LETTER | A Dramatic Turn Around


To the Editor:

In a dramatic turn of events that highlighted the tensions between state authority and local autonomy, New Canaan’s political landscape was recently shaken by the contentious debate over House Bill 5390, otherwise known as the Transit Oriented Development (TOD) bill. The bill sought to radically alter local zoning laws again, pushing permissive zoning measures that would enable developments of up to nine units “as of right” with no affordability requirements and larger developments that included affordable housing within transit areas.

Despite their previous campaign promises to uphold local zoning control, State Representatives Dathan and Denning voted in favor of HB5390, diverging sharply from the assurances they had given their constituents. This decision marked a significant departure from their stated commitment to preserve local authority over zoning decisions.

As the legislative session drew to a close, the narrative took an unexpected turn. State Senator Ryan Fazio, a Republican, emerged as a pivotal figure in the preservation of local zoning rights. On the final day of the session, Senator Fazio and his colleagues threatened a filibuster, a strategic move that ultimately ran the legislative clock down to midnight, effectively blocking the bill’s passage. This decisive action by Senator Fazio was a crucial defense of the town’s unique character and its residents’ ability to govern local development.

The implications of HB5390 were profound, not only in terms of zoning but also in how local preferences were sidelined in favor of state-mandated development policies. Representatives Dathan and Denning, by supporting the bill, demonstrated a readiness to prioritize state directives over local preferences, including environmental considerations and community character.

As New Canaan approaches the next election cycle, the actions of its representatives, particularly the contrasting behaviors of Dathan, Denning, and Fazio, will undoubtedly be at the forefront of voters’ minds. Senator Fazio’s intervention has not only safeguarded local decision-making power but also underscored the importance of vigilant and responsive representation in government.

Jonathan Cheng

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