When news of Ability Housing's plans for the Cottage Avenue project first hit the streets of Springfield, anyone alive and breathing could have anticipated a reaction. What has been surprising to many, is the all out nuclear response from key players in the NYMBY drama. A response which has dragged in two odd accomplices – the school board and its (still unsent) email to Ability Housing, and the director of planning in his decision to declare Permanent Supportive Housing “akin” to rooming houses and group care homes.
On September 4th, lawyers arguing for an appeal to Calvin Burney's decision, looked to the Planning Commission for validation. After all, they felt, they needed to have an opportunity to present their side of the case.
But not so fast, this hearing was not about Ability Housing's plans to open a Permanent Supportive Housing apartment building in Springfield, the hearing had to focus only on one point. Was Calvin Burney's decision “erroneous”.
Giving the parameters of the meeting to the commissioners, Jason Teal (who oddly was also Calvin Burney's attorney) gave instructions to the panel that they were only to hear information as it related to Burney's decision to call Permanent Supportive Housing “akin” to a rooming house or group care home and not allowed per the Springfield Overlay. This was an appeal. Not the decision.
Ability Housing's lawyer looked down at his power point presentation and knew he was hemmed in. Nothing about the plans for the future renovation could be discussed. Ability Housing missed their opportunity – and they missed it because they were not notified it was happening in the first place.
Lawyers for Jack Meeks requested the determination. Calvin Burney gave it. And he made this decision based solely on the grant application without notifying Ability Housing what he was doing.
Read the minutes yourselves. Did Ability Housing get due process in this matter?
And as you ponder that, consider the words of the director of planning as he discusses the future tenants of Cottage Avenue being kept out of the neighborhood because, after all, they are not “average people”.
Editorial by Stephen Dare