on this webpage should be considered as anything but opinion...more here.
- WESTERN CONNECTICUT COUNCIL OF GOVERNMENTS ("WCCOG") OR PERHAPS
"WC" FOR SHORT; LEFT - "SWRP-BRP" AS IT SOUNDS, AS REQUESTED BY
GBCEO...OUR BET IS THAT GBCEO GETS ITS WISH.
Planning Organizations now to all be Councils of Governments by January
1, 2015. HVCEO-SWRPA
north-south transportation study.
CT Plan of Conservation and Development
Not much planned for Weston except recognition of an actual
"village center" - CT Plan suggest a "small scale" water and sewer
service - here? (r) WCCOG organization graphic has no role for
RPC in the region.
S O U T H W E S T
E R N C
T R E G I O N A L P L A N N
I N G P A G E : NO
MORE SWRPA...SOON - LIKE ANY
to tax implications
zoning regulations based on
responsible growth, we will be able to promote more affordable housing
options..." (from Hartford
Westchester County, Batman!
Board of Selectmen, Feb.
24, 2014 at 7:30pm. Don't miss this one! We watched it from
home on Channel 79. Selectman Tracey on speaker phone.
The RPA-COG merger (SWRPA and HVCEO) item was taken up
with a unanimous approval to
pave the way for COG. Which puts Weston as the second town to
approve it after Westport. According to the First Selectman, New
Canaan, Darien and Greenwich are starting the approval process soon
(meaning that Wilton, Stamford and Norwalk have not started). It
was also reported that the HVCEO did not approved proposed bylaws at
their last meeting - they were concerned with the reason for needing an
Executive Committee, and also were concerned about the Regional
Planning Commission makeup.
Law may help SCCOG with funding and
provided for consolidation
of regional agencies
By Kimberly Drelich Day
published Jul 10, 2013
The Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments, already the second
largest agency of its kind in the state, could get additional funding
and possibly even expand following a new law that encourages
regionalization and larger planning organizations.
The new provisions could change planning regions in the state within
the next two years.
The law calls for the state to study and revise regional boundaries and
also offers incentives for consolidation into larger councils of
In response to this push for regionalization, some eastern Connecticut
regional planning organizations are proactively beginning to discuss
the advantages or disadvantages of voluntarily merging in full or part.
Representing 20 municipalities, SCCOG would likely remain the same, but
it could even add a few towns. However, SCCOG representatives advised
against expanding the COG too much so that it becomes less efficient.
And, on the other hand, SCCOG member towns could also elect to join
other planning organizations.
After receiving invitations last month, SCCOG's executive committee met
with the Windham Region Council of Governments. SCCOG representatives
also met with the Northeastern Connecticut Council of Governments,
which wanted to explore options with WINCOG and specifically the SCCOG
towns of Voluntown, Griswold, Lisbon, Sprague and Franklin.
SCCOG Chairman Paul Formica said the meetings included a discussion on
the most efficient number of members in a council of governments that
would enable leaders to put the municipalities' best interests forward.
The COGs learned about each other, outlining their histories and common
interests, he said, and explored whether it would be beneficial to make
Formica, who is also the first selectman of East Lyme, added that the
councils consist of elected officials representing their
municipalities' best interests and the COGs' boundaries "don't and
haven't precluded us from working together on regional projects."
SCCOG is financially sound and has a reputation built on more than 50
years of regional planning, said SCCOG Executive Director James Butler.
Under H.B. 6706, the state would reconfigure all regional agencies into
councils of governments to provide regional services. Councils of
governments are currently one of three planning options along with
regional planning agencies or councils of elected officials.
The law would also offer a boost to the about $13,300 SCCOG received
from the Office of Policy and Management this year, though that amount
is less than SCCOG received about a decade ago. The planning agencies
will receive $125,000 in fiscal year 2014. In 2015, COGs will receive
that amount and an additional 50 cents per person from a regional
planning incentive account.
The extra funding could potentially enable SCCOG to perform more
regional planning items and find even more ways for the municipalities
to collaborate and realize cost efficiencies in the future, explained
How to allocate the proposed funds, when received, will be the subject
of future conversations with leadership, he said.
The discussions will cover all aspects of planned funding or required
responsibilities, such as any additional transportation planning, said
Formica. While no decisions have been made, the topic of potential
mergers will also likely be a standing agenda item, he said.
