Fazio, Greenwich leaders speak out for local control of zoning decisions

April 11, 2022

Opposition to the state’s 8-30g affordable housing law fueled a rally Friday afternoon as nearly 40 people gathered at the Old Greenwich train station.

The crowd called for changes in 8-30g’s mandates and for the defeat of housing bills before the legislature that they say would remove local control of zoning decisions.

“Our legislators are doing really well right now in pushing this back,” First Selectman Fred Camillo, a former state representative, told the crowd. But “it’s not over until midnight on the last day of session.”

“Usually we’re back on our heels, and when you’re back on your heels, you’re giving ground every single year,” Camillo said. “We can’t do that anymore.”

The rally was organized by CT 169 Strong and the Stamford Neighborhoods Coalition.

There were signs on display saying “Keep Planning and Zoning Local” “Stop Hartford’s Zoning Overreach” and “Reform 8-30G Now.”

The rally in Old Greenwich is part of a statewide effort to retain local control of zoning, said Alexis Harrison, one of the founders of CT 169 Strong and a member of Fairfield’s Plan and Zoning Commission.

“We believe in the power of our 169 towns, cities and communities when it comes to land-use decisions, and zoning decisions,” Harrison told Greenwich Time before the rally. “Hartford has been on this path to create a top-down, centralized approach to zoning, and we think that’s really dangerous for our communities. … I make decisions based on infrastructure and neighborhoods and the voice of the people. It’s important to keep the local voices alive when it comes to decision-making.”

The 8-30g statute allows developers to bypass some municipal if a certain percentage of a project is affordable housing. Municipalities with more than 10 percent affordable housing stock are exempt. Supporters of 8-30g say it has helped to create more than 5,000 affordable housing units in the state.

Several rally attendees had materials opposing a proposed 192-unit apartment building on Church Street and Sherwood Place that is up for review Tuesday before the Planning & Zoning Commission.

And down the street from the rally, an apartment building is under construction on Sound Beach Avenue. The project had been turned down by the Planning & Zoning Commission, but under the 8-30g law, the plans were revised and approved as part of a court settlement.

Sam Romeo, chair of the Board of Commissioners for Greenwich Communities, which builds and oversees affordable housing, said decisions on housing should remain local.

“These developers need to be asked what happens after 40 years of the deed restriction” for affordable housing, Romeo said. “What happens to all the apartments they’re building? They go back to market rate. And one only has to look to Stamford. St. John’s Tower had the 40-year moratorium, but now they’re torn down and they’re building high-end luxury apartments in downtown Stamford. Forty years later, you’re back to square one. We must fight them and work in support of our zoning officials.”

State Sen. Ryan Fazio, R-36, and state Rep. Kimberly Fiorello, R-149, joined Romeo and Camillo at the rally.

Fazio praised Fiorello and state Sen. Tony Hwang, R-28, who he said are “at the tip of the spear” of the fight.

The 8-30g statute has not met its goals since it was passed 30 years ago, Fazio said.

“Under any other standard, this would be deemed a failure and it would be deemed evidence of the need to reform that type of statute and policy and also to stop in its tracks any other policy or proposal that bears similar characteristics,” Fazio said. “I believe (locally) we can advance our affordable housing goals in an effective manner and provide economic opportunity for all people across this state.”

Fiorello said the advocates are “doing a great service for our neighbors” in fighting the proposed new laws.

And as she has said in the past, Fiorello said that she does not consider housing a right.

“These activists have this idea that housing is a right and it has to be provided by government,” she said. “We all want a thriving housing market, but the difference is, we believe you work hard, you get a job, you pick what you want, you find those jobs, you build those communities, you become a part of those communities. Their idea is really radically different. It’s a transformative idea that housing needs to be provided by government, and I can’t abide by that.”

State Rep. Stephen Meskers, D-150, whose district includes Old Greenwich, was not in attendance.

Meskers, who has joined with his Republican colleagues in opposing proposed housing mandates and in calling for reform of 8-30g, told Greenwich Time that he had not been invited to the rally.

Harrison attributed this to a mix-up among the organizers and called Meskers “a great advocate.”