Please remember that no information on the Internet is official--and this WEBSITE most definitely is not...

At the top:  link to New Town Plan, "Speak Up" 2010 announcement; Planimetrics  2-26-09 "scoping session" at new WHS cafeteria, leading to adding "FORM BASED ZONING"(as in East Lyme) and Weston wetlands enforcement agent into the mix for implementation.



PLANNING AND ZONING IN WESTON:  AN UNOFFICIAL GUIDE TO CHANGE




No wait for this item Dec. 20!
Selectmen appear to give blessing to adjacent owner on both sides to clear wetland owned by town.  So many questions for me about this idea, which may be well intentioned, that it is hard to know where to begin!  What business did the Selectmen have, after the First Selectman had discussed this in private, to give permission to a private owner to do work on a piece of Town property, no mattter whether it is a true improvement or not - or does the new Charter permit this?  Beginning to sound like a previous administration and a pond that was divided in half...




Remember the "treble damages against zoning enforcement officers" victory?

North Haven Girl Will Keep Her 20-Pound Bunny
The Hartford Courant
By DAVID OWENS, dowens@courant.com
10:37 AM EDT, August 17, 2012

NORTH HAVEN

Town officials have decided to revise language that could have required a 7-year-old girl to lose her pet rabbit.  Under a 50-year-old zoning rule, rabbits were considered livestock in North Haven and to have rabbits land owners needed to have at least two acres.  The issue came to light after North Haven's zoning enforcement officer issued a cease and desist order to Josh Lidsky, whose daughter Kayden has a 20-pound pet rabbit named Sandy.

The cease and desist order had an appeal provision which meant Lidsky could have gone to the zoning board of appeals for a variance that would have allowed the family to keep Sandy.  But North Haven First Selectman Michael Freda said Friday he thinks the livestock ordinance needs to be revised.

"The ordinance is outdated and ridiculous," he said Friday. "It was put into effect in 1960 when North Haven was a farming community. At that time rabbits were being raised and bred as livestock."

The town attorney and land use have staff have begun work on revised regulations, Freda said.

"I've assured the family they don't need to go before the zoning board of appeals for a waiver," Freda said. "My goal is to simplify the process and to reiterate they will not lose that rabbit as a pet."

The issue of Sandy arose as town officials investigated complaints of blight at the Lidsky home lodged by a neighbor.



We are not going to add any comment, but can assure you that this issue is another one that has a story...beyond what appears below.
Ippagunta/Martin Road court decision: Weston did not abandon road
Weston FORUM
Written by Patricia Gay
Wednesday, 08 August 2012 11:11

A nearly six-year-long dispute involving an unpaved portion of Martin Road has been settled by the court.

The town of Weston did not abandon "Old Highway," according to a decision issued July 25 by Judge Howard T. Owens Jr. of the Bridgeport Superior Court.

The decision puts to rest a claim by Sunil and Uma Ippagunta of 20 Martin Road, who asked the court to "quiet and settle" title to an unpaved portion of Martin Road known as "Old Highway" that they claimed belonged to them because the town had abandoned it.

In a substantially explained decision, the court found the Ippaguntas did not carry their "heavy burden" to prove abandonment of Old Highway.

Weston First Selectman Gayle Weinstein said she was "very pleased with the court's decision," as did town legal counsel, Jason Buchsbaum of Cohen & Wolf, who defended the town.
Dispute

Martin Road — including the Old Highway portion — runs easterly from Davis Hill Road, past the Ippagunta property, to the Saugatuck River. A portion of Martin Road is paved from Davis Hill Road to near the Ippaguntas' driveway.

The portion of Martin Road that extends to the Saugatuck River is unpaved (Old Highway) but contains identifiable walking paths that allow public access from Martin Road to the Saugatuck River.

A dispute between the Ippaguntas and the town of Weston surfaced in 2006, when the Ippaguntas received a variance from the Board of Selectmen to build a driveway for the home they were constructing at 20 Martin Road.

In addition to building the driveway, Mr. Ippagunta installed a stone wall that extended onto town property as well as onto a portion of the unpaved Old Highway adjacent to Mr. Ippagunta's property.

After the stone wall was built, the town issued the Ippaguntas a cease and desist order saying they needed to apply for a zoning permit for the wall.

Mr. Ippagunta explained at the time that as he was building the driveway there was a knoll and a large tree at the entrance so he built a retaining wall for safety purposes.

In 2008, Woody Bliss, who was then first selectman, said just because the board gave Mr. Ippagunta a variance for the driveway, it did not give him the right to build a stone wall on town property.

Several residents complained about the wall and refuted the Ippaguntas' argument that the town had abandoned Old Highway, citing instances of the public using Old Highway in the past for picnics and to walk to the river.

Things turned ugly in June 2008, when vandals spray painted in orange letters "Town Park" on the stone wall. Weston police investigated the matter but no suspect was ever found. The stone wall has since been removed.

The Ippaguntas filed a lawsuit asking the court to "quiet and settle" title to a piece of property on Old Highway adjacent to 20 Martin Road where part of the stone wall was located.

The Ippaguntas claimed the town had abandoned the roadway and as an abutting neighbor they were entitled to own a portion of the land to the center line of Old Highway.
Non-use is not enough

Both sides in the suit agreed that Old Highway was a public highway up until the abandonment alleged in the complaint. In the suit, however, the Ippaguntas claimed the town had abandoned Old Highway by "non-use."

The court said non-use is not enough to constitute abandonment. There must also be evidence that the municipality intended to abandon the property.

The town claimed it never intended to abandon Old Highway and presented evidence showing Old Highway had been used for public access to the river and it had been publicized in The Weston Forum as a public highway that provides public access to the river.

There was also evidence presented that in 1964 the town voted to reject a resolution that would have discontinued Old Highway.

A pair of maps introduced by the Ippaguntas indicating the town might potentially abandon a portion of Old Highway were not deemed relevant by the court because the court said the property delineated on the maps was not adjacent to the Ippagunta property.

The court supported its finding that the town had not abandoned Old Highway with relevant case law, including a 1908 Connecticut Supreme Court decision that held that public use of an unimproved roadway by foot solely during summer months was sufficient use to constitute acceptance of a highway.

The court also noted there was no public record or document recorded on the land records that in any way indicated that any portion of Old Highway adjacent to the Ippagunta property had ever been abandoned.

Resolves the issues

Although the court struck down their claim of abandonment, Uma Ippagunta said she and her husband were pleased with the court's decision. She said it was never their intention to "get the land."

In an email to The Forum, the Ippaguntas said, "We are pleased with the outcome. The town has accepted this section of Martin Road as public highway, giving our lot legally required road frontage. Town has further accepted that it never obtained title to Martin Road either by deed or by eminent domain. This ensures that this land cannot be used for any other purposes than a roadway. Which means converting it to a park or having a picnic on this land is no different than doing the same on Lyons Plain Road. These give the required protections for the value of our property and settles the open issues on this land once and for all."



How does this relate to Cobb's Mill Inn parking lot story?
Weston P&Z reviews re-built cottage
Weston FORUM
Written by Patricia Gay
Friday, 27 April 2012 00:00

The Planning and Zoning Commission did not take an official vote about a non-conforming rebuilt cottage at its April 16 meeting, but the sense of the commission was the application will be denied.

The commission is reviewing the status of a non-conforming cottage at 306 Lyons Plain Road, owned by Jay Faillace, which was demolished at one point and then rebuilt without a zoning permit.  Because the cottage, which is incidental to a residence on the property, was deemed to be a pre-existing non-conforming use, a zoning permit was needed for substantial work to be done on it.  The commission determined the cottage was not just remodeled, but had in fact been demolished and rebuilt in violation of zoning regulations.

Non-conforming properties have strict guidelines and prohibitions about expanding or changing their use. The properties revert back to residential use if their original non-conforming use is deemed to be "abandoned."

Land use issues with the cottage started in 2009, when the town issued Mr. Faillace a notice of violation for constructing a structure without a permit. Mr. Faillace then applied for and was denied a variance by the Zoning Board of Appeals.  He currently has a lawsuit pending against the town for that decision.

In the current P&Z application, neighbors sent letters to the commision in support of the cottage. The commission intends to vote on the issue at its next meeting.



Photo (L) has nothing to do with Cobb's Mill, but it is tied to this from the Stamford ADVOCATE.
So if one eating establishment does dinner and parties, the other will do breakfast, lunch and take out...but does this mean that Cobb's Mill Inn itself can never do lunch again?

J.K. Café at Cobb’s Mill Inn gets OK

FORUM
By Patricia Gay on April 3, 2013

A new coffee shop at the Cobb’s Mill Inn could be serving up lattés as soon as this summer.

On Monday, April 1, the Planning and Zoning Commission voted to grant Cobb’s Mill’s owner, Drew Friedman, a zoning permit for interior work to turn a former gift shop into a coffee shop.

The coffee shop will be located on 12 Old Mill Road, and will be called J.K. Café at Cobb’s Mill Inn in honor of the late son of Elayne Cassara, Mr. Friedman’s business associate.

Ms. Cassara said she is very excited to bring a coffee shop to the Weston community. “It was a great victory,” she said.

The plan calls for the café to be open seven days a week for breakfast and lunch. It will serve coffee, pastries, soups, and sandwiches. There will be seating for 35 to 40 customers and wi-fi service will be available. Cooking for the café will done in the main restaurant at Cobb’s Mill Inn.

The permit was granted after a lengthy public hearing that started in February. At a meeting in March, an informal sense of the commission revealed that members were split on the application.

Complicated

The matter was especially complicated, according to P&Z Chairman Jane Connolly, because it involved a non-conforming property in a residential zone. She said the commission needed to do extensive research and review case law before members were ready to vote.

The Cobb’s Mill property is classified by zoning regulations as a “non-conforming commercial business” located in a residential zone. Its use as a restaurant predates zoning, and therefore a restaurant is allowed there. However, there are limitations placed on non-conforming properties. By law, their use is allowed to “intensify,” but not to “expand.”

The main issue surrounding the “gift shop” building was whether its use as a café was an intensification or an expansion.

Ms. Connolly said the commission reviewed 20 cases to determine the differences between intensifications and expansions. For example, in a recent 2012 case, Woodbury Donuts v. the Woodbury Zoning Board of Appeals, the court upheld a zoning board’s decision to deny an application for a Dunkin’ Donuts shop because a “fast food” restaurant was considered an expansion of a smaller restaurant on the site.

Cobb’s Mill Inn has operated as a restaurant for many years, but there are some differences between Cobb’s Mill and the proposed café, which the commission took under advisement in order to reach its decision, Ms. Connolly said.

“Cobb’s Mill is only open for dinner, and has different hours than the café. The café is really more of a takeout place, not fine dining like Cobb’s Mill. The menus are quite different — Cobb’s Mill is formal, the café is informal dining,” she said.

The commission also considered the café’s effect on the neighborhood. Old Mill Road is twisty and has a history of sightline problems. There was concern that a coffee shop open at rush hour in the morning could exacerbate dangerous conditions on the road.

After discussion and deliberations, six commissioners voted in favor of the application, with one member, Ken Edgar, voting against it.

After the meeting, Mr. Edgar said the commission took numerous factors into account but he did not believe Cobb’s Mill met the applicable tests for granting the permit.

Public support

The application received considerable support from the public. A petition was presented to the commission with more than 200 signatures from residents in favor of the café. However, Ms. Connolly said the commission could not vote based on public sentiment.

“We appreciated the public’s input, but the commission has to follow the law. The issue was not whether the café was good for Weston, it was whether it met a legal test promulgated by the [state] Supreme Court,” she said.

With the zoning permit now approved, the next step for the café is to get a food service permit from the heath department, a building permit, and a certificate of occupancy.

Mr. Friedman said he hopes to get the interior work completed and necessary permits issued in order to open the café as soon as possible, he hopes by this summer.

In future plans for the property, Mr. Friedman said he would like to construct a bridge across the river so people who visit Cobb’s Mill Inn can walk across it and enjoy a sculpture garden. Those plans aren’t under way yet, though. Mr. Friedman said first he wants to open J.K. Café.



Cobb’s Mill Inn seeks café permit
By Patricia Gay on February 7, 2013 in Land Use, Latest News · 0 Comments

Drew Friedman, owner of La Roue Elayne at Cobb’s Mill Inn on Old Mill Road, has filed for a zoning permit to do interior work on the former gift shop building at Cobb’s Mill Inn in order to create a café.

Mr. Friedman and his associate, Elayne Cassara, presented the plan to the Planning and Zoning Commission on Monday, Feb. 4. The commission accepted the application, but took no action and tabled further discussion until its next meeting.

Mr. Friedman said the plan would be to serve light breakfast and lunch items, such as coffee, baked goods, soups, sandwiches and paninis. The shop will be called J.K. Café at Cobb’s Mill Inn.

The café would open around 6 a.m. daily and there would be seating for 35 to 40 people.

There would be no cooking in the space; that would be done in the kitchen at Cobb’s Mill Inn. However, there would be refrigeration units to keep beverages cold.

Because the property is a non-conforming business in a residential zone, the commissioners decided to ask for an opinion from legal counsel to see if a café would be an acceptable use.



Weston's Cobb’s Mill Inn gets parking lot permit

Weston FORUM
Written by Patricia Gay
Thursday, 26 April 2012 00:00

The owner of Cobb's Mill Inn, now known as La Roue Elayne at Cobb's Mill Inn, may continue to make improvements to a parking lot at 12 Old Mill Road.

The Planning and Zoning Commission approved the issuance of a soil disturbance permit for the parking lot at a meeting on Monday, April 16.

The restaurant's owner, Drew Friedman, had asked for the permit in order to make improvements on a lower level parking lot across the street from the historic landmark restaurant.

After reviewing a number of maps and documents, the commission decided to grant the permit.

The application had come under fire by Cobb's Mill neighbor Xu Cheng, whose property abuts the parking lot. Mr. Cheng claimed at an earlier meeting that the parking lot, which adjoins a main upper level lot, was at one time two tennis courts, and therefore its use as a parking lot had been abandoned.

The Cobb's Mill property is located in a residential neighborhood, and is classified as a pre-existing nonconforming use. As such, zoning permits for any and all proposed uses and renovation proposals need to be reviewed and approved by P&Z.

Nonconforming properties have strict guidelines and prohibitions about expanding or changing their use. The properties revert back to residential use if their original nonconforming use is deemed to be "abandoned."

The commission reviewed photographs provided by Mr. Cheng and an aerial map provided by Mr. Friedman and concluded that the area had been used as a parking lot in the 1950s. It further concluded that the placement of boulders and planting of trees on the property in the 2000s did not interfere with the use of the land and therefore did not constitute abandonment.

Plans are in the works to re-open the restaurant on the property, which closed its doors in 2010.

Mr. Friedman and Elayne Cassara, the restaurant's decorator and entertainment coordinator, have expressed interest in running a cabaret on the Cobb's Mill property.

The commission told Mr. Friedman he could not assume a "cabaret and entertainment" use for the property was legal and he would need to come back to the commission to state what he proposes.



Old Mill Road in Weston: Should it be a cul-de-sac?
Weston FORUM
Written by Patricia Gay
Wednesday, 14 March 2012 11:46

There was some surprising news for residents of Old Mill Road at the Weston Police Commission meeting on Tuesday, March 6.

A large number had shown up expecting to discuss the possibility of putting speed humps on the road to deter speeding, but instead they were met with an interesting counterproposal from Town Engineer John Conte.

He recommended the town consider making Old Mill Road a cul-de-sac, ending the road at the Wilton line where it becomes Cobb’s Mill Road.

Old Mill Road runs along the Saugatuck River, intersecting with Route 57 (Georgetown Road) near Cobbs Mill Inn in Weston. After becoming Cobbs Mill Road at the Wilton town line, it intersects with Cedar Road in Wilton. It is often used by commuters and others who wish to avoid Route 57 (Weston Road) through Weston Center.

Residents were supportive of the novel cul-de-sac proposal.

“We would have to create a turnaround at the end of the road for emergency vehicles and Wilton may have to create a cul-de-sac too,” Mr. Conte said.

A month earlier, Old Mill Road residents had asked the Police Commission, the town’s traffic authority, to consider putting speed bumps or speed humps along the roadway to slow down traffic.

They complained that cars were traveling along the twisty and narrow roadway at high speeds making it dangerous for cars, pedestrians, children and buses.

Following public input, the commission asked Mr. Conte to review the sightlines along Old Mill Road to see if it was suitable for speed humps or speed bumps.

Mr. Conte and members of the Police Commission have historically been against speed humps, believing they do not adequately slow down traffic and can cause problems for snow plows and emergency vehicles.

“The sightlines on Old Mill Road are poor. It would be an obstruction to put in speed humps. I’m not in favor of them,” Mr. Conte said.

Commissioner Beth Gralnick said the placement of speed humps would be difficult because of the narrow turns on Old Mill Road.

However, Commissioner Peter Ottomano said if the cul-de-sac idea didn’t work, speed humps should at least be considered. “This road needs something. If a dead end is not viable, maybe we should at least consider speed humps,” he said.