In other parts of the state, the Litchfield Hills Council of Elected
Officials and the Northwestern Connecticut Council of Governments
recently approved merging, according to Butler.
Public Act 13-247: AN ACT
IMPLEMENTING PROVISIONS OF THE STATE BUDGET FOR THE BIENNIUM ENDING
JUNE 30, 2015 CONCERNING GENERAL GOVERNMENT
From SWRPA staff regarding meaning of separate bills included in
boundary study to be completed by 10/1/13; OPM to consult with CT DOT
on the boundary study to insure that RPOs have the capabilities to
comply with the requirements of any relevant federal transportation
authorizing acts; CT DOT to prepare a separate report on the
redesignation of metropolitan planning organizations by 7/1/14;
• Regional planning agencies and regional councils of
elected officials to be restructured to form regional councils of
government by January 1, 2015; Funds each council of governments of
$125,000 plus $0.50 per capita; would allow voluntary consolidations of
Regional Planning Organizations into COGs prior to 1/1/14 and for
regions to be held harmless if they choose to do so;
• Expands the Regional Performance Incentive Program
to make proposals for shared information technology services available
for grant awards;
• Bureau of Enterprise Systems and Technology
in consultation with COGs to connect each municipality and COG to the
state-wide high speed, flexible education technology network;
• Transfer $6.76 million between FY 2015 and 2017
from the regional planning incentive account to the municipal
reimbursement and revenue account;
• Allow OPM to use Town Aid for Roads funding for
other purposes; Would create a municipal aid adjustment account and
provide funding; Would authorize bonds for municipalities for purposes
similar to Town Aid for Roads, and specifies amounts for all
• Delays by one year, from July 1, 2013 to July 1,
2014, the date by which municipal planning commissions must prepare or
amend a municipal plan of C&D, and suspend, until July 1, 2015, the
provision disqualifying towns that fail to update their plans from
receiving discretionary state funds until they do so or the OPM
secretary waives the provision.
REGIONAL PLANNING AGENCIES? LOOKS LIKE IT! IMPLEMENTER
BILL A DAGGER IN THE HEART OF SWRPA.
Sec. 259. Section
4-124j of the general statutes is repealed and the following is
substituted in lieu thereof (Effective from passage):
Within any planning
region of the state a regional council of governments may be created by
the adoption of sections 4-124i to 4-124p, inclusive, by ordinance of
the legislative bodies of not less than sixty per cent of all towns,
cities and boroughs within such planning region entitled to membership
on such council as hereinafter provided. [Where any regional
council of elected officials, or a regional planning agency, exist
within a planning region, a regional council of governments may be
created either as hereinabove provided, or by the adoption of said
sections by resolution of any such regional council or councils of
elected officials and any such regional planning agency, and the
ratification of any such resolution by ordinance of the legislative
bodies of not less than sixty per cent of all such towns, cities and
towns, cities and boroughs within a planning region shall be entitled
to membership on such council, including any city or borough with
boundaries not coterminous with the boundaries of the town in which it
is located. Any nonmember town, city or borough entitled to membership
may join the council by the adoption of said sections by ordinance of
its legislative body. Any member town, city or borough may withdraw
from the council by adoption of an appropriate ordinance of its
legislative body to become effective on the date of such adoption;
provided, however, that any such withdrawing member shall be obligated
to pay its pro rata share of expenses of operation and pro rata share
of funds committed by the council to active programs as of such date of
map above left - by January 2015 R.I.P.
New suggested regional boundary in
include GBCEO and Valley, right...click here to find out how
much state aid Weston gets in
comparison to...the other 168
- 6629 merged into 6706 - after car tax change idea 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"). Find
out how they voted.
BY HOUSE - SENATE EXPECTED TO DO SO TOO - BY BY SWRPA - BUT FIRST SOME DRAMA - CAR TAX
REVISIONS OUT - BILL 6629 MERGED INTO IMPLIMENTER 6706
2013 M.O.R.E. COMMISSION NOT FINISHED WORK, BUT BILL (#6629)
VOTED OUT OF P&D COMMITTEE (JFS) APRIL FOOL'S DAY - CCM PREFERRED
BOUNDARIES FOR COGS HERE. EVERY
PLANNING REGION TO BECOME A COG BY 2015 (MAYBE).
