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ABOUT TOWN: Having a plan

Planning is an undertaking done at many levels. As someone once said to me, “you gotta have a plan” for redevelopment.

Some planning is done by groups involved in rebuilding urban neighborhoods. Regional and state-wide plans, on the other hand, are never as close to the ground, or to the people. Is it possible to catch the public eye when you are recommending broad policies that might not appear to apply to today’s problems?

How can this relatively ivory tower approach to planning gain popularity? It is hard to say. No one comes to talk about policy planning unless they are directly affected by that policy.

Last week I wrote about the blood red color comprising much of the land use map for Weston which appears in the proposed Connecticut Conservation and Development Plan 2013-2018. This week I will address how and why it looks like it might be open season for development. And the related question of how do we get the red out?

‘Smart growth’

Laws have changed, making “smart growth” official policy. And the State of Connecticut’s Office of Policy and Management has made some changes too, this time around.

First, they decided to add an extra layer of local comment and input from town planners before going too far in their own planning process. In other words, they started from the bottom up, a good thing in my opinion. The first iteration of a state map was essentially a combination of existing local and regional plans of conservation and development. Not surprisingly, no one complained!

The next step was a reiteration of policies that in the past have drawn fire, such as mandating creation of affordable housing units, up to 10% of total housing stock. And new is “Incentive Housing Zone Overlay” zoning, at population densities of 1,000 persons per square mile.

Density here in Weston was approximately 500 per square mile in Census 2000. Since then we have not grown significantly. That number is probably still accurate.

‘Village Centers’

Another change is reference to what had been called rural community centers as “Village Centers.” The lands of Weston Center, the Town Hall-Library complex, and the school campus, are the center of our town. The underlying enabling principle here is the use of “decentralized or small scale water and sewage (treatment) system.” which do exist in the central part of town.

How does the state plan to increase densities all over town? Via “conservation subdivision,” with supporting decentralized water and sewer treatment.

Which brings me to the point in my analysis of the state plan where I go back to my maps of Weston census blocks from 2010 data. Are there areas prime for development or redevelopment in town, based on the “smart growth” principles of the plan?

Is rezoning low density and vacant lands for “conservation subdivison” part of the plan?

Stay tuned!

“About Town” is also a television program. It appears on Fridays and Saturdays from 5:30 to 6 p.m. on Cablevision Channel 88 (Public Access). Or see it at www.aboutweston.com. This week’s guest is State Senator Toni Boucher, (R-26th District), who addresses the issue of education reform, as it came before the legislature this past session.

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