Letters to the Editor - The Lakeville Journal - 4-8-21
Problem with shortsighted opposition
The Republican Town Committee continues to support the revised proposal for Holley Block notwithstanding the plethora of high-priced attorneys, architects and engineers warning of a never-ending cascade of problems if the project is permitted to proceed. Parking problems, traffic problems, school bus problems, drainage problems, waste disposal problems — not to mention the loss of a pathetic strip of grass with two trees where you can sit and watch the traffic on Route 44 go by.
Lost in all this is any recognition of the serious problem our town will eventually face if this and other Affordable Housing (AH) projects are blocked. Simply put, our ability to make our own decisions about building and zoning matters could be lost. Decisions about AH in Salisbury could suddenly be made by bureaucrats in Hartford or, worse, Washington. This is not imaginary. There are already several laws and regulations that affect local land use and zoning decisions and new ones are quickly coming our way.
State law already requires every town to have an AH plan specifying how the town intends to increase the number of AH units. Another law provides that, if a town has less than 10% of its housing stock devoted to AH — a requirement we do not meet — a developer may come in and build an AH project without securing zoning approval so long as 30% of its units are reserved for AH.
More than a dozen bills have been introduced in Hartford that would allow the state to override local zoning regulations under the guise of “desegregating” our cities and towns. For example, in mid-March a General Assembly committee held a hearing on legislation that would allow developers to construct 2, 3 or 4-bedroom units in downtown corridors without securing local zoning approval. Even the federal government is getting into the act; HUD is currently investigating whether Connecticut’s reliance on local zoning laws has led to segregated housing in violation of the federal Fair Housing laws.
Salisbury is extremely fortunate to have its current AH plans in the hands of local organizations, such as the Salisbury AH Commission and the Salisbury Housing Committee (which oversees most of our AH units and has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars developing the current Holley Block plan.) It is these organizations, made up of residents of our community, that are working to bring more AH to our town and thereby bring us into compliance with state mandates.
If we continue to put endless roadblocks in the way of every AH proposal, and put every project at risk of being quashed as a result of local opposition, we will end up with insufficient AH. And that would not only be a tragedy for Salisbury workers, but could be a tragedy for our town when we find that decisions of this nature have been taken out of our hands and given to bureaucrats in Hartford.
Chair, Salisbury Republican Town Committee
It’s really important to talk trash
Over the past year there has been a clear increase in the amount of trash to be seen along our area roadsides and especially the sections of road that lead to the transfer station. One imagines a lot of this blowing out of the trucks that are hauling it there. To make any attempt to appeal to the better judgments of those who choose to deliberately litter is a waste of time, as a friend of mine’s father would say, they are “amateur human beings” and they are certainly not reading the paper or much else, I am sure.
So where does this leave us and just whose job is it to keep the roadsides litter free? Not your job? Then whose? The state or town crews? Why don’t we take a moment to reflect on stewardship, for our area and our Earth and take ownership for the roads we live on and drive on everyday?
Get some gloves, a bag and even a stick with a nail on the end of it and pick an area that needs some help and fill a bag up. Even one bag is better than doing nothing or waiting for someone else to do it. Perhaps no one notices what the roads look like. I can see one simply becoming oblivious to it and that is part of the problem.
This year alone I have filled 15 contractor-sized bags. Sadly, since most of this is very dirty, it all ends up in the trash; you can try to sort the recycling from the trash but bear in mind the resources needed to wash this stuff. It’s actually better to just throw it all out as trash. Worried about Covid? Most of this stuff has been there for months if not years and is safe to handle, but always wear gloves.
We cannot change the fact that there will always be trash on the roadsides but we CAN change our world one piece of litter at a time, one person at a time, one bit of care at a time.
Let’s really love where we live.
Holley and Pope: It’s not either-or
The letters from Ms. Monaco and from Ms. Wilson and Mr. Mason that appeared in this newspaper last week repeated tired falsehoods that have been refuted by the sponsors of the Holley Place project currently before the Salisbury Planning & Zoning Commission.
