• Temporary "Shelter Units" Could Make Their Way Onto Connecticut Church Properties Under Proposed Bill

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    Have you heard about Raised Bill No. 5174 yet?

    The bill is entitled An Act Concerning Temporary Shelter Units For Persons Experiencing Homelessness Located On Real Property Owned By Religious Organizations.

    This "as of right" bill aims to allow the installation of temporary shelter units for homeless people on real property owned by religious organizations.

    Just so you know, "as of right" means temporary housing could be approved under existing zoning laws, without requiring that a public hearing be held or any other special variance, permit or really anything to stop such units from going up.

    The bill describes a "temporary shelter unit" as a "nonpermanent commercially-prefabricated accessory structure that is designed to be easily dismantled or removed, but does not include tarps, tents, other nonrigid materials or motor vehicles."

    The bill would prevent more than 8 temporary shelter units from being installed and maintained on any single lot of property owned by a religious organization. Temporary units would be limited to a maximum size of 400 square feet.

    The units would be required to be structurally sound, and equipped with electricity, heating, cooling, and lighting. The units would be restricted to usage by one family or no more than two unrelated people for a one-year period.

    The proposal requires the religious organization to provide male and female toilets and shower facilities, temporary fencing to hide personal belongings, and ensure a set back of at least 10 feet from any adjacent property not owned by the religious organization.

    Dozens of people and organizations have already submitted testimony about his bill, with a majority actually in support of such temporary shelter units as a way to address homelessness.

    Those opposed, however, do not believe the legislation would actually solve any housing issues.

    Rev. Matthew Lindeman wrote in testimony that, "passing of this bill does not end the housing crisis. It does not offer solutions to the challenges facing our government and nonprofit systems. It only seeks to deny beloved children of God their dignity..."

    Maria Weingarten, the co-founder of housing advocacy group CT 169 Strong, pointed out a laundry list of potential issues, including with food preparation and storage, sanitation, utility connections and solid waste management.

    The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities (CCM) is also opposed to Bill 5174 because it limit a municipality's ability to manage and regulate these temporary structures.

    CCM pointed out that the bill lacks a definition of how long a structure could stand, which theoretically circumvents building code, and ignores the potential impacts on municipal water and sewer authorities.

    Furthermore, CCM argued that Bill 5174 "does not allow municipalities to regulate their proximity to daycare centers and pre-K education programs that may actually be held at the religious institution, which is highly problematic."

    The Connecticut Council of Small Towns felt that the legislation would undermine opportunities for local officials to enact and enforce zoning and land use regulations to protect the safety and welfare of residents and businesses within their community.

    It's not too late to offer written testimony about this bill.

    Just click here to submit your comments. Note that you will have to choose February 21, 2024, as the hearing date. Then choose HB05174 from the drop down box. You can type in your own testimony using the form, or upload a document.

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    2 Comments
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    Linda Puetz

    🤯 How many invaders are counted in CT? No way.

    PolskaBella

    Just another addition to the mandate for low income housing that is forcing all cities and towns to implement. The bleeding hearts who push this never look at all the implications of what it might bring, and almost always allows for going around existing zoning laws. Good grief, just once can any of these proponents find the REAL CAUSE to a problem and fix that instead of the usual "bandaid" response that always costs the taxpaying residents?

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