Letters to the Editor - The Lakeville Journal - 9-17-20
Right time, right place, right size in Falls Village
The Falls Village Housing Trust has state funding to advance River Road Homes. This is the time, the right place and the right size for Falls Village. This iron is hot!
This is the property that will meet the needs for wells and septic. A change in the neighborhood? Yes, this was part of a gravel mine. This attractive development is a change for the better. I won’t be surprised if some of the opponents of the project or their children become happy residents.
This project is no attack on the environment. Apartments gathered on 4 acres, not far from the road, cause minimal disturbance to the connected 10,000-acre Housatonic State Forest. Mr. Rule’s suggestion of a 5-lot subdivision would bring a greater infringement and fragmentation of the forest, while producing no rental housing and having no funding. The claim that the development will harm the Mohawk Trail is spurious; the Trail is more than 400’ away through dense forest.
Sixteen apartments is a good size for efficiency in construction and management as well as long-term financial stability. It will be managed by a professional management company just like similar apartments in neighboring towns. River Road Homes is a project that will work.
River Road Homes will address a primary concern of the Town Plan to keep Falls Village a vital town, with affordable rental housing. It will help young residents to stay in Falls Village, young families to come to town and older residents to downsize and remain in the town they love, all accomplished by a local nonprofit harnessing state funding. Please voice your support and appreciation.
Board Member Habitat for Humanity
Further thoughts on affordable housing
In 2017, The State of Connecticut mandated that every town in Connecticut create an Affordable Housing Plan every five years. To date, The Town of Falls Village has not been in compliance with this requirement and has only now just begun the process of developing an Affordable Housing Plan. In July Falls Village was awarded a $15,000 grant from the State of Connecticut Department of Housing to address the need for a comprehensive affordable housing plan. As stated in the grant application “these funds may be used for any eligible planning cost associated with the preparation and/or adoption of an Affordable Housing Plan.”
Also, in 2017 The Falls Village Housing Trust was incorporated. How perfect it would have been if the newly formed Falls Village Housing Trust had begun its work by creating an Affordable Housing Plan. Unfortunately, instead its board of directors embarked on a plan for a 3 million dollar project without thoroughly assessing the needs of the town. Furthermore, the board did not do their due diligence on the eligibility requirements of an Incentive Housing Zone Development which are clearly stated in The General Statutes of Connecticut.
The title and subject of Chapter124b of The General Statutes is Incentive Housing Zones. Under Definitions, an “Eligible location” is defined as “(A) An area near a transit station, including rapid transit, commuter rail, bus terminal, or ferry terminal; (B) an area of concentrated development such as a commercial center, existing residential or commercial district or village district established pursuant to section 8-2j; or (C) an area that, because of existing, planned or proposed infrastructure, transportation access or underutilized facilities or location, is suitable for development as an incentive housing zone.” Section 8-2j referred to in (B) is a “Village District specifically identified in the plan of conservation and development.”
The 66-acre parcel on River Road is part of the Housatonic River wildlife corridor and the Mohawk Trail runs through it. It is not near a transit station, it is not in an area of concentrated development, it is not in the Village district, and it is not in an area where further development is planned or desired in the future. It in no way meets the eligibility requirements for a densely zoned Incentive Housing Zone Development. It meets the State of Connecticut’s criteria for conservation not for development.
This $15,000 Affordable Housing Grant from the Department of Housing is a precious opportunity for Falls Village to rethink its plans for affordable housing and to create a plan for using state funds to put affordable housing in the front yard of Falls Village and simultaneously give our downtown a much needed economic boost. Falls Village just lost its downtown coffee shop so, at present, you can’t buy a cup of coffee or a quart of milk in downtown Falls Village.
People need housing and Falls Village needs a vibrant downtown. And we have thoughtful, creative people in Falls Village excited about using this grant to create win/win solutions.
Town has not met requirements for housing
In a week, the Falls Village Planning and Zoning Commission will hold a public hearing to gauge public sentiment on a plan to build affordable housing on River Road.
In 2013, the Planning and Zoning Commission, at the behest of the Northwestern Connecticut Regional Planning Collaborative, obtained approval from the state of Connecticut to designate the property on River Road as an Incentive Housing Zone. The state gave its approval in a letter dated Feb. 20, 2014.
