Shelton Reps vote against expansion of state control over local zoning decisions

State Reps. Ben McGorty (R-122), right, and Jason Perillo (R-113) were sworn in officially as returning members of the Connecticut state legislature on Jan. 6, during a socially-distanced ceremony on the steps of the State Capitol building in Hartford.

State Reps. Ben McGorty (R-122), right, and Jason Perillo (R-113) were sworn in officially as returning members of the Connecticut state legislature on Jan. 6, during a socially-distanced ceremony on the steps of the State Capitol building in Hartford.

Contributed photo / Contributed photo

HARTFORD — State Reps. Jason Perillo, R-113, and Ben McGorty, R-122, joined all House Republicans and eight Democrats on May 20 in opposing a bill they say would establish state mandates for affordable housing and limit local planning and zoning boards’ authority.

The proposal is favored by a range of activists and special-interest groups but opposed by many local officials statewide and seen as chipping away at local control in Connecticut.

“This is ‘Big Government’ at its worst," Perillo said. "The state is telling municipalities what they must do. They’re saying we should trust an out-of-touch state government to run our communities over a locally-elected board of experts who know and understand Shelton.

“I don't live in Greenwich, or Fairfield, or East Haven. I do not presume to know what is right for those towns, but I have a pretty good sense of what is right for our city because I live here. I grew up here,” he said.

What Democratic legislators said with their 'yes' votes, according to Perillo, is that they know better than the residents of Connecticut's 169 towns.

"Unfortunately, many lawmakers in this chamber seem to have found themselves in an echo chamber on this issue,” McGorty said. “Whether it's from the public not having access to their Capitol or from public hearings being conducted online, the residents and local officials who oppose this bill are being crowded out in the process by a small handful of advocates and lawyers.”

McGorty said he trusts local residents to make the right decisions for the city.

“Local officials and residents in Shelton are already committed to a plan of development that has seen our community's stock rise, bringing in investment that creates jobs and opportunity,” McGorty said. “It's those volunteers and local officials who live in our towns that know what is in the best interest of fellow residents, not unelected bureaucrats up in Hartford."

The bill would require local zoning ordinances to allow accessory dwelling units on homes and disregard per unit parking, allowing for more development of affordable housing in residential neighborhoods. Towns would not have to approve the usages and could only opt-out with a two-thirds vote of both the Planning and Zoning Commission and governing body, in Shelton’s case the Board of Aldermen.

The bill also revises the general statutes to prevent towns from citing "local character" as a justification when crafting their zoning regulations, potentially threatening a community's historic architecture.

A newly-established Commission on Connecticut's Development and Future would determine the need for more state intervention in Connecticut's housing market to foster housing equity.