Letters to the Editor - The Lakeville Journal - 8-6-20
Falls Village needs rental housing
In response to the July 30 letter, “Mohawk Trail part of the proposed housing equation,” it’s worth reminding Ms. Werntz that many Falls Villagers live closer to either the Mohawk Trail or the Appalachian Trail than the River Road Homes will be sited. It’s one of the wonderful things about living in Falls Village!
It’s an ill-considered choice to use the elitist phrase “on the wrong side of the tracks.” The suggestion that people who will live in River Road Homes would somehow endanger the trail is offensive. Why would people earning modest incomes have any less right to live in beautiful natural surroundings? The train tracks go through the middle of our town. It is absurd to say that there is a right or wrong side.
The Falls Village Incentive Housing Zone (IHZ) meets all eligibility to receive state funding. Neither the IHZ nor River Road Homes prevents recreational activity on the Mohawk Trail as is falsely implied. Therefore, the inclusion on the 2013 Incentive Housing Zone map is irrelevant and unnecessary.
As happens far too often, a person with nothing better to do criticizes the research, efforts, even the capabilities of those actively working on creating solutions to complex socioeconomic issues. The FVHT Board of Directors is made up of local citizens well-respected in their fields of expertise who care deeply about environmental issues and have been working for years to solve the real problem of our lack of affordable, energy-efficient rental homes in Falls Village. Fortunately, the vast majority of Falls Villagers are in support of the River Road Homes project.
Here are some facts:
As Habitat’s Executive Director, Mr. Whelan, explained in his letter of July 23, the Mohawk Trail does cross Habitat for Humanity land, but not the 10-acre parcel that the FV Housing Trust Inc. will be purchasing, which is several hundred yards away.
Falls Village needs rental housing suitable for seniors, singles and families. However, our town does not have the municipal funds for development. The Falls Village Housing Trust is a solution.
The CT Department of Housing (DOH) only funds larger multi-family developments. River Road Homes is small by their standards.
Falls Village does not have a multi-acre block of land available in the town center.
The Falls Village Housing Trust responded to community input and cut the size by 43% from the originally proposed project and moved it farther from River Road.
These homes will be maintained by a management company and will have landscaping upkeep. River Road Homes will be an attractive, well-cared-for development.
This development will house middle-income workers such as teachers, nurses, shop workers, restaurant staff and those working in various trades. Many local employers have told us their employees have difficulty finding suitable rentals.
For more information, please visit our website at: www.fallsvillagehousingtrust.org.
Felicia Brodzky Jones, Falls Village
Church bells are ringing in Falls Village, too
It was good to read Elyse Harney’s letter about the church bells ringing in Salisbury during this time of pandemic. As pastor of the Falls Village Congregational Church, I am glad to add our congregation to that roster of churches who have been ringing their bells as a sign of our trust in God and our commitment to express by our actions our care for our neighbors. We began ringing on March 31 and have continued ringing every day at 5 p.m.
Like the bells in many of the churches and other public buildings throughout the region, ours was cast by the Meneely Bell Company of W. Troy. The Meneely Company made more than 65,000 bells from 1826 until it closed in 1952. The Falls Village bell was given by member Albert Dowd in 1896.
Our bells ringers have been Tracy Atwood, Bill Beebe, Terry Blass, Larry Bulson, Glen Chapell, Charlie Gumbert, Frank Hadsell, Dick Heinz, Dennis Jasmine, Ed and Suzan Kircher.
Let’s keep those bells ringing as evidence of our hope during this challenging time.
Rich Reifsnyder, Salisbury
Support these Democrats for statewide office
Last week’s (July 30) letter from Tom Morrison, Chair of the Salisbury RTC, backed local Republican candidates without mentioning the leader of this no-longer Grand Old Party: a telling omission. Current Republican elected officials at all levels have been almost mute on the egregious comments and actions of President Trump, but this enabling-through-inaction can not continue. Note: the co-Founder of the Federalist Society, a very conservative organization, called for his impeachment after Trump suggested that he would move the date of the Nov. election. (He can’t, of course. Only Congress can, and they haven’t in the 240 years of our nationhood.)
Feckless Republican leadership at the top bears responsibility for the tragedy of lives affected or taken by COVID-19 and its continuing economic impact. Crises require real leadership and organized action on the federal and state level. Both have been missing except in Democrat-led states.
