined differently. Affordable housing means keeping the mill rate from continuing to rise so that the very homes they are living in remain affordable. 

North Canaan has more “affordable housing” as defined by the state and federal government than any town in the Northwest Corner. Meanwhile their mill rate is the highest. Lovely old homes in gracious old neighborhoods are decaying and abandoned because potential buyers pass them by because of the high property taxes. I do not believe that this is a future anyone wants for Falls Village. 

The taxpayers of Falls Village deserve the opportunity for serious, open, factual and detailed analysis of implications of this project for a town mill rate followed by a referendum. STEAP grants are available for smaller projects and the State Department of Housing recognizes the need to create appropriately scaled projects for small towns, which is why they are offering grants for further study. Meeting link can be found on Town of Canaan/Falls Village website under Planning and Zoning.  

Laura Werntz

Falls Village

 

Start small, build a track record on housing 

Falls Village doesn’t need an “incentive” to make our community welcoming to seniors and families in need.

Nonetheless, a decade ago, our Planning & Zoning Commission (P&Z) believed that: a $3.5 million state grant was found treasure; an Incentive Housing Zone (IHZ) was just a few filled out forms away; where units could be eight times as compacted as was allowed in the village; but it didn’t fit the scale of the village center, what to do?

So, in 2013, the hunt was on for land that would hold 30 apartments with 50 bedrooms. To put this into perspective, 110 people voted in Canaan, Falls Village in 2019. Today we are faced with the results; a proposed apartment complex on the river front in Lime Rock Station.  

Think about this: P&Z’s first two obligations are to protect the environment and existing homeowners and neighborhoods. Yet they are doing neither. They are conducting a mockery of their civic duty, insisting that this incentive concept is “already approved” as an excuse to refusing hearing testimony about it. 

But wait, the Conn. Department of Housing began an examination of the Falls Village Incentive project in August 2020 and in fact they have not approved the incentive zone as of this writing.

Falls Village didn’t need this “incentive” to provide affordable housing, not in 2009 and certainly not now. We can rehabilitate our aging properties with the help of STEAP grants, small town grants from the state.

A small project can give the Falls Village Housing Trust an opportunity to learn the ropes, oversee construction, manage rental units, and balance housing needs with the financial resources available. Build a track record.

Because the original 2013 “Incentive” application was hidden from the neighbors and the town, this project doesn’t pass scrutiny. Is this why P&Z won’t allow it to be discussed now? Let’s start doing the right thing, the right way.

Tell your Selectmen to stop this project and get to work building the Falls Village community that everyone wants! Write to selectmen@canaanfallsvillage.org.

Daly Reville

Falls Village

 

What NWConnect’s role is in improving connectivity

In last week’s Lakeville Journal, a Cornwall resident wrote a letter questioning why, over the past few years, the Northwest Hills Council of Governments (NHCOG) has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to a private business called Northwest Connect, and why the NHCOG just gave $148,000 of the $400,000 it received in federal Covid CARES funding to this same company. The CARES funding was supposed to be used to help improve broadband connectivity issues in our area.                 

The problem: Northwest Connect is doing nothing of the sort.

What Northwest Connect is doing is promoting its own municipal fiber optic network, a network that it hopes to build sometime in the future if it can ever persuade one town to buy into its “pie in the sky” scheme since we, the taxpayers, would need to pay for it. Since we already have cable providers in our area who provide broadband, Northwest Connect’s network would be redundant, what’s technically called an “overbuild.” What does this mean? 

It means that it’s not in Northwest Connect’s best interest to address our current broadband issues now or anytime in the near future, since the more people in our area who are satisfied with broadband services offered by providers like Comcast, the worse it is for Northwest Connect.

By giving $148K of CARES funding to support Northwest Connect, the NHCOG is therefore working against us, just as the NHCOG has been working against us in

Falls Village by pushing a housing development in a rural section of our town, when there are so many better options that would both maintain the beauty of our surroundings and revitalize our village. 

The NHCOG likes to pretend that the two ideas are in conflict, but they’re not. We can do both. We don’t need a large housing “overbuild” in Falls Village that is better suited to urban and suburban areas, any more than we need Northwest Connect’s network “overbuild” scheme.

What we do need are NHCOG representatives who are working to find solutions that are in the best interests of our communities and allocating funding toward these projects. We need them to do the hard work that needs to get done now, such as by using the $148K of CARES funding to provide broadband and computer hardware to students who don’t have any internet access at all so they can attend school remotely, or by engaging with the Falls Village community on what housing ideas would actually work best in Falls Village.

This kind of work isn’t glitzy. It doesn’t involve large amounts of cash being handed over to one private company, or pushing a fancy housing development that has a lot of state money behind it that can be doled out to interested parties. 

No, it involves the kind of work where you get down on your hands and knees and scrub. You figure out what really needs doing, and you do it, because it’s right and it will help make the world around you better and “cleaner.”

