Westport backed all 4 Democratic candidates in yesterday’s state Senate and House races. That helped deliver 2 of those districts to the Democratic Party.
In a race that drew statewide — even national — attention, 22-year-old Staples High School graduate Will Haskell thrashed longtime incumbent Toni Boucher, for the State Senate 26th district seat.
Haskell’s 64-36% winning margin — against a politician who was in office as long as he’d been alive — was helped by a strong base of active volunteers. The recent Georgetown University graduate galvanized many young voters, and women.
Staples grad Jonathan Steinberg returns to Hartford, representing House district 136. He beat back a challenge from Republican Greg Kraut, a newcomer to politics and a 2-year Westporter. The unofficial margin was 61-39%.
In races that involved small portions of Westport, Republican incumbents Tony Hwang (State Senate district 28) and Gail Lavielle (State House district 143) retained their seats. However, both lost Westport to their Democratic challengers, Michelle Lapine McCabe and Stephanie Thomas, respectively.
With Connecticut teetering on the brink of financial disaster — and education, housing, transportation and infrastructure issues clamoring for attention too — the stakes are high in next month’s election.
So besides sponsoring their usual candidates’ debate, Westport’s League of Women Voters is taking one more step to ensure citizen involvement.
The October 29 event (7 p.m., Town Hall auditorium) will include questions from community members — and they can be emailed ahead of time.
To ask State Senate candidates Toni Boucher, Will Haskell, Tony Hwang and Michelle McCabe, and House hopefuls Gail Lavielle, Stephanie Thomas, Greg Kraut and Jonathan Steinberg anything, email LWVWestportct.org.
Screeners — 1 Republican, 1 Democrat and 1 unaffiliated League member — will ensure that all questions are nonpartisan.
Can’t be there? The debate will be televised live on Cablevision Channel 79 and Frontier channel 90, and posted thereafter on the town website.
Whether you ask questions, attend the debate or miss it complete, don’t forget to vote! Election Day is November 6.
(The League of Women Voters is co-sponsoring this debate, with the Westport PTA Council.)
It seemed like welcome news last month, when the General Assembly overrode Governor Malloy’s veto of a bill that would loosen restrictions of 8-30g. Part of the state’s affordable housing standards, 8-30g incentivizes municipalities to make 10 percent of their housing stock “affordable.”
Officials in Westport — which has more affordable housing than counts under narrow 8-30g regulations — thought the override meant they’d qualify for a moratorium.
But the devil may be in the details.
According to Partnership for Strong Communities — a statewide policy and advocacy organization “dedicated to ending homelessness, expanding the creation of affordable housing, and building strong communities in Connecticut” — Westport will not qualify for “eligibility relief.”
Hales Court is affordable Westport housing — though it was built before 8-30g regulations came in effect in 1990, and does not count for “points.”
The reasons are complex. The organization says:
Through September 30, 2022 a town is eligible for a moratorium from the provisions of Section 8-30g if it shows that it has added affordable housing units equal to the greater of 2 percent of the housing stock, or 50 Housing Unit Equivalent (HUE) points. Previously, the minimum number of HUE points required was 75. This change makes it easier for the state’s 64 smallest towns to achieve a moratorium.
But Westport is not among those “smallest towns.”
For towns with 20,000 or more housing units, the requirements for achieving a 2nd and subsequent moratorium have been eased by reducing the number of HUE points needed from 2% of a town’s housing units to 1.5%. The term of a 2nd or subsequent moratorium is extended from 4 to 5 years for 6 towns: Fairfield, Greenwich, Hamden, Milford, Stratford and West Hartford.
In other words — according to PSC — Westport is not helped by having 10,000 housing units less than the 20,000.
Canal Park offers affordable housing for seniors, near downtown. It too was built before 1990.
The organization continues:
Through September 30, 2022, restricted family units with at least 3 bedrooms, or in an Incentive Housing Zone (IHZ), receive a 1/4-point bonus. Restricted elderly units receive a 1/2-point bonus, if at least 60% of the restricted units counted toward the moratorium are family units.
However, no 3-bedroom units have been offered in any 8-30g in Westport.
What comes next? Perhaps more “affordable housing” proposals.
Recently, the Connecticut General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to loosen the restrictions of 8-30g — the state’s affordable housing standards, which incentivize municipalities to make 10 percent of their housing stock be “affordable.”
(Westport has a long history with 8-30g. Some affordable housing units here were built before the 1990 date on which state standards are based. Developers have proposed large buildings on small lots, marking a few units as “affordable.” Some observers have called those proposals “blackmail.” Westport’s Planning & Zoning Commission has denied several such proposals already. They approved one, on Post Road East.)
A proposed 4-story rental property at 1177 Post Road East.
The vote — 30-6 in the Senate, 116-33 in the House — makes it easier for towns and cities to reach “moratoriums,” and in some cases increases those moratoriums beyond the previous 4 years. (For an in-depth analysis of the measure from CTMirror, via WestportNow, click here.)
Governor Dannel Malloy vetoed the bill. The Senate overrode the veto by the closest 2/3 margin possible — 24-12. The House overrode it 101-47.
Local reaction was swift.
Westport Representative Jonathan Steinberg said: “I’m going to tell people in my town, ‘Put up or shut up.’ Build the units. Get to the moratorium. Stay on that path.”
That infuriated P&Z member Chip Stephens.
He emailed an “open letter” to Steinberg:
We got your message.
How dare you grandstand and throw your fellow town officials and residents under the bus last night:
“Steinberg said he plans to take an unwavering message to his town’s leaders — act.
“As far as I’m concerned, I’m going to tell people in my town, ‘Put up or shut up. Build the units. Get to the moratorium. Stay on that path,’” Steinberg said. Only after they have been given that chance, he said, can leaders “talk about whether or not 8-30g is working.””
I suggest you consider that your town officials have worked long and hard on affordable housing, both 8-30g qualifying, and more importantly quality affordable housing as Hales Court, Sasco Creek, Canal Park and other IHZ and multifamily components.
Canal Park offers affordable housing for seniors, near downtown. Because it was built before 1990, it does not count for points under 8-30g standards.
In passing the newest 8-30g complex on Post Road East we will have our first moratorium application ready as soon as the developer completes the project and gets his CO.
Next time you crawl up on that stump and blow hot air directed at your town, think hard before letting your common sense filter down hurling inflammatory and demeaning comments at Westport. We hear and we will remember.
Steinberg fired back:
I have fought for 7 years to amend 8-30g to make it easier for Westport to achieve a moratorium, while you have done very little.
How dare you lecture me on this statute when all I stated that it’s now on towns to take advantage of this new opportunity to get to a moratorium and avoid developer predation.
You have real gall calling me out, given your abject failure as a Commissioner representing Westport’s interests.
I’m responsible for giving you a tool to protect our town. Shut up and get it done.
Like the 8-30 g/affordable housing debate, this political dialogue will continue.
State Representative Jonathan Steinberg (left) and Westport Planning & Zoning commissioner Chip Stephens.
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