The police department studied traffic on Old Mill Road in recent weeks, Police Chief John Troxell said, and found cars that were speeding were going 25 to 42 miles per hour. The posted speed limit is 15 miles per hour in Weston, 25 miles per hour on the Wilton portion of the road.

Trees could be cleared, and the road could be widened to improve sightlines, Chief Troxell said, but those things might enhance speeding, not deter it.

Mr. Conte said the key to turning Old Mill Road into a cul-de-sac would be to look at the horizontal and vertical lines of the road to see if they were adequate.

Commissioners acknowledged that it would take a lot of work, approvals and funding to turn Old Mill Road into a cul-de-sac, but ultimately voted unanimously to have Mr. Conte and Chief Troxell look into the feasibility of making Old Mill Road a dead end.

The matter will be discussed further at the commission’s April meeting.



The roof

Changes are being made inside Cobb's Mill Inn
Weston FORUM
Written by Patricia Gay
Thursday, 02 February 2012 07:12

Cobb’s Mill Inn is undergoing interior renovations.

Owner Drew Friedman told the Planning and Zoning Commission on Jan. 23 that his goal is to open the shuttered restaurant “as soon as you will let me.”

Mr. Friedman requested and ultimately received zoning approval from the commission to allow him to apply for building permits for interior work on the building at 12 Old Mill Road.

Cobbs Mill Inn is a pre-existing non-conforming use located in the town’s two-acre residential and farming district. Zoning permits for any and all proposed uses, related renovation proposals, and new construction plans need to be reviewed by P&Z as per the commission’s standard operating procedures.

For years, Cobb’s Mill Inn operated as a restaurant and function hall facility. It has sat empty since the property was foreclosed on in 2010.

Mr. Friedman, the new owner, requested a zoning change last year to allow for more uses on the property, but his request was denied by P&Z following lengthy public hearings with much public opposition.

The public asked Mr. Friedman to run Cobb’s Mill Inn again as a restaurant and Mr. Friedman told P&Z that is what he intends to do.

P&Z granted zoning approval for some of the renovations being done to the property, including repairs to the roof, ceiling, floors, window sills, and gutters. The hot water heater and water pump are being replaced and the furnace is being repaired.

Cosmetic renovations include cleaning, painting and applying epoxy to the kitchen floors.

New work includes adding insulation, applying Sheetrock, and adding washing sinks and a generator.

Mr. Friedman said he plans to remove some trees that fell on the property.

Mr. Friedman also had a number of proposed exterior renovations he wanted to make. However, he did not have specific plans and drawings so P&Z asked him to come back when he had more definite plans.

Some exterior plans under consideration are cutting the brush, and trimming the bushes for sight line parking, adding a curb cut to access the lower parking lot, grading the lower parking lot, replacing the bridge over the Saugatuck, locating the property line on the lower parking lot and fencing it if needed, creating a trench for a relocated force main pipe, and moving the curb back to increase the buffer along Old Mill Road.

In addition to the zoning permit, opening Cobb’s Mill Inn as a restaurant again will also require a certificate of occupancy from the building inspector, and approvals from the Westport Weston Health District, the Conservation Commission and the fire marshal.


PUBLIC HEARING  ON CHANGES TO ZONING NOW OVER AND DONE.

Cobb's Mill Inn, by the waterfall. Used to be ducks, ducks, ducks and swans galore here.  Again, someday?
So where is the waterfall on this map?  Under the "n" - in "Turnpike" - the river ponds to its left and then drops down and narrows after the waterfall.








News Alert: Weston P&Z postpones Cobb's Mill Inn discussion
Weston FORUM
Written by Patricia Gay
Thursday, 15 September 2011 16:20

The zone change proposal for Cobb’s Mill Inn will not be on the agenda at the Planning and Zoning Commission’s next meeting.

The commission originally intended to discuss the proposal Monday, Sept. 19, after scheduling that discussion at its Tuesday, Sept. 6, meeting.

However, Stephan Grozinger, P&Z chairman, said the discussion has now been postponed. “Because this is an application the public will comment on, we can’t discuss the issue outside of a public hearing,” Mr. Grozinger said.

The commission also wants to hear back from SWRPA, the South Western Regional Planning Agency, before discussing the application, he added.

A copy of the Cobb’s Mill proposal was sent to SWRPA for review on Wednesday, Sept. 7. Mr. Grozinger said it usually takes four weeks to get a response from SWRPA because it only meets once a month.

“SWRPA will review the proposal and decide whether it will have an impact on surrounding towns. SWRPA sometimes provides suggestions to applications as well,” Mr. Grozinger said.

Drew Friedman, the owner of The Cobb’s Mill Inn, told the commission on Sept. 6 that he would like to re-open the building on Old Mill Road as a fine dining restaurant and function venue, but he would also like to add overnight guest accommodations to make it a true inn.

Cobb’s Mill is currently a non-conforming property in a residential zone. It closed its doors in June 2010 after its former owner fell on tough economic times.

Mr. Friedman is proposing the creation of a new zone in Weston — a Neighborhood Event District — which would allow for restaurants, bed and breakfast inns, overnight guest accommodations, entertainment, and museums.

Mr. Grozinger said after P&Z receives a report from SWRPA, the commission will schedule a public hearing and send written notification of the hearing to neighbors within 500 feet of the Cobb’s Mill property.

News Alert: New owner of Cobb's Mill Inn proposes zoning changes
Weston FORUM
Written by Patricia Gay
Thursday, 08 September 2011 16:11

There may be some new things in store for the old Cobb’s Mill Inn.

The property’s new owner, Drew Friedman, submitted a proposed text amendment to the Weston Planning and Zoning Commission on Tuesday, Sept. 6, seeking to create a new zone — the Neighborhood Event District — for the Cobb’s Mill property on Old Mill Road.

He said he wants to eliminate the restaurant’s current non-conforming land use status and make it conforming, as it is currently a business operating in a residential zone.

“The primary goal of this text amendment is to make its use conforming in order to preserve the present use at its incredibly beautiful landmark property,” Mr. Friedman wrote in his proposal to the commission.

Although the current building is called Cobb’s Mill Inn, it has not operated as an actual guest inn for many years. Until its closure in 2010, it was operating primarily as a restaurant, catering and retail business.

The newly-proposed district would allow Cobb’s Mill Inn to add guest rooms. Other permitted uses for the Neighborhood Event District are: Food and beverage establishments (not including drive-through), retail uses, catering, overnight guest accommodations, bed and breakfast inns, entertainment (excluding adult oriented entertainment), museums, community educational arts related activities, and educational displays and programs.

Mr. Friedman said he would not construct additional structures on the property, but would like to add some guest rooms on the upper level of the main building for overnight visitors. “Cobb’s Mill Inn will thereby continue to be an historical centerpiece of Weston and Connecticut history, enhanced by fine cuisine, entertainment, social events, and guest rooms. A bonus will be the community’s participation in educational programs and demonstrations on culture, nature, art, science, energy, history, and current events,” Mr. Friedman wrote in his proposal.

Stephan Grozinger, P&Z chairman, thanked Mr. Friedman for submitting his proposal. “Cobb’s Mill Inn is an asset to Weston. I’d be happy to receive the application,” he said.

But he also said the zone change proposal was complex issue and would need to be looked at carefully with input from the neighbors and the public.

“This application is a big deal for the commission and for Weston,” he said.

He said the commission would also review the possibility of creating a Village District as another zoning alternative for Cobb’s Mill Inn.

Mr. Friedman, a real estate developer from Westport, said he personally would not be running the restaurant or inn, but would have a partner or a tenant running the business.

When asked if he would consider opening Cobb’s Mill as a restaurant while waiting to see what happens with the zone change proposal, Mr. Friedman said that is not something he wants to do. “I will have a partner or a lessee with a vision, and I want to tailor the building to their use,” he said.

Mort Schindel, a member of the public who was in the audience, expressed support for Mr. Friedman. “The restaurant is a great asset to this town and we should do what we can for it,” he said.

The commissioners voted unanimously to accept Mr. Friedman’s application, but did not set a public hearing date for it. Instead, they will discuss the proposed zone change amongst themselves at their meeting on Sept. 19.


Joan Lewis photo
Weston's Cobb's Mill Inn sells for $1.76 million

Weston FORUM
Written by Patricia Gay
Thursday, 08 September 2011 16:04


Drew Friedman of Weston recently purchased The Cobb's Mill Inn for $1.76 million. —Patricia Gay photo
A shuttered landmark Weston restaurant may soon be back in business. The Cobb’s Mill Inn, which has been sitting vacant on Old Mill Road since last year, has a new owner.

Drew Friedman, a real estate developer from Westport, and principal of 12 Old Mill Road, LLC, bought the property and buildings for $1,760,000, according to a deed recorded in the Weston Town Clerk’s office on Tuesday, Aug. 23.

The property had been foreclosed on by its mortgage holder, Fairfield County Bank, and was conveyed to Mr. Friedman from the bank’s holding company, Real Estate Holdings, LLC.

Intentions

Mr. Friedman took out a $1,350,000 mortgage from Fairfield County Bank for the purchase and said he intends to re-open Cobb’s Mill Inn as restaurant.

He would also like to restore the property’s use as an inn. “The Weston community really wants Cobb’s Mill Inn,” Mr. Friedman said in a telephone conversation.

He is planning to discuss the status of the property with the Weston Planning and Zoning Commission at its regular meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 6. “The property is currently a non-conforming use in a residential neighborhood. I would like to see it become a conforming use in a separate zone, like Weston’s business center,” he said.

While, Mr. Friedman said he would not change the property’s permitted use as a restaurant and catering facility, he would like a “text amendment” made to the zoning regulations to allow for some guest rooms and accommodations. “My ultimate goal would be to make it a conforming use,” Mr. Friedman said.

P&Z Chairman Stephan Grozinger said he has not reviewed a formal application yet from Mr. Friedman, but would welcome him attending the commission’s meeting on Sept. 6 to discuss Cobb’s Mill Inn. “I look forward to working with him,” Mr. Grozinger said.

A long history

Until it closed its doors in June 2010, Cobb’s Mill Inn was one of the oldest continuous running restaurants in Connecticut. Set on the banks of a scenic waterfall, it won numerous awards from Wine Spectator and Connecticut magazines and was frequently named the most romantic restaurant in Fairfield County.

The property has played an important role in Weston since the 1700s.

It originally started as a lumber, grist and cider mill, owned and operated by Eleazor Sturges and Ephraim Jackson.

In the 1800s, it was known as Davis’ Mill and later as Carver’s Mill, where rye, wheat, apples and timber, harvested from Weston fields, orchards and forests, were ground, pressed or cut.

Lumber activity ceased in the early 1900s due to a severe blight that devastated the American chestnut tree. In 1912, it was bought by Frank Cobb, editor-in-chief of the old New York World newspaper, who used the property for swimming and ice skating.

In 1927, Moira Wallace and Sydney Dyke opened an antiques shop and tea room in the former mill.

Then in 1936, Alice DeLamar and Jacques deWolfe converted the building to a country inn and fine dining establishment. Among their many improvements were two fine mahogany and pewter bars rescued from the cruise ship Normandie, which were installed in the Tavern Room.

In the 20th Century, Cobb’s Mill Inn was host to five U.S. presidents and numerous celebrities. It was owned and operated from 1952 to 1986 by Julie P. Jones, and from 1986 to 2006 by the Cocchia family of Norwalk.

Cobb’s Mill Inn was also featured in an award-winning Weston Forum series, and subsequent book by Julie O’Connor, called The Doors of Weston.

In 2006, Weston attorney George Guidera and his son-in-law, James Magee, bought the property and restaurant business for $3.25 million. At the time, Mr. Guidera said he planned to enhance the food, service and atmosphere, in order to make Cobb’s Mill Inn the finest dining destination in Connecticut.

However, as the economy deteriorated, so did Mr. Guidera’s plans. On June 1, 2010, Stamford Superior Court issued a judgment of strict foreclosure against Cobb’s Mill Inn.

“We were on our way to achieving our goals when the economy dealt us a blow of the severest kind,” Mr. Guidera said at the time of the foreclosure.

Mr. Friedman, the new owner, said he had been interested in Cobb’s Mill for “some time” before he eventually bought it.

With a purchase price of $1.76 million — approximately $1.49 million less than what Mr. Guidera paid in 2006 — the price may have been right.

“I had been interested in buying it some time ago, but the price was out of range. When it went into foreclosure it seemed to make more economic sense at this point to me,” he said.



IMPLEMENTATION IS KEY - NEW PAGE ON THIS WEBSITE

HOW TO MEASURE WESTON TOWN PLAN 2010 IMPLEMENTATION PROGRESS: first, note that the more specific, lot-by-lot existing land use map 1999 was not a product of GIS - shall we spend the big bucks for GIS?  Next, the School Plan - how can the whole community make use of features in this redo of the Center of Town?   Connecticut has history - and its architecture tells the story;  barns are top of features that should be preserved - one feature not included is discussion of the architectural vocabulary of CT and its COVERED BRIDGES.  What is Weston's planning obligation here, if any?  Next,  as Weston High School doubles in size...efficiency in power supply, infrastructure changes, perhaps, 21st century must-do items become essential in an economic downturn, especially;  and a link to Building Committee...


Weston's Plan of Conservation and Development: The public weighs in

Weston FORUM
Written by Patricia Gay and Kimberly Donnelly
Wednesday, 12 May 2010 12:35

Community members had their chance to comment on the new Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD) at a joint public hearing held by the Planning and Zoning Commission and the Board of Selectmen on Monday night.

There were two recurring themes at the hearing: Don’t put commercial development at the bus depot on the corner of School and Weston roads; and don’t change the rural and bucolic character of Weston.

State law requires each town in Connecticut to generate a new POCD every 10 years. Weston’s last plan was adopted on June 30, 2000.

At the outset of the hearing, which was attended by roughly 30 residents, P&Z Chairman Stephan Grozinger said the commission had two choices when it came to drafting the plan — they could do it the easy way or they could do it the hard way, and they chose the hard way.

“We could have hired an outside planning agency and used their boiler plate language, but instead, we wrote the plan ourselves and restructured it to make it Weston specific,” Mr. Grozinger said.

A special committee was formed to draft the plan and met diligently for the past two years, holding public hearings, workshops, and creating and sending a survey around town to gather public input.

The committee included current P&Z members Katie Gregory, Ridge Young, Joe Limone, Jane Connolly, Dave Allen, Don Saltzman, and Mr. Grozinger, as well as Tom Failla from the Conservation Commission.

In addition, former P&Z members Paul Heifetz and Dan Gilbert contributed to the plan when they were on the commission. Land Use Assistant Tracy Kulikowski and Planning Secretary Joan Lewis also assisted.

The new plan sets out the policies, goals, and standards for the physical and economic development of Weston. It is divided into several sections: Natural resources, economic development, housing development, community facilities, and transportation.

The plan in its entirety can be accessed and downloaded from the town’s Web site www.weston-ct.com.

Bus Depot

The first public speaker was Dana Levin, an 11-year resident of Georgetown Road, and member of the school board. She said she loves Weston because it is a small, rural community, and she wants it to stay that way.

She objected to a section of the plan that recommended commercial development of a five and one-half acre tract across from Weston Center, currently occupied by the Onion Barn, the school bus depot, and an historical structure.

Lora Hover stressed the importance of enforcing zoning regulations.  In particular, she objected to developing the bus depot on the corner of School and Weston roads because it abuts a playground at Hurlbutt Elementary School.

“I object to putting a commercial development against a school playground. It would be unconscionable to put a shopping center there,” she said.

She explained that the playground is used by young children and for school events and soccer games, and it could be dangerous having commercial development in close proximity.

Fellow school board member Sonya Stack also objected to it.

Ms. Levin also cautioned P&Z about some of the statistics in the plan. “It contains school enrollment projections from 2004 — that’s more than six years old. If you’re going to use these numbers they should be the most current ones,” Ms. Levin said.

Community facilities

Ray Rauth of Georgetown Road mentioned the importance of the track at Weston High School. “The track should be mentioned as a community facility in the plan because it provides an excellent resource for good exercise and health,” he said.

In conjunction with the Weston Senior Center, Mr. Rauth formed a senior walking club, which, he said, loves to walk on the track. He also recommended forming a committee to work on biking and pedestrian access in town.

Neil Horner of Catbrier Road asked how many of the undeveloped parcels in Weston were buildable.

Mr. Grozinger said there were 500 parcels in Weston that were still undeveloped. He said some of the land might not be developable, but it was uncertain how much.

“The short answer is, we don’t know. Short of doing a topography study of each parcel, we won’t know. We assume it’s less than 500 parcels, 500 is a maximum figure,” he said.

[Bill Bartley of Riverbank Road said he wanted Weston to stay just the way it is. —Patricia Gay photo]

Bill Bartley of Riverbank Road said he wanted Weston to stay just the way it is. —Patricia Gay photo
Amy Sanborn of Old Hyde Road asked how much of the plan was predicated on P&Z’s straw poll opinion survey which was distributed through The Weston Forum. “I happen to know that some people stuffed the boxes,” Ms. Sanborn said.