In that letter, the state also reminded our town officials of their responsibility to make annual submissions about our new Incentive Housing Zone to the state Department of Health. “According to CGS section 8-13r(a), the town must submit the information required to DOH Commissioner by September 1, 2014 and every year thereafter. The town must obtain an Incentive Housing Zone Certification of Compliance from DOH by October 1st annually in accordance with the procedures that will be established by DOH.”
I asked to see those annual submissions under the Freedom of Information Act — but they don’t exist because the town failed to submit the required information. “Up to now Town Officials were not aware and State Officials did not enforce this requirement,” Thomas Scott, the Zoning Enforcement Officer for Falls Village, wrote in response to my request.
In other words, the town has not complied with state requirements for retaining an Incentive Housing Zone and thus may not be in any position to grant approval for building affordable housing on River Road. “The first selectman is working with the Department of Housing to rectify this issue,” Mr. Scott wrote.
Additionally, the town lacks any evidence that it requested input from the owners of homes in the immediate vicinity of the River Road property in 2013, as required under state law governing the creation of Incentive Housing Zones. “Unfortunately, the ZEO at the time of this application has died and I am unable to find his records that he kept,” the current Zoning Enforcement Officer wrote to me.
In almost any other town, such sloppy administration and record keeping would not be tolerated. Nor would public officials be trying to push through a controversial housing development in the middle of a pandemic that forces them to hold their public meetings via Zoom, particularly since Falls Village has struggled to conduct meetings that way all summer. The Planning and Zoning Commission insists it must have the meeting next week to comply with state regulations, but the governor has given local officials plenty of leeway to use their judgment to delay meetings due to COVID-19.
It would be a shame for the Planning and Zoning Commission to rush to approve a housing development and then find out that the expected state support for the development won’t be forthcoming because the town failed to comply with the requirements for maintaining Incentive Housing Zone status for the property on River Road.
Stephanie and Henrik Falktoft
Vote for Horn or Ohler? A personal perspective
As a North Canaan resident I am probably expected to vote for the home town hero, however, I’m in a unique position regarding the election in the 64th District race in Connecticut.
I have the advantage of knowing and having worked with both candidates.
I personally believe elections should be about who is the best qualified for the job, not how popular or how many photo-ops one can get.
Each brings some unique experiences to the position, yet Maria Horn’s background far exceeds that of her opponent.
I like her opponent. He attended school with my daughter, I grew up with his aunts and uncles, and knew his grandparents well.
But in today’s world, Maria’s legal background, tenure and support of local nonprofits, her motherhood and parenting gives her a greater sense of all the needs facing our communities.
I have heard her critics, many I know personally, whom, I would bet, never took the time to talk or meet with her. If so, they might just have a different opinion.
She is engaging, smart, approachable, serious and hard working. She has served the public long before running for elective office, proving there are a myriad of ways to serve, all noble indeed.
As I have said, I like her opponent, I applaud his service to our community, but I believe, knowing both, that Maria Horn is the more qualified and credentialed candidate for today’s needs and during these difficult and unprecedented times.
All politics is local, so vote accordingly
That phrase, “All politics is local,” is as relevant today as it was in 1932 when it was coined by Associated Press Washington bureau chief Byron Price. The late House Speaker Tip O’Neill used it to devastating effect on his congressional opponent in 1982 and he made it part of our political lexicon. But in our super polarized national debate we seem to have forgotten that the issues closest to home are the ones that affect us most directly.
The men and women who give of their time and energy to run for local, state or federal congressional offices are our neighbors and friends. One local political party issued a letter accusing their opponents of “incompetence,” “division,” “lies,” “hate” and “selfishness.” What do you say after that when you run into them the next day in LaBonne’s or Stop and Shop? We may disagree on political issues, but we do ourselves a disservice by not at least listening to opposing views.
Brian Ohler lost his position as our 64th District state representative in the anti-Trump sweep two years ago. Our current representative has done a good job of voting on issues she believes are in her constituents’ best interests. She may be right on all counts, but shouldn’t we decide for ourselves and not blindly mark our ballots based on national political hysteria?