The first canard they offer is that we can solve our housing crisis by abandoning the Holley Place project and building all necessary units on the Pope property. As has been stated in numerous public forums, the Town Affordable Housing Plan (adopted by the selectmen in 2018) explicitly states that BOTH Holley Place and Pope, as well as the other sites listed in the Plan, will be needed if the town is to meet its goal of 75 new affordable housing units in eight years. It is not either-or.
A second canard is that a financial analysis must be done as a prerequisite for forming an opinion about Holley Place. The excellent letter to the editor by Kathy and Michael Voldstad in the 3/25/21 Journal lays out how affordable rental housing finance differs radically from the private real estate process described in excruciating but irrelevant detail in Mr. Muecke’s recent full-page ad in this newspaper.
To summarize, construction of affordable rental housing on Holley Place, Pope, or other sites will have no impact on the town’s budget, mill rate or credit rating because the units will be financed by federal, state and other grants. The projects will undergo a rigorous examination by the granting authorities. The Salisbury Housing Committee has been building affordable rental units using these grants for decades and currently manages 33 apartments in Salisbury.
In addition, consider that we are between two and five years from being at the same place with the Pope project (i.e., having architectural drawings, site plans, traffic studies, etc. ready for Planning & Zoning consideration) as we are with Holley Place today — and then it would likely be at least another one or two years until the units are constructed.
Can we afford to wait that long to address our urgent need for housing options? Our waiting lists are lengthy, and we hear almost every week about someone who has had to move out of town to find housing, including volunteer first-responders. Once plans for the Pope property are developed, there will likely be concerns raised about traffic and architectural design by the neighbors of that site, and it will be “Groundhog Day” all over again. Some of Pope’s neighbors will say it should go somewhere else where the “grass is greener” just as Holley’s opponents are saying today that Pope’s “grass is greener.”
The British have a two-word name for this tactic: “Jam tomorrow.”
Many complications for Salisbury housing
As a life-long member of the Salisbury community I feel that diversity makes it a special place. I firmly support affordable housing if it makes sense and is affordable. Building a three-story building on a busy road does not make sense nor is it affordable.
I am sure that there will be children living in the building. Where would their backyard be to play in? How about the disruption of the truck traffic on Rt. 44? And when you build a multi-level and multi-family building, the building codes, ADA requirements and fire codes are much stricter than a single-family dwelling.
First, an elevator would have to be installed to meet ADA requirements and that elevator needs to be inspected yearly. Secondly, a central fire alarm system would have to be installed and monitored 24/7. Thirdly, if I am not mistaken, a sprinkler system would need to be installed. There would have to be interior fire escapes built into the building and fire doors installed throughout the building. Multiple fire extinguishers, that need to be inspected yearly, would need to be installed through out the building.
As far as maintenance is concerned, a single-level structure is easier to maintain than a three-story building. The facade, including windows, would have to be washed routinely because of the dust and dirt kicked up from vehicle traffic. The inevitable cost of replacing a roof on a three-story building is much more money per square foot than a single-story structure.
Who will maintain the interior common areas? The carpets, floors, lighting and painting of those areas. There would have to be a superintendent living on site when issue arise.
Yes, affordable house does make sense as long the housing makes sense. Multi-level, multi-family housing does not make good short-term or long-term sense.
It’s a process
Now I’ve got my second Jab
I’m sure it won’t leave a scab
Left the hospital feeling fine
Ready to go out and dine
But during sleep that same night
My arm was aching not feeling right
And in the morn the aches did start
And my arm started to smart
Then flu like symptoms came
Not feeling right as rain
But after breakfast I improved
And the aches were removed
So now I feel so much better
That I started to write this letter.
Town meetings should be public meetings, not private webinars
A silver lining of the Covid year is how much easier it’s become to attend Town Meetings, which have moved to Zoom so that you can attend them without even having to leave home. All you need is internet and a screen. If you don’t have internet, or if you’re on the road, you can call in with a phone number to listen in and be heard.
But in recent months, meetings and public hearings regarding controversial topics in Salisbury have been changed from Zoom meetings to Zoom webinars. This means that only those hosting the meeting can be seen, along with those they choose to “elevate” to the screen. Members of the public who choose to attend will not be seen, nor will they be able to see others who attend. Telephone call-ins aren’t allowed. You must “raise a hand” to be called on to speak and even then, you must speak disembodied, unless the host chooses to make you visible.