In addition, she did not want the town to take on the role of developer for the Fromson-Strassler property. She also objected to affordable housing being constructed in town unless it was located on the town’s “periphery.”

Mr. Grozinger said the survey was not taken as “gospel,” but since it had 733 responses it was useful.

Lora Hover of Beaverbrook Lane said that no matter what regulations might be included in the plan, if there wasn’t adequate enforcement, the regulations were meaningless.

Taxes

On the subject of taxes, Don Strange of Scatacook Trail asked the commission to look at some options that could provide tax relief without impacting the rural character of the town. “The two are not necessarily mutually exclusive,” he said.

Rick Ross of Patchen Lane said some additional economic development would improve the quality of life in Weston, as did Nina Daniel of Goodhill Road, who asked the commission to prioritize ways parcels were developed to alleviate the tax burden.

But even though some residents supported additional development in town, others were adamantly opposed.

Bill Bartley of Riverbank Road and Lynn Langlois of Tower Drive said Weston should stay just as it is. “Why do we need more development? We’re 10 minutes from Westport and Wilton,” Mr. Bartley said.

Helen de Keijzer of Salem Road said despite the rural character of the town, she felt Weston had lost some of its sense of community. “Some development may help with the quality of life,” she said.

At the end of the hearing, Margaret Wirtenberg, who had worked on several POCDs in the past, thanked the committee for its hard work, a sentiment shared by others in the audience. “This is a thoughtful, well-written plan,” Ms. Wirtenberg said.

A few days earlier

On Thursday, May 6, Mr. Grozinger met with the Board of Selectmen to hear any concerns or questions the selectmen had with the proposed plan.

The selectmen had several specific language change suggestions, and a few questions about where certain data came from.

Mostly, though, they were concerned with a few sections of the plan that seemed to the selectmen to focus too much on ways the town could offset future tax increases.

Selectman Dan Gilbert talked about economic development versus tax policy.

“If it was worded, ‘how could we potentially increase the tax base through economic development or commercial development,’ I think that’s a valid question, but I think that line, ‘how can Weston control property taxes’ is out of the purview of this document,” Dr. Gilbert said.

First Selectman Gayle Weinstein said she was concerned that there was no mention of the town’s infrastructure and buildings. For example, she said, there is no discussion about upgrading the communications center or moving the Town Hall Annex.

She was also puzzled why there was no mention about a town cemetery, since it has been under discussion for years.

Selectman Dave Muller warned that P&Z’s survey, while helpful, should not be the only basis for recommendations. He, too, mentioned that he knew of people who filled out multiple surveys in order to skew some of the data.

Mr. Muller also said he was a little disappointed the plan does not take a stand on the feasibility of some of its suggestions, especially when it comes to developing the town center.

“This is supposed to be the document that lays out the framework by which we grow and by which we change. So I’d like some indication of what the feasibility of using some of these properties and what they can be used for.”

Mr. Grozinger answered that because the plan is a legal document, the commission felt it did not want to include anything that might seem like it was prejudging any future applications that might come before P&Z.

As for a full feasibility study, Mr. Grozinger said the commission was not given enough money for that to be realistic.

All of the selectmen praised the work done on the POCD, and thanked all involved for their exhaustive work.

P&Z plans to discuss the comments and issues raised at the selectmen’s meeting and the public hearing at its next meeting, Monday May, 17. The final plan is expected to be adopted by June 30.




"RESPONSIBLE GROWTH"  


IMPLEMENTATION OF THE WESTON TOWN PLAN:
  How did Vision Appraisals deal with the drop in home values - nationally back to values of 2004?  Didn't affect us too much (Oct. 1, 2008 date of assessment).
Assessor's recommends VISION APPRAISALS, "Phishing" warning on VISION APPRAISALS website (don't open any e-mails from them--actually, don't click any links within these fraudulent e-mails).  Selectmen concur;  another round (every 5 years now) of full re-appraisal--web site, www.visionappraisal.com.

Methodology being re-assessed - reliance on septic holding capacity and natural recharge of wells still preferred policy.  How "Goals" of the TOWN PLAN have been affected by Referenda, CT DEP, economy and outside influences - including "Smart Growth" ideas;  some events having impact are:


Mother Nature department: 


State Government:  why do you think the State of Connecticut took so long to update its population projections?

The SWRPA view of things (regional planning);

Town Government:
QUICK-STUDY LINKS TO WESTON LAND USE PROCESS:  NEMO link to good commentary here.
  1. NEW NEMO interprtetations of 2002 mapping here, more coming! 
  2. Weston land use is still simple.  Click above on map of Weston for link to analysis by predominant land use categories. NEMO 1995 land cover map of Weston.  No longer available. Check out water basins in Weston (very important map--has water basin numbers, a key to being able to follow data).  No longer available.
  3. "Land Use Director" - overview of U.S.A. cities-suburb relationship;
  4. Permits and Regulations on the Town of Weston website - a collection of procedures and regs on Building, P&Z and Conservation in Weston;
  5. "Goals for Implementation" for SWRPA Regional Plan 2006-2015.
HOW THE SCHOOL PROJECT WORKED OUT
After WIS opens and WHS gets "Ribbon-Cutting, things appear on time (sort of) and on budget (sort of).  A year on into construction phase, buildings rise, problems surfaced and got solved, etc.  Now almost five years since "Yes, Yes, Yes" we have a new day on School Road!  Still needing attention: old section of Weston High School roof, WHS auditorium upgrades, proper drainage for Revson Field - still a problem 2010!

PAST, MORE POLITICAL PHASE:
School/town bonding issue thought to be resolved - "yes, yes, yes" wins on Nov. 15, 2001;  Referendum to overturn Item #2 from Nov. 15, 2001 (3-4-5 school) called for April 22, 2003 fails - click HERE for results.



P&Z adopts their new Town Plan 2010...prior to this there was OUR version:

RESEARCH TOPICS:  Where does the cost of legal services fit in?

"ABOUT TOWN" followed this long effort to gain approval for the Policy Plan:  SWRPA's Regional Plan adopted in 2006 was ruled "not inconsistent with" the new State Plan of C&D!  And Weston P&Z's new Town Plan 2010 was relued "not inconsistent with" SWRPA's!



§ 84 - GEOSPATIAL INFORMATION SYSTEMS (GIS) COUNCIL

Purpose

The bill establishes a 21-member council to coordinate, within available appropriations, a GIS capacity for the state, regional planning agencies, municipalities and others as needed. In doing so, the council must consult with these parties. The capacity must guide and assist state and local officials involved in transportation; economic development; land use planning; environmental, cultural, and natural resource management; delivering public services; and other areas as necessary.

In coordinating the GIS capacity, the council specify how the GIS must created, maintain, and disseminate geographic information or imagery that (1) precisely identifies certain locations or areas or (2) creates maps or information profiles in graphic or electronic form about them. The council must also promote a forum where GIS information can be centralized and distributed.

The council may apply for or accept and spend federal funds on the state's behalf through OPM.

Composition

As the table shows, the council consists mostly of state officials and specific GIS users appointed by legislative leaders. The council can add more members, as it deems necessary. The appointing authority must fill any vacancies. The members are not paid for their services but are reimbursed for necessary expenses they incur while working on the council.
 

Geospatial Information System Council Membership - Appointee and Appointing Authority
 
OPM Secretary (Statutory)
Environmental Protection Commissioner (Statutory)
Economic and Community Development Commissioner (Statutory)
Transportation Commissioner, (Statutory)
Public Safety Commissioner, (Statutory)
Public Health Commissioner, (Statutory)
Public Works Commissioner, (Statutory)
Agriculture Commissioner, (Statutory)
Emergency Management and Homeland Security Commissioner, (Statutory)
Social Services Commissioner, (Statutory)
Department of Information Technology Chief Information Officer, (Statutory)
Connecticut State University System Chancellor, (Statutory)
University of Connecticut President, (Statutory)
Connecticut Siting Council Executive Director, (Statutory)
Public Utility Control Authority Chairman, (Statutory)
Military Department Adjacent General, (Statutory)
GIS User representing town with over 60,000 people, (Senate President Pro Tempore)
GIS User representing a regional planning agency, (Senate Minority Leader)
GIS User representing a town with between 30,000 and 60,000 people, (Governor)
GIS User representing a town with fewer than 30,000 people, (House Speaker)
GIS User, (House Minority Leader)
 
The bill requires the governor to select the council's chairman from among its members. The chairman must administer the council's affairs.

Meetings

The council must meet at least once a month and may hold additional meetings as its rules require. The chairman or any three members can call special meetings if they notify the other members in writing at least 48 hours before the meeting.

Technical Assistance Program

The council must, within available appropriations, provide technical assistance to towns and regional planning agencies for developing GISs. It must recommend how the GIS it developed can be improved.

Report

Beginning January 1, 2006, the council must report annually on its activities to the Planning and Development Committee.

EFFECTIVE DATE: Upon passage



§ 85 - LAND USE EDUCATION

The bill requires the Office of Policy and Management secretary to report on the land use training and education programs available to members of local land use agencies and the extent to which members participate in them. He may include any recommendations for improving or expanding the programs, including recommendations for changing state law.

In preparing the report, the secretary must consult with:

1. environmental protection commissioner,

2. Council on Soil and Water Conservation District,

3. regional planning agencies,

4. regional councils of governments,

5. regional councils of elected officials,

6. UConn's Agricultural Extension Service,

7. Connecticut Chapter of the American Planning Association,

8. UConn's Center of Land Use Education and Research, and

9. Rural Development Council

EFFECTIVE DATE: Upon passage


New State Plan of Conservation and Development adopted - earlier Session BILL ANALYSIS here...

Newest from "CLEAR" ("Son of NEMO") is  Weston map showing changes in land cover between 1985 and 2002, tables.

"ABOUT TOWN'S" TOWN PLAN REVIEW AND WHERE WE THINK THE TOWN STANDS ON THE PLAN'S...IMPLEMENTATION:

Adopted 6-19-00, available at Town Hall; effective 6-30-00...WESTON TOWN PLAN OF CONSERVATION & DEVELOPMENT.  Until a copy was mailed to every household in Weston in December 2000, all citizens had to do to read (in the comfort of their home) the official DRAFT of the Weston Town Plan of Conservation and Development 2000 (which was revised minimally for grammar, etc. and then ADOPTED effective June 30, 2000).  A visit the Town of Weston WEBsite was all it took!  Copies were also available (of the text) in Town Hall.  To link to handy map of U.S. Census Block Groups 2000, and courtesy of the South Western Regional Planning Agency, including a sample of some data for Weston, can be found by clicking HERE.
Background on the affordable housing issue.  Link to "Recommended State Plan of Conservation & Development 2004-2009," which leaned heavily on Smart Growth and Property Tax Commission Final Report, Metropatterns, and other recent reports.  This new Plan was not adopted by the General Assembly in a timely fashion, but will be up for Public Hearing February 7, 2005 (Monday) at 5pm in the L.O.B. Room 2A...



MORPHED SWRPA?  LOOKS LIKE IT!

SWITCHEROO - 6629 merged into 6706 - after car tax killed... "shall be restructured to form a regional council of governments (Regional Planning organizations now to be all COGs.  Starting with Section 250 of this "implementer bill" 6706, you can find out  what a regional planning commission is ("may be created").  NOT SO FAST - at right, the official geography of merged COGs.  M.P.O. boundaries may be something entirely different...stay tuned.


SWRPA NO" MORE" (PUN INTENDED)

A NEW DAY IN THE STAMFORD-BRIDGEPORT METROPOLITAN AREA - by January 2015

http://cga.ct.gov/2013/TOB/H/2013HB-06706-R00-HB.htm



RPA-COG meeting reports: To be or not to be, that is the question...
This matter would, we suspect, eventually go to a Town Meeting in Weston in order to change the form of regional planning organization from an RPA.  Newspaper reports on April 20, 2005 meeting here (most recently published at top).  Five of the eight towns must, we believe, OK the changeover.  For example, the five shoreline communities with mainline Metro-North train stops might agree to go COG...then it would not matter if Weston felt otherwise.

The special meeting to discuss the proposal to convert SWRPA to a council of governments was held on Wednesday evening, April 20th at 7:30 p.m. in the Senior Center Auditorium on the Second Floor of the Stamford Government Center, 888 Washington Boulevard (northwest corner of Route 1) in Stamford.

Two documents written by staff of SWRPA provide some background on the issues surrounding this proposal:

FIRST DOCUMENT (RPA-CEO-COG brief description);
SECOND DOCUMENT ("Pros-Cons" for RPO to COG conversion).

Read about the by now old news here:




WESTPORT NEWS ARTICLE, Friday, April 29, 2005


WESTON FORUM EDITORIAL, April 28, 2005 (in addition to long story on front page with jump to back page);  Weston a beehive of activity!



NORWALK HOUR EDITORIAL, Sunday, April 24, 2005


On-line newspaper report on RPO showdown (WestportNow) here;

Officials Disagree with Population Projections
By Jennifer Connic
Posted 05/17/07 at 05:05 PM


Westport officials said today they disagree with a report from the University of Connecticut that predicts the town’s population will grow by almost 20 percent by 2030.

The report from the Connecticut State Data Center shows Westport’s population to grow by 19.3 percent from 26,610 in 2005 to 31,757 in 2030 (See WestportNow May 16).  But town officials are saying they disagree with the report and do not anticipate the significant growth over the next 20 years.  Planning and Zoning Director Laurence Bradley said the dramatic increase does not fit with the model they are using with the update to the Town Plan of Conservation and Development.

"We believe the population is going to get smaller and older,” he said. “We just don’t see (the growth) happening. The projections don’t fit the trend.”

In order to have the type of growth projected by the UConn report, he said, there would need to be a significant increase in housing.  First Selectman Gordon Joseloff said the town is 98 percent developed, and it doesn’t leave a lot of room for the sort of growth projected by the UConn demographers.

“We’re not going to see hundreds of housing units built,” he said. “The town plan doesn’t call for it, and it won’t call for it.”

The report itself is surprising, Joseloff said, because the town’s population decreased over the previous 30 years before 2000.

“It calls into question the basis of the projections,” he said. “It’s not necessarily accurate.”

Town officials have received population projections previously from various organizations, he said, and they never call for an increase as large as the one projected in the UConn report.


Planning group aims for more unified voice: SWRPA considers changing structure
By Mark Ginocchio
Stamford ADVOCATE
April 21, 2005

STAMFORD -- A old debate was rekindled last night when elected officials discussed a proposal to create a council for the region.

The South Western Regional Planning Agency held a special meeting to discuss changing the organization so it's led by the eight elected officials in the region.

A Council of Governments is designed to give the region a more unified voice for discussing issues such as transportation, homeland security and public health, but opponents of the conversion say a council would strip the municipalities of their individual authority.

"Under a COG, there is no voice of the people," Greenwich Town Planner Diane Fox said to the group of elected officials, planning and zoning commissioners and SWRPA members during last night's meeting at the Stamford Government Center. "In SWRPA, public involvement is widespread."

SWRPA's current membership consists of the agency's board members and 22 representatives from the eight municipalities as appointed by elected officials. Members are from the town's government, planning and zoning commissions and the general public.

The number seats is based on population: Norwalk and Stamford each have four seats; Greenwich and Westport own three seats; and the other four towns have two seats.

A Council of Governments would give each municipality an equal vote and would consist only of mayors and first selectmen. A conversion would require a 60 percent approval from the eight municipalities.

There are currently seven Council of Governments and five regional planning associations in the state.

In January, the chief elected officials and several SWRPA board members attended a presentation of the role of COGs by James Butler, executive director of the Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments in Norwich.

Supporters of a conversion said if SWRPA became a Council of Governments, the organization would better address regional needs by directly involving elected officials.

"We need to consider new issues of regional concern," Norwalk Mayor Alex Knopp said. "Anthrax and smallpox don't respect town bodies. It's a false picture of how we live to just say it's always town-to-town."

Knopp said the conversion would formally recognized a process that is already in place. The eight leaders now meet to approve transportation projects, but often informally discuss other concerns.

SWRPA executive director Robert Wilson said the only thing that would change through a conversion is the membership.

"A COG would have the same authority as a RPA," he said.

But opponents feared a Council of Governments could become a "county government," and other elected officials were unconvinced of the need to convert. County government was abolished in Connecticut in 1960.

"The current regional structure we have is more effective than a COG will ever be," said Dan Gilbert, a member of the Weston Planning and Zoning commission. "I'm always concerned when there are chief elected officials looking for more authority."

Because of how the votes are counted, Gilbert said Council of Governments decisions would come down to "five votes to win, four votes to lose." He was concerned other municipalities may petition the state to join the southwest's COG.

Wilson said other municipalities also could petition to join a regional planning agency and it was doubtful there would ever be such a scenario.

Others still sought a reason for a conversion.

"We don't see a problem that would be solved by moving to a COG," said Greenwich First Selectman James Lash. "It's fair to say this has no chance in passing in our town meeting because a case hasn't been made for a need."

