All the facts are needed to make a decision on mixed-use ordinance

To the Editor:

I appreciate seeing corrections, however, Mr. Rater’s corrections of Rep. Flanagan’s statements concerning Westchester’s struggle with HUD are missing critical details.

The YouTube video that Rep. Flanagan referenced is most likely the State of the County address made by County Executive Robert P. Astorino. (Search “Astorino describes HUD’s overreaching” on YouTube). In it, he communicates that the county was sued in 2006: the charge that they accepted federal dollars but failed to study whether race was a factor in housing opportunities. In 2009, the case was settled. There was never a finding of wrongdoing on the part of the county or an admission of guilt in this settlement. The video does not discuss the civil rights suit.

Instead of going to court, the county and federal governments agreed the county would spend at least $51 million for additional housing. (The $1 billion or 200 percent tax increase numbers refer to not this settlement, but to a later demand from HUD to change the unit count from 750 to 10,768.) Mr. Astorino states the federal government “has a very different agenda and vision for Westchester,” that HUD calls them their “grand experiment” and that “Washington bureaucrats … want the power to determine who will live where and how each neighborhood will look.”

He also says that the fundamental right of cities, towns and villages to plan and zone for themselves is at stake. He states that HUD thinks zoning and discrimination are the same thing and then goes on to explain why zoning is not discrimination.

It is also noted that HUD challenged single-family zoning districts with certain limited lot sizes as “restrictive zoning practices” that in their view could be discriminatory/
segregative. (Which Mr. Astorino clearly views as an attack on single-family housing.)

For the cases involving Westchester, this video only describes one side. I am still researching the civil rights case referenced by Mr. Rater. Both sides contain important information.

Making it easier for people to start new businesses in Brookline sounds like a great idea, but I have not reviewed the details of the proposed mixed-use ordinance to determine if I am for or against this specific proposal. I do not know if the details of the case in Westchester even apply in this instance. But since Westchester is HUD’s “grand experiment,” we should review their experiences very carefully as we consider changes that affect zoning. There is no reason to believe that the overreaching by HUD in Westchester will be an isolated case, so we need to proceed with caution.

Facts, when known, are a firm foundation. How each side interprets those facts and determines the best course of action is where we have disagreement. Let’s try to dig deeper and bring all the facts from all sides to the surface so we can have a complete discussion. Above is my small contribution, I look forward to learning more about the Westchester case and our local events from all sides of the debate.

Together we can find a way to ease the path of small business creation while maintaining protections and local control of zoning.