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ABOUT TOWN: Summer

Heat. And more heat to come. Not to mention storms and disasters. Whether it’s the weather or politics, it has been and will be an increasingly unpleasant 2012.

Summertime fun will give way to the new school year in less than two weeks. For those not old enough to vote, it is back to the grind. Actually, I remember enjoying school, especially at P.S. 56 in New York City. I hope Weston students feel the same way now!

When the summer began, I was fearful there would be drought. The kind of rainfall we have been experiencing recently, however, makes that fear seem silly. But intermittent torrential rains are not best for replenishment of ground water supplies. Frequent, steady drizzles are better than monsoon-like downpours.

In some places in America, drought truly prevails. Crops withering on the vine, temperatures in three digits, and wildfires contrast sharply with flooding in major river basins.

These matters bear on the relationship between the State Plan of Conservation and Development and Weston. If the state were in an official drought condition, we might have to change water usage habits and more.

Natural resources

Two “growth management principles” in the draft 2013-18 State Plan of C&D require that Weston pay particularly close attention. One is all about what the Conservation Commission does. The other is Planning and Zoning’s bailiwick.

What can conservation do? It is best known for inland wetlands and watercourse regulations. Development is constrained where these apply.

However, wearing its “conservation” hat, that commission might want to look into creating “protection zones” as recommended in the Weston Environmental Resources Manual (“W.E.R.M.” or Dominski-Oakrock).

The Conservation Commission knows best which trees, forests, streams and cleared lands need its protection. We all know and appreciate the significance of the Nature Conservancy’s properties. They are large holdings in forest classification. The Lucius Pond Ordway Preserve of 1,600 acres or so and the Katherine Ordway Preserve on Good Hill Road are two of these properties.

The Aspetuck Land Trust (ALT) has smaller properties all around town, many having been created during the period of maximum subdivision construction between the 1970s and 1990s.

How to protect Weston against flooding? Preservation of the Long Island Sound ecosystem depends on it. The Conservation Commission has an interest in making sure streams can accept and treat overflows from rain events.

This would seem to require creation of broad “filter strips” along watercourses. In the past, there has been no power in law to enforce these types of regulations. With the state plan calling for “smart growth” it might be the time to develop an overlay zone of “filter strips.”

Speaking of zones, this is where the Planning and Zoning Commission might lend a hand. With Weston close to full development under present zoning, major “growth” in the future can only occur through redevelopment at higher densities.

The state plan includes several areas of interest that I think particularly apply to P&Z. Aquifer protection is one. Keeping our water supply pure is another, although the state is more focused on public water supply wells at this time.

“CT Hurricane Surge Inundation” is a big item this time around in the redo of the state plan. In plain terms, flooding. This is something the 1976 W.E.R.M. did not emphasize. Since then much of Weston has been built. Can we do more in zoning ordinances to protect ourselves?

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Check out Margaret Wirtenberg's website: http://www.aboutweston.com/

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