Inaction by Republicans occurs everywhere. In Congress, it is the Democrats who take positive actions to protect and enhance the lives of Americans. U.S. Rep. Jahana Hayes (D-5) has been a low-key yet potent voice that is heard by her leadership in the fight to protect and support education, in particular, and other critically important issues. She is a strong, independent person who considers both the short and long term needs of her constituents.
State Senator Craig Miner (R-30) has had a kind of sinecure in the state Legislature, but what has he actually accomplished? David Gronbach, who is running against Miner for the seat, has common sense policies on healthcare, taxes and the environment that will enhance lives in District 30, plus the resolve to turn them into reality.
As for the state representative race: the NW Corner had been an out of sight, out of mind part of Connecticut in the state Legislature until Roberta Willis reversed that trend during her long and successful tenure as our representative. Maria Horn continues to ensure the voice of the NW Corner is heard in Hartford. Despite being in her freshman term, her expertise in law and finance was quickly recognized and she was appointed Co-Chair of the Appropriations Committee. She is also on key committees like Environment and the Joint Committee on Judiciary. She continues to listen to the voices and concerns of all her constituents through the myriad in-person and ZOOM meetings she has held in the last two years and her weekly legislative summations.
Her opponent refers to himself as a public servant but that does not necessarily translate to being effective as a representative in Hartford. Maria has proven that she has the time, energy and chops to make all our voices heard in the Legislature.
Barbara Maltby, Lakeville
Mary L. Trump’s book: It’s definitely a gotta-read
First off, anything I say here, Mary Trump has said better in her new book, “Too Much and Never Enough.”
As I read the final chapter, I found myself thinking that no one will need to write the post-mortem book about Trump’s impact on this country. His niece Mary has just done it.
I’m here to say why others will also not be able to put her book down.
There are failed families, and then there are families, like Fred Trump’s, who fail their nation. This one provides the kind of scrutiny that only a family member can provide, but with the benefit of hindsight and the help of a New York Times team that sorted through 19 boxes of financial records.
This is not a long book. Mary Trump succinctly chronicles the endless cycle of ego-feeding. Her uncle is someone who “knows no one has ever loved him,” but “if you aren’t doing all you can to alleviate his suffering, then you should suffer, too.”
She explains something I never understood: why Donald Trump publicly complains about how unfair everyone is to him. I always asked myself, “Why would he want to look helpless like that, when, on the other hand, he is constantly proclaiming himself to be so great?” Wouldn’t he be embarrassed?
The behavior pattern is just another ploy (and the big “D” word, a Distraction) to give him pass after pass. He needs fake love yet strangely doesn’t care if anyone really loves him. He has never had any friends. None. And he is incapable of realizing the difference between flattery and mockery.
Just think, hundreds of thousands of lives lost just to impress an “audience of one: his long-dead father.”
The book portrays original sin in the form of that monstrous father (Fred), a blind-eye mother (Mary senior), and a pathetic band of enablers who have brought our country to its “impending collapse.” This is a family that none of us, even those who mistakenly think he cares about them, would ever want to spend time with.
Don’t mistake Mary’s story for pop psychology. It is brilliantly chronicled, not unlike a Norman Mailer foray into a family raised rotten. We are just lucky that this family member survived to tell this fascinating, horrifying tale.
Finally, her saga left me incredulous that some of those same atoms of D.C. air captured by Donald Trump when inhaled by the likes of John Lewis could produce such a different outcome. Hopefully this is sufficient inspiration to pull us all halfway out of the swamp and give us a last gasp of sanity and direction.
There was only one Holocaust, but we need to find a different word to encapsulate this phenomenon ... so one like it never rears its ugly head again.
Molly Fitzmaurice, Sharon
Winners for Connecticut
We have seen how hard it can be to get timely and essential legislation out of our state and national capitals. But the Connecticut Legislature has come together in a productive special session to craft, debate and pass two July 2020 laws — protecting the health of November voters in the age of COVID-19 and strengthening police accountability.
For this second law, think of our State Representative in the 64th — Maria Horn. Commend Maria Horn for her energy, her leadership and, perhaps above all, for her listening and negotiating skills in helping bring An Act Concerning Police Accountability (HB 6004) to a vote and the governor’s desk for his signature.