EDITORIAL: Regions, counties
By Macklin Reid,
October 6, 2013
Big news! Or not. Or, maybe. Weston’s eight-town Southwestern Regional
Planning Agency is merging with a neighboring group, the 10-town
Housatonic Valley Council of Elected Officials. It’s voluntary — sort
of. It’s the groups’ response to a state initiative to consolidate
Connecticut’s 14 regional planning agencies down to eight “councils of
government.” These would be part of larger Metropolitan Planning
Agencies, which would be reduced from 10 to 5.
For the most part, a reorganization of the state’s regional planning
alphabet soup is something few people care about.
If all goes well, it won’t make much difference to people. Regional
planning agencies and their small staffs do perform valuable functions,
but it’s all a step removed from people’s daily lives. When there’s a
pot-hole to be filled, a tree across the road, or somebody suspects a
builder is filling the wetlands next door, nobody calls their regional
planning agency. They call the town.
But reorganization does highlight one of Connecticut’s strengths: It is
a state without county government. Long-time locals grouse about their
taxes, and have every right to do so. But people moving in from New
York or New Jersey often regard the taxes they pay as residents of
Weston, Conn. as refreshingly low.
A major reason is that, unlike neighboring states, Connecticut has only
a few vestiges of county government. Weston is part of Fairfield
County, but the county hardly exists — it’s little more than a name
used to organize the state’s judicial system.
In New York, people vote for — and pay — a county executive. There’s a
county board of legislators, county police, county taxes…
In very rural areas, county or regional governments have more to do
—they pick up functions the state is too big to do efficiently, and
little country towns are too small to do.
But in populated, urban and suburban areas like Connecticut, there are
few tasks that couldn’t be handled as well by the state or by local
officials. Regional perspectives can be useful in some areas, like
transportation, and Connecticut’s low-power planning agencies —
affiliations of mayors and first selectmen, served by minimal staffs —
do pretty well providing them.
The agenda behind the state reorganization isn’t clear, and local
regions don’t have much choice. But Connecticut residents should be
wary of moves toward regional or county government.
Counties are just another level of government to support, with less
control and less accountability.
the left, map of 14 regions as represented in the Draft State of
Connecticut Plan of Conservation and Developmen 2013-2018. "About
Town" interviews OPM staff here.
State’s 14 Regional Planning
Organizations to See Demographic Changes Ahead
By ctbythenumbers ("About" this websitelink here: http://ctbythenumbers.info/aboutctbythenumbers/)
Most people are familiar with the leading numbers that characterize
Connecticut… 169 towns, 8 counties, 5 Congressional Districts, and so
on. Fewer people – especially in the Land of Steady Habits – are
aware of the 14 Regional Planning Organizations that divvy up the
The Office of Policy and Management (OPM) is responsible for the
designation and re-designation of planning regions within the state.
Through local ordinance, the municipalities within each of these
planning regions have voluntarily created one of the three types of
Regional Planning Organization allowed under Connecticut statute –
a Regional Council of Elected Officials,
a Regional Council of Governments,
or a Regional Planning Agency.
The mission of the organizations is to carry out a variety of regional
planning and other activities on their behalf. Under state law,
each RPO is entitled to a grant-in-aid to support its various planning
The University of Connecticut’s State Data Center has developed
population projections for each of the RPO’s through 2030, including a
range of demographic breakdowns. In the Capitol Region, for
example, the breakdown by race, between 2000 and 2030, is projected as
follows: white, from 513,283 down to 380,545; Hispanic, from
71,149 more than doubling to 150,321; African-American, increasing from
86,739 to 130,835; and “other” increasing 25,231 to 66,135 – all of
which reveals a very different racial and ethnic make-up of the region
anticipated in the coming decades.
OPM provides a map showing these regions and a list of municipalities
within each region, including town populations based on the 2010 census.
Regional Planning Organizations
- Capitol Region Council of
Executive Director: Lyle Wray
- Central Connecticut Regional Planning Agency
Executive Director: Carl J. Stephani
- Council of Governments of the Central Naugatuck
Executive Director: Peter Dorpalen
- Greater Bridgeport Regional Council
Acting Executive Director: Brian Bidolli
- Housatonic Valley Council
of Elected Officials
Executive Director: Jonathan Chew
- Litchfield Hills Council of Elected Officials
Planning Director: Richard Lynn
- Lower Connecticut River Valley Regional Planning
Executive Director: Geoffrey L. Colegrove
- Northeastern Connecticut Council of Governments
Executive Director: John Filchak
- Northwestern Connecticut Council of Governments
Executive Director: Dan McGuinness
- South Central Regional Council of Governments
Executive Director: Carl Amento
- Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments
Executive Director: James S. Butler
- South Western Regional
Executive Director: Dr. Floyd Lapp, FAICP
- Valley Council of Governments
Executive Director: Richard T. Dunne
- Windham Region Council of
Executive Director: Mark N. Paquette
No more RPA's if this bill passes in
the Senate - only COG or RCEO type regional planning. What do you
think Weston bring to the table in a larger region?
bill aims to have local governments involved in any newly designated,
consolidated regions by permitting COGs and RCEOs and not regional
planning agencies (RPAs), which are typically headed by planners who
are not elected."
is our top interest, but they all do resonate!
Best and the
rest of the past week
CT POST editorial
Published 04:42 p.m., Thursday, May 17, 2012
Thumbs up to the idea of a bike-sharing program in Bridgeport. The
Greater Bridgeport Regional Planning Agency applied for a $150,000
grant that would set up the system under which users can rent bikes by
the hour from a credit-card operated bike-rack system. According to
Brian Bidolli, executive director of the GBRPA, the bikes are suitable
for both men and women and have a durable build for any terrain. With
racks situated throughout the city, the proposal could offer a
realistic supplement to buses, cabs, driving and walking. Should the
planning agency secure the grant, the program could be running by
summer 2013, according to Bidolli. Such programs run successfully in
New York and Boston and it's certainly worth giving it a go here.
Thumbs down to the continuing scourge of distracted driving. A New
Canaan teenager this week was charged in the death of a jogger in
Norwalk. According to police, the 16-year-old was using her smartphone
to search the Internet while driving an SUV when she struck and killed
44-year-old Kenneth Dorsey. But this is far from an isolated incident,
and it's not limited to teenagers. As handheld technology becomes more
common and more sophisticated, people are taking more chances behind
the wheel and putting more people, including themselves, at greater
risk. They need to realize they are not as skilled at multitasking as
they think they are. And police need to take greater notice.
Thumbs up to the pending reuse of Harrison's Hardware. The landmark on
the Milford green has been vacant since a 2006 fire closed the
century-old hardware store, and officials have been looking for a new
use for the building ever since. Now a group of developers say they're
working through the process of opening a restaurant in the building
while maintaining its old-time appeal. It won't be the same hardware
store residents remember, but it would be a welcome addition to the
bustling downtown scene.
Thumbs up to making every vote count. Turnout at local budget
referendums is often disappointingly low, but that means everyone who
does show up has an even greater impact. In Oxford, for example, the
town budget passed this week by a mere eight votes. If just a handful
of people had changed their minds, the outcome would have been
different. Local spending plans affect everyone, and it would be nice
to see greater interest in making those decisions. And the people who
do take the time should realize that every vote is important.
"AN ACT CONCERNING PLANNING REGIONS...
IT'S ALIVE - NOPE..."
This bill, with some really minor changes, just passed the House
on Thursday and is on the way to the Senate. Bill analysis
below. Our take: If it passes the Senate the Governor will
sign it. SWRPA will be merged with Greater Bridgeport and maybe
Housatonic Valley as one big RCEO. Or maybe not!
NOTE: language that refers to Economic
Development Districts dovetails nicely with Planning Regions...
OLR Bill Analysis sHB 5154
AN ACT CONCERNING PLANNING
This bill extends the deadlines and changes criteria for the Office of
Policy and Management (OPM) secretary's analysis of state planning
regions. It also sets the goal for the analysis to reduce the number of
planning regions from the current 15 to no more than eight (last minute"strike all"
amendment get rid of the specific number 8 just took place in
The bill also extends certain deadlines concerning municipal
notification about proposed planning regions.
The bill (1) creates an incentive for areas of the state that contain
two or more contiguous planning regions and have at least 14
municipalities to consolidate to form a single regional council of
governments or regional council of elected officials by exempting them
from redesignation in 2014 and (2) allows the secretary to waive the
requirement that the redesignated region contain at least 14
It also makes technical changes.
EFFECTIVE DATE: Upon passage
By law, the OPM secretary must divide the state into logical planning
regions and redesignate them (by changing the boundaries). There are
currently 15 approved regions, but this will change to 14 as OPM
recently approved the consolidation of two regions (see BACKGROUND).
The bill extends by two years, from January 1, 2012 to January 1, 2014,
the deadline by which the secretary must complete an initial analysis
of boundaries of logical planning regions and notify municipalities in
regions slated for redesignation. (The secretary did not complete the
initial analysis. )
Under current law, any changes to the regional boundaries are effective
on July 1 following the date when the analysis or modification is
completed. Under the bill, they are effective January 1, 2015.
Analysis of Boundaries of Logical
Consultation. Currently, the OPM secretary alone is authorized to
analyze the boundaries of local planning regions. The bill requires the
secretary to consult with the (1) chairpersons and ranking members of
the Planning and Development Committee, (2) Connecticut Association of
Regional Planning Organizations, (3) Connecticut Conference of
Municipalities, and (4) Connecticut Council of Small Towns.
Evaluation Criteria and Reduction of Regions. Under current law, as
part of the analysis, the secretary has to develop criteria to evaluate
how urban centers affect neighboring towns. The bill instead requires
him to examine the boundaries of existing planning regions and develop
criteria to evaluate opportunities for coordinated planning and
regional delivery of services among urban centers and neighboring towns
with the goal of reducing the regions to no more than eight.
The bill also adds three new criteria. First, it adds demographics.
Second, it requires a study of traffic patterns in the state's
“transportation assets” rather than “major roads,” thus including
traffic on rail lines and at airports.
Lastly, it requires consideration of any applicable federal
requirements when establishing a minimum size for the planning areas.
Currently, the planning areas' size is based on the number of
municipalities, total population, and total square mileage (see BACKGROUND).
Timelines for Notification of and
Municipal Objection to Proposed Redesignation
The bill extends various timelines in the notification and
Current law requires the secretary to notify municipalities about the
the planning regions he proposes to redesignate by January 1, 2012. The
bill extends the deadline to January 1, 2014.
By law, if a municipality's legislative body objects to the revision,
its chief executive officer (CEO) must petition the secretary to attend
a meeting with the legislative body to hear its objections. The CEO
must do so within 30 days after receiving the notice. The petition must
specify the meeting's place, date, and time.
The bill also extends the time for the CEO to propose holding the
meeting from no later than 45 days after submitting the petition to 60
days. As under existing law, the secretary or his designee must make
every reasonable effort to attend this meeting or a meeting held on
another date, which must fall within this period. If the secretary
cannot attend the meeting, he and the CEO may schedule the meeting for
another date and time, which must fall within 210, instead of 120, days
of the secretary's notice to the CEO.
By law, the legislative body must use the meeting to inform the
secretary about its objections and the secretary must consider them.
Under the bill, the secretary has 60, instead of 45, days to notify the
CEO about his decision on the proposed boundary changes. By law, he
must state his reasons for the decision.
Forming Newly Designated Regions
Before January 1, 2014
The bill creates incentives for areas of the state that contain two or
more contiguous planning regions to consolidate to form a single
regional council of governments (COG) or regional council of elected
officials (RCEO) by exempting them from being redesignated in 2014. The
OPM secretary must approve redesignation as such by January 1, 2014.
The bill specifies that the new planning regions must have at least 14
municipalities, but allows the secretary to waive the requirement.
The bill aims
to have local governments involved in any newly designated,
consolidated regions by permitting COGs and RCEOs and not regional
planning agencies (RPAs), which are typically headed by planners who
are not elected.
Types of Regional Planning
By law, OPM designates local planning regions within the state (CGS
§ 16a-4a (4)). Within the 15 current regions, the three types of
regional planning organizations allowed under Connecticut law are RPAs,
COGs, and RCEOs. Through local ordinance, the municipalities within
these planning regions have voluntarily created one of the three types
of regional planning organizations to carry out a variety of regional
planning and other activities on their behalf.
At this time, there are five RPAs, eight COGs, and two RCEOs. But a
proposed merger would bring the number of planning regions to 14. OPM
has approved a merger of two RPAs, the Connecticut Estuary and Midstate
Planning RPAs, into a COG to be called the Lower Connecticut River
Valley Planning Region. Sixty percent of the affected towns must first
agree to the change.
Regional Economic Development Districts
A 2010 law allows the three types of regional planning organizations to
(1) propose “Regional Economic Development Districts” (REDDs) that the
governor designates, (2) prepare strategies to develop them, and (3)
apply for state and federal economic development funds. (PA 10-168) It
specifies criteria for drawing district boundaries and procedures for
preparing, reviewing, and approving strategies. The law permits only
eight REDDs to be established in the state.
An approved REDD can request:
1. the Department of Economic and Community Development commissioner to
recommend to the governor that he designate the district as an economic
development district and
2. federal designation from the U. S. Department of Commerce as an
economic development district, making it eligible for federal economic
development grants (CGS § 32-741 et seq. ).
City hopes to start a
John Burgeson, CT POST
Updated 11:03 p.m., Monday, May 7,
BRIDGEPORT -- You've just arrived at
the Bridgeport Metro-North railroad station, and you have an
appointment at the University of Bridgeport in 20 minutes.
It's a long walk from the train
platform to UB, so your options for getting there are few. You could
either take a cab or try to catch the No. 1 Greater Bridgeport Transit
bus from downtown.
But cabs are expensive, and the wait
for the No. 1 bus could take 30 minutes or more.
Soon, however, there might be a
third option: sharing a bicycle.
The Greater Bridgeport Regional
Planning Agency has applied for a $150,000 grant that would set up a
professional bike-sharing program. It would allow users to "share" a
bike by the hour. The bikes would be dispensed from credit-card
operated automated bike racks or docking stations, according to Brian
Bidolli, executive director of the Greater Bridgeport Regional Planning
Agency. The bikes are purpose-built and are suitable for both men and
women, large and small.
The money would come from the
federal Highway Administration's CMAC program, which stands for
Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality, Bidolli said. And, he said that
if things go well, a program could be in place by the summer of 2013.
"The funds would be used to buy the
bicycles, bike docking stations, signage, and other equipment," Bidolli
said. "Bridgeport is really a hub of bicycle activity for this part of
the state. The terminus of a regional bike trail is here and then
there's the intermodal bus and railroad station."
This would be the first program of
its kind in the state, Bidolli said, although New Haven and Simsbury
have less ambitious programs, and Fairfield University also offers bike
sharing. Bike-sharing differs from rental in that the fees for the
first hour or two are low, but go up dramatically after that. The idea
is to keep the bikes in circulation as much as possible.
Planners say that after a rocky
start 40-plus years ago, bike-sharing has finally caught on. In New
York City, officials have just announced a 10,000-bicycle sharing
program using dozens of solar-powered, credit-card operated docking
stations. The bikes, called Citibikes, sport Citibank's logo; the bank
is helping to pay for the program.
The bike-sharing concept began in
Amsterdam in the mid-1960s, and soon spread to other European cities.
The first-generation plans typically used second-hand bikes that were
spray-painted white, green or another color. The idea was that people
would borrow them and leave them for the next user, and volunteers
would help maintain them.
These early plans that relied mostly
on honesty had predictable results; the bikes were quickly stolen or
Since then, technology has made
bike-sharing a viable transportation option, according to Paul DeMaio
of MetroBike LLC, a consulting company that helps cities set up
bike-sharing programs. The credit-card operated bike docking stations
also provide a way to easily go after riders who fail to return their
bikes, he said.
DeMaio's advice for Bridgeport? "Set
up the largest bike-sharing system you can. The bigger the better. The
more bikes and docking locations you have, the greater your chance for
success and the more customers that will join. And they really need to
put it in perspective. A bus costs $400,000, and building a mile of
road costs millions of dollars."
From the Greater Bridgeport Regional
make wary, fitful moves to regionalize
Vinti Singh, Staff Writer
Published 11:25 p.m., Sunday, January 1, 2012
It's a point of pride for Nutmeggers, the sometimes stark differences
between each of Connecticut's 169 cities and towns.
But municipal borders are based on lines drawn centuries ago, when the
criteria was simply that a city or town needed a church. Some municipal
leaders now say it's time for the town boundaries to be less rigid --
when it comes to services anyway.
"We're working on 300-year-old logic that's no longer relevant to our
society," Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch said.
The way Finch sees it, so much more could be accomplished if those
boundaries were broken and Bridgeport annexed its surrounding towns. He
knows that's never going to happen, especially since Connecticut's
constitution doesn't allow for annