A Connecticut lawyer who once defended the rights of protestors to construct a tent city on New Haven’s historic town green has taken a less tolerant attitude toward another group of free-thinkers who want to construct a co-housing community in his own town of Bethany.
In a scathing column published in the New Haven Register, Norman Pattis, a criminal defense and civil rights lawyer, makes his case against the co-housing plan by portraying its backers as weirdos who pose a threat to rural Bethany. What Pattis really objects to is the density of the proposal from Green Haven — the group wants to cluster together about 30 houses in order to preserve half the 33-acre site as working farmland. As I have previously reported, this idea is anathema in a town where house lots only come in two sizes: 1-1/2 acres or 3 acres. Pattis and others have argued that making an exception for this project will open the floodgates to development all over town. Thus, Green Haven faces strong opposition.
But in his column, Pattis goes beyond the zoning debate to target Green Haven’s members for ridicule, and even throws in some Communist references:
The group is politically correct, so much so that its members no doubt bleed green.
Green Haven has its own webpage. It boasts of members without last names. There’s Amy, the co-editor of books on feminism and childbirth; Brenda, who is involved in community-supported agriculture and the breeding of Shiitake mushrooms; Charlotte, the grandmother and architect who has hiked the entire Appalachian Trail; Dick, the fellow who hand crafts and designs his own books, and is, by golly, a peace activist. The list goes on, replete with a midwife, a weaver, a photographer. It reads like a class reunion for the Class of 1969.
These fellow travelers give me the creeps. Imagine “Night of the Living Dead,” except with winsome zombies intent on eating all the granola they can find, all the while swirling to the rhythmic sounds of “Kumbaya.”
And lower down in the column:
Green Haven’s promise to create a cluster of happy communitarians crowded together on one corner of an old farm, while cultivating the remaining land they do not despoil, is hardly reassuring. It feels like an invasion of the very worst sort: folks intent on forcing their vision of the good on others who prefer to be let alone.
An invasion of the very worst sort? It’s true that the co-housing concept is new for Connecticut — Green Haven has been searching for a site for more than six years — but as Pattis likely knows very well, co-housing communities are not communes. Members own their own homes, while sharing common facilities and outdoor space as they choose. There is no shared community economy. The focus is on building a strong sense of community. There are more than 100 co-housing communities across the country, and many more in the works.
Painting Green Haven as the proverbial “other” may help build more opposition. But it’s a curious tactic for a guy who prides himself on defending the downtrodden.
(Image credit: AppleSeed Permaculture, as posted on newhavencohousing.blogspot.com/)