Don’t look now, but Governor Malloy is trying to take your land, or at least control of the land around your local train or bus station.
When the Connecticut Department of Transportation (CDOT) recently tried to shove a private development down the throats of Stamford under the guise of, “transit oriented development,” in replacing the garage at the train station, city fathers were justifiably upset. They voted through a zoning change giving them some say on the project, as well they should.
As revenge Governor Malloy is now proposing a statewide “Transit Corridor Development Authority” (TCDA) that would bigfoot the towns and cities, giving the state control over land, buildings and development within a half-mile of all transit stations.
Your favorite coffee shop across from your Metro-North stop could be torn down and replaced with offices. Parking lots could be enlarged with fees set by the CDOT, not the towns where the lots reside. If the state wants to erect a building taller than local zoning laws allow, too bad … they can and will. As one critic described it, this is, “eminent domain on steroids.”
The TCDA would be run by political appointees, a majority controlled by the Governor and not answerable to the local residents whose land would be affected. The agency could issue its own bonds financed by rents and taxes on the very structures they want built. And the agency would continue with this power forever, under, “perpetual succession”.
The TCDA would have the power to condemn property that it alone claims it needs to further its goals. Town and regional planning and zoning boards can just go pound sand, powerless to stop them.
Because train and stations are usually in the downtown of cities and towns, those municipalities would lose control of the development destiny of their very core. The Governor’s bill would have us believe that Hartford, or this new agency of political hacks, knows what’s best for us, not our elected mayors and first selectmen.
It has been proven that the private developer chosen for the Stamford garage project just happened to have donated $165,000 to the State Democrats before and after his selection. Yet, there’s nothing in the Governor’s TCDA bill (HB 6851) to prevent such “pay for play” activities.
Were Dannel Malloy still mayor of Stamford, he would scream bloody murder if a bill like this were introduced in Hartford. But as Governor, he seems to have no qualms at telling 169 towns and cities in this state that he knows best … that Hartford will determine if skyscrapers built by private developers should be plopped down in your town and mine.
“Transit oriented development” makes sense and should be encouraged. We all need to promote housing and commercial growth focusing on our train and bus stations. But this is a local issue, not a state right.
If we are to preserve the local identity and feel of our communities, we must stop the Governor’s land grab and keep control of our destiny. Tell your State Representative and State Senator you oppose HB 6851 and Malloy’s land-grab.
About the author: Jim Cameron is founder of The Commuter Action Group, and a member of the Darien RTM. The opinions expressed in this column are only his own. You can reach him at CommuterActionGroup@gmail.com For a full collection of “Talking Transportation” columns, see www.talkingtransportation.blogspot.com