Local organizations organize event on environmental effects of zoning laws
Experts discussed the environmental impacts of zoning in Connecticut on a Zoom panel.
James Larson, photo editor
Two local organizations, Desegregate Connecticut and Save the Sound, hosted an educational event on Monday on how zoning laws affect the environment and how to reduce the city’s carbon footprint through municipal planning and management.
The Zoom panel included four environmental and policy experts. Desegregate Connecticut founder Sara Bronin said the premise of the event was that “land use policy is climate policy.” The panelists focused on explaining in an accessible way the effects of zoning on citizens, conservation and pollution.
“I think this is really an important task for all of us as defenders,” said panelist Matthew Lewis. “It helps people see the relevance to them. “
Connecticut desegregation is a coalition of state residents and nearly 80 nonprofit organizations working to improve land use laws across the state.
Matthew Lewis works as the Director of Communications at California YIMBY, a nonprofit organization with approximately 85,000 members. The organization works to advance statewide law reform in California on issues such as public education.
Lewis said California YIMBY strives to make technical and obscure topics more accessible to its members. He discussed continuing educational programs to help people understand the connection between regulating land use and their own lives, before releasing a video for the public.
The short animated video explained how restrictive zoning in California has created an affordable housing crisis, forcing residents to live away from their jobs. This increases travel times and, as a result, increases air pollution, contributing to the climate crisis.
Lewis pointed out that personal vehicles are the biggest source of carbon pollution in the United States. Connecticut, like California, has restrictive zoning laws emphasizing single dwellings and sprawl which increases travel times and pollution.
“I really thematically appreciate this movement of looking at things from a California perspective to a national perspective, and these struggles shared in communities across the United States,” said Alyssa Norwood, panelist and program manager at Sustainable CT. .
Norwood shared Sustainable CT’s slogan, “local action, statewide impact,” saying it shows how local zoning has such a broad ripple effect that we recognize our “interdependence. “.
Norwood has discussed zoning through the lens of his public health background. She explained how the history of zoning was based on the idea of unsanitary and polluting industrial zones to be separated from residential areas, and that, ironically, we “entrenched ourselves in an unsanitary state” because the laws were rooted in a context different from the modern world.
David Anderson, another panelist and land campaign manager for Save The Sound – a statewide environmental group focused on preserving local water bodies – also discussed the impacts of urban sprawl. He highlighted the pollution caused by sprawl, including the pollution of runoff water on paved surfaces.
Anderson focused on preserving open space. He discussed the ecological, economic and health benefits of open spaces. He explained that the goal of acquiring open land in Connecticut is called “the Green Plan,” which aims to preserve 21% of the state’s land area as open space by 2023. The organization has fought extensive legal battles to preserve this open space in Connecticut.
“These battles are long, complicated and expensive,” Anderson said. “The cost of conservation is driven higher by the proposed cost of development. And the pace of conservation is much slower than the pace of development, resulting in the loss of open spaces.
The discussion among the panelists focused on the slow process of conservation, anti-sprawl development and advocacy. Specific policy ideas, such as the “carrot approach” to encourage development focused on transit and infill, fees and bans on sprawl open space development, were also discussed.
“A multi-pronged approach is needed,” Anderson said. “I don’t think the carrot approach alone will solve this problem.”
Save the Sound is a member of the Desegregate Connecticut coalition.