Special Town Meeting
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Pending state zoning legislation

Posted on
March 11, 2021
Town Hall
At the BOS meeting last night, questions came up about proposed legislation to change the state laws governing zoning regulations, and whether the Town needs to be represented at the upcoming hearing on these bills. I have read the proposals carefully, and it seems clear to me that they would have very little impact on Scotland, if any.

I urge you to read the bills for yourselves, in particular Senate Bill 1024, the main legislation at issue,  which you can find here. For the most part, they apply to towns with public water and sewer and/or with populations over 7,500. The few provisions that would apply to us are already in effect here. For instance, SB 1024 requires towns to allow accessory dwelling units (garage apartments, for example) without special permits, which we already do. Similarly, we already have satisfied requirements regarding temporary housing for elderly people or their caretakers ("granny pods").

Of course, there can be unforeseen consequences. In fact, that is one of the reasons for the proposed laws: zoning regulations, mostly by accident, have contributed to the lack of housing opportunities in our big cities and close-in suburbs, and these laws are intended to reduce those consequences. But for now, the only potential impact l see for Scotland is that the state is moving toward requiring towns to enact regulations aimed at increasing the stock of affordable housing and to remove regulations that decrease it. The metrics for determining whether Scotland has a deficiency in this area, and what we would have to do if we were, is not part of this legislation. As these laws and regulations develop, those of us in small towns will have to be sure that they do not burden us unfairly. But for now, there are no specifics attached about this issue.

This legislation is clearly aimed at providing affordable housing in order to mitigate Connecticut's ongoing economic inequities. Whether it is a worthy goal to help people keep a roof over their heads, or whether the state should use legislative power to accomplish that goal, is something about which reasonable people can disagree. If you have opinions about those matters, then of course you should make them known to your legislators. But there is nothing that I have seen in this legislation that warrants town involvement, or citizen concern that we are about to lose control over our own land use regulation.