Guest column: Reasons I oppose Shires project
The following are the reasons I am opposed to the Shires low-income housing project proposed to be built between South and Silver Streets.
1. Bennington has enough (some people say too much) low-income housing already. The Shires (over 150 units), Regional Affordable Housing, Downtown Housing, Crossing Ltd., Bennington South Housing, Carrigan Lane Housing, North Branch Street, Willow Brook, Beech Street, BenMont Avenue, off Elm Street, Emma Lane mobile housing, Cora B. Whitney, etc. etc.. Most of the 400-500 people who signed petitions in opposition to this project are not from the neighborhood, but feel we have enough low-income housing already.
2. The project will raise our taxes. The Chief Financial Officer of the Supervisory Union, Rick Pembroke, states the 24 units to be built, with 1.5 children per unit, equals 36 more students, which means we must add teachers and the 12.3 percent increase also means we must redistrict which will disrupt 597 families. This tax increase is in a town that voted down the BSD budget once and barely passed it the second time.
3. The Shires is not a sustainable business model. To justify their executives and staff salaries, they must continue adding more and more housing projects, whether we need them or not. If they stop developing, they would only need maintenance staff.
4. I am investigating statistics that show higher crime rates and police activity in high-density subsidized housing.
5. Is the proposed project legal? Some of the condominium owners living in the Appleridge townhouses think the project could be some kind of real estate fraud.
6. Traffic and safety concerns on Silver and South Streets caused by the potential 80 new people in the project.
7. Property values in the area are impacted. Shires director, John Broderick, is quoted as saying "this project will increase your property values." Every realtor I've spoke with disagrees and the three homeowners on Silver Street and the two on lower Grandview Street whose properties are now for sale don't agree.
8. Very little green space (40' x 80' play area) for kids to play in. With the 24 units, roads and parking spaces, kids will be forced to play in the road or neighbors' backyards.
9. A drastic change to the character of the neighborhood. Most of the homes surrounding the property are comprised of 2-4 people on a half-acre lot. The Shires will create a potential 80 people on a 2.94-acre lot.
10. We experienced run-off problems when the project was first clear cut. This was corrected by placing hay bales along the property line. What happens when black tops and roofs are added to the area?
11. Blasting concerns. Houses on Grandview Street were impacted by blasting the ledge on a previous project.
12. The Shires refers to this project as a "work force" housing. First, Bennington needs more jobs, not more housing, and second, Section 8 vouchers will be accepted, which don't constitute work force.
13. The project is unfair to the local landlords who try to provide housing but can't compete with a project that will be subsidized by our tax dollars.
14. Rutland has just received a grant from Vermont Community Development program that will allow the city to de-densify a neighborhood and build single- family houses in place of multi-family houses and to encourage home ownership. Their focus is low- to moderateincome home ownership to create owner occupied houses that create a neighborhood.
Bennington appears to be doing the opposite. Densifying and destroying a neighborhood.
For all of these reasons I reject this project. If you feel the same way, call a select board member, sign a petition and attend the July 14 Select Board meeting and the July 15 DRB meeting (both at 6 p.m. at the Firehouse) and state your opposition.
David Fredrickson is a Bennington resident.
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