Favors affordable senior housing in Sherman

To the Editor:

In the past few weeks, letters to the editor have been written opposing the construction of affordable senior housing in Sherman.

At the Board of Selectmen's meeting two weeks ago, these negative letters were cited as being representative of public opinion.

At least one of the letters questioned the motives of the volunteer members of the Sherman Housing Commission, suggesting they were going to personally profit from the development of affordable senior housing should the town approve the leasing of 15 acres of town land at the June 14 referendum at the emergency services facility.

They seem incapable of believing these people are serving for altruistic reasons because they care about an important segment of our community.

Could it be those who are so strenuously opposing affordable senior housing might not have the best interests of the community at the forefront?

Is there a developer already in the wings looking to develop cluster housing, with 10 percent being affordable, so as to successfully circumvent our zoning regulations?

The nationwide developers Toll Brothers (now in Danbury) and Del Webb, a division of Pulte Homes, is actively developing retirement communities in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut (now in Oxford), Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

Is Sherman next?

Sherman formed the Housing Commission five years ago in recognition of the fact we were not in compliance with the state mandate for affordable housing and we are at risk.

Chapter 126a, section 8-30g, Affordable Housing Land Use Appeals procedure explains a developer, particularly one with capital resources, can circumvent our zoning regulations.

Why would they do that? The first three precepts of real estate development and sales -- 1) location, 2) location, 3) location.

The development of up to 40 affordable senior housing units would not be a magic bullet to prevent private development of cluster housing or other housing that is not presently possible under our zoning regulations.

Additional measures would be needed, such as an inventory of affordable housing already in Sherman.

The action taken by the Board of Selectmen to add an advisory question to the referendum ballot was a spurious smoke screen.

The advisory question asks voters to indicate, if they do not approve of the lease for the affordable senior housing, would they like the 15 acres returned to "open space."

Thirty-five acres of this land, the most desirable for open space, has already been set aside as acquired for that purpose.

The balance of the land was acquired for municipal purposes.

The 15 acres in question, most particularly the five-plus acres that will actually be built on, does not meet the DEEP criteria for open space. It is bounded by Route 39 and Cedar Lane on one side, with the housing to be constructed between a commercial property, the location of the post office and American Pie, and a residential property.

The town already has many such "open spaces" created by subdivision regulations that frequently require the developer to set aside some acreage that will not be developed.

In an urban community, these might be vest pocket parks. In Sherman, they preserve some small amount of land from development, but they are not "open spaces."

Finally, who would live in these small rental apartments?

It is most unlikely they would be advertised as there are already enough local qualified seniors who know about them to fill all the units that would be built and there would still be a waiting list.

The experience of our neighboring communities who have had affordable senior housing for years -- Kent, Cornwall, Roxbury and New Milford, for example -- have residents in these units who have lived in town for years or who are the parents or family of current residents.

They all have waiting lists as those of you who have tried to get your parents into one of them know.

Show some compassion for the seniors in our community or for families who would like to have their senior family members living nearby.

Come to the June 6 town meeting to participate in the discussion (after you get a burger at the library barbeque) and then vote in favor of leasing town land to build affordable senior housing in Sherman at the June 14 referendum

Stan Greenbaum