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Letter: Candidate Chris DeSanctis 'Gets It'

Fairfield resident Art Rotelli writes 'Chris DeSanctis is exactly the representative my neighborhood needs.'

I recently sat down for coffee with 133rd District State Representative candidate, Chris DeSanctis, route: {:controller=>"users", :action=>"show", :id=>"chris-desanctis"} -->. Chris had reached out to me after reading a

Sol Briks September 19, 2012 at 12:01 PM
If you are elected, please keep us appraised of your efforts to reform the affordable housing law and the role our State representatives are playing in working with you. Thanks.
JNG September 20, 2012 at 02:41 PM
I work with Developers throughout the State. I have yet to see a forward looking community develop a process for integrating a viable pro-affordable/Smart Growth Zoning Regulation. All such Local Regulations have really been faux devices to actually make it more difficult to provide the housing that our children, teachers, firefighters need and for which they would qualify. They are often set up in a manner where it is impossible to get construiction financing. I look for a community to provide an avenue to provide small infill projects which could allow higher density and a handful of affordable units in a scattered site approach. This would integrate the uses throughout the community, and not create an unbalanced neighborhood that was loaded with all such developments. The idea is to create opportunity and housing choices, not just cookie cutter, large suburban lots. You could even make an argument for a higher density on one area of a property, with the balance of the property being maintained as open space. It just seems that most communities, and Fairfield is no exception, tend to be reactive, and not proactive.
Creeky September 22, 2012 at 05:07 AM
The town is already heavily populated. We don't need any development, or at least none that entails turning single family properties into multi-family. We are already neck deep in debt, and the last thing we need is more families burdening the school system. Based upon a standard two-income household, Fairfield teachers and firefighters can afford plenty of homes for sale in Fairfield. I used to live in the Oldfield Road area, during the housing boom. We watched the old capes (old capes and ranches are the starter homes) get torn down over and over, to build duplexes. Who benefited? Only the developers, and two attorneys (only) that had the ability to steer their way through the ZBA to get these permits, as long as the property was at least 10k sqft. The duplexes (which couldn't be built in Fairfield under zoning regs) were labeled condos. And what did we get? Cheaply built (mostly), unattractive (mostly) properties that increased the burden on town services while paying (mostly) lower property taxes, and lowering the value of every home in the neighborhood (thanks to the automated valuation models now used by banks). Low income housing in non-low-income towns is not a right. We could argue necessity but, why should it burden existing neighborhoods? Continued...
Creeky September 22, 2012 at 05:10 AM
And let's not ignore an important detail about multi-family units. Eventually, they generally become rentals. If you don't own a home, you just don't understand, renters in your neighbor are bad for your neighborhood. Sorry if that hurts peoples feelings but, it is true. Owners look after the property, their street, and their relationships with their neighbors with a great deal more care--they are heavily invested.
JNG September 27, 2012 at 02:48 PM
What you unfortunately are not grasping is that the State Legislature has tried to balance the responsibility of sharing housing choices throughout the communities. They see that what you fear happening twonwide has happened to cities in general. Low cost housing in New haven, Bridgeport, Stamford which are developed as City run Housing Projects put the government into the Housing Business. The legislation is aimed to advance housing opportunities developed by the private sector, at a profit, for affordable, NOT Low income levels. You often find that the qualifying income for these projects are at the level of Firefighters, Nuirses, School Teachers, etc. If we trust such ones to handle the day to day business of our towns, shouldn't they also be able to afford to live here too? As soon as anyone hears or reads the term Affordable, they automatically think substandard and Low income. Our parents lived in walk up apartments over shops and businesses in the 1920s and 1930s and eventually were able to afford small houses on small lots. Were we to go back to similar sized homes, the ability to purchase would be within the grasp of many. As I have stated before in other articles, small & moderate sized projects scattered throughout a community does not radically alter the fabric of the neighborhood. Larger Government Housing projects do.
Creeky September 27, 2012 at 03:46 PM