Westport First Selectwoman Diane Farrell said a conversion would better streamline the work of the Council of Governments. She also wanted to dispel the possibility of municipalities losing their voice in a council of government.

"We are all beholden to our constituents," Farrell said. "Nothing about this usurps individual rights and authority. There are more COGs than RPAs in the state and it hasn't happened yet."





NEW from NEMO:
Press Release 1/04 - CLEAR Launches New Series of Land Cover Data for Connecticut /The University of Connecticut, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources
The Center for Land use Education And Research (CLEAR) has just released a new series of four dates of land cover data (1985, 1990, 1995 and 2002) for the state of Connecticut. These data, prepared from medium resolution satellite imagery, provide for the first time a consistently defined and interpreted set of land cover data that will allow state, regional and local planners to evaluate and study landscape changes over a seventeen year period. The data will be valuable to many organizations and government agencies as the state increasingly begins to deal with issues concerning development, sprawl, traffic congestion, forest loss and other aspects of landscape change.

The land cover data were interpreted from Landsat satellite imagery. Sensors aboard the satellite detect radiation reflected from the earth’s surface and store these data as images. The images, which are made up of millions of squares with a ground resolution of 30 meters (~ 100 feet) on a side, are converted via computer programs and human expertise into land cover maps. Land cover, as its name implies, shows the "covering" of the landscape. This is to be distinguished from land use, which is what is permitted, practiced or intended for a given area. For example, an area of low-density rural residential land use, as permitted by local zoning, likely will appear as forest in a Landsat image – there are a lot more trees than houses. Similarly, downtown Hartford, which is classified mostly as a “Developed” land cover is a mixture of uses that include offices, restaurants, stores, apartments, roads, parking lots, etc. From the satellite image it’s not possible to determine what the land uses are but we can describe the area as being developed.

The land cover data include eleven consistently defined classes and include: developed areas, turf and grass, other grasses and agriculture, deciduous forest, coniferous forest, water, non-forested wetlands, forested wetlands, tidal wetlands, barren areas, and utility rights-of-way. In preparing the data, care was taken to insure the accuracy of land cover classifications from one time period to the next thereby making it possible to conduct change analyses.

The land cover maps and a number of interpreted products can be viewed on the CLEAR website and each of the four dates of data can be downloaded for use in geographic information systems.
 

2/04 - New NEMO Program Coordinator Announced

John Rozum, AICP
Finally, you have someone to call! After a nation-wide search for a NEMO Program Director, it turns out that we had only to look down the hall. John Rozum, an AICP Planner and our first and only National NEMO Network Coordinator, decided to throw his hat into the ring after our original search, this past fall, did not produce quite the right candidate.

After earning Master's degrees at the University of Arizona in Ecology and Land Use Planning, John worked as an environmental and community planner in Michigan for three years. In 1999 he came to UConn to lead the National NEMO Network, which at the time was just starting to take shape. Under John's tender ministrations, the Network has grown like a weed, going from 9 to 34 programs in four years. While John was nurturing the National Network, he was also delving into local planning in the Nutmeg State.

He is a member of East Haddam's Planning and Zoning Commission, the East Haddam Village Planning Group and the Eightmile River Wild and Scenic Study Management Committee. In addition, John has provided many important contributions to Connecticut NEMO during his tenure as National Coordinator, including leading the development of the Community Resource Inventory educational module.

With enthusiastic support of the rest of the team, John made the decision to focus on assisting Connecticut's communities, even though he'll miss the national program. Having recently celebrated our 10-year anniversary, the NEMO Program is at an important crossroads. With John at the helm, the NEMO Team will in short order reshape the program to keep all that has made it successful while adding new ideas, new services, new information and new partnerships into the mix.

Direct link to Weston Land Cover 1995 NEMO map!
2/04 - Steal Connecticut Land Cover Maps!
No need for larceny, you can download the maps and information on Connecticut’s Changing Landscape Project for free on the CLEAR website. Here you will find more information on how the data were created, some preliminary interpretation, fact sheets, frequently asked questions, as well as ways to download the GIS information for those geospatially inclined. If you don't have the latest GIS software on your computer, no worries. The website also includes an interactive mapping section that allows you to view, query and print the maps using nothing more than your internet browser. So grab your favorite beverage and point your browser to the CLEAR website to learn more about Connecticut's changing landscape.




...IN THE STATUTES...
§§ 140-144-WASTEWATER MANAGEMENT DISTRICTS

This bill allows municipalities to establish by ordinance decentralized wastewater management districts. It establishes conditions
that must be met before a town can create such a district, including approval of an engineering plan by the DEP commissioner with concurring approval by the commissioner of the Department of Public Health (DPH). It lists standards, regulations, and criteria that a town can apply to such a district. It requires DPH to conduct any oversight or monitoring of these districts within available appropriations.

The bill requires a town water pollution control authority to include in its water pollution control plan the designation and boundary of any decentralized wastewater management district it establishes and to describe any programs where the local health director manages subsurface sewage disposal systems. The bill requires the authority to ensure the operation and management of any decentralized wastewater management district not owned by the municipality.

By law, municipalities, through their water pollution control authorities, can establish and revise rules and regulations governing sewerage systems; the bill requires any such rules or regulations regarding decentralized systems to be approved by the local health director before taking effect. Also by law, an authority can order a building owner to connect to an available sewerage system; the bill allows it to order an owner to construct an alternative sewage treatment system and connect the building to it.

The bill also requires a municipality to include in its ordinance remediation standards to regulate alternative sewage treatment systems.

The bill states that any area designated by municipal ordinance as a decentralized wastewater management district is not considered
to be a public sewer under the Public Health Code. It also states that its provisions must not be construed to limit the authority of a local health director or the commissioners of DEP or DPH.

The bill defines a "decentralized system" as a managed subsurface sewage disposal system, managed alternative sewage treatment system, or community sewerage system that discharges less than 5,000 gallons of sewage per day, are used to collect and treat domestic sewage, and involve discharges from a municipality into the state's ground waters.

It defines a "decentralized wastewater management district" as an area of a municipality designated through a municipal ordinance when an engineering report determines that existing subsurface sewage disposal systems may be detrimental to public health or the environment and decentralized systems are required and the report is approved by the DEP commissioner with concurring approval by the DPH commissioner after consultation with the local health director.

It defines an "alternative sewage treatment system" as one serving one or more buildings that uses treatment methods other than a subsurface sewage disposal system and discharges into the state's ground waters.

It defines "remediation standards" as pollutant limits, performance requirements, design parameters, or technical standards applying
to existing sewage discharges in a decentralized wastewater district for improving wastewater treatment to protect public health and the environment.

It changes the definition of a "community sewerage system" to a system serving two or more, rather than one or more, residences in separate structures not connected to a municipal sewerage system or connected as a distinct and separately managed part of such a system.

Finally, it includes a decentralized system in a decentralized wastewater management district established under the bill's provisions under the definition of a sewerage system.

Other statutes and regulations in the Public Health Code, not changed by this bill, define related terms. A "subsurface sewage disposal system" is a septic tank, leaching system and the additional necessary pumps, siphons, collection sewers, and groundwater control system. An "alternative on-site sewage treatment system" is one serving one or more buildings on one property using treatment methods other than subsurface sewage treatment and discharging into state waters.

Requirements For Municipality To Establish District

The municipality must act after approval of the engineering report by the DEP commissioner with concurrence from the DPH commissioner in consultation with the local health director. The engineering report must have determined that existing subsurface sewage disposal systems may be detrimental to public health or the environment and that decentralized systems are required. The municipality must act in conjunction with its water pollution control authority.

Provisions Of The Ordinance

The bill requires the ordinance to include remediation standards for the design, construction, and installation of alternative sewage treatment systems and standards for the effective supervision, management, control, operation, and maintenance of alternative sewage treatment systems within a decentralized district that are consistent with any DEP permit, order, or recommendation.

The bill allows the ordinance to include, with the local health director's approval:

1. remediation and technical standards for the design and construction of subsurface disposal systems that are more stringent than those imposed by the state Public Health Code;

2. authority for the local health director to order the upgrade of subsurface sewage treatment systems according to the remediation and
technical standards;

3. authority for the local health director to establish criteria for the abandonment of substandard subsurface sewage disposal systems;

4. authority for the local health director to order the owner of a substandard subsurface sewage disposal system not complying with the remediation or technical standards or other criteria to abandon the substandard system so the water pollution control authority can order him to connect to a sewerage system;

5. standards established by the local health director for effective supervision, management, control, operation, and maintenance of managed subsurface sewage disposal systems within a decentralized district; and

6. authority for the water pollution control authority to enact and amend regulations, following approval by the local health director, governing the supervision, management, control, operation, and maintenance of the decentralized system.

EFFECTIVE DATE: October 1, 2003



Breaking news...will this assure that the heating in the Conservation Officer's space is warm enough for employees and visitors in winter?

Westport Weston Health District (WWHD) holding office hours in Town Hall Annex.
12-07-07

The sanitarian for the Westport Weston Health District (WWHD) will be holding office hours in Weston every Wednesday between 10 a.m. and noon at the Weston Town Hall Annex, 24 School Road.  No appointment is needed.

The sanitarian will be available to answer questions regarding septic systems, wells and building modifications.  Residents can pick up Health District project application forms in the Building Department, Town Hall Annex, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.  For more information, call the Health District at 227-9571.



Recommended reading as well (by "About Town") from Sunday's Hartford Courant editorial page:

Link to pdf of substitute House Bill 6570
Arrest Connecticut Sprawl
Despite growing awareness of the damaging effects of uncontrolled development scattered over the countryside, Connecticut has done little to address the problems posed by sprawl.  We hope lawmakers get serious this legislative session about giving the state and municipalities effective tools to cope with random development. Proposed legislation would:

Permit cities of more than 100,000 to adopt a two-tier property tax system under which urban land would be taxed at a higher rate than buildings. This hybrid approach discourages owners from holding vacant parcels and encourages commercial or residential development because of the tax bonus. The system has produced spectacular results in Harrisburg, the capital of Pennsylvania.

Authorize a tax burden analysis. Connecticut is among a minority of states that fail to take advantage of computer analyses to show how proposed taxes would affect people in each income group. Without this valuable tool, lawmakers operate in the dark about the real impact of new taxes.

Create a coordinated state-local geographic information system - a computer method that overlays data about taxes, sewers, power lines, soil type and other information to give a snapshot of land parcels.

Update and expand state, regional and local plans of development to facilitate rational decisions and maximize the economic potential of, for example, rail and bus lines. Significantly, the bill would require "integration of planning across all levels of government" to bring about smart growth.

Unfortunately, one key legislative ingredient was dropped under pressure from homebuilders. It would have authorized a statewide "build-out" analysis to show what towns might look like if every parcel were developed to the maximum permitted by current zoning. Such a survey would expose the impact of unrestrained growth on schools, roads, water, open space and public safety. That provision should be included.

Of course, each town could hire consultants to carry out such a study, but that would subvert the desirable goal of regional and statewide anti-sprawl planning. A statewide study might cost $1 million, but it will be money well spent if the result is increased awareness and better planning.

A broad coalition of civic, religious and business groups now recognizes the dangers of random sprawl and the need to channel development in reasonable ways.

Scattered housing and commercial projects flung across the landscape require a huge public investment in added roads, sewers, police protection and other services. They also require longer commutes - clogging highways and worsening air pollution. Moreover, random development in one of the smallest states in the nation chews up farmland, destroys open space and damages scenic vistas.

Steering development to urban areas with existing infrastructure is the sensible approach. There is nothing draconian about the proposed smart growth legislation. It would give the state additional tools and authority to make rational decisions about the future of Connecticut's landscape.


County group aims to halt urban sprawl
By Ryan Jockers, Greenwich TIME Staff Writer
February 10, 2004

Preservationists throughout Fairfield County are uniting to form a coalition to combat sprawl and the demolition of historic structures.

The Fairfield County Preservation Trust will undertake its mission later this year. Organizers of the newly established nonprofit organization still have to form a board of directors, raise private funds, hire a small staff and set up an office.  The group has support from historical societies countywide and has secured a $25,000 grant from Westport-based Newman's Own.  Area preservationists and area historical society members formed the coalition after recognizing a trend in demolition and insensitive redevelopment that was tarnishing the Gold Coast's charms.

"One thing that all the communities in the county have in common is the desire to stop sprawl -- residential and commercial -- which is destroying the character of our communities and our quality of life," said Bill Kraus, a Norwalk resident and vice president of the trust.  John Lupton, the trust's president, said the group would differ from historical societies -- which are generally more focused on archiving and research -- by addressing and raising public awareness of tear-downs and development that is discordant with its surroundings.

Lupton said the trust would be a clearinghouse of information, offering residents tips on rehabilitating old homes, designating areas as historic to protect against disharmonious development, obtaining available tax credits and placing easements on land to preserve it. The organization's Web site is www.fairfieldcountypreservation.org.The trust's goal is also to educate the public through an advertising campaign about the problems associated with sprawl and the economic benefits of historic preservation.

"All over Fairfield County, there are many old homes that are not protected," Lupton said.

One of the trust's first tasks will be to inventory and prioritize all the "endangered" historic homes in the county. Having such a list would assist the group in contacting property owners and prioritizing its preservation efforts with available funding. The group also plans to contract consultants and attorneys to battle development.

Demolition of residential and commercial buildings has increased in recent years, according to data from the state Department of Economic and Community Development. From 2000 to 2002, the number of demolition permits granted in Norwalk increased from 30 to 40; in Stamford, from 21 to 35; in Westport, from 65 to 76; in Greenwich, from 78 to 79.

As troubling, though, as the "tear-down trend," said Kraus, is insensitive renovation and redevelopment. He cited a recent case in which owners of an older commercial building removed solid oak flooring and old staircases -- only to violate zoning regulations and then approach preservationists for help. The trust hopes to position itself so property owners in similar situations seek its assistance before demolition begins.

"If we had gotten involved early in the design stage, we could have shown them simple ways they could have worked with the building . . . and they would have ended up with a much more solid, valuable building at the end," Kraus said. "As it was, it was too late for us to help them."


Population Of U.S. Nearing 300 Million
Americans are consuming more food, energy, resources than ever

By Stephen Ohlemacher, Associated Writer
New London DAY
Published on 10/15/2006
 
Washington — America's population is on track to hit 300 million on Tuesday morning, and it's causing a stir among environmentalists.

People in the United States are consuming more than ever — more food, more energy, more natural resources. Open spaces are shrinking and traffic in many areas is dreadful.  But some experts argue that population growth only partly explains America's growing consumption. Just as important, they say, is where people live, what they drive and how far they travel to work.

“The pattern of population growth is really the most crucial thing,” said Michael Replogle, transportation director for Environmental Defense, a New York-based advocacy group.

“If the population grows in thriving existing communities, restoring the historic density of older communities, we can easily sustain that growth and create a more efficient economy without sacrificing the environment,” Replogle said.

That has not been the American way. Instead, the country has fed its appetite for big houses, big yards, cul-de-sacs and strip malls. In a word: sprawl.

“Because the U.S. has become a suburban nation, sprawl has become the most predominant form of land use,” said Vicky Markham, director of the Center for Environment and Population, an advocacy group. “Sprawl is, by definition, more spread out. That of course requires more vehicles and more vehicle miles traveled.”

America still has a lot of wide-open spaces, with about 84 people per square mile, compared with about 300 people per square mile in the European Union and almost 900 people per square mile in Japan.  But a little more than half the U.S. population is clustered in counties along the coasts, including those along the Gulf of Mexico and the Great Lakes. Also, much of the population is moving away from large cities to the suburbs and beyond.

The fastest growing county is Flagler County, Fla., north of Daytona Beach; the fastest growing city is Elk Grove, Calif., a suburb of Sacramento; and the fastest growing metropolitan area is Riverside, Calif., about 50 miles east of Los Angeles.

“In New York City, people tend to think of that as an urban jungle, but the environmental impact per capita is quite low,” said Carlos Restrepo, a research scientist at New York University. “It tends to be less than it is for someone who lives in the suburbs with a big house where they need more than one car.”

The Census Bureau projects that America's population will hit 300 million at 7:46 a.m. EDT Tuesday. The projection is based on estimates for births, deaths and net immigration that add up to one new American every 11 seconds.

The estimated 11 million to 12 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. are included in official population estimates, though many demographers believe they are undercounted.

The population reached its last milestone, 200 million, in 1967. That translates into a 50 percent increase in 39 years.  During the same period, the number of households nearly doubled, the number motor vehicles more than doubled and the miles driven in those vehicles nearly tripled.  The average household size has shrunk from 3.3 people to 2.6 people, and the share of households with only one person has jumped from less than 16 percent to about 27 percent.

“The natural resource base that is required to support each person keeps rising,” Replogle said. “We're heating and cooling more space, and the housing units are more spread out than ever before.”

The U.S. is the third largest country in the world, behind China and India. The U.S. is the fastest growing of the industrialized nations, adding about 2.8 million people a year, or just under 1 percent. India is growing faster but the United Nations considers it to be a less developed country.  About 40 percent of U.S. population growth comes from immigration, both legal and illegal, according to the Census Bureau. The rest comes from births outnumbering deaths.

