I am compelled to write a letter in support of Shires Housing and the proposed Monument View Apartments. I would also like to extend my support to the hard working individuals and families residing in Shires apartments.
After following previous letters, dialogue at public meetings, and posts on social media, I grow increasingly disappointed by the class stomping and generalizing taking place throughout this discussion and by some of our elected representatives. To suggest that those living in these units bring horrific social problems and turmoil to this community by contributing to drug and other criminal activity, increasing the number of "undesirables" and accusing them of turning Bennington into a town filled with people sucking our resources dry is appalling and insulting at best! How awful they must feel to know that their neighbors think nothing of judging them and casting them as Bennington’s riffraff. It is this type of segregation that brings horrific turmoil to a community.
I know several Shires residents who are hard working and contributing members of our community. They are seniors on fixed incomes, the disabled and veterans. Local firefighters, rescue personnel, young professionals and educators. They are factory workers either still working on the line or recently laid off. They are single mothers working to make ends meet while trying to provide safe and suitable housing for their children. They are families working full time at minimum wage and they are local students.
Though it has been pointed out several times during the course of this debate, I would like to reiterate that those living in Shires apartments have met all qualifications including satisfactory credit and criminal background checks, prior landlord references and specific income guidelines.
I would also like to point out that in the event that someone purchases a home; the homeowner is not subject to a criminal screening, leaving the Manson family free to move into your neighborhood. A homeowner is more apt to bring such "undesirables" into an area than Shires Housing no matter what neighborhood you live in. Fears of increased crime, lower property values, school overcrowding, and higher taxes are unfounded.
Shires Housing wants to improve a poorly developed downtown parcel with attractive, affordable housing, something that is in our town plan and is located in a state recognized designated growth center. Believe it or not, neighborhoods have been improved by Shires Housing projects. Make a point to look at some of the Shires Housing properties in the area. You will find that they are meticulously maintained, efficient, and attractive. In addition to their new units on South Street and North Branch Street, Shires Housing has been able to rehabilitate vacant or run down buildings such as the Cora B. Whitney School and duplexes on School Street and Benmont Avenue. It is very apparent that these projects have drastically improved each neighborhood while upholding their mission: "To provide top quality housing that fits the budgets of working people and senior citizens."
I commend the Bennington Select Board and DRB for working through this tough issue. It is my hope that they will act with the dignity of those persecuted in mind and hold true to the housing goals set in our Town Plan.
Wants jobs, not low-income rental units
Tuesday, Aug. 12, you printed a letter from a woman who supported The Shires Housing project. She stated that she was on a fixed income and wanted the Shires project to go forward. I am on a fixed income and do not want the Shires low-income rental complex to continue. The town has enough property to rent without putting a low income rental complex in the middle of a residential neighborhood. That being said, why is the town supporting the project? It is going to lose tax revenue over the individually owned condo units that were approved when the Appleman’s complex started.
It was stated by Shires that six of the units are single-bedroom. How are they going to ensure that children are not born to these individuals? The school system in Bennington has large classes now and busing issues. This rental complex is not going to help these situations. When are the Boards going to address these situations? All kinds of numbers have been thrown out, what are the real numbers for children within the complex? How are the buses going to deal with the low-income rental complex and narrow Silver Street? Shires stated that at the time of the application for other units in Bennington, tenants had Bennington addresses. That is playing with words. It sounds to me that they came from others locations and just moved to Bennington before moving into a Shires unit.
We need to develop jobs, not low-income rental units in the middle of residential neighborhoods. The Selectboard and DRB need to listen to the people. Many more are speaking against this project than are speaking for the project.