JNG, You are right, it is a necessity. But, 8-30g is asinine. I blows out all zoning regs but, health and safety. I'm sure you've noticed, pols on both sides of the aisle want it reformed, e.g.: http://fairfield.patch.com/announcements/state-rep-kim-fawcett-and-selectman-cristin-mccarthy-vahey-to-host-community-coffee-on-affordable-housing http://fairfield.patch.com/articles/letter-fairfield-and-affordable-housing As far as radically altering the fabric of the neighborhood, well, that is subjective. Regardless, folks are very heavily invested in their homes. It is only natural to wish to maintain the character of a neighborhood. If a neighborhood is all single families, a multi-family does alter the neighborhood. Further, it does lower the values of the homes, which in turn affects the mortgages people can get when going for refi. There is no moving forward on these issues until we start accepting that there are stakeholders other than the great god government, or developers. Here is a question, why does Fairfield not allow accessory apartments in most areas? Does anyone recall the rationale behind that? It was in the zoning before I moved here so, I don't know the history. Without a doubt, that rule is what keeps our affordable housing statistic so poor.
JNG September 27, 2012 at 03:55 PM
Creeky, The problem has always been that polititcans are reactive and not proactive. When they write an "Affordable Housing" Regulation, they layer it in such a way that it would be impossible to get financing. Thus the State imposed this Statute. In all actuality, the enabling laws for Zoning rest with the State, who deputize home rule in the towns and cities. It is only when they abuse their authority, the State imposes its authority. If Towns would create mixed use, moderate density zones in strategic locations, these projects wouldn't need to find there way into other areas. For example: A developer tries to get a five lot subdivision approved, meets with ridiculous opposition and political grandstanding, it gets denied. They come back with a 40 unit multi-family housing project (with 30% affordable units) because it is the only way they can get an equitable return, with the force of law on their side. If reasonable projects were approved more easily, you wouldn't see the backlash you get.
Creeky September 27, 2012 at 04:51 PM
JNG, I generally agree. Regardless, part of zoning is maintaining a neighborhood's character, and a town's character. The beautiful thing about building regs is they create a market. If we all couldn't be confident that any given building is a relatively stable investment, won't burn down, fall down, fill up with water, wash away, et cetera. It was built to standards. If we didn't have code, every home purchase would be far too rife with risk. Zoning is like that too. If we didn't have residential zones, I might end up with a burlesque bar or 10,000 member kingdom of life church next door. The value of my home would plummet. Further, so would the enjoyment of my home. The fact that zoning regs make that highly unlikely frees me to invest, and frees an investor to loan me the money to buy--our risk of significant value change is mitigated. I'm using extreme examples but, I think you get the point I'm making. I think 8-30g favors the developer too much, and the neighboring homeowner to little. As far as the point on pols, again, I generally agree. But, I do think, right now, we're seeing a firmer resistance to 8-30g. I think it is because Fairfield is in real financial trouble, and adding more families (2.2 kids * $12k/yr education) in homes that generate far less than that in tax revenue is bad for us. And, really, that is what I hope I'm seeing because if taxes continue to increase unabated, we'll have to leave.
JNG September 27, 2012 at 05:10 PM
From the time this was approved almost 20 years ago, the same complaints from suburban communities has been heard. MUch of the people in the suburbs fled the cities and don't want any increased density to follow them. The point is, if communities had a fabric of rural, suburban, cluster, compact single family detached and multi-family choices, ALL properly located, things would work. There is now an influx of young urban types into the chic areas of downtown New haven. These people work in town, frequesnt restaurants and museums and don't rely heavily on cars. There are denser areas in town that work with it. Smart growth relies on denser development near transportation nodes, and less dense development at the fringes. It is kind of how things were many years ago with people living downtown, working at shops and factories and farms along the fringes. The factories and their jobs moved away and suburbia followed.
Art Rotelli September 27, 2012 at 06:15 PM
I think we’ve seen that Towns have very little power to defend their residents even in cases where everyone agrees that a specific 8-30g application is a bad idea (like Homeland Street)…and the residents affected are even more powerless as they may be living a town with no appetite for a law suit in the event TPZ denies the application. Its hard to believe any rational person could think this is a good thing. Please read the petition to reform 8-30g and sign it if you see fit. Pass it on! https://www.change.org/petitions/democrat-leadership-in-the-connecticut-general-assembly-reform-8-30g-to-protect-communities-against-developer-exploitation-2?utm_campaign=mailto_link&utm_medium=email&utm_source=share_petition
JNG September 27, 2012 at 06:42 PM
If you get a chance, read up on Euclid v Ambler Real Estate. This is where modern zoning got its foothold. It protected the fabric of neighborhoods by having orderly development with compatible uses and and building massing. It is a valid policing authority of a community. What 8-30g did, was create a conduit for development to protect against a long, abusive history of Exclusionary Zoning. Zoning based upon class, economics, and in some cases religion and race. When municipalities behave well in general, they don't have as many of these issues to defend. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Euclid_v._Ambler

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