Many families, like ours, include police officers who risk their lives to serve us so ably. But no officers and no civilians were served by the Minneapolis policeman (with 18 previous complaints on file) whose knee pressed on the neck for over 8 minutes killed George Floyd. So Connecticut’s laws needed clearer procedures for removing and decertifying that small fraction of police officers with multiple and serious charges of improper conduct.
State Rep. Horn approaches police accountability as a human issue and not a political issue. Drawing on her background as a federal prosecutor and serving on the Judiciary Committee in Hartford, Maria was there throughout HB 6004. The bill’s detail runs 71 pages causing her to argue forcibly and successfully on this Committee for a one-year examination of the law’s impact on municipalities before it goes into effect. Both the 64th District and our state are well served by Maria Horn and the informed hard work she brings to the job.
William Bachrach, Kent
Whose idea was an IHZ in Falls Village?
On Sept. 23, 2020, the Falls Village Planning & Zoning Commission (P&Z) will vote on a $3.5 million housing development, “River Road Homes” encompassing five buildings with 16 housing units and 29 bedrooms to be built and managed by the Falls Village Housing Trust… in the woods two miles south of town.
Yes, money to build the project will come from state and other grants, and theoretically, rental income should cover operations going forward. So why should Falls Village taxpayers care?
Property taxes will help support River Road. Have our town’s leaders considered the impact of the proposed development on our property taxes?
More students in the Housatonic Valley Regional High School will raise the mill rate that determines our property taxes. Our first selectman, Henry Todd, explained the recent hike in the Falls Village mill rate (to 25.7, or more than twice Salisbury’s): “…our percentage of the students enrolled at the high school has increased 73% over the past two years. Since our percentage of students has increased so dramatically, so has our percentage of the total budget from the high school. Our costs for Region One, due solely to this percentage change, are up $531,000 over the last two years.”
FVHT purports that the River Road Homes will pay property taxes, but other affordable housing projects in the Northwest Corner appear to be exempt from such taxes — and still struggle to get by. Kent Affordable Housing sought another grant of up $1.2 million because the project it built 20 years ago needs repairs that rental income doesn’t cover.
Nor has the FVHT offered any projections of income and expenses for River Road Homes. It has not estimated its project’s impact on town services such as education, fire, ambulance, and the transfer station. P&Z officials have said it is not their job to consider such additional burdens on the town budget when voting on this very big project. Just what is their job?
In 2013, P&Z designated the property on River Road as an Incentive Housing Zone (IHZ) without notifying homeowners in the area of its plans, as is required by regulation. An IHZ expands residential density, allowing construction of, say, eight homes where once only one home could go, and its objective is to enhance utilization of transportation hubs or existing or planned infrastructure centers. On River Road, Falls Village, really? An IHZ is never to interfere with parks or recreational spaces. Yet P&Z in 2013 designated this land an IHZ right on the Mohawk Trail and miles from any transport hub — why?
Only now has Falls Village gotten a $15,000 grant to develop an Affordable Housing Plan, putting the horse way behind the cart. P&Z won’t have the results of that research by the time it votes on the River Road Homes in September. P&Z, what is the rush?
And whose idea was an IHZ anyway? There are excellent opportunities for affordable housing right in the heart of our town. More on that coming soon!
Daly Reville, Falls Village
The sky is falling
The two anti-POTUS letters in last week’s Lakeville Journal (July 30) illustrate the hateful mindset of Americans who support violent anarchy and revolution taking place in Democratic cities across the USA that brazenly attempt to place blame where it isn’t. As the WSJ July 27 opinion piece, A Weekend of Urban Anarchy, said, “These were not peaceful protests, despite what many in the media claim” despite “Democrats and their media allies insist[ing] these are largely peaceful protests.”
The Democratic-enabled COVID-19 pandemic fiasco that America is surviving (quite well actually) may be a flash in the pan to the imminent mental health epidemic that will sweep the East and West coasts and major Democratic cities in between that will again hit the U.S. the night of Nov. 3. Mental health organizations, universities and colleges (that open), and many pro-Biden unions must be prepared to deal with an explosion of TDS cases. I would certainly go long on certain pharma companies, Crayola and Really Big Coloring Books, Inc.