Colter Rule

Falls Village

 

Horn was right in her vote, and is right for the 64th 

The Police Accountability Bill that Connecticut’s Senate passed in July is a decisive and comprehensive piece of legislature. Though I did not read all 71 pages, I read enough articles and summaries (from both liberal and conservative media outlets) to come to a solid understanding of what the bill does. I would recommend this method — rather than regurgitating what your friends or family or chosen TV news station say — if you would like to check my facts on the bill or form an opinion for yourself.

Some of the most significant outcomes of this bill include: it is easier to file lawsuits against police officers, officers are accountable for the actions of those they work with, and inherent bias training is mandated for new recruits.

I think this bill is great, but I don’t have to defend it, because it passed two months ago. That said, a letter published in the Lakeville Journal Sept. 24 criticized state Rep. Maria Horn’s support of the bill,  claiming it could make it difficult for police to do their job and discourage new recruits. In response, I write to defend Maria Horn’s support of the bill and refute any claims that police accountability will make our corner of the state in any way less safe.

 First of all, Connecticut is by far one of the safest states in the country, and the Connecticut Uniform Crime Report shows steadily declining crime rates since 2010. With #50 as the state with the lowest crime rate, Connecticut is #46. We do not need more police.

 One issue that is still prevalent in Connecticut (and cited in the letter I respond to)  is drug addiction. This brings me to my second point; as sad and destructive as the opioid crisis is, War Against Drugs policing fails to effectively combat drug use or supply. Jail is not rehab, and addicts need medical help, not policing.

 And now for my third and most important point; this police accountability bill does not endanger the lives or careers of good police officers who do not commit outrageous misuses of power. Those in opposition to the bill have cited fears of police resignations and dwindling recruitment numbers. In response to these concerns, I would ask any officers considering resignation what they are afraid of. Regarding police recruitment, I would posit that the recent instances of police brutality and the increasingly crooked reputation of American police in general may do much more to dissuade young people from wanting to be cops.

We need a police force that makes everyone feel safe, not just privileged white people, and I am proud to live in a state that has taken steps towards this future. Likewise, I fully support  Representative Maria Horn’s decisions regarding policing in Connecticut, and urge you to vote for her re-election in November.

Carrie Babigian

Salisbury

 

Reasons to vote for Horn

Maria Horn is smart, tough and dedicated to environmental protection in the Northwest Corner.

She is committed to protecting the natural beauty of our community, and ensuring that we continue to have the clean air and water that are vital both to our own health and to local businesses and farms.  She was instrumental in passing legislation that requires air-quality monitoring for towns at risk from the NY Cricket Valley Plant.  

Horn is a creative problem solver who knows how to bring different interests to the table — that’s how she got the first-ever agreement to stop the Housatonic Railroad from spraying in sensitive areas. And she has supported the Community Investment Act Funds legislation that provides significant funding for dairy farms and open space.

Maria is pro-environment and also pro-economic development.  She looks at all sides of an issue.  She listens carefully, asks probing questions and does the research before she takes a stand.  She championed the single-use plastic bag ban, and is working on an update to Connecticut’s bottle bill, designed to increase glass and plastic recycling while also reducing costs for local municipalities. And she has recently helped pass bi-partisan legislation — “Take Back Our Grid” — that holds utilities responsible, and makes them pay — if power goes out for longer than 96 consecutive hours as it did in Hurricane Isaias.

Maria Horn is a tireless leader who works incredibly hard on behalf of all her constituents. We need to re-elect her as our state representative for the 64th District.

Parker Boal

Lakeville

 

So much wrong with Trump presidency

Donald Trump has reached a new low, if that’s possible. At his rally in Ohio he told his supporters that the coronavirus “affects virtually nobody under 18.” What about the United States death toll, from COVID-19, of over 200,000 people? Don’t the elderly count? Are they considered a disposable commodity now? I am 67, so does that include me? Yet you see his supporters, of all ages, not wearing a mask or practicing social distancing.

Trump’s presidency has been riddled with dangerous lies, vicious name-calling, bigotry and obscene admiration of his favorite dictators. Unfortunately, the Republican Party has become the party of Trump. How can they call themselves patriots and support a man who disparages our military and the men and women who serve our country? He called these veterans losers and suckers and yet he never served because of “bone spurs.” These courageous, selfless men and women have chosen to protect and serve our country and for the president of the United States to denigrate them is abhorrent. Donald Trump knows very little about honor, respect or dignity and doesn’t understand anything without a dollar sign attached to it.

How can anyone trust a president who acted in Russia and Turkey’s interests when he pulled our troops out and allowed Turkey to attack our Kurdish allies? The Kurds died helping American troops fight ISIS. Do you think the Kurdish government trusts the United States now?

Can anyone forget Donald Trump’s boasting of saving Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman when he orchestrated the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi dissident, author and columnist for the Washington Post? This because of an $8 billion arms deal Trump had made with the Saudi prince.

Trump’s dismissal of our intelligence officers is horrendous. Even the information exposed about Vladimir Putin putting a bounty on our American soldiers’ heads was disregarded.