“It's not the population, it's the consumption that can do us in,” said William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank. “These are the luxuries we have been able to support until now. But we're not going to be able to do it forever.”


Rell Acts To Stop Sprawl

Hartford Courant editorial
October 8, 2006

For decades, ill-planned, low-density, auto-oriented development, known as sprawl, has been eating away at the traditional Connecticut countryside. Scenic farms have been sacrificed for subdivisions and strip malls. Ridge lines have been cleared for McMansions. Urban centers have struggled.

Finally, on Friday, a Connecticut governor said it has to stop. Gov. M. Jodi Rell issued an executive order creating a state office to control sprawl and promote more sensible and sustainable growth.

The new agency, the Office of Responsible Growth, will be part of the state's Office of Policy and Management. The new agency will convene a steering council made up of the state agencies involved in land use: economic development, environmental protection, transportation, agriculture and public health, as well as the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority and the Connecticut Development Authority.

The governor's order charges this group with such tasks as:

Increasing mass-transit options and promoting road design that preserves the character and walkability of a community.

Expanding transit-oriented development - housing with ready access to passenger rail and bus service.

Creating incentives for regional planning and support for local land-use officials (without usurping local zoning).

Encouraging planning that will protect natural resources.

This is not Rell's first anti-sprawl measure. She's supported a $3.5 billion investment in transportation infrastructure in the past two years, and backed the creation of a dedicated fund to support the protection of open space, farmland and historic sites, as well as the creation of affordable housing.

But the creation of the new agency is the first structural change Rell has made in state government to tame ill-conceived and wasteful development. We applaud it. The Courant has extensively examined the effects of sprawl over the past two years, and we believe it is damaging the state's quality of life - our best selling point - and slowing the state's economy.

Still, the announcement raises a few questions.

Bringing all the agencies to the table - "joining the silos," as the planners say - is clearly the way to get coordinated state action. But will the new agency have the authority to bend the departments to its will? Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney created a super-agency by combining the departments of energy, environmental protection, transportation and housing to fight sprawl, and it is working. Rell needs to ensure the same result.

Also, Rell's announcement says the new agency will "review state funding" that has an impact on development in Connecticut. That language doesn't go far enough. The state has to be able to direct state funding toward sensible development and stop subsidizing sprawl. If the new agency can't do that, it's not going to be strong enough to make a difference.

Finally, Rell does not address one major cause of sprawl, and that is the state's heavy and disastrous dependence on local property taxes (though she has a task force studying the issue). Towns strapped for funds are inclined to develop every corner of field or forest to squeeze more money for schools and other services. Someone's got to shift some of the burden to other taxes that aren't as dependent on land use, if we're to really stop sprawl.

Nonetheless, Rell has stepped out in front of her gubernatorial opponent, John DeStefano Jr. - who is knowledgeable on the subject - and taken the most promising action yet to rein in sprawl. We await Mr. DeStefano's plan. 


Study Maps Out A Region At Risk
By MYRON ORFIELD, Published in New London DAY on 7/6/2003
Unbalanced growth is hurting all communities in Connecticut — including the state's beautiful northeastern corner.  Despite revitalization efforts, many of the state's large cities and older suburbs continue to face declining population and stagnant tax bases. At the same time, many of the state's outlying communities are facing the pressures of rapid, low-density growth.

New development in Connecticut is consuming previously undeveloped land at alarming rates.  Between 1970 and 2000, the amount of land settled at urban or suburban densities increased by 102 percent. During the same period, the state's population increased by just 12 percent.  Our recent report, “Connecticut Metropatterns,” used statistical analysis to group the state's 169 towns and cities by specified fiscal and social characteristics.  Communities were divided into six groups, ranging from highly stressed central cities to a group of affluent suburbs. Nearly all communities in Northeast Connecticut fell into one of two groups. The first, “at risk” communities, is still stable by many measures.

These places have slightly below-average poverty rates in their schools, an average number of jobs per resident and greater-than-average job growth.  But there are signs of stress afoot.  School-poverty rates edged up slightly faster in this group than in the state as a whole during the 1990s. Property tax base and growth in property tax base are below the state averages, as the map above illustrates. This hinders their ability to adequately meet social and physical needs. Because of such pressures, it increases the likelihood that such towns will adopt development that increases sprawl and lessens the beauty that attracted people to the Northeast corner to begin with.

Most other northeast Connecticut communities were classified as “fringe-developing.” The most exceptional characteristic of these middle-class communities is rapid growth — more than twice the rate of the state as a whole — at very low densities. This type of growth brings its own stresses — requiring major investments in roads, sewers and schools that often strain even the hardiest tax bases.  However, most fringe-development places do not command such big tax bases – on average, they have slightly below-average tax bases that are growing much more slowly than average.

At-risk and fringe-developing communities were home to nearly 40 percent of the land that urbanized during the 1980s and 1990s. Given their low tax bases, these communities feel tremendous pressure to attract development that will improve their fiscal health. This pressure can drive land-use planning decisions and discourage a cooperative, regional approach to planning.  These trends have serious implications for the region and the state as a whole. What can we do to turn them around? Fortunately, there are strategies that can help.

Reform Connecticut's property tax system:
The local fiscal landscape in Connecticut is dominated by much greater-than-average reliance on property taxes to finance municipal services and schools. This places tremendous pressure on most communities to attract development that will expand their property tax bases. That's especially true in low-tax-base communities where the need for public services far outstrips the available property tax base to pay for them.  Reducing reliance on the property tax would reduce the pressures communities feel to develop land. For example, state lawmakers could move more of the cost of K-12 public education from local property taxes to the statewide revenue system, freeing up local funds for other important public services.  Another option is regional tax-base sharing, which pools a portion of local governments' tax base and redistributes it more equitably. Tax-base sharing in the Minneapolis-St. Paul has helped its core communities remain relatively healthy and provided fiscal support to low-tax-base exurban areas. A smaller program in the New Jersey Meadowlands has helped officials guide development in an environmentally-friendly way by guaranteeing that all 14 Meadowlands communities share the benefits of development, no matter where in the district it occurs.

• Encourage regional land-use planning:
Connecticut institutions currently do little to support balanced growth. For example, although towns must note any inconsistency with the State Plan of Conservation and Development when amending their own plans, they are not required to reconcile any differences. Many state agencies produce plans, but often independently of each other. In fact, there is no state agency explicitly responsible for planning. Although the state boasts 15 councils of government and regional planning agencies, these regional bodies have no statutory authority to review local land-use decisions.  Policies should be established that encourage local planning with a regional and statewide perspective. For example, strengthened regional bodies could coordinate a host of regional issues, such as housing and redevelopment efforts and farmland and open-space protection. A reinvigorated state plan could be a powerful statewide planning tool to promote consistency among municipal and regional plans and to encourage development in desired locations.  Similar policies have worked across the country. At least 16 states have adopted comprehensive smart growth acts, which is development that preserves open space and uses existing infrastructure whenever possible.  Their ranks are growing. Regional land-use planning in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Maryland helps officials coordinate investments in roads and sewers. Concurrency requirements like those in Florida require infrastructure to be in place by the time development takes place. Several states have approved or are considering “fix it first” legislation requiring state agencies to focus spending on repairing existing infrastructure instead of building new facilities.  These ideas serve as a starting point for a larger discussion on how northeast Connecticut can preserve its scenic environment while accommodating sustainable growth. A credible and effective system that promotes local, regional and statewide cooperation will pay dividends for the region and its people for generations to come.
Myron Orfield is director of the Institute on Race and Poverty at the University of Minnesota Law School and president of Ameregis, a research firm in Minneapolis. He co-authored the Connecticut Metropatterns report, released in March.   To find the complete report, 25.1MB (takes a while to download), click HERE.




In the past, much progress had been made (on a small scale) developing a method of preservation of H2O company lands...
The Saugatuck Valley Walk Trail...a good thing that should be properly maintained...the Kelda Coalition was successful, and thus this regional open space attribute is preserved forever.  What will happen when powerline issue hit town--345kV with macho towers next door to Weston Historical Society (center).
[IMAGE]

How the "walk trail" came to be:
With the partnership of the Towns of Weston and Redding, the Redding Land Trust, the Aspetuck Land Trust, the Connecticut Audubon Society and The Nature Conservancy,Bridgeport Hydraulic Company, on April 22, 1992, EARTH DAY, dedicated the Saugatuck Walk Trail, a linkage of paths owned by all the entities named above.  On the map of Weston land use below, the trail skirts the reservoir to the west or left of the big blue area in the upper right
Some food for thought...impact of KELDA COALITION victory;
The DRAFT 1999 update of the LAND USE map of Weston is shown below...one of the major concerns had been the future use of "excess" lands when and if filtration plants were built by Aquarion (aka BHC). 

"About Town's 1999 WESTON E-LAND USE MAPS:
"LEGEND"--yellow (residential), greens (open space of one kind or the other--darkest green is Nature Conservancy--some private, some public, [private clubs in mottled ochre--gun, golf, field and Girl Scouts]), dark blue (public-semi-public), red (commercial)...notice, no industrial, office parks.  White--vacant.

HAD CLASS II LANDS OF BHC (draining toward the reservoir) BEEN RECLASSIFIED CLASS III--if they were no longer needed as water supply protection for the water company's reservoir, what land use effect would that have had on Weston?

What would have been the effect of the onetime proposed BHC (Kelda) water line across Godfrey Road (and down Valley Forge) on the large, open parcels nearby as well as the CLASS II (i.e. flows toward CLASS I water body) BHC lands? Higher density uses and zone changes could have  developed there.  Pick out your favorite "white" colored properties on the EXISTING LAND USE MAP and consider the possibilities for alternative land uses!




Does this map look familiar?  Town studies groundwater on School Road site; plans for second well and improved distribution system.
[IMAGE]
SHOWN ABOVE: THE CENTRAL PART OF TOWN - North pointing up (map on the left) is the existing land use;  EXISTING CONDITIONS AND FINAL SCHOOL PLAN  from O,R&L--now replaced by Fletcher-Thompson's version (approved by Town Meeting on Nov. 15, 2001).  Is this part of town overdeveloped now?  One of the measures of land capability is "imperviousness."  Without keeping this natural characteristic to a minimum, the groundwater cycle cannot be maintained without engineering intervention.  IMPERVIOUSNESS STATEWIDE: WESTON IS GREEN


In the region...
Lower Fairfield County, as shown on the State of Connecticut Plan of Conservation and Development...NEW PLAN UP FOR PUBLIC HEARING STILL RECOGNIZES WESTON AS IT HAS IN THE PAST.
THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT'S PLAN OF CONSERVATION AND DEVELOPMENT (1998-2003) SHOWS WESTON AS "RURAL" AND "OPEN SPACE" LAND...AS SHOWN ABOVE. BELOW IS THE SOUTH WESTERN PLANNING REGION'S LATEST LOOK AHEAD. TO BE UP-TO-DATE WITH STATE POLICY "MODIFICATION" CLICK BELOW:
Plan Locational Guide
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

WESTON IN THE SOUTH WESTERN REGION

[IMAGE]

Weston is located in the upper right of any SWRPA regional map.  We show a low density development pattern.  State Plan of C&D 2005-2010 map of SWRPA Region explains why north of the Merritt Parkway has not developed.  Pink and red areas indicate where infrastructure exists.

Change to definition of "rural" lands and their zoning in the new CT Plan still does not make two-acre zoning density inconsistent with the effort to most efficiently develop the lands of the State of CT..

NEWS:
In addition, the completion of a full interchange at the Merritt Parkway and Route Seven has benn halted by the Courts (2006), which put completion of new "Super Seven" in limbo.




Latest State Plan 2013-2018 described in "About Town" interview.
FROM THE CT PLAN OF C&D 2005-2010 - definition of...RURAL AREAS (pages 74-77 of the CT PLAN of C&D 2005-2010):  "Rural areas" no longer in the State Plan of C&D.

The western and eastern uplands of the state and areas along the lower Connecticut River offer some of the last major rural expanses in the heavily urbanized Washington-Boston corridor. These places embrace much of the state’s remaining active farmland, vital environmental resources, and numerous historic villages and town centers. However, the urban-rural distinction increasingly blurs as urban scale development spreads farther into the countryside. Many rural towns now grapple with development controls ill-suited to the task of preserving the community character that makes them unique and attractive. Uniform large lot zoning, road standards based mainly on traffic movement, strict on-site parking requirements and similar measures replicate a creeping suburbanization of the landscape, degradation of valued natural and cultural resources, loss of prime agricultural land, increasing dependence on the automobile, and perhaps even growing social isolation.

Development at “in between” densities (greater than one half acre to approximately one and a half acre lot per dwelling) tends to increase the demand for public services but make their provision inefficient and expensive. Accommodating future economic development, job creation, industrial diversification, needed social services and availability of public transportation while maintaining the desirable qualities of rural towns is thus a critical planning concern at state, regional and local levels.

 

Rural area goals as set forth in Executive Order No. 31 (October 1980) are as follows: 

 

This Plan seeks to properly scale responses to identified rural economic and social issues and to concentrate development activities within or adjacent to traditional village areas in order to maintain rural character and to protect environmentally sensitive places. Techniques such as open space development (cluster development with its primary aim the preservation of open space), regulations to encourage new development that mesh with historical development, mixed use development in community centers, and traditional street networks are some of the methods to maintain rural character and the resources that define that character.

 

Investment in infrastructure has shaped community character. Public sewer and water systems and highway improvements support urban scale and densities that are not consistent with rural character. Recent advances in on-site wastewater treatment technology have the potential to complicate greatly the issue of infrastructure in rural land use, even though their use will continue to be limited by soils and groundwater conditions. Their greater treatment efficiencies may enable substantially larger and more intensive development projects without conventional sewer service. Yet, they may also provide communities more flexibility in applying such techniques as cluster development and community centers.

 

Development and infrastructure in rural areas should be guided by the following guidelines:

 

o       Encourage development in Rural Lands of a form, density, and location compatible with the carrying capacity of the natural environment, and which avoids the need for large scale and costly urban infrastructure for water supply, waste disposal, and transportation;

 

o       Encourage rural plans and land use regulations to protect the rural environment through controls and techniques, such as cluster subdivisions, that direct development patterns in conformity with rural values.  Further, rural communities should pursue a watershed planning framework that encourages inter-town cooperation to promote water quality and natural resource protection;

o       Encourage the concentration of higher density or multiple use development into Rural Community Centers where practical and consistent with historic character; support industrial and business development within Rural Community Centers only of a scale and type which respond to an existing local employment need without inducing major development;

o       Promote development and refinement of design and engineering standards for community infrastructure and facilities that are consistent with historic rural character and natural resource values, while adequately meeting public health and safety concerns;

 

o       Ensure new projects are consistent with “rural design” principles and do not have unacceptable adverse impacts upon districts and sites of historic significance, important natural areas or concentrations of prime farmland;

o       Supporting industrial and business development within Rural Community Centers only of a scale and type which respond to an existing local employment need without inducing major development;
 

o       Foster application of best available design practices and control methods to nonpoint water pollution sources;

o       Give priority to transportation improvement projects that recognize and reinforce the viability and character of village centers, particularly with regard to pedestrian access and safety;
 

o       Encourage greenway projects that provide links both to and within Rural Community Centers and that provide alternative transportation and recreation opportunities;
 

o       Locate highway interchanges in urban rather than rural areas to support the concentration of growth in those areas;

o       Protect the capacity and safety of existing state roads through cooperative efforts with municipalities to control the number and location of access points; Improve traffic flow on existing highways, where feasible, as a preferred alternative to the construction of new highways;

o       Protect significant natural areas, resources and ecological systems in order to protect and enhance the local economy and quality of life;

o       Vigorously pursue sewer avoidance programs and limit development to those uses and densities that ensure indefinite functioning of on-lot or small community water supply and waste disposal systems, review zoning regulation and eliminate insufficient lot sizes, assure sufficient oversight of the permitting and maintenance of septic systems to ensure that on-site septic systems function indefinitely, and encourage enactment of local ordinances that require septic tanks to be inspected every three to five years and pumped out as needed;  further, limit of water pollution control facilities to project costs required to correct an existing pollution problem (as environmental carrying capacity depends on many factors, site-specific factors and proper installation and maintenance have to be considered in any decisions as related to actual lot size);

o       Support application of advanced on-site wastewater treatment technologies only when their long term functioning is assured and only where the development they support meshes with and complements existing rural patterns and avoids scattered development; in particular, they may be necessary:

·        To develop affordable housing in conformance with local and regional plans,

·        To support higher intensity uses and economic development within Rural Community Centers, or

·        To enable cluster development to preserve environmental resources;

 

o       Support the introduction or expansion of public facilities or services only when there is a demonstrated environmental, economic, social, or general welfare concern and then introduce such services only at a scale which responds to the existing need without serving as an attraction to more intensive development. An exception may be made to assist municipalities in the provision of infrastructure to service a particular site when: a) there is a definite commitment from a firm to relocate to the site in the immediate future; b) substantial employment will result from the relocation; c) a feasible site is not available within a development area; d) a project plan is prepared which sets forth the costs and the anticipated economic, social, and environmental impacts including availability of affordable housing; and e) there is no overriding environmental condition or concern that would preclude such service.

