By Alexis Harrison
Special to the Voice
Citizens from around Connecticut descended on the West Haven Green on Saturday afternoon to rally and protest proposed legislation to centralize zoning in the State of Connecticut. CT169Strong.org, a grassroots organization, aimed to protect local zoning laws, organized the event, dubbed “Hands Off Our Zoning” along with West Haven Planning and Zoning Commissioner Steven R. Mullins, who has been a keynote speaker at several CT169Strong rallies recently.
“The power is with you the people and with you the people only,” said Mullins. “Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow. Maybe not next week, but this is going to affect your neighborhoods,” he said.
Proponents of the proposed legislation believe that zoning laws that control population density and limit certain types of development in towns have created a state divided on racial and socioeconomic lines. State Rep. Charles Ferraro, (R-117) urged the gathering of about 40 to contact their legislators and voice their opposition. He said that state regulated “cookie cutter” approach to zoning won’t work in part because municipalities will lose their character.
“What works in West Haven might not work in Orange, it’s a very bad idea,” he said.
State Sen. Tony Hwang, (R-Fairfield), a ranking member of the State Legislature’s Planning and Development Committee, which held a 24-hour public hearing on the proposed legislation last month called the Democrat-controlled proposals “un-American and “un-Connecticut,” due to “individual rights and property rights.”
“I’m not saying that we should stay with the status-quo,” Hwang said. “I’m simply saying that the solution being offered right now by Hartford is a one-size-fits-all that takes away and disrespects the personal property rights of homeowners and residents of every community in the State of Connecticut.”
Mullins, a former chairman of the West Haven Planning and Zoning Commission has served on the Commission since 2006, further said the question is one of balance.
“I have had the personal honor and pleasure as a public official to listen to West Haven homeowners twice a month as they come to Planning and Zoning Commission meetings to speak out in favor or against applications on projects that are being considered before the commission during public hearings. Public hearings are part of the checks and balances on government that we in Connecticut cherish and it is at risk of being taken away from us.”
He posed the question to the crowd, “How would it be if we had un-elected bureaucrats in Hartford who are nameless and faceless who will make all of the decisions that go on in your respective communities without you having one bit of say?'”
“Do not let Hartford that away our local zoning rights,” Mullins said.
He encouraged residents throughout Connecticut to explore CT169Strong.org to educate themselves on the proposed legislation.
“Text, email and call your legislators and tell them to vote no,” he said.