Letters to the Editor - The Lakeville Journal - 9-3-20
Trying to find another answer for housing
Mr. Bob Whelan, last week, suggested that I made a false “assertion” regarding a “bona fide” offer to NW Habitat, of which he is executive director, for the 66 acres they own in Lime Rock Station. That is partially true. We attempted, back in February, in league with a well-trusted local conservation organization, to reach out to Habitat and begin a dialogue whereby Habitat could garner a far better price for their property and keep to their stated mission of home ownership while at the same time puttinq a large piece of that land in conservation.
So, it was not a bona fide offer per se, because Habitat would hear none of it. Door loudly slammed shut. We were attempting to research alternatives for Habitat for their 66-acre property that was designated an Incentive Housing Zone in 2013. (In our opinion, illegally. But that’s another story.) We were trying to be pro-active so as not to “just say No.” Our thoughts? Options (on property) expire.
We were trying to create a better solution for Falls Village. One thing we cannot seem to solve is the astronomical mill rate here (27.5), which will undoubtedly rise if this $3.5 million, 29-bedroom rental albatross is approved. According to a reputable local Realtor/mortgage broker, property sales have skyrocketed in 2020, mainly because of refugees from COVID-19. Salisbury is up 156%. Sharon is up 116%. Falls Village is up only 31%. Why? Because people can’t or don’t want to pay the high property taxes in Falls Village. With the property taxes built into their monthly mortgage costs, buyers can purchase approximately $100,000 “more house” in other towns.
It has been alleged that this development, 2 miles from town, will not pay property taxes. Straight answers are not forthcoming from the Falls Village Housing Trust, the proposed builder. So, we are forced to guess. If there were five high school students residing in it at a cost of the required town outlay of $29,000 each, that would raise our mill rate by approximately 7.5%, creating further hardship for residents and un-desirability for prospective buyers.
I’ll say it yet again: We are not against affordable housing. Just, not this way. What we find consistently surprising in our efforts to cast light, open and enlarge dialogue, and attempt to inform and include Falls Village citizens on what is “coming down the pike” is the close-mindedness of the principals (Habitat, Falls Village Housing Trust) to investigate and entertain alternatives. Mr Whelan: You don’t LIVE HERE. What you and FVHT are proposing will have long-term ramifications for our town. Have you considered THAT? Has anyone queried the town as to THEIR wishes? We ARE. We will shortly circulate a petition for a referendum at a town meeting with a paper ballot vote on whether to approve or disapprove FVHT’s application for their oversized project. We think this development is wrong. Let the voters decide. Thank you.
Gronbach a voice for conservation
David Gronbach, former mayor of New Milford, wants to go to Hartford to be a voice for the citizens of the Northwest Corner of Connecticut.
David Gronbach understands that the needs of northwestern hill towns are not the same as the needs of Hartford, Bridgeport, and New Haven and that cookie cutter policies for every town in Connecticut make no sense. He stands behind the State and Town Plans for Conservation and Development that are prepared with great input from the citizens and with great expense.
David Gronbach supports safeguarding our Connecticut Trail Systems and the sensitive ecological areas that surround them while seeing that state funds for development reach their intended destination in the priority funding areas of our towns as outlined in our Town Plans of Conservation and Development. David is running for the Connecticut State Senate, 30th District, on Nov. 3. Read what he has to say on his website, www.gronbach2020.com, and if you like what he has to say, I hope you will consider giving him your vote.
But as David said to me in a recent phone conversation, “The important things happen between the elections.”
David Gronbach encourages participatory government in which constituents pay attention to the issues, ask hard questions and receive respectful answers.
Trump administration like a TV soap opera
Pat Boone croons as waves wash on shore stealing Donald’s I love Kim 1950ish love letter in the sand. Hokey, crass, C grade emotion, D grade visual, Trumpish. Filmed in Singapore, 2018, two heads of nuclear-armed states resolve a torrid lovers quarrel with a romantic walk toward each other on a flag — intensive Summit stage — tender, true, heartfelt.
Fast forward, 70 closely seated, unmasked folks swoon as the tender, true, heartfelt visual unfolds of Donald joining Melania, his uniformed wife, on the White House Colonnade to romantically walk arm in arm to the presidential residency.
Dramatically they exit stage right along the White House Colonnade, recently striped bare of glorious flowering trees and roses dating back to Mrs. Wilson, so the camera can capture unimpeded the royal couple savoring the flourishing end of an evening RNC campaign episode.
This tender, true, heartfelt scene kindles visions of an earlier episode when Lafayette Park is cleared of peaceful protesters by tear gas wielding, heavily armed and booted militia so Trump can stand monarchically for a portrait in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church holding a topsy-turvy Bible.
It’s a family business — The U.S. President Show. Each and every member of the adult Trump family is engaged in the productions as exemplified by the key speaker line-up at the 2020 Republican National Convention.
The family, the Trump kids, are not on stage to verify and validate their father’s exemplary character and life of sterling behavior; rather they are dressed richly amplifying grievances — bemoaning their tragic unemployment or ill treatment during the arc of a pandemic.
Hokey, crass, C grade emotion, D grade cinema, Trumpish. Crass not Class. A four-year contract for a poorly executed TV soap ought be terminated in November. Vote.