 

o       Limit the extension of public water supply infrastructure to rural areas by using individual wells where well capacity is adequate.

 



The REGIONAL SETTING MAPS above are taken from the 1995 Regional Plan of Conservation and Development, produced by the South Western Regional Planning Agency (SWRPA) --of which Weston is one of eight member Towns, and the State of Connecticut's Plan of Conservation and Development (1998-2003).  The Regional Plan 2006-2015 has since superseded it.

Similar to the State Plan of Conservation and Development, the SWRPA vision for Weston is "rural" land and "low density neighborhoods"--plus a "Town Center" in the same places as such land uses exist today.  Read the whole CT Plan here.

For greater explanation of what the previous State of Connecticut Plan of Conservation and Development has to say about the role of WATER QUALITY as a planning determinant, click below:
Water Quality



Some planning concerns that stick around:  parking. speeding, getting smarter about use of resources...including water supply?  Noise?
 


WHERE TO MOVE THE SCHOOL BUS FLEET? TO THE TRANSFER STATION?  OUT OF TOWN?  NEW TOWER TWO IS UP AT THE TRANSFER STATION and how about the idea broached at Building Committee August 8, 2007 of having solar array on high school roof?  (Solar solution shown at right not the same thing.)

Does School Road traffic sometimes relate to this?


A consultant prepared a Road Study Plan in 1986 and made recommendations now done re: "S" curve on Route 57;  this study also produced the first map of the Town of Weston where building lot lines were superimposed on a road grid of Town.  BUS BARN as the BUS GARAGE was called by O,R&L, is recommended to be moved by school planners--but to where?  TO THE TRANSFER STATION ON GODFREY ROAD EAST (the Board of Education's suggestion)?

How will traffic and circulation plans change for 21st Century Weston?  How does this fit into Region's traffic situation?


Road Study continued...State of Connecticut working on bridges until 2002--will this affect traffic safety in Weston?
The same 1986 Road Study showed improvements and connections of Town roads that in 1999 were not considered good ideas. Weston's roads are being used more and more as escape routes from old Route Seven. Super Seven is not in the cards to be built for a long, long time--if ever.  Ever increasing through traffic during morning rush hour, coupled with cars of parent drivers for school children make for a fine mess!  Southbound from Redding and Bethel, Routes 53  and 57 will be feeling the pinch of increased cars and trucks (who are avoiding bridge construction elsewhere).

A new map showing 1999 development (also shown above) and one just of permanent open space appear HEREPhotographs of major sights and new construction since previous Town Plan (1987) appear HERE.




Now an issue in Weston in 2010?
Westport noise;  Noise hearing April 29
By JENNIFER CONNIC, Hour Staff Writer (old story - Ms. Connic went on to be editor in chief of WestportNow and then to a more responsible job in New Jersey, we understand.  She will be missed.)
April 19, 2004

WESTPORT -- Town officials are looking for ways to solve noise problems residents have encountered by possibly strengthening the town's existing noise ordinance.  A public meeting has been scheduled for residents to voice their concerns on noise issues at on April 29 at 7 p.m.  Last fall, the Representative Town Meeting passed an amendment to the noise ordinance to reduce the hours construction noise could take place on weekends.

First Selectwoman Diane Farrell said during the ordinance discussion and in private discussions, she has heard a number of complaints about other noise concerns in town, and she is working to control those problems.  During the RTM meeting last fall, she said, she made a promise that she would follow up on the other noise issues and seek solutions for them.  The most common complaints she has heard, she said, are about leaf-blowers and air-conditioning units.

Planning and Zoning Commission Chairwoman Eleanor Lowenstein will run the meeting, Farrell said, because many of the issues will also need to be examined by the commission.  Lowenstein said the commission has not heard of major noise issues, but she knows the staff in the Planning and Zoning Department along with police have heard complaints from residents.

"There is a lot of building going on, and people are living closer to each other," she said.  Construction has been the biggest issue, she said, and the RTM successfully controlled those problems with the ordinance changes.  The town's zoning regulations regarding noise, however, are general, Lowenstein said.  The regulations say that anything that creates any "periodic and/or abnormal noise, vibration, electro-magnetic or other disturbance perceptible beyond the boundaries of the lot on which it is situated" is not allowed in town.

Lowenstein said the regulation is old and may be out of compliance with the state standards, so the commission may need to review it.  "Right now I just want to know the issues," she said. "We need to get the information at this point to see what we need to discuss."




Chester Couple Planning Book On Outhouses
Hartford Courant
By ALAINE GRIFFIN | Courant Staff Writer
May 10, 2008

CHESTER — - Connecticut's covered bridges have been romanticized as an iconic portal to New England's past, a symbol documented in picture books and used in travel websites to lure sightseers.

An outhouse, on the other hand, probably won't appear in a chamber of commerce brochure. But a Chester couple think the structures, many still standing throughout the state, have been ignored long enough.

"It's hard to keep a straight face when you're talking about outhouses," Leslie Strauss said one recent afternoon outside the circa-1910 outhouse she uses as a gardening shed behind her home. "When you're talking to people about outhouses, you don't expect anything heavy to evolve. But I learned there's really a story to be done here."

Months ago, Strauss and her husband, Richard, posted a sign in the village center in this historic town of nearly 4,000 in the Connecticut River Valley, asking for outhouse owners to come clean. The sign sparked a trickle of responses.

Then, Leslie Strauss went to the town assessor's office in Chester. She identified antique homes and wrote to the homeowners. So far, about a dozen area residents have sent photographs and short — but not necessarily researched — histories of their outhouses, information the Strausses say they hope to compile in a book.

Historians like their idea.

Kent Ryden, director of the American and New England studies program at the University of Southern Maine, said that if researchers can figure out when an outhouse was built and when it went out of use, it could indicate when that particular house or farm first became connected to the modern infrastructure.

"Outhouses have some of the same appeal that covered bridges and old barns have — they're rustic, they're pre-modern, and so they help contribute to the image of New England as a land of quaint small towns and farms with deep roots in the past," Ryden said.

"They give a glimpse not only of an earlier stage of technology, but of an entire earlier way of life. Outhouses, in particular, have an appeal to the imagination. Just think of what it must have been like to have to visit the unheated outhouse on a cold New England winter day. It's an image that gives a particularly strong sense of how very different that past way of living was from the one you follow today," he said.

It seems appropriate for the Strausses to be doing their research in Chester, a postcard of Colonial times where residents hold on to the past. Leslie Strauss, owner of a prominent real estate company in the heart of the downtown village, is one of those residents.

The former preschool teacher furnishes her home with antique furniture and hangs old maps on her walls. In 1977, Strauss, her husband and two daughters moved to an old home on a hill where the steeple of a downtown church is visible from the front porch. Although the home has been theirs for more than three decades, Strauss keeps the home's history alive. A black-and-white photograph of the home's original owners hangs in the foyer.

Those who know Strauss, 58, a bright, witty woman, tease her about her latest project. They say Strauss, who, with a plunger in her hand and a shower cap on her head, helped lead a parade through town in 1983 in honor of Chester village's first sewage disposal system, is the perfect author for such a book.

"We're all laughing and giggling about this," said Lois Nadel, owner of one of the outhouses. It was a red outhouse on Spring Street in Chester that gave Strauss her idea. A local dentist, Dr. Kim Senay, saved the outhouse from demolition on a Haddam farm. Today, Senay uses the outhouse to store snow shovels and sand.

Senay said Americans are too quick to tear down their heritage. During a 1999 cross-country bicycle tour, Senay said, he looked forward to riding past a landscape of hills and old barns. Instead, he saw boarded-up churches and stretches of mini-malls. The barns he saw were renovated and devoid of history.

"I'm so tired of people renovating buildings and leaving nothing," Senay said. "In another 30 years, it's going to be all aluminum and corrugated. That's why I'm doing my part to keep things as they are."

The outhouses the Strausses have located so far range from hastily built shacks resting on rocks to more nicely fitted outbuildings. The owners of one outhouse ripped out the structure's mahogany planks and installed them in the attic of their home. Another outhouse has a step stool that children probably used.

And with each outhouse comes a family story of some sort — sometimes a comical recollection of its use or, in the case of one woman, its non-use.

"Snakes and other wildlife!" one woman wrote on a piece of paper to Strauss.

"Isn't it funny how she has yet to step inside the thing?" Strauss said.

Strauss said tracing the histories of the outhouses she and her husband have found will take some time, and she's worried she may miss a few. "I can't just go driving up people's driveways, looking through their yards," Strauss said. "But I'm tempted."

She said she's still figuring out the background of the one in her yard. Like the others, there's a family history to go with it.

For years, the Strauss daughters played in the outhouse. Their tiny hands painted the large horse that still adorns the inside wall. But it was more than just a playhouse in the 1980s when the family's well went dry, Strauss said.

"I put the toilet paper in the outhouse, looked at my girls and said, 'Have a nice time, ladies.'"



BOARDMAN BRIDGE IN NEW MILFORD - ONE OF THE TOWNS IN HVCEO...


Weston is still trying to do right by Lachat in 2013...make that 2014!  CT has historic bridges...


Boardman Bridge -- New Milford history at risk
Susan Tuz, Danbury NEWS-TIMES
Published 5:02 pm, Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Boar
dman Bridge is treasured by many in the Greater New Milford community.

Among them is Rob Burkhart, who wants to give the historic span a rebirth.  Burkhart, the president of the New Milford Trust for Historic Preservation, hopes to form a 501(c)(3) entity to raise the required funds.

"The cost will be over $2 million, so town money and state grants will be needed," he said.

The bridge has spanned the Housatonic River since 1888 and is one of the original metal-work bridges in New Milford.  Yet its ornamental details of lattice-work and its floral design above the portals have been allowed to rust and the bridge deck has become unsafe for even foot traffic.

In 1985, the bridge had been reconstructed for pedestrian sightseeing at a cost of $362,750, paid through bonding, according to Board of Selectmen minutes.

A replacement bridge for vehicular traffic a few yards to its south had been completed in 1984, with state Department of Transportation approval.

"The historical truss-type structure built in 1888, which now crosses the river, will remain in place as a pedestrian walkway and a new 30-foot, wide steel girder bridge will be installed approximately 50 feet south of the present bridge," an October 1983 DOT press release read.

"Restoration work needed today (for pedestrian traffic only) would be in the area of $1 million, as a preliminary estimate," said Mike Zarba, New Milford's director of public works.

Started in 1887 and completed in 1888 by the Berlin Iron Bridge Co., the metal-work bridge replaced an earlier, wooden toll bridge which had been washed away in flooding in 1854.  It was one of the first Berlin bridges to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places, according to Burkhart.  The arched shape of its truss is from a design originating in Europe early in the 19th century.

One of about 1,000 bridges of this type built by Berlin before 1900, the Boardman Bridge is one of only three bridges of this style remaining in Connecticut.  Mayor Pat Murphy noted the parochial significance of Boardman Bridge. She said she has a copy of an old photograph in her home of a young boy leading a cow across the bridge.

"This is a good project for the historic trust to take on," the mayor said. "They'll be able to bring attention to it."

For Town Council member Katy Francis, the bridge has family history entwined with its historic value to the town.

"I have pictures of my great-grandparents," Francis said, "and heard how their furniture was taken off the train, loaded on a horse-pulled wagon and carried across that bridge when they moved here from Brewster (N.Y.)."

"Just like Lover's Leap Bridge, it is a beautiful part of New Milford's history," Francis added. "But in these financial times, the funds to restore it may be difficult to come by."

In 2007, a $2.1 million restoration of Lover's Leap Bridge was completed.  It was paid with 80 percent federal funding and 20 percent taxpayer support. That span was built in 1895 by the Berlin Iron Bridge Co.


Barns Fading Into The Past
By PENELOPE OVERTON, Courant Staff Writer
December 24, 2006

The barn is the soul of the farm, its largest working tool, but in Connecticut, the traditional agricultural barn is in danger, its numbers in rapid decline due to development and deterioration, according to the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation.

The Trust is recruiting local historical societies to join with it to survey Connecticut's barns. The goal is to find out how many are left in Connecticut, log their physical conditions and identify the biggest threats to their existence.
 
In 1920, Connecticut boasted about 25,000 barns. Historians think only 5,000 remain.

Todd Levine, the co-director of the trust's Historic Barns of Connecticut Project, said that once a sizable statewide catalog is created, the group may seek legislative protection for barns as historic buildings. Local groups may petition municipal leaders for local protections.

The Haddam Historical Society was one of the first local societies to start doing "windshield surveys" of local barns - driving by, taking a photo or two and recording its history, environment, style and condition. It has surveyed about two dozen barns so far, said director Elizabeth Malloy.

The shape and size of the barn tells a surveyor much about its use.

The oldest style of Connecticut barn is known as the English barn, a simple, rectangular building with a pitched roof and doors on one or both of its long sides that could house livestock, grains and equipment. This style of barn was popular through the early 1800s.

In the 1830s, farmers started to build barns with the main door on the short sides of their rectangular barns, or their gables, rather than under the eaves. This kept their barns drier, and, with agriculture booming at the time, allowed farmers to easily expand.

Toward the end of the century, farmers began to add basements for storage of manure and livestock, windows for light and ventilation, and cupolas. A new type of barn appeared, the fancy barn of a gentleman's farm, with splendid architectural details to advertise wealth.

Some of Haddam's barns appear to be months away from collapse, Malloy said, while others have been maintained as a historic structure, an integral part of a farm or a renovated office or residential space.



State history told through covered bridges

Norwalk HOUR
By SHELLEY K. WONG, Associated Press
November 11, 2006

CORNWALL — The first thing visitors to the small hamlet of West Cornwall notice is its red covered bridge.

The timber structure commands attention, lying against an idyllic backdrop of lush forest that lines the banks of a gurgling Housatonic River.  Its wood creaks with each car crossing, reminiscent of a time when horse-drawn carriages, rather than SUVS, crossed its planks.

The bridge is one of three remaining covered bridges in Connecticut, a state where hundreds once existed. Another is southeast of the West Cornwall Bridge, while the third is in central Connecticut.  Covered bridges were once indispensable to American communities, numbering in the thousands. They connected towns and villages, enabling people to better communicate and exchange goods and services.

Today, the 800 or fewer around the country are no longer vital connectors. Instead, they've become hollow relics visited by travelers looking for a respite from the world's web of steel and concrete.

But a closer look at any one of the covered bridges across the country, with the most in Pennsylvania, tells a story of each area.

West Cornwall Bridge, in the northwest corner of Connecticut, was built in 1864 to connect two sleepy, rural communities — Sharon and Cornwall. Prior to the bridge, a ferry was used to cross the Housatonic River to Sharon, according to the Cornwall Historical Society's Web site.

The one-lane bridge sits over the river along Route 128, where visitors come to the water's edge to fly fish or wander the village for Shaker furniture or local pottery.

It uses a revolutionary lattice truss design that allowed builders to make longer, stronger spans. Ithiel Town, a Connecticut architect and bridge engineer, patented the design, which has been used widely across the nation.

The design was also used for Bull's Bridge in Kent, about 14 miles southeast of West Cornwall on Route 7. The bridge is the only other covered bridge in Connecticut that carries car traffic. It was built as a result of the burgeoning iron industry in northwestern Connecticut during the 18th and 19th centuries. The iron ore in Connecticut was used to build railroad car wheels and helped fuel the American Revolutionary War.

Local historians say the bridge was constructed by Jacob Bull, the owner of an iron furnace and saw mill, and his son, Isaac, in 1760 so wagons could get across the Housatonic River to haul pig iron from his foundry to Poughkeepsie, N.Y. His saw mill and furnace provided the timber and hardware to build the bridge, which became part of a major highway from Hartford to Newburgh, N.Y., used by the likes of George Washington, according to the town of Kent's Web site.

The bridge was one of several built across the gorge over the years as flooding and ice took their toll. The present bridge was built in 1842 and has become a tourist stop along scenic Route 7 as well as a starting point for hikers traversing a leg of the 52-mile Appalachian Trail through Connecticut.

Looking east to East Hampton in central Connecticut is Comstock Bridge, which is situated in a public park over the Salmon River, just north of Route 16. It's the only pedestrian bridge of the three and once connected the main road between East Hampton and Colchester when it was built in 1873, according to the town of East Hampton's Web site.

Today, the area serves as a fishing hole and picnic area. The bridge was renovated in the 1930s, when wooden gates and siding were added, and again in the 1970s, when steel plates were integrated to reinforce parts of the bridge. Inside, engineers used a Howe truss, a design widely used in railroad construction and for highway bridges.

Several factors including fire, flood and wind led to the demise of covered bridges by the beginning of World War I, said David Wright, President of the National Society for the Preservation of Covered Bridges.

