Town Legislators Must Contend With Lack of Local Leadership

Newsletter Volume 1 • Number 24

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Democrats on Greenwich’s legislative body, the Representative Town Meeting, are once again facing votes with no good choices at the December session. 

One is about a proposed 51-unit senior independent living facility adjacent to the former Byram School on land leased to our Housing Authority. Another is a re-vote on plans to make the intersection of Arch St. and Greenwich Ave more pedestrian-friendly and aesthetically pleasing.

Affordable housing and a walkable downtown are Democratic goals for the Town. Yet, a lack of local leadership, vision and strategic direction is making projects like these costly to taxpayers while putting them at odds with the need to maintain and improve our town’s quality of life.

Affordable housing for seniors

Vinci Gardens has been under consideration for years, and is about the only new affordable housing project of any size that Greenwich has seriously considered in decades. That’s reason enough for Town leaders to shepherd this project along. 

But the Planning and Zoning commission imposed re-design requirements that the Housing Authority said would make the project economically unfeasible for affordable housing, the Byram Neighborhood Association contends it’s outsized, and the Housing Authority, an opaque agency only under loose control by the Town, is now suing the Planning and Zoning Commission over its process and decision. And on December 12, the Representative Town Meeting (RTM) will be voting on an appeal by a Byram resident to reject the Vinci Gardens application outright.

This should not happen in a town like Greenwich. A committed leader would invite all parties to the table and have the influence to nudge them toward a solution.

Rendering of the new bumpout at Greenwich Avenue’s intersection with Havemeyer Place and Arch Street. Source: Greenwich Time. 

Arch St. Bump-outs

Democratic RTM members’ votes last May were key to approving bump-outs on Greenwich Avenue to slow traffic and create more green space. They’d become a political football between Greenwich’s new Republican/Patriot wing and the First Selectman, whom the Patriots sought (and still seek) to humble. In response to demands that parking be preserved, the bump-out design requires cutting mature trees and adding hardscape. Trees vs. pedestrians, not a good choice.

As with the Vinci project, the right leader would have intervened with the competing interests beforehand, so as not to repeat the design process due to predictable objections.

Hard choices require leadership

So whichever way Democrats and responsible colleagues vote, the choices are dismal, and the net effect will be costly, as planners go back to drawing boards, litigants file suit or appeal to Hartford, and nothing is done to maintain or improve the quality of life in our town or to provide a workable vision for a better future.

Politics is always about hard choices. It takes local leadership and planning to navigate conflicting priorities and financial constraints. Greenwich deserves better choices. Next November, Greenwich will hold local elections, giving voters a chance to choose Democratic leadership for sensible, modern municipal planning.

For Your Calendar

Utility regulation in CT: The important role of PURA. The Greenwich League of Women Voters is holding a free virtual information session with Marissa Gillett, Chairwoman of the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority, which regulates the rates charged by the state’s public utilities including electric, water, natural gas, cable and telecommunications. Learn more about what this means for Greenwich residents. Friday December 9, 12:00-1:30. Register here.

The future of the Nathaniel Witherell Senior Care Center will be discussed at a virtual zoom public hearing on Thursday December 15 at 4:00. Speakers will be asked to sign up by noon the day before the meeting. If you’d like to attend, submit comments or speak (2-3 minute limit), please click here for details

Background: The Nathaniel Witherell (“TNW”) skilled nursing facility has been owned and operated by the Town for over 100 years following a gift of land by generous benefactors for the purpose of caring for the infirm. First Selectman Camillo has embarked on a process to consider outsourcing the operation of the facility. Further information can be found here.  

If you have a view that you wish to share with the public, please consider signing up to speak.

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