There are so many destructive and corrosive elements contained in the Trump presidency that our country has become more violent, intolerant, suspicious and shamefully racist.

This is a profoundly somber time for the United States and one that can only be righted by voting Donald Trump out of office. For the future of our country, I fervently pray he is.

Gretchen M. Gordon

Sharon

 

Republican supporting local candidates, but not Trump

The chairman of the Salisbury Democratic Town Committee suggested in a letter to the editor that I should publicly apologize for Donald Trump and start working to repair the damage he has done to our country and work to reform my party. I am not going to apologize for Trump. I didn’t support him. I didn’t vote for him and I was aghast when he actually won the electoral vote. However, I am not going to leave the Republican Party when I think it needs reform and responsible citizens to come forward. I have seen a lot of history.

I was a broadcast news reporter, anchor and producer in Baltimore, Washington and New York from 1962 to 2009. I interviewed Martin Luther King. I was on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial when he delivered his “I have a dream” speech in 1963. I was also on the corner of 14th and “U” Streets when the riots broke out after his assassination in 1968. I interviewed George Wallace and was riding in a car with him in Maryland when he started thinking he could run for President.

I covered the violent protests to integrate Gwynn Oak Amusement Park in Baltimore County in 1963. More than 400 people were arrested. It was Spiro Agnew, then the Baltimore County Executive, who negotiated an end to the protests and desegregated the park. He rode that victory to the governorship. Later Nixon picked him to be Vice President. I was disappointed in his behavior then, but I was shocked to learn he was a crook all that time.

There was Lyndon Johnson pursuing a war in Vietnam that we learned his own advisors warned him he couldn’t win. And then there was the Gulf of Tonkin resolution in 1964 based on a fraudulent incident. The vote in the Senate was 88–2. Talk about profiles in courage. Those two senators, Wayne Morse of Oregon and Ernest Gruening of Alaska, were vilified as unpatriotic and worse. Morse lost his Senate seat in 1968. The Senate repealed the Gulf of Tonkin resolution in 1971 on a resolution introduced by Republican Robert Dole. Morse and Gruening were right after all.

There have been many more incidents that could have turned one into a political cynic. Nixon and Watergate, Reagan and Iran Contra, Clinton and Monica, and Bush and “Weapons of Mass Destruction” to name a few. Both parties have had major presidential campaign losses that nearly tore them apart. Think of Goldwater and McGovern. But both parties regrouped and reformed and went on to later successes.

So, yes, I am only promoting local Republican candidates Brian Ohler for Representative, Craig Miner for State Senate and David Sullivan for Congress. Reform begins at the grass roots, recruiting good people to put their time and energy into public service and attracting responsible citizens to support a civil dialogue about important civic issues. It’s no time for quitters.

Bill Littauer

Lakeville

 

Fill out this survey

There is an important survey that has just impacted most Sharon residents. It concerns the necessity of installing a fiber-optic network to provide high speed internet service for all Sharon residents. Area towns are now considering whether to build a high speed internet network throughout the region that could potentially be open to all homes and businesses for online access and other services.

Currently 35% of homes in our region are without broadband service. In today’s virtual age, this is a big problem for students, businesses and medical services.  Please fill out and return your survey! It can be accessed online at Sharon CT Broadband Access Survey.

Roger H. Lourie

Sharon

 

Ohler is the best choice

If the latest round of baseless commentary originating from Rep. Maria Horn’s campaign wasn’t so scripted and predictable, I would say that it’s all due in part because of Horn’s inability to defend her own atrocious two-year record as a Connecticut legislator. She and her band of unrelenting letter writers will stop at nothing to try and discredit, and malign, one of the most well-respected, dedicated, giving and selfless public servants of our time. 

Although I guess when you aren’t even from this area, nor did you even care about local issues until the year you decided to run for state politics, it is easy to throw mud at an opponent in the hopes that something will stick. 

Well, let me be the first to say that it’s not working. In fact, it is only continuing to prove to every single voter in the 64th House District why Brian Ohler is the obvious choice for state representative. He has remained steadfast and level-headed in his bid to win that seat back, always fighting for our best interest, because all he cares about are the people and businesses that call the northwest corner their home. He isn’t at all phased by the name-calling and rhetoric coming out of Horn’s “boot” camp. 

Perhaps all of this effort and noise on behalf of Horn is being done to keep people from finding out that as Vice Chair of the Appropriations Committee, she literally co-authored the most recent state budget that raised taxes by additional $2 billion dollars, including the expansion of the grocery tax and the new tax that was put on PPE and other safety apparel. 

Or, maybe it was her plan to sheepishly submit legislation during her first week in office that was dead set on shutting down Lime Rock Park racetrack. Or, maybe it’s because she realizes now that perhaps it was the wrong thing to not sign the petition that would’ve reversed the new grocery tax, but instead signed a petition that would allow parolees the chance to vote in the upcoming election. Horn can’t hide from the truth, or her roots. 

Do the right thing on Nov. 3. Vote for one of us. Vote for Brian Ohler for state representative. 

Janet Lynn

Lakeville

 

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