Wright said covered bridges also became obsolete with newer technology and designs.

"As populations increased and traffic increased, some of the bridges that were built for light loads became structurally inadequate," Wright said.

Still, their rustic charms are not lost to visitors like Ken Murray, 60, who spent a few minutes marveling at the engineering of the West Cornwall Bridge recently. The Nova Scotia resident, traveling through to Massachusetts, enjoys visiting covered bridges — wherever he can still find them.



NOTE:  we have supplied links to two towns' websites and the third (East Hampton) to their new Town Plan
Information on Connecticut's covered bridges

DAY
Nov 10, 11:51 AM EST

WHAT: Connecticut's three remaining historic covered bridges are a throwback to a world without steel and concrete.

WHERE: West Cornwall Bridge, Rte. 128 over Housatonic River in Cornwall; Bull's Bridge, off Rte. 7 over the Housatonic River in Kent; Comstock Bridge, north of Rte. 16 over the Salmon River in East Hampton.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:  (first link works, others do not)

West Cornwall Bridge: http://www.cornwallhistoricalsociety.org/history.htm
 
Bull's Bridge: http://www.kentct.com/destination/historic-page.htm#bridge (link did not work for us);

Comstock Bridge: http://www.easthamptonct.org/comstock-bridge.htm



Tracy Kulikowski: Weston names new land use director
Weston FORUM
by BRIAN GIOIELE

Nov 21, 2006

After more than a year of searching, local leaders found their new land use director right under their noses.

The Board of Selectmen Thursday approved the appointment of Tracy Kulikowski — who had been the administrative assistant to the owner’s representative for the school building project — as the land use director. She is set to begin her new role Jan. 2.

“You know Tracy from her work with (owner’s representative) Carl Goedeke and the School Building Committee over the last two years,” said Tom Landry, town administrator, in a letter to the Board of Selectmen. “She has been a terrific asset to that project, and I have been pleased to have her assistance over that time.”

While Ms. Kulikowski has been known for her work with Mr. Goedeke, Mr. Landry said, she also has extensive experience as a professional planner.
Ms. Kulikowski worked for eight years as a professional planner for the state of Maryland, the town of Lakewood, Ohio, and on a regional planning commission in Ohio.

She holds an undergraduate degree from Cornell University in urban and regional studies, as well as a master’s degree in urban planning, design, and development from Cleveland State University. She also has a law degree from the University of Maryland School of Law.

“I have no doubt that she will be successful in the position,” added Mr. Landry, “and I am genuinely excited by the prospect of her joining our staff.”

Ms. Kulikowski will work 20 hours per week, at an hourly rate of $37.11. She will receive health, retirement and other fringe benefits, as provided for 20-plus hour employees in the town’s personnel policies and practices handbook.

This brings to a close the search for a land use director, a position that was created last year at the request of Mr. Landry. The selectmen and Board of Finance approved the new position, and it was budgeted for in last year’s fiscal year budget, but no candidate could be found to fill the vacancy.  According to Mr. Landry’s letter to the selectmen, he had been in negotiations with the new collective bargaining unit in an attempt to allow a current, unidentified, town employee — presently a member of the bargaining unit — to take the “non-bargaining unit” post.

“It is now certain that a middle ground agreement on the issue is not possible,” stated Mr. Landry. “Accordingly, I must now pursue other options to fill this critical position.”

And that option was Ms. Kulikowski, who will now provide additional professional planning assistance to the Conservation Commission, Planning and Zoning Commission, and Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA).

Mr. Landry first proposed this new post in August 2005, saying that his assessment was that the town’s land use staff is “challenged in meeting the demands posed by the complexity and volume of land use permits and subdivision applications we receive.”

He then proposed that the town organize its current land use personnel into a single Land Use Department under the supervisory direction of a new full-time position entitled director of land use services.

“A department head position can maximize the utilization of the staff and resources that we do have, and can assure that applications receive a comprehensive, rather than a piecemeal, review,” he wrote at the time.

He noted the P&Z Commission has no professional staff to provide direction and assistance in plan review or ordinance revision, and that issues before the commission are increasingly technical and complex.




ELSEWHERE


Weston is an imaginary island - above, a real one!

County finally sues over Greenbank beach access dispute
Greenbank property owner Bruce Montgomery speaks to a reporter during a community demonstration on Wonn Road in early 2009. Island County is suing
By JUSTIN BURNETT, South Whidbey Record Langley, Island County
March 17, 2013 · Updated 1:29 PM
 
The long wait for Island County to take legal action against a Greenbank property owner and reclaim a disputed public beach access has finally come to an end.  March 6, the  Island County Prosecutor’s Office filed a civil lawsuit against Wonn Road property owner and pharmaceutical giant Bruce Montgomery.  The suit asks for ejectment and quiet title, declaratory relief and to abate a public nuisance. In layman’s terms, the county is seeking to lay legal rights to the disputed beach access, once and for all.

“The county is trying to reclaim the road for public use, all the way to the water,” said David Jamieson, chief civil deputy for the prosecutor’s office.

As of Friday, Montgomery’s attorney, Dennis Dunphy of the regional law firm Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt, had not filed a response to the county’s summons and complaint.  In an interview this week, Montgomery said he hopes to resolve the issue out of court with a meeting of attorneys. But he won’t back down from a legal battle if push comes to shove.

“We’ll just have to see what happens,” Montgomery said.

He maintains the property is his and called the county’s case “thin.” He said he believes it will crumble under the weight of property records that prove private ownership and past determinations by former county officials.

“It’s a rifle shot lawsuit,” Montgomery said.

The issue erupted nearly five years ago when Montgomery built a rock wall at the end of Wonn Road. The road end is adjacent to his home and forms the beginning of his driveway.

Montgomery claims the wall was constructed to keep people from driving on his drain field, which is located in the grassy area between the end of Wonn Road and the shoreline.  Members of the community, among them the late Glen Russell, were quick to cry foul, noting the road end was once the head of the long-gone Greenbank Wharf and that the area was always a public beach access.  It was also quickly pointed out that state law clearly states county road-ends are public beach accesses and cannot legally be abandoned by government to neighboring private property owners.

In the summer of 2008, the controversy boiled over into an election issue and the Island County commissioners began taking steps that preceded legal action.  It was another nine months, however, before the board voted to do whatever it takes to reclaim the property and authorized the prosecutor’s office to take Montgomery to court.

That was in late March 2009.

According to Jamieson, the delay is the result of the extensive research needed to build a strong case.  Years of land use records and photographic evidence were examined, he said.  Mike McVay, founder of Island Citizens for Public Beach Access, said it was a long time to wait, so long that many had begun to question whether the county would follow through with the board’s promise.  In fact, McVay said he’s still not convinced the county will go the distance and fight the case to the end. He’s concerned Montgomery has deep enough pockets to financially outlast the cash-strapped county.

“I’m apprehensive is the way to put it,” McVay said.

“We’re hoping for the best.”

Montgomery is founder and CEO of Cardeas Pharma, a Seattle-based pharmaceutical developer. Before that, he was a senior vice president and head of Respiratory Therapeutic for Gilead Sciences Inc., an international biopharmaceutical company with offices in Seattle.  Contrary to the assertions of beach access advocates and county litigators that the property is public, Montgomery claims to have records proving the land was in private hands for nearly 70 years. He says he’s had the information for some time, but that no county official asked for the documents.

“I think that’s nuts,” Montgomery said.

He also maintains that former county Assessor Dave Mattens reviewed the issue nearly five years ago and determined the property indeed belonged to Montgomery. He even sent him a bill for back taxes.

“This is atypical,” said Mattens, in a June 2008 story that ran in the South Whidbey Record. “Usually the county owns the tidelands at the end of a public road.”

In an interview this week, Mattens said he has little recollection of the broader issue, much less the details of an analysis performed by his office.  Also, he said any determination should be taken with a grain of salt; the assessor’s job is to determine property values, not decide boundary lines.

“Even if I did say it was his, who am I to decide ownership,” Mattens said.

Montgomery says he can’t understand how the county can claim ownership rights when he for years paid property taxes on the same land that’s under dispute.  He claims the dueling position is going on to this day, despite the recent litigation against him.

“The same week they (the county) sued me, they sent me a property tax bill,” Montgomery said.

Jamieson said he’s not sure what property documents Montgomery referred to, so couldn’t address why they were requested. The county’s claim is based on the plat, he said, which is a publicly recorded document.

As for property taxes, Jamieson said it’s an Assessor’s Office matter and could not confirm the claim. He did argue, however, that he didn’t think there is anything unreasonable about Montgomery being charged property taxes because he used the land for years.

“If the court agrees with us, he won’t have to pay the taxes in the future,” Jamieson said.




Greenwich P&Z questions:  When is lot line change more than a lot line change? Did P&Z increase any non-conformity? 
Weston has non-conforming lots (in red above) as well as a special permit for houses of worship (revised 2011) - from the Town of Weston website.

Opponents plan to sue over synagogue plan
Frank MacEachern, Greenwich TIME
Updated 10:19 pm, Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Opponents of a proposed synagogue in Cos Cob are vowing a court challenge after a key decision by the Planning and Zoning Commission Tuesday allows the Greenwich Reform Synagogue to proceed with its plan.

The commission ruled that a lot line revision, needed for the synagogue to have enough land to build at 92 Orchard St., was neither a subdivision nor a resubdivision. It agreed with synagogue lawyer Thomas Heagney's assertion the application was a simple lot line revision.

Sarah Darer Littman, one of the leaders in the opposition to the synagogue's plans, said the fight would continue.

"I think they can count on the fact we will be filing an appeal," she said in brief comments before opponents huddled with their lawyer, Mario Coppola, in a room at Town Hall to plot their next move.

"It is disappointing," Coppola said in comments after the decision. "They made the easy decision, but unfortunately they didn't make the right decision."

Heagney, not surprisingly, took an opposite view.

"They have done dozens of applications like this. They have gone ahead and followed the same process."

About 100 people in the Town Hall Meeting Room greeted the commission's decision with silence.

In October, the synagogue purchased 92 Orchard St., a lot of less than 1 acre that is not large enough for its building.

The synagogue was successful Tuesday in its application to split in two the adjacent property at 96 Orchard St., with about 38,000 square feet joined to 92 Orchard St., while the balance, about 12,450 square feet, would stay in the hands of property owner Lou Caravella.

The commission had to approve that lot-line revision before the synagogue could formally acquire the section of 96 Orchard St., it wanted as well as another nearby property at 22 Osee Place, owned by Randy Caravella, Lou Caravella's son. The combined properties would give the synagogue a 2-acre site.

About a half-dozen residents voiced opposition to the synagogue's plan before the commission made its decision.

They were reminded by commission Chairman Donald Heller that comments could only be about the lot-line revision application and not about future uses of the property. The commission cannot consider what may be proposed because no plan has been submitted, Heller said.

Among the speakers was Littman, who was upset that the applicant had referred to the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act in its application. The federal law adopted in 2000 allows religious institutions to avoid what are deemed burdensome zoning regulations.

"The applicant is trying to have it both ways," she said. "The commission is telling us we cannot look forward in terms of the application, yet the applicant's attorney is trying to bring up RLUIPA, which is based on a religious use, and as our attorney rightfully pointed out, at this point, there is no religious use.

"I think they are trying to intimidate the commission by pulling the RLUIPA card, and I think that they are trying to have it both ways and that it's wrong."

Littman, who is Jewish, has previously said neighbors were not opposed to the proposal because it is a synagogue, but instead of fears it would lead to increased traffic and a large building that does not fit in the neighborhood.

Although comments were to be limited to the lot-line revision application, the commission did not cut off a developer who said a synagogue would overwhelm neighbors.

Riverside resident Carl Anderson brought along an artist's rendition of a 10,000-square-foot Georgian Colonial he built in the late 1990s in a community of homes about 2,500 to 3,000 square feet. He said the home was much larger than the surrounding homes.

He questioned how a synagogue, originally pegged to be about 20,000 square feet, would look in the Cos Cob neighborhood.

"How is a structure twice the size going to look in a residential neighborhood where the houses are that size," he said. "I don't think it is proper, and it doesn't belong in that location."

He said the building should be erected in areas along Route 1, warning of a precedent that could allow other religious institutions to be built in residential zones.

The synagogue's president, Robert Birnbaum, said they anticipate a building less than 20,000 square feet.

Heagney said the next move for the synagogue is to hire an architect and develop its plans.





Definition of "noisy" worries animal not specifically named (l).  How loud can Bossie "mooooo" without infringing on zoning?
Lower CT River Valley Council of Government comes to the rescue, pointing out that a less restrictive zoning amendment might be to propose an overall "noise" ordinance.

Many Crying 'Fowl' Over Request for Zoning Amendment
DAY
By Marianne Sullivan Courier Senior Staff Writer
Article published Dec 26, 2012

CHESTER - A request by Story Hill Road residents John and Bonnie Bennet to amend the town's zoning regulations concerning the keeping of livestock, or more specifically, hens, roosters, and "noisy fowl and other animals" is creating a considerable flap around town. The controversy has caused the Planning & Zoning Commission to move the required public hearing from its usual venue, which is the Meeting House, to a larger space, the Chester Elementary School gymnasium. There are also rumors of petitions "with hundreds of signatures" circulating throughout town.

The Bennets have filed a petition with the Planning & Zoning Commission seeking to amend a section of the zoning regulations referring to definitions for "livestock" and Section 40R "animals." The amendment asks for changes in the lot size of properties where rabbits and hens are kept, increasing the area size from 10,000 square feet, as presently required, to 40,000 square feet. It also seeks to increase setback requirements for animal enclosures for hens and rabbits to 100 feet "from any dwelling in existence" other than another enclosure for hens or rabbits. The present zoning regulation calls for only a 50-foot setback.

The Bennet request also adds new language to section 40R.1, "Hens and Rabbits." The regulation is intended to make provision for the limited keeping of rabbits and hens. The Bennets seek to add the wording "on certain residential properties for the personal convenience and personal benefits afforded by such use, in a manner which preserves the quality of life of the surrounding neighborhood."

The amendment also calls for "no rooster or capon" on any property and adds, "No fowl which crows, calls, screeches, squawks, or makes similar other sounds, including and by the way of example, but not limited to, guinea fowl, peacocks or peahens, geese, parrots, macaws, or similar calling species shall be kept on any property."

The original petition also added a new subsection to the regulation entitled "noisy fowl and other animals," which sought to prohibit the keeping of any animal that "howls, barks, brays, bellows, calls, screeches, squawks, or makes other sounds" that would be considered a nuisance by persons living in the immediate neighborhood.

The Bennets chose to withdraw this "noisy fowl" addition when J.H. Torrence Downes, a senior planner with the Lower Connecticut River Valley Council of Governments, in reviewing the application for the regional agency, suggested that it might be too restrictive.

In his comments to the Planning & Zoning Commission, Downes said, "Although there appear to be little in the way of adverse impacts to surrounding towns, it is noted that the proposed modifications appear to be extremely restrictive and may adversely impact the agricultural activities in the town?Perhaps a less restrictive and subjective regulation could be devised that will succeed in minimizing whatever 'nuisance' is being experienced or anticipated by the petitioner."

Bennet, in a follow-up letter to the Planning Commission, said he respected Downes's view and took his comment seriously: "It is not and has not been the idea of the proposed amendment to interfere with or restrict legitimate, competently conducted agricultural activities. I would not want the language used as a tool for that purpose. Therefore I withdraw that portion of the application which proposes a new section."
The public hearing on the proposed amendment is set for Thursday, Jan. 10 at 7:30 p.m. at Chester Elementary School.



This is what we called "The Heart of the City" many, many years ago...a report we rendered to the P&Z in the 1970's.
The Norwalk River Valley Trail is what we had hoped would develop, opening to river to the people and forming a link between the two "downtowns"




Westport helps map the future with updated GIS web portal

Andrew Brophy, Westport News
Updated 08:16 a.m., Saturday, February 18, 2012

Westport residents who like to explore the town without leaving their homes may be somewhat confused by a new "public viewer" on the town's website.

But Peter Ratkiewich, the town engineer, sought Thursday to clear up any confusion by hosting the first of four sessions in Town Hall's auditorium on how the new public viewer works on the website page: http://www.westportct.gov/index.aspx?page=538

"This is really the first time we've done this and invited the public," Ratkiewich said toward the end of the 90-minute tutorial on how residents can find maps and aerial views of all the properties in Westport, along with information on the location and type of wetlands in Westport, zoning data and town permits. "The viewer has changed and changed significantly. It's similar to when Microsoft said, `We're not going to be doing DOS anymore; we're moving to Windows.' "

Westport and Bridgeport are the only Fairfield County municipalities Ratkiewich knows of that enable residents to access this information without going to Town Hall, and Westport's system has been publicly available since 2005. It was recently changed because Esri, the company that provides the software, changed the software platform that supports the public viewer.

"I think the main difference is it's a different platform from which to launch. This is a much more powerful platform to project GIS [Geographic Information System] data on," Ratkiewich said.

