ABOUT TOWN: Green

About-Town-Margaret-WirtenbergSunday is St. Patrick’s Day. Green and more green are Weston’s colors.

How has Weston managed to stay green all these years? It really helps to not have infrastructure that supports a higher density of residential development. And thus more intense varieties of land uses won’t work, either.

Weston has neither sewers nor significant public water lines in town. At the same time, we have truly committed ourselves to collecting passive open space, and/or non-development rights for it.

No one really knows how much groundwater is available to keep our private wells supplied and properly functioning. But what is known is how much rainfall we get from the sky, to replenish that groundwater.

Water is a limited resource worldwide, and Connecticut is very fortunate to have great underground supplies. “Water rights” are fighting words in many parts of our own country.

If we are frugal in our use of groundwater resources, we will surely be in a better place than if we waste it. Without public water supplies and the attendant growth that inevitably comes with it, Weston is totally dependent upon groundwater. We are the masters of our own fate.

Zoning

Zoning is very biblical. Especially in Weston. Our zoning has always reflected our devotion to the natural environment.

First there was a rural town. Some centuries went by. Then came a great flood, which produced the Saugatuck Reservoir. And then one day the first shovel hit the ground and Weston Shopping Center was born.

It was a good thing. Other good things in town have been churches and a few additional kinds of land uses other than private homes. However, the time came for Weston to become systematic about how post-World War II development would roll out here.

By 1952, Weston had uniform one-acre residential zoning. The pre-existing Town Center, churches, and some other things became non-conforming uses. By 1953, someone had done the math. They figured out that the total population at full development under one-acre zoning would be five times what it was at that moment. What to do? Two-acre zoning became the rule, leaving about 770 lots of smaller size as then non-conforming.

Fast forward to the 1960s. The Nature Conservancy purchased the then excess land of the water company — the part that was not flooded for the reservoir.

After publishing the first Town Plan in 1969, the Planning and Zoning Commission adopted special permit zoning in 1970. The new zoning regulations allowed for a possible new and separate five-acre Shopping Center District. It became law. Any place in town meeting specified site plan standards and detailed requirements would be eligible.

Around town today, there are more than a few pre-existing entities which do not comply with zoning, including the existing Weston Shopping Center. As far as I am aware, the center has never merged its two adjacent properties, one of which is undeveloped and larger than five acres. Could that mean we might one day see a new or expanded shopping center on that property? Would that be a good thing?

Pre-existing non-conforming properties must not increase their non-conformity. They must either remain the same or seek to comply with present zoning regulations. That is a good thing, in my opinion.

NOTE: “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 aboutweston.com. This week’s guest is Amy Kalafa.

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