PUTNEY — In reading the various articles and commentaries regarding the low-income or mixed-income housing proposal in Putney, I am struck by the fact that most of the people who are advocating for it do not live near the proposed site.
They talk about all of the reasons we need more affordable housing in this town - an argument that would be difficult to dispute anywhere in Vermont. But I don't get the feeling that those who are opposed to this particular project are opposed to affordable housing here. It seems obvious that there are real concerns about this particular site.
It appears that many of those who express concerns about the drastic ecological and visual changes are taking real steps to provide viable alternatives to the use of that particular piece of land. Good for them - they're putting their money where their mouths are, so to speak.
Then there are those folks who are concerned with possible crime due to very real and documented outcomes from several similar housing projects in the Brattleboro area and Windham County in general.
I think it's offensive that those concerns are being negated as overreacting and paranoid.
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I have two words for people who think it's overreacting: catalytic converter.
Those who don't live near the proposed project won't have to worry about their catalytic converters being stolen or having to be hypervigilant about their houses or buildings being locked and secure. They don't have to worry about looking over their shoulder when they pull in after dark.
Now, you can roll your eyes and say that's paranoid. My response? You haven't been reading the newspaper in the last several years.
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The above sentiment was bolstered in my mind when a few weeks back the representative for Windham & Windsor Housing Trust, the organization behind this proposed development, was questioned about the issue of crime in various housing projects.
Her response was, in a word, lame.
All she could really say was, “We're aware of the problems.” She then went on to add that they have designed space in the new proposed Putney site for staff.
Well, what does that mean? Are staff going to live there? Are they going to be there nine-to-five during the week? Or is it going to be a situation where they make an appearance for a few hours a couple of times a week?
In my opinion, this representative couldn't provide an adequate answer to that question because she doesn't have one. This is a real issue; it's not paranoid illusions in people's heads.
One of the more recently documented cases of the crime problem took place at the site of the former Lamplighter Inn Motel. It is housing for people who have experienced homelessness. Great idea, except that according to various newspaper articles, most people are afraid to come out of their houses due to dangerous conditions.
And that is just one example.
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People's concerns can be written off as paranoid, but they are not unwarranted. And to make things worse, there is virtually no law enforcement in Putney. Think of that - the proposed site for this project is right off the highway, with no law enforcement after 10 p.m. Great.
I'm glad that certain people can feel comfortable supporting this proposal and all of its politically correct implications from the safety of their out-of-town homes.
But if it gets passed and built, despite very real concerns of many residents, our saying “I told you so” will be of little consolation when these problems occur and Putney becomes just one more disturbing newspaper article.