This is the equivalent of holding a public meeting at Town Hall but locking the doors to the public, leaving them standing outside, peering in through windows, trying to shout in a question or comment.
I was told that the change was instituted because Zoom meetings can accommodate only 100 attendees. But Zoom has plans that will accommodate more people. For $600/year, you can host meetings for up to 500 people. For $1080/year, up to 1000.
I was then told that larger meetings on Zoom would make it too hard for town officials to conduct the meetings. No doubt, this is true. At the last P&Z hearing that was a Zoom webinar, the P&Z chairman, obviously flummoxed by the technology, disabled the chat function so as not to be “distracted” by input from the public. I sympathize with him and agree that Commission members, who are volunteers, should not be expected to add to their burdens by having to master changing technologies.
But the solution isn’t to keep the public from participating in public meetings. The solution is to get someone else to run the technology behind the meetings. This could be done by a single digitally savvy person from their own home. Perhaps a teacher at HVRHS could recommend a few civic-minded students for a new internship to help Salisbury return to deciding issues via public meetings instead of private webinars.
Local control must be valued and retained in Connecticut
I have recently written several posts to my fellow citizens in Cornwall about the issue of Local Control versus Regional Initiatives. I have been distressed by the increasing role that the Northwest Hills Council of Governments (COG) is playing in our town. Actually, in its 21 member towns (including Salisbury, Canaan, Falls Village, Kent and Torrington.) If you have been to any town meetings lately, you have likely seen COG’s handiwork. They are determined to erase local ordinances and replace them with homogenized language that eliminates regulations crafted by individual towns and concerned citizens over many years, decisions based on the unique characteristics of the land in their towns, including environmental issues, historic areas, wildlife habitat, topography and infrastructure.
The nine COGs across Connecticut have been working with the Office of Policy and Management and the Census Bureau to be designated as a “county.” While COGs would not have taxing power like a traditional county, they would receive and disperse lots of money. Right now the Legislature is considering HB-6655, an Act Concerning Municipal Taxation and Incentivizing Regionalization, which includes: regionalizing education, police and fire and allowing a coalition of bargaining units to negotiate wages and benefits for the delivery of regional services. This legislation is meant to destroy Local Control and Incentivize Regionalization.
The COG’s influence is everywhere. In Cornwall, we are examining a re-write of our Home-Business regulations that is being done with the guidance of a COG employee hired by our P+Z Commission. Using a COG-endorsed zoning template, they have eliminated references to protecting the “residential or rural character” of our neighborhoods.
Cornwall P+Z Chair Anna Timmel pointed to the fact that the elimination of the word “character” in zoning regulations is “a new idea” and that the use of the term is being considered by some as “inherently racist” and intended to keep people from other cultures coming into towns. While quick to point out that this is a new and untested approach to writing zoning regulations ( eliminating the word “character”) she nonetheless endorsed Cornwall moving full speed ahead to adopt this thinking. Did she really think that the citizens of Cornwall would passively accept the label of “racists” simply because we love and want to protect the “rural and residential character” of our town? I don’t!
There are numerous bills before the Legislature now; many would end Connecticut’s long-standing commitment to “home rule” and usurp local decision-making. Learn about what you can do to keep Local Control and stop the steam-roller movement to Regionalize Initiatives and empower the unelected bureaucrats at COG.
Check out websites such as www.CT169Strong.org and ask your town officials about where they stand on proposals from the Connecticut Council of Small Towns (COST), one of the organizations standing up against the tidal wave of regionalization proposals.
Now you still have a voice; you must speak up. You may not have a voice for much longer, if the proposed bills that are moving forward are passed.
Housing should be built in Salisbury
A warm, dry, safe place to call home is among the most basic human needs. Housing is a source of both comfort and anxiety, and features prominently in stories people share: the young woman with a local job she loves who can’t afford to stay in her hometown; the resident about to lose her home of decades because of rising rents, who can find nowhere else to go; the parent bursting with excitement because a daughter was moving into new affordable housing in their town.
