DesegregateCT held a press conference in West Hartford on Jan. 23, promoting reform in zoning policy to encourage transit-oriented communities.
By Ronni Newton
DesegregateCT scheduled a press conference in West Hartford, touting the town’s adoption last June of a transit-oriented development zone as the type of policy it is promoting.
“DesegregateCT picked the West Hartford Elmwood Fastrak Station for our launch (though we moved inside to the GastroPark due to weather) because West Hartford has led the way in creating a large TOC district over the summer around their Fastrak stations and can serve as an example to other communities with transit and to the argument that more help from the state can further develop the district,” DesegregateCT Legislative Director Tucker Salls said.
The organization is a “pro-homes coalition of 80 nonprofits and neighborhood groups” with the mission of promoting local and state zoning reform to make the state “more prosperous, equitable, and sustainable.” According to DesegregateCT, “Work Live Ride” will encourage an increase in housing – and a variety of housing – around the public transportation infrastructure, and will also help ease climate and affordable housing crises and economic stagnation and promote racial inclusivity.
“We are particularly focused on promoting ‘Transit Oriented Communities,’ a practical, proven, and popular land use concept that calls for building more homes and businesses within walking distance of public transportation. We held the press conference to formally introduce the details of our proposal and the benefit it will bring to big and small communities along bus and rail routes,” Salls told We-Ha.com.
“We are proud of our TOC District and excited about the opportunities coming in new housing and new businesses to the district,” West Hartford Mayor Shari Cantor aid. “But we can always use more help and we think Work Live Ride can create even more opportunity for West Hartford to grow and develop the kinds of housing that we need.”
State Rep. Kate Farrar (D-West Hartford), whose 20th District includes the town’s Fastrak stations, also attended the press conference. “I’m proud of the work West Hartford has done already around the state’s investments in public transit,” she said. “I see Work Live Ride as the next step, making sure that the state coordinates more resources and development into areas like this here and across the state. I look forward to working with my colleagues and the governor on Work Live Ride this session.”
Tate Norden opened GastroPark in the fall of 2020, right across New Park Avenue from the Elmwood Fastrak station. He eagerly agreed to host the press conference in the food truck park’s interior space and noted the positive impact of an initiative like Work Live Ride.
“We need to see more development around transit in communities like [Elmwood] whether it’s bringing in more residents and foot traffic for local businesses or giving more opportunity for workers to commute back and forth,” Norden said. “We can make places like this safer and more accessible for more people, which benefits all of us.”
DesegregateCT said that Work Live Ride “is the key to promoting economic prosperity, racial inclusivity, and environmental sustainability in Connecticut.” The legislative proposal is for the creation of an opt-in process for communities with public transit to create a “Transit Oriented Communities District” around a bus or rail route, and receive support from “an empowered and reorganized Office of Responsible Growth within the Office of Policy and Management.”
The local governments would retain the flexibility of determining the size and locations of the districts, with certain constraints that include a required level of density and affordability based on population, transit infrastructure, and housing needs. The proposal also encourages development of not only high density but also “missing middle” housing – with two to 10 residences per development – as of right in the TOC districts.
Technical assistance in planning, as well as streamlined funding for infrastructure improvements and subsidies for deeply affordable homes would be provided to municipalities that opt in.
“Work Live Ride is a bet on the future of Connecticut,” DesegregateCT Director Pete Harrison said. “It’s a bet that local governments and the state can work together to create accessible jobs, affordable homes, and safer streets. It’s a bet that we can improve the lives of homeowners and home renters living here today and can attract a whole bunch of them to come to Connecticut tomorrow.”
DesegregateCT is looking to hold a public hearing with the legislature on Work Live Ride, and is hoping for the support of the governor in recognizing the “opportunity that smart local planning coupled with state resources and assistance can create for the future of our state,” Salls said.
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