What a difference a day makes, Hartford zoning version

ISdor5mnpvhudp0000000000So I wrote this for Connecticut Magazine, about a group of 11 Harford residents (eight adults and three children) who banded together to form an intentional community in a mansion (pictured) in one of Hartford’s chi-chi neighborhoods.

Many of the neighbors don’t want them there, and so the board of zoning stepped in. The group has been trying to work with neighbors, but then the city of Hartford announced it was suing the residents.

And then the group announced yesterday afternoon that they were suing in federal district court to protect their constitutional rights.

This is sad on so many levels, starting with:

  • These folks are precisely the kind of people a town like Hartford could use — active, engaged, and in love with the city.
  • The zoning laws that are at issue are outdated and a little horrifying.
  • Hartford? You are better than this.

On the happy side, I predict this is going to be the start of a really interesting conversation about family, and what makes a. Here in Connecticut, we like to say that love makes a family, from a wonderful non-profit that pushed our state toward marriage equality. It would be great if we started acting like we believe that.

Published by datingjesus

Just another one of God's children.

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4 Comments

  1. I’m wondering a lot of things about this case, (if you have a link to the federal district court filing…), but right now I’m wondering how the Scarborough “family” shares ownership of the property. With only two names on the deed, how are the interests, personal and financial, of the non-related residents protected? And how do the deed holders protect their interest in the property? Is there a contract? There’s always a contract, I suppose. But what type of contract? Do they all sign a formal agreement of some kind?

    Personally…because I generally suck at relationships…before I invested a considerable amount of resources into a conspiracy to render void a zoning law, I would want to be fully apprised as to the risks involved should the conspiracy fail.

    1. Excellent points. Leftover, your questions remind me of a story I read several years ago, after Canada permitted same sex marriage, about a same sex couple who wanted to divorce. At that time, the divorce courts hadn’t caught up and there were issues.

      I agree that there should be legal protection for all parties in a situation like this (this is the reality of the world we live in after all). And while this particular family may work like a well oiled machine, another similar scenario could involve a group where one benefits at the expense of others. I don’t know law, but it could involve a financial and personal advantage/disadvantage dichotomy.

      However, this arrangement makes sense for those who desire it. It instantly creates affordable housing and the effort to maintain the home is shared. Not to mention, the social/support network can be a huge advantage. And, these people do make good neighbors. It makes sense to create an environment, through law, that allows this to exist. It appears to work better than some by-blood families.

      It seems to me, there should be a way to keep this “family” in place, while the laws catch up. They should catch up now.

      Btw- Nice coverage DJ. My magazine arrived yesterday. I also enjoyed all the photos.

  2. It’s not about ownership, but about who is occupying the place. But yeah, if this does fall apart, I hope the non-deed holders are able to recover their equity without destroying their relationships.

    1. Which is why I’m curious as to the nature of the agreement that exists between the parties. I would think the city would be interested as well. And insurance companies…title insurance…homeowners insurance. And did whoever financed the note on the house know of the communal arrangement? And then there’s tax liability. Not just property taxes, but income taxes. If the deeded owners collect money from the non-related residents to be applied toward house payments, taxes and maintenance, don’t they have to report that as income on their federal tax return? If the deeded owners fall behind on the property taxes, can other “family members” in residence be held jointly liable? Can liens be filed against their other assets? And can any such payments by non-deed holders to the deed holders be applied toward a MAGI for tax purposes? Can the financial interest in the property by non-deed holders be counted as an asset in their personal portfolio?

      The more one looks at this in legal terms, the stickier it gets.

      Whatever the nature of the communal agreement, these folks…by collectively engaging in an action they knew or should have known was in defiance of existing law…have put themselves in a very precarious adversarial position. They could lose everything.

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