Access to housing is a powerful determinant of health. For our communities, families, and employers, we need to provide additional affordable housing options. This is why our town leaders adopted the Salisbury Affordable Housing Plan in 2018, naming seven properties that would be necessary to meet the town’s housing goals. It’s why, in June of 2018, Salisbury voters decided by a margin of 236 to 65 to move forward on one of those properties, constructing a building with 12-18 affordable rental units on the Holley Block property. It is why the local volunteers at the Salisbury Housing Committee have held and presented at multiple public meetings, detailing plans and adjusting both the design and the scale of the project in response to public input.
And it is why I support the thoughtful and appropriate plan for the Holley Block property. Adding these homes in Salisbury will enrich our town, and all of us. Thank you to all who have moved this plan forward.
There’s more to the NCAA than was written
In the April 1 column (Basketball Notebook) titled “After a Year Long Hiatus, March Madness is Back”, by Hunter O. Lyle, there is only coverage of the men’s side of “March Madness” — not one single mention of the women’s NCAA teams.
Really? This seems so disrespectful of the hard work put in by the women’s teams. If we look at one example in our state alone, we see that the UConn men’s team did not advance past the first round and yet the UConn women, as I write this letter, will be playing in a Final Four game tonight.
In any case, there should have been coverage in the article of both genders.
We need jobs, housing
I’ve been reading about the proposed housing to be built at Holley Place in Lakeville. As an outsider I would like to give my opinion on what I call the elephant in the room.
Many years ago I worked at the insurance agency that is across the street from that empty lot. I saw the heavy traffic on Route 44 every day and I think it is worse now. This is no place to have people out and about.
I’ve lived in the area since 1968 and have seen many changes while driving through the towns twice a day. I remember when the Shagroy Market was on Main Street and you backed out onto Route 44 when finished shopping. There was Danny’s Shoe Repair Shop, the Village Pharmacy by the Lakeville Post Office and Buzz Morey was the crossing guard at Salisbury Central School. It was always interesting coming along Route 44 to see if the white picket fence in front of Dr. Noble’s house had gotten hit again by someone driving too fast for that curve.
There have been discussions about building rental housing for years (I like to term it rental housing instead of affordable), but nothing gets done. There have been vacant spots off the main highway that could have been used, but weren’t. I’m thinking of the areas on Fowler Street and behind the library.
I was surprised when the Lion’s Head Condos were built where they are. That would have been a good spot for lower income apartments as the buildings are far from the highway.
I hadn’t been through the towns in a long time until one Sunday last summer. It was like a movie set. A few parked cars; no people. Not even a dog. The virus may have had something to do with it, but I doubt it. I don’t think the future for the towns is very bright without some people being able to afford to live and work there.
Carolyn A. McDonough
Not messy, but beautiful, alternate lawns
“Do Americans insist on too much lawn?” Yes they do — as Mac Gordon explained well, American lawns laden with pesticides and herbicides kill beneficial insects, waste water, are terrible for the environment, and expensive to maintain.
This is timely as I’m into year two of ditching our lawn — no herbicides, fertilizer, lime, or pesticides (except cedar oil to keep ticks down). I banned leaf blowers, which spread invasive plants, and mostly “left the leaves” in the fall. I encourage the beautiful moss that grows naturally (zero maintenance) and planted creeping thyme and clover. Only had to pay for mowing twice last summer!
I set bluestone pavers to create paths through the yard. Not a native plant purist (as I love my lilacs and peonies), but adding native wildflowers to help the birds and the bees, and milkweed for the monarch butterflies. Our well often runs dry in the summer — once our “no lawn” yard is established, our yard will need very little watering, stay colorful, and need mowing maybe once a year.
Kudos to the towns that create pollinator gardens in public spaces, some might find them messy, but I find them beautiful. It’s a movement!
Funding for Sharon ICU
The items mentioned in your page one story concerning contingencies that might be done about the dated ICU at Sharon Hospital left me wondering. One of the contingencies not discussed was pursuing funding from the Federal COVID Relief package and/or the proposed infrastructure bill to refurbish, upgrade and modernize critical facilities. What’s the money going to be used for?
It seems, nationwide and here in Connecticut, hospital improvement would be an appropriately targeted use for those funds. If so, Sharon Hospital ought to work with our local, state and federal government officials to make it happen.