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Local land use control is a precious asset

Our state is one of only two states without fully functioning county government. With merely geographic counties, our towns retain  power.

Yet, our towns and cities are not sovereign with land use power derived from state statute. But, like much of layered government, layers distance policymakers from facts on the ground. Top-down mandates that overrule or set aside local zoning are error-prone. A formula may lead to ill-fitting and mediocre solutions.

Our towns and cities have different characters, histories, land forms, cultural artifacts, natural assets, demography, and economic realities. Let us celebrate those salient and highly distinct  assets.

I am not a lawyer, nor am I a politician. I am an architect with decades of land use planning experience. The prospect of state-controlled land use is truly chilling.

Impact on Housing Innovation: Our local zoning can be more innovative, especially in housing. Between apartment living and single homes is a large vacuum:

  • What about encouraging compact, single family homes on small parcels?
  • What about enabling accessory housing as-of-right on larger parcels?
  • What about “twins” and duplexes in town centers?
  • What about new choices for seniors other than elevatored buildings?
  • What about “affordable” housing beyond a couple of rental units?
  • What about incentivizing combinations of workplaces and living?

Who is to say? We the people ought to say.

Power to zone should stay close to the people. This has become a political divide among candidates at the local level.  In 2020, can’t we agree on this?

Barbara L. Geddis of Wilton is an architect.

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