About a dozen people in the audience, many of whom were town employees, followed along on laptops as Ratkiewich explained how to zoom in and out on properties, pull up information on properties, measure distances between two points, get a rough estimate of a house's square footage, and "layer" maps to reveal more or less information -- zoom out and you get street lines and town boundary lines; zoom in and you get parcel lines, rights-of-way and easements; zoom in more and you get driveways, buildings and rough contours of the land.

Residents can also "layer" the maps to find wetlands, flood zones and what zoning classification a property is in, Ratkiewich said. "You can manually remove layers. The fewer layers you show, the easier it is for this map to regenerate a view," he said.

The new system also allows users to combine properties to see how much land is available for a subdivision and has pre-set maps of well-known places in town. "If you add a place to this list, it's not stored on your computer, it's stored on our computer," Ratkiewich said, adding that town officials would have to start deleting pre-set maps if hundreds are added.

Ratkiewich cautioned that maps on the public viewer are not "survey quality" and date to 2005. "If you really need to get down to cubic feet of fill and removal, you really need to go out in the field," he said.

However, permit information, which covers from 1990 to present, is updated daily and shows active, approved, closed and voided permits, along with certificates of occupancy. Parcel information, such as the owner's name, is updated quarterly, Ratkiewich said.

Westport had planned to update its maps every five years, but they didn't in 2010 due to the bad economy, Ratkiewich said. "It costs about $150,000 to fly the town and build a new model. It's hard to get $150,000 out of the taxpayers these days when it's not a critical task," he said. "It is a very useful system. Eventually it will be updated."

But Westport officials have talked with other towns to see if they want to combine efforts to lower the cost, Ratkiewich said. "We're trying every avenue we can find to get the data updated," he said.

In addition to maps, Ratkiewich also explained how to search for a specific property by address, owner name or parcel ID. "Most people, when they come onto the GIS, are usually looking for a piece of property," he said.

The new public viewer also enables residents to draw a 250-foot radius around a property in case they have to contact neighbors, and they can get mailing labels for those properties off the new system, Ratkiewich said.

The public viewer isn't just useful to developers, architects, engineers and attorneys, according to Ratkiewich. "This is useful even to the average person. Most people aren't aware of its usefulness until they start looking at it. How many people have a good aerial view of their property and the relation of the property line to their house?" he asked.

Residents can access the new public viewer via www.westportct.gov. Their computers should have Internet Explorer 8 or better and "pop up blockers" need to be turned off.

Additional tutorials are planned at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. March 1 in Westport Town Hall's auditorium.




These things happen in CT, too!

Engineers watch Texas homes for more moving soil
YAHOO
By MICHELLE ROBERTS, Associated Press Writer
Wed Jan 27, 8:51 am ET

SAN ANTONIO – Residents of 25 homes evacuated after a landslide split a retaining wall and threatened to topple hilltop homes will not be allowed to return for at least 10 days as engineers watch for further soil movement, the developer said Tuesday.

The residents, who live within one block of the slide, were evacuated Sunday after a man called 911 and told officials his backyard was sliding downhill. Enormous chasms, some 15-feet deep, quickly emerged, splitting a towering retaining wall below and exposing the foundations of three hilltop homes.

The developer, Centex Homes, worked Monday and Tuesday to stabilize the homes and the hillside. The land was still moving slightly Tuesday, but engineers believed it was nearly stable, said Laurin Darnell, a Centex vice president.

About 90 homes were initially evacuated, but residents farther from the slide were allowed to return Monday. No one was injured.

Valerie Dolenga, a spokeswoman for Pulte Homes Inc., Centex's parent company, said about half of the residents who remain evacuated may be able to return in the next 10 to 15 days after soil engineers make sure their property is stable.

The other residents, whose homes sit on and below the crumbling hilltop, will be displaced longer as officials determine whether the houses can be made safe, Darnell said. The company is working with those families to find longer-term accommodations, he said.

Pulte's engineers continue to investigate the cause of the landslide, but San Antonio Planning and Development Director Roderick Sanchez said improper construction of the 30-foot tall, 1,000-foot long retaining wall and improper compacting of the fill dirt on the home sites caused the slide.

Darnell conceded Centex had no city permit to build the retaining wall, but he said he thought the company followed city regulations and standard industry practices in its construction. He disputed the city's allegation that the wall was improperly built.

An earlier retaining wall was torn down and the current one built after engineers found drainage problems in 2007, he said.

The company's engineers "feel this is very much an isolated incident. They feel it's being driven by some unique soil characteristics at the site," he said. He declined to describe those characteristics or comment on them further.

The engineering investigation should yield more answers on the slide's cause in the next couple of days, Darnell said.

"I know people want information now. We do more than anybody, but it's important that we do this in a methodical way," he said.

The development, which was started near the University of Texas at San Antonio in 2004, has nearly 750 homes with others still under construction. The upper middle-class neighborhood, with houses that sell for $250,000, is among dozens that sprung up on the hilly northwestern outskirts of San Antonio as the city grew to be the nation's seventh largest.

City officials released a statement Tuesday saying they would have an inspector monitor construction in the development and hire an independent structural engineer to evaluate whether the homes are safe. The city also plans to check permits for all other retaining walls Pulte built in the city.

Texas has a Residential Construction Commission with the power to perform inspections, determine fault and suggest remedies in incidents like this, but the state Legislature did not reauthorize the commission during the last session, so it can't take on this case.

Patrick Fortner, the commission's acting executive director, said complaints are being referred to local authorities or the Texas Attorney General's Office. Residents may want to have their homes independently inspected if they're worried about stability, he said.




SHORELINE CONNECTICUT THEN AND NOW
How zoning enforcement tries making a difference in keeping the rural look alive on Connecticut's shoreline...Old Lyme hopes it can and so do we!

Old Lyme schedules hearing on proposal to register cottages

DAY
By Jenna Cho
Published on 9/12/2009

Old Lyme - Some summer cottages intended for seasonal use have for years been occupied year-round.

In 1995, in an attempt to figure out exactly which cottages were seasonal and which were used year-round, the zoning enforcement officer made the determination based on whatever information the town had on file, land-use attorney Eric Knapp said.

IF YOU GO
Who: Old Lyme Zoning Commission
What: Public hearings on: 1) zoning regulations that would establish a registry system by which residents can prove year-round residency of their summer cottages, and 2) Shoreline Church's special-permit application to convert the Our Lady of Good Counsel Chapel from seasonal to year-round use
When: 7:30 p.m. Monday
Where: Old Lyme Town Hall

If residents disagreed with the zoning officer's assessment, they had to provide proof of year-round residency dating back to 1992.

All that led to a lawsuit the South Lyme Property Owners Association filed in December 1999 challenging, in part, that the 1995 regulations did not allow for due process. The lawsuit was withdrawn from federal court in October with the agreement that the town would create a registry process where residents could participate in providing documentation that their homes have been occupied either on a seasonal or year-round basis.

The Zoning Commission will hold a public hearing Monday on proposed zoning regulations that would establish the rules of this registry procedure. The procedure would affect some 2,000 cottages in the beach communities and around Rogers Lake that fall under the R-10 zone, a residential zone for lots that are 10,000 square feet.

The registry would require homeowners to provide proof of year-round residency dating back to Dec. 31, 1999, in an effort to finally get a clear picture on how many homes in town are seasonal and how many are year-round, Knapp said.  The idea, he said, is that while residents may not have records dating back several decades to prove they've lived in their cottages year-round during that entire time, they may have begun keeping records around the time the association filed the lawsuit.

Registries as part of zoning regulations are nothing new, said land-use attorney Mark Branse, who works with Knapp at the law firm Branse, Willis and Knapp in Glastonbury.  Registries are often used when towns have “a prevalent issue of compliance.” Registries then serve as a type of “amnesty,” Branse said, that towns create as a way for residents to register their pre-existing use.

”By this date, you register with us,” Branse said of the town's handling of registries. “You tell us why you think this use is legal. And if it looks to us like you really were legal as of that magic date, then we're going to say that you're legal. And if we don't agree with you, then you can always appeal to the Zoning Board of Appeals, just like anybody could. But the idea is to take what could be hundreds of issues … and reduce them to a dozen or so.”

In Old Lyme, the “magic date” is Dec. 31, 1999. The proposed zoning amendment would require that all residents interested in registering their year-round residency do so by Sept. 30, 2010, and that the town review all registry applications by Sept. 30, 2011.

The registry procedure would hopefully make the process of proving year-round residency “less confrontational” because residents would, instead of simply being told how their homes are being used based on information at Town Hall, have the opportunity to provide evidence of year-round occupancy, Knapp said.  The town has, in restricting year-round residency of some summer cottages, been concerned with the enviromental impact of year-round residency in homes clustered on tiny lots.

But at the true core of the lawsuit, and the town's resistance to allowing all beach cottages to be occupied year-round, is the fact that the town wants to preserve the seasonal character of some of its neighborhoods, Knapp said.

”There's a sense in the community that they like the seasonal nature of some of these areas,” Knapp said. “That's an important feature of what it means to be Old Lyme. And they're (at) risk of losing that kind of town.”

But Knapp said the registry would not make it any easier for residents to convert seasonal homes to year-round occupancy. Rather, the registry would simply make it easier for residents to demonstrate whether or not they have been living in their cottages year-round.

”The goal is really to allow people to show that they are doing something that they were already doing,” Knapp said.



Conservation Of The Preserve Gets Split Decision; Judge OKs Golf Course Plan, But Backs Rejection Of Combo Golf/Housing Development 
DAY
By Eileen McNamara    
Published on 2/22/2008 


Old Saybrook — A Middletown Superior Court judge issued mixed rulings this week on two cases involving a large housing development and golf course on a swath of coastal forest known as The Preserve.

In one of her rulings, Judge Julia L. Aurigemma upheld the town Inland Wetlands Commission's rejection of a permit for the proposed 221-unit housing complex, which would have included an 18-hole golf course. Aurigemma found the commission properly determined the project would negatively affect wetlands on and near the site.

But in a second opinion, issued the same day, Aurigemma let stand a 2000 approval by the wetlands commission of a permit for an earlier 18-hole golf course plan.

Her decision upholding the rejection of the combined housing and golf course proposal by River Sound Development is the latest setback for the firm regarding the nearly 1,000-acre property that lies mostly in Old Saybrook, with small portions that straddle Westbrook and Essex.

But the ruling provides no closure to an environmental and zoning battle that has gone on for a decade.

The Connecticut Fund for the Environment is still suing the town's Planning Commission over its decision several years ago to approve a portion of The Preserve project. And River Sound can appeal Aurigemma's ruling to uphold the wetland commission's decision not to issue a permit for the housing plan.

Aurigemma's decision to uphold the commission's 2000 approval of a golf course proposed for the site was the result of an appeal a neighbor of the property brought seeking to overturn the golf course approval. But River Sound would still need zoning and planning approval of the golf course plans before it could move forward, a town zoning official said Thursday.

Michael Cronin, the attorney who represents the town's land use agencies, could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who has opposed the developments on behalf of the state, greeted Aurigemma's rulings Thursday with lukewarm enthusiasm.

“While we are reviewing these court decisions, we are encouraged and even more determined to oppose development of this uniquely pristine area on our shoreline,” Blumenthal said.

A representative for River Sound said the developer also is reviewing Aurigemma's decision before determining how to move forward.

In her decision upholding the denial of the wetlands permit for the cluster housing plan and golf course, Aurigemma said River Sound Development did not provide convincing evidence that the wetlands commission abused its discretion or overstepped its authority when it refused to issue a permit for the project.

She said the commission spent dozens of hours hearing testimony and worked diligently before deciding that the development posed an environmental threat to the site.

“The commission thoroughly and painstakingly evaluated the evidence presented to it,” she wrote in her decision. “On the basis of substantial evidence in the record, the commission properly determined that the activities proposed by River Sound would have an adverse impact on the wetlands and watercourses of the town ... .”

In her decision to uphold the wetlands commission's 2000 approval of the golf course, Aurigemma found the commission also properly followed its regulations in determining the project would not have a significant impact on wetlands.

Environmental groups in the state, as well as Connecticut's Department of Environmental Protection and Blumenthal, are fighting to stop development of The Preserve, which lies in the town's northwest corner, because it is one of the largest and last areas of unprotected forested wetlands along Connecticut's coast and in the Northeast.

The DEP has sought unsuccessfully to buy the land for preservation. A bill that would have provided funding for the purchase of the property died in the legislature last year.




East Lyme Weighs Development That Could Reshape Town; Hearing Tonight On 'Gateway': Retail And Housing Near Exit 74 
DAY
By Karin Crompton   
Published on 5/17/2007

East Lyme — It's a scary thought for a lot of people in town: amending zoning regulations to allow development of a gigantic store surrounded by five other big stores, restaurants and a road leading to the biggest neighborhood in East Lyme.

That's what's currently in front of the Zoning Commission.

Two developers, Konover Properties Corp. of West Hartford and KGI Properties LLC of Massachusetts and Rhode Island, have teamed to apply for a regulation change on 200 acres adjacent to Interstate 95 at Exit 74. The area includes property where The Shack restaurant and a driving range are located.

The second public hearing on the plan is set for 7:30 tonight at the senior center. The applicant is expected to wrap up its presentation, and the public will have a chance to comment. No decision is expected tonight.  The regulation change would allow a Home Depot-size anchor store of up to 140,000 square feet — seven times the square footage now permitted.

The application also seeks approval for five “junior anchor stores” ranging from 25,000 to 90,000 square feet, no more than two of which could exceed 50,000 square feet. The development plan also calls for hundreds of residential units.  A boulevard would snake throughout the village and the existing I-95 ramps would be realigned. The entire area would be referred to as Gateway Commons.

Niantic attorney Ted Harris submitted a sketchbook at the last meeting to give the commission an idea of what the project could look like. William Mulholland, the town's zoning official, called the sketches a “visual aid.”  According to the sketchbook, early plans for the 140,000-square-foot building would have it look like a collection of small stores resembling those in Mystic or outlet malls in Westbrook and Clinton.

If the regulation change is approved, the commission would have control over the design of the development, Mulholland said, and could prevent the developer from changing course and returning with a plan for a big-box store with an entirely different look.

The applicant's approach is atypical. Instead of providing the smallest details of an overall plan, the developers are first offering a glimpse of their ultimate goal and working backwards.  The idea is called “form-based zoning,” an approach Mulholland called “cutting-edge.”

“You look at the development first and then layer the other issues, such as lighting and design and drainage and traffic, underneath that,” he said. “It's, 'This is what we could get, what it could look like — now how do we do that appropriately?' ”

The regulation change, or text amendment, is the first step.

Mulholland outlined a three-step process that would require approval of the text amendment; approval of a master plan, which would require a special permit and the applicant to provide details, including a traffic study and specifics on architecture; and approval of a site plan for “anything and everything.”

Mulholland said the town has used the approach in considering the Chapman Farms, Spinnaker, Chapman Woods and Darrow Pond developments.  The conceptual plan for the Gateway Commons project shows a revamped exit/entrance off I-95 that travels west of the existing ramp. An existing pool store would remain, and the ramp would be on the other side of it.

The ramp would route traffic into the commercial part of the development, with a fork that would allow drivers to travel toward Gateway Commons or toward Route 161.  The residential area would be separate from the commercial section, with a road connecting the two.

Some neighbors of the proposed project have expressed concerns about it. According to minutes of the first public hearing two weeks ago, they asked about buffers, traffic and the potential impact on the aquifer in the area and the town's tax base, among other issues.



Study Shows Poverty Follows Families To The Nation's Suburbs

DAY
By Stephen Ohlemacher, Associated Writer
Published on 12/7/2006
 
Washington — As Americans flee the cities for the suburbs, many are failing to leave poverty behind.
The suburban poor outnumbered their inner-city counterparts for the first time last year, with more than 12 million suburban residents living in poverty, according to a study of the nation's 100 largest metropolitan areas released Thursday.

“Economies are regional now,” said Alan Berube, who co-wrote the report for the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank. “Where you see increases in city poverty, in almost every metropolitan area, you also see increases in suburban poverty.”

Nationally, the poverty rate leveled off last year at 12.6 percent after increasing every year since the decade began. It was a period when the country went through a recession and an uneven recovery that is still sputtering in parts of the Northeast and Midwest.

“Looking back at the 1970s, you would have seen cities suffering and suburbs staying the same,” said Berube, research director at the Brookings Institution's Metropolitan Policy Program. “But the story is different today.”

Berube said several factors are contributing to an increase in suburban poverty:

• Suburbs are adding people much faster than cities, making it inevitable that the number of poor people living in suburbs would eventually surpass those living in cities.

• The poverty rate in large cities (18.8 percent) is still higher than it is in the suburbs (9.4 percent). But the overall number of people living in poverty is higher in the suburbs in part because of population growth.

• America's suburbs are becoming more diverse, racially and economically. “There's poverty really everywhere in metropolitan areas because there are low-wage jobs everywhere,” Berube said.

• Recent immigrants are increasingly bypassing cities and moving directly to suburbs, especially in the South and West. Those immigrants, on average, have lower incomes than people born in the United States.