If you are confused by the recent actions of Bethany’s Planning and Zoning Commission, here’s an attempt to decode them. The commission’s vote last week to deny the Green Haven application for a change in zoning regulations to permit what amounts to condominium development in Bethany was rejected "without prejudice." In legal speak, that means the application can be resubmitted all over again, as in Tuesday morning, after Monday’s general elections.
In the town’s general elections on Monday, a series of municipal offices will be filled, including First Selectman, and members of the Planning and Zoning Commission. Democrat Derrylyn Gorski will seek return to the top office. Three members of the Planning and Zoning Commission, together with seats on the Zoning Board of Appeals, are also up for grabs.
My wife and I will be voting a straight Republican ticket for all municipal offices this year. It will be the first time we’ve ever done so. We are casting these ballots because in our view, the politics of condominium development in Bethany are the most significant issue facing the town. We moved to Bethany because of its rural character. The effort of well-meaning Democrats to open the town to condominium development is a clear and present danger to one of the few rural areas left in Southern Connecticut.
Ms. Gorski has declared that one of her campaign issues is housing "diversity." In Southern Connecticut that means only one thing: transforming open space into tract housing or condominiums. (Ask yourself when Hamden, Naugatuck or Prospect ever plowed under a condominium project in the name of diversity in an effort to create farmland.) Diversity means high density.
There are condominium units, small single family homes on tiny lots, and apartment buildings within a ten minute drive of Bethany. There is no pressing necessity sounding in economics or social policy requiring that we destroy the town’s rural character to import the population density of surrounding towns into Bethany.
This past year, Lynda Munro moved from Sperry Road in Bethany into New Haven. I was devastated to see her leave.
"Why are you leaving Bethany?" I asked.
She and her husband wanted to live in space that took less time and effort to maintain. Stewardship of the land is a commitment that costs plenty in terms of time and money. Their priorities changed. So they moved ten minutes away to a condominium unit in New Haven. The existing housing stock was more than adequate to meet their needs. No open space needed to be destroyed to accommodate their lifestyle decisions.
Supporters of Green Haven, and that includes several Democrats currently seeking re-election to the Planning and Zoning Commission, trumpet the need for high-density housing in Bethany as a means of diversifying the town housing stock. Doesn’t the state’s affordable housing act require such a step? I am not so sure.
Connecticut lacks any semblance of county or regional government, save for a handful of regional school districts. It defies reason to think that state law makers meant to require that each and every town, rather than each and every region, of the state come to look alike. Some folks like urban living; some prefer the suburbs; some want rural. Bethany is rural. Does the law really require a condominium unit in a farmer’s field?
We intend to fight to keep the town rural, and hence our vote for the Republican ticket.
The manner in which the current administration fostered the Green Haven zone change regulations borders on shameful. At the recent hearings on Green Haven’s proposal, it became apparent that the regulations were the work of many months collaboration between Green Haven investors, town employees and several members of the current Planning and Zoning Commission. When this game of regulatory footsie was exposed at a public meeting attended by hundreds of town residents, supporters of the project suddenly looked like they had swallowed a toad: The regulations were altered; one commission member started to bob and weave like a punch-drunk light weight about whether she had a conflict or not – she owns land abutting the proposed Green Haven project –before finally abstaining from a vote; in the end, the proposal was voted down "without prejudice" so that the issue could not cloud this week’s election.
In lawyerly terms, a matter rejected "without prejudice" can be resubmitted at any time. A denial "with prejudice" kills an item once and for all. In the context of the a town administrative agency, the distinction is meaningless. An applicant can propose a zone change regulation any time they like. The Democrats on the commission simply denied Green Haven’s application "without prejudice" to signal to supporters to come back next week, after the general elections, and to try all over again.
I’m not buying it.
The general election would have been a referendum on Green Haven if the current board had not voted. To avoid a showdown on an extremely unpopular measure, the commission ducked. Its incumbents are no doubt hoping to survive the week’s general election so that the process can be started all over again in the new term.
Ms. Gorski and her fellow Democrats might prefer to transform Bethany into Condo Haven. I am hoping they are turned from office before they succeed.
NOTE: All of the Democrat zoning officials standing for re-election were defeated, including long-time incumbents. The first selectwoman won a narrow 25-vote re-election. It appears Green Haven struck a raw nerve in a lot of townspeople.