Working together for a better world
The COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the importance of community and our capacity to support one another through difficult times, often revealing the untold stories and bonds that fortify and connect us. For example, did you know that La Bonne’s LaBonne’s Cash for Charities program, established in 1991, has donated over $450,000 to area charities and nonprofit organizations? LaBonne’s invites nonprofits to submit their sales receipts from which 1/2% of the total is donated back to the nonprofit. Noble Horizons has been a grateful recipient since the program’s inception and has directed the generous donations to its Employee Scholarship Fund, which has benefited countless team members.
Occupying a prominent spot in Noble Horizons’ front lobby is a LaBonne’s Cash for Charities box in which friends, families, staff and residents drop their LaBonne’s receipts. Hundreds of receipts are deposited but before they can be submitted, the dollar value of each (minus tax and bottle deposits) must be calculated and the receipts bundled in totals of $1,000. Emblematic of our community, behind the scenes toils a selfless and dedicated volunteer who week after month after year makes these donations possible.
Caroline Moller, herself a LaBonne’s shopper, has for over a decade laboriously sorted, tallied, totaled and bundled thousands of LaBonne’s receipts. When asked their dollar value, Caroline laughed, “I have no idea!” We are humbled to report that Caroline’s efforts and LaBonne’s generosity over the last decade have yielded $6,000 for the Noble Horizons Employee Scholarship Fund. Dozens of team members have realized dreams, whether becoming CNAs, Licensed Practical or Registered Nurses, or earning advanced degrees … All thanks to the powerful and infectious spirit of giving that fuels our community.
Noble Horizons is grateful for LaBonne’s generosity and to all the local businesses whose contributions so enrich our community; we are also humbled by the volunteers who devote their time, talent, and hearts to making life better for all fortunate enough to live in our community. Thank you for making a difference.
Caroline K. Burchfield
A different housing option for Falls Village
Dear Falls Village Residents,
I understand that the details of housing policy are not glamorous and at the close of the summer of 2020, we could all use some reason to smile.
Can I interest you in lower taxes?
Building up Main Street will increase the asset value of our town, and thus will lower our taxes.
A housing project in the woods, however well-intentioned, will increases costs of education, road maintenance and trash handling while adding no value to Main Street, and thus will raise our taxes.
Therefore, we should spend our affordable housing dollars near our Main Street and in so doing, lower our taxes. It is that simple.
We all know vacant lots and homes on the market near town.
Where can we get the money?
There are state grants for towns our size called Small Town Economic Assistance Program (STEAP) grants, perfect for rehabilitating downtown Falls Village.
A healthy mix of single-family homes, apartments, retail and office space in town will reawaken Main Street gradually and return prosperity.
In three weeks, we have a public hearing scheduled before our Falls Village Planning and Zoning Commission. If you have any questions about why we should say “No thank you” to the Falls Village Housing Trust request to build affordable housing in the woods on River Road, please write to FallsVillageVoice@gmail.com.
We can all look forward to participating in identifying our priorities for rebuilding our town together and making affordable housing that works for all of us.
Housing project worthy despite pushback
In 2011 Falls Village Planning & Zoning met with the town’s boards and commissions to launch the formulation of the town’s updated Plan of Conservation and Development. In 2012 all households were sent two invitations to participate in a Community Forum, on June 12. The Town Plan written in 2013 reflects the consensus of that forum and input from follow-up groups that were formed.
The plan states that the 2010 Census found only nine units for rent in Falls Village at that time and noted a range of housing options are needed in any town to meet the needs of families and individuals of different ages, household sizes and incomes.
The first vision from the Town Plan to guide Falls Village over the next 10 years and beyond is that Falls Village will be a culturally and age-diverse community. This vision promotes social, cultural and demographic diversity that ensures a healthy and vibrant community. Among the suggestions to accomplish the needed range of housing options is exploration of the Incentive Housing Zone and formation of a local housing group with volunteers to proactively seek ways of meeting the housing needs of residents. Fortunately, this is just what happened.
Since Falls Village does not have a sewer system, a property with suitable septic system capabilities was essential. The River Road property meets the requirements, and the Falls Village Housing Trust has an option to buy this property, and state funding to proceed with the planning. There are successful projects like the Falls Village Housing Trust proposal all across the state run by professional managers as the Falls Village Housing Trust development will be.
Pushback from the neighbors is inevitable and understandable. When has an affordable housing project had universal support? We all love our rural environment and this will bring some change to the neighborhood. But River Road Homes is well designed and is respectful of the Mohawk Trail that is more than 400 feet from proposed construction. Good housing strategy and good ecological strategy support just this kind of density. This project is the right size to be funded and successfully managed for the long haul.
Real harm to Falls Village will more likely occur if a lack of affordable rental housing causes young people to move away, workers to disappear, fire and ambulance squads to lose volunteers and the school to close, leaving the town with an ever-aging population. These are the concerns raised in the Town Plan if there is not adequate affordable housing.
This is an extraordinary opportunity for Falls Village to get state funding for high-quality rental housing stock. This is the place that rental housing can work, and this is an application that is moving through the approval and funding process. The opponents apparently favor an unknown location with absolutely no funding.
Falls Village residents, please support your town and the vision of the Town Plan.
Board Member, Habitat for Humanity NWCT