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To the Editor:
Many of you will recall the Pixar film “Up,” featuring the disgruntled Mr. Carl Fredrickson fleeing Earth in his house with the aid of countless balloons. And some of you will recall why he fled. His neighborhood was gone, replaced by a massive development all around him. The place where he – and his late wife Ellie – had spent their lives was no more.
A proposal under consideration before the Town Council this coming Tuesday threatens to do the same in West Hartford. If the Council passes the proposal, two houses will be torn down and a third will be surrounded by two massive buildings – one six stories high and the other five stories high. These buildings – particularly the tallest one – will also tower over the residential streets nearby, destroying any semblance of privacy the residents of those homes enjoy today. There are even plans for a pool, ready for parties and loud music.
This proposal has been branded as a way to give more life to an already very lively West Hartford Center. But it should be understood as something else – as a means to destroy a neighborhood. Many of us chose to live in West Hartford for such neighborhoods. We want to know our neighbors, watch our kids grow up with the others on the street, and enjoy the peace and comfort of our homes.
We don’t want to worry about traffic racing through our neighborhood. We don’t want to worry about our kids getting hit by a car riding their bikes home from a playdate. We don’t want a pleasant conversation with a neighbor interrupted by an enormous volume of daily vehicle traffic. But due to recent changes the town has made to the Center and surrounding streets, this is what some of us who live near the Center experience every day. Indeed, according to statistics from the town, a vehicle was clocked going to 63mph mere steps from a bus stop where approximately 30 children board the bus every day for school. And more than 2,500 vehicles use a street that until recently had a fraction of that volume. Passing this proposal will only make things worse.
Instead, the Council should implore those in Town Hall to fix the problems that currently exist. Before it agrees to a proposal such as this one, it should ensure it protects the neighborhoods that are so central to the citizens of West Hartford. We need smart growth not just more of it.
Importantly, of the many angry neighbors I have spoken to, not one has expressed opposition to development. In fact, many of us moved to the neighborhood because of its closeness to Blue Back Square or supported it when that proposal was up for discussion. But the proposal being considered on Tuesday is not consistent with the concept of smart growth. It threatens to alter the character of the Center and ruin the surrounding neighborhoods. And unlike Mr. Fredrickson, we cannot float away to Paradise Falls.
Editor’s Note: The West Hartford Town Council has a public hearing scheduled for 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2022 for the Arapahoe Group LLC’s proposed zone change and Special Development District for Arapahoe and LaSalle roads. Details about the proposal can be found here.