I would also suggest that Americans on both sides of the divide brush up on the difference between “Revolution” and “Civil War.” After the failed attempted coup of a duly elected POTUS, and failed sham impeachment circus, there are many Americans who may not tolerate the Democratic-enabled and supported violent protests spreading across mostly urban America moving to the suburbs.
Chris Janelli, Salisbury
Thanks to Sharon Playhouse
We want to express our deep gratitude to everyone at the Sharon Playhouse for their extraordinary generosity and assistance in hosting “Neighbors Helping Neighbors,” our documentary film celebrating our volunteer first responders. While dealing with the challenge of their own summer schedule, they made time to help with the logistical and technical challenges of screening the film on two consecutive evenings.
Their careful planning and positive attitude made the events not only possible but also celebratory. Honking horns testified to the enthusiastic response of the audience. Robert Levinstein, Alan Wager, Emily Soell, the Playhouse staff and many volunteers are also “neighbors helping neighbors” and exemplify the community spirit we all love. We can’t thank them enough.
To see the film, go to www.vimeo.com/433676166.
Mary & Philip Oppenheimer and Anne Makepeace, Salisbury
Be kind to one another
I am a former resident of Lakeville, and I celebrated 86 years of life on July 16. I consider myself part of history, the history of a Black woman’s experience that cannot be debated.
Humanity, treat people with kindness.
Rest in peace, John Lewis. We will overcome.
Dolores (Branche) James-Johnson, Ocala, Fla.
For affordable housing, take more care
Let’s get something straight. We in Falls Village are NOT AGAINST affordable housing. We’ve said it ’til we’re blue in the face. We are FOR IN-Town housing where people want to live. Some call those housing developments where people are concentrated together, far from towns, “Splat” housing. That’s what Falls Village Housing Trust (FVHT), enabled by salaried professional grant writers at the “quasi-government” NW Hills Council of Government (NHCOG) (who have done most of the “heavy-lifting” and directed FVHT to housing consultants, architects and engineers) has proposed to get built. The planned $3.5 million, 29 bedroom “Splat” will multiply our neighborhood population times four, ruin a pristine hillside through which the Mohawk Trail runs and raise our already sky-high (25.7) mill rate.
The FVHT is six people, two of whom reside in Salisbury (mill rate 11.6). Habitat for Humanity NWCT is selling the Lime Rock Station property to the FVHT. The President of Habitat (seller) is the Vice President the FVHT (buyer). Conflict of Interest? Additionally, FVHT has provided no information on revenue and costs of running and maintaining this development. Due to COVID unemployment, many tenants in Kent affordable housing can’t pay their rent, forcing the Town to “pass the hat” and hold bake sales. We sincerely sympathize. What would happen to this development if FVHT were unable to financially manage and maintain it? Would the town end up owning and running it, like Sharon has had to? Is that a responsibility the town and citizens are willing to accept?
Here’s another twist. In 2013, unbeknownst to the townspeople of Falls Village, the FV P+Z radically (and we say, illegally) re-zoned The Lime Rock Station property as an “Incentive Housing Zone”, with zero notifications, making it eligible for large state development grants. Incentive Housing Zones are intended for large cities, not the second smallest town in this state, Falls Village. The FV P+Z has shown us zero signed documents proving compliance or that the IHZ was ever actually established by Connecticut state regulations. We are still awaiting proof, now nearly one year later. Because of those facts, 21 neighbors and residents protested by letter at the inaudible P+Z Zoom Meeting of Thursday July 23 that: 1) the IHZ is illegal; 2) the Public Hearing NOT be scheduled; 3) FVHT’s Special Permit be denied. Read and ignored. The hearing was scheduled anyway, despite our pleas. Sept. 23.
I write to voice the concerns of many Falls Village citizens who advocate for an appropriate solution to our town’s “needs” for housing. One that will serve future residents so they become part of our town fabric. We’re small: we need a different, creative solution. Not the cookie cutter “Splat.” FVHT, in lockstep with the FV P+Z and NHCOG, are trying to solve a so-called “problem” by dropping a massive A-Bomb on our tiny neighborhood. There are too many questions, still unanswered. Lawyer up? No, thanks. Answer questions! Present documents!
Colter Rule and neighbors, Falls Village