Perhaps we needed the $2 billion dollars in new taxes called for in the 2019 budget state Democrats approved, but shouldn’t we have someone in Hartford to at least raise a question? To close last year’s $934 million deficit, the Legislature increased business taxes, eliminated sales tax exemptions, imposed a surcharge on certain restaurant and real estate transactions and canceled tax breaks for hospitals, certain middle-class households and student loan debt. Brian would have at least questioned the need for new taxes when the Legislature approved a $353 million pay raise for state workers in the pandemic recession.
Forbes magazine ranks Connecticut 45th in overall business climate and 48th in long-term growth prospects. Perhaps we should drive more business out of the state. Perhaps we need a state property tax on top of our local property taxes. And perhaps we should encourage more wealthy Connecticut taxpayers to change their principal residence to Florida. But wouldn’t we better served by sending Brian Ohler back to Hartford to oppose such disastrous policies?
We at least owe it to ourselves to think about these local issues that affect us so directly.
Be aware of who runs this online resource
Many local residents are members of the Northwest Corner Chatter group on Facebook, and may have noticed all the recent posts supporting Brian Ohler for the 64th District seat in the state house. Yesterday my wife and I each posted a response to an endorsement of Brian in which we asked Brian to describe his positions, particularly on his independence and his view on Trump’s hobbling of the U.S. post office. In response to posting our politely worded questions, our posts were deleted and we were both immediately removed from the Northwest Corner Chatter Facebook group.
So, please don’t think that Northwest Corner Chatter is a community site for exchanging information and open discussion about our region. It is essentially the Brian Ohler For State Assembly Facebook page. Only posts favorable to Brian are permitted. Either the candidate who hopes to represent us as constituents won’t state his views when we ask him, or the moderator won’t let us pose legitimate questions to Brian and prefers to ban us.
Why I’ll vote for Horn
for state representative
In 1982 after two years working for Ben DiLieto, New Haven’s Mayor, he took a chance and appointed me as his legislative liaison — the only woman in an all-male cabinet. One male cabinet member told me he did not want me in the position; as a woman I could never do the job. I would fail. I would fail the city and the mayor. Two years later, as he was leaving, he told me that he had been wrong. I did not fail. Time and again, I had won difficult battles.
Working for a congresswoman and the president of a Connecticut Public College (a woman), I witnessed the adversities women face having their voices heard and to be at the table. As a woman you are pegged as either too tough or not tough enough. Too smart and so a threat to others — sometimes even other women. Too compassionate and caring or not compassionate enough. Times have only slightly changed. It continues to remain an uphill challenge for women.
As a legislative liaison at the State Capitol, I saw the enormous pressures that elected women face. They were highly intelligent women — women of compassion — women who advocated for changes. Honest women. Women who reached across the aisle. Women who knew how to compromise and the importance of doing so. State Rep. Maria Horn is that woman. All women — no matter what side of the politics you are on, should be proud to support her. Maria understands the juggling acts and the struggles that women and families face day in and day out. Women and men should want to be a part of breaking the glass ceiling and never again have a man tell your daughter, your granddaughter, or your sister that she cannot do the job.
Maria Horn does not vote to please the Democratic leadership. She votes for what is right for her 64th District. She fully explains her votes on tough issues and is not afraid to tackle the complex topics. She tells the truth. I may not agree with her on everything, but I listen, as she listens to my opinions.
I am voting for Maria not because she is a Democrat. I am voting for Maria because she is an intelligent, honest, and caring person. If you are unsure or do not know her, call her. Talk with her. Do not sit back. Do it now. Do it for yourself. Do it for your daughters, your granddaughters, your sisters.
Do it for those women who fought to help pave the way for the rest of us. Do it for your sons, your grandsons, and your brothers. Show them that women are important and should be at the table and treated with respect. Your vote for Maria will help to continue to break the glass ceiling. You will not be disappointed.
Now is the time to consider alternative ideas
Since 1981, the United Nations designated an International Day of Peace, commonly called by many World Peace Day, to have a ceasefire of war and violence to allow for humanitarian aid and promote peace through education.
As of 2001, the World Peace Day date, which had aligned with the opening day of the UN General Assembly, was none other than Sept. 11. However, a plan had been made for it to be held on Sept. 21 annually as of 2002.
According to the LawyersCommittee for 9/11 at LCfor911.org regarding the destruction of the World Trade Centers on 9/11/01 based on physical evidence, there is a great deal the U.S. and world should want to learn not only about that strangest of all days, possibly when everyone but whoever was behind the killing and demolition of the three buildings of the WTC was shocked and convinced everything said on the news and by President Bush was true and justified attacking Iraq.
Key ideas to consider include that cell phone coverage was not sustainable in 2001, that a couple thousand Architects and Engineers (AE911.com) agree all three buildings did not come down due to planes but rather due to thermonuclear bombs from the basement on two and a controlled demolition of WTC Building 7.
Advocacy is needed now to understand the truth behind the COVID-19 and other serious risk factors possibly linked to biowarfare viruses. Francis Boyle calls for dismantling programs that allow for such labs and has warned over 500 media outlets about the dangers that could continue to emerge along the biowarfare lab activity.
Yet the media covers things up rather than covers the critical information, since they are owned by a handful of corporations, literally six entities.
I happened to watch part of the Titanic on television recently with themes that are playing out on a wider scale these days in 2020.
Many aspects of our modern world are run by those in power and control who feel immune to the effects of the devastation caused. Perhaps that is because they have “life boats and unsinkable strategies.” Such concerns haunt an otherwise capable majority of humanity who truly want to live peacefully.
Let’s have transparency about who’s driving our earth ship on all levels (from viruses to 5G, nuclear warheads and crimes against humanity). As Pete Seeger’s chorus resounds in our hearts, “When will we ever learn? When will we ever learn?” Now is the time!
More ideas shared on Livfully.org. Many thanks and let’s vote for our collective wisdom and survival in all elections and with daily action steps.
Catherine Palmer Paton
Adult day care is a vital service for the region
I am saddened but not surprised to learn that the Geer Adult Day Center has been closed permanently. The Center was never a profitable program but it provided a valuable service to the community. The COVID-19 pandemic just provided a convenient excuse to not make Geer look like the bad guy.
Unfortunately that is not the case when they let the center’s director go. She was a dedicated employee who worked for Geer for 39 years.
The center was a medical/social program that allowed frail residents, living at home, the opportunity to be with others in a supervised setting for part of their day. It also gave their caregivers a chance to work, rest, or take care of the other responsibilities they had. It enabled the caregiver to keep their family member living at home.
The center offered many services to the participants including transportation, snacks and a hot meal, personal care and medical supervision as well as recreation.
I hope one of the other nursing facilities in the area will step forward and offer this service. I know a very qualified individual who would make the perfect director.
As the original director of the Center, which was then named The GATE-way Adult Day Center, I know what a valuable and rewarding service it was.
Affordable housing discussion continues
Mr. Colter Rule continued in a new letter in the Sept. 3 Lakeville Journal with an assertion that Habitat was approached by a conservation group to place the property in conservation and “garner a far better price for their property.” Furthermore, that the “Door loudly slammed shut.” Neither statement is correct.
In fact, Habitat had an email exchange with the director of the conservation group. As stated in the previous letter, once the management of the conservation group was made aware that a bona-fide option did exist for the FVHT to purchase the property, “the conservation group thought it best to invest their efforts elsewhere.”
Mr. Rule and others involved with him continue to spread misinformation in what is in my opinion and that of Habitat an attempt to denigrate established organizations in a quest to get what they want — no affordable housing anywhere near their properties. Every argument being made against this project is a smoke screen for this underlying motivation, we believe.
Affordable housing is a need in our area. Just speak with the Economic Development Committees in any of the local communities. When Mr. Rule goes on to say, “Mr. Whelan: You don’t LIVE HERE”, he fails to realize that we ALL live here in the Northwest Corner. There are six towns that make up the Region One School District, and there is a total population of around 17,000 people. Each and every one of those communities shares a similar destiny — encourage growth or become irrelevant (and more expensive).
For more information on the project, please see the FVHT website — www.fallsvillagehousingtrust.org/river-road-homes. These volunteer members of the local community are transparent in all aspects of this development, and this website is your best source of up to date information.
Habitat for Humanity of Northwest Connecticut