The Campbell Grain project will be back on the agenda on October 5 in Stonington. The first vote passed. My understanding that this second vote is a challenge to the first. I would like to see it pass again.
I am a town resident, health care provider, small business owner and landlord. I can tell you that this project is much needed. Our neighbors and friends need our help. We need more affordable housing. Affordable housing will benefit our community.
I have patients who struggle to afford $20 co-pays. Many of my patients and prior tenants have utilized the Pawcatuck Neighborhood Center, heating & rental assistance administered through the town Stonington, as well as free meal programs in schools.
Our friends and neighbors need these services because their living costs are too often out of reach. As such, they live in the constant day to day stress of worrying about affording rent, food, heat, etc. My point is, we pay for these services one way or the other. Granting a long-term fixed reduction in property taxes to a business that will provide a long-term solution to help seniors, retirees, young people, veterans, children, people who already are a part of our community. This program is not taking money out of the community coffers. It is simply granting a private company a reduction in property tax costs to incentivize the housing project. The Campbell Grain Project will allow existing community members to live with dignity and the comfort of not having to constantly worry about if they can make rent each month. Affordable housing will go a long way to help taxpayers, local businesses, and most importantly… people that we call neighbors and friends.
Having the proximity of a large-scale apartment living would enable better intra-community engagement. I imagine scenarios whereby one parent could lean on another parent to watch a child so they can pick up extra work hours. Working parents who might not have to miss work because they could organize childcare for each other based upon proximity. Bringing groceries back to an elderly neighbor or offering someone a ride will mean the difference between living alone in desperation or thriving among neighbors. The many hidden benefits to this project will be hard to quantify.
At the last vote fellow residents raised some excellent points. One query was whether an influx of new children into our school systems and more new vehicles on our roads would burden the rest of us. The point being the devil and or costs are often in the details. I would make the counterpoint that so are the solutions.
If the Campbell Grain project favors existing residents would there be more students? Or would the children who are already within our community be better cared for? Would our current families be less financially strained? People with cars will still drive through downtown regardless of where they live. Downton living may even preclude some driving in favor of walking to a store, a coffee shop, a sandwich shop or the pharmacy.
At this next meeting I would ask that we invite the Pawcatuck Neighborhood Center, Stonington Human Services, and the Board of Education to speak at the October 5th meeting. We would be well served to understand the true costs/needs of our community. For the folks who see the offer of a property tax abatement as a debit to the town ledger, I would say we already support people in crisis, but we aren’t necessarily addressing the cause of the crisis. A symptom-based approach costs way more in the long run. Helping to reduce living costs will ultimately help mitigate the strain on some of our other social services. The Campbell Grain project, in my opinion, will help address a root cause of poverty rather than treat the symptoms of it. This project will help seniors, families, our neighbors, in ways that will be hard to measure at the onset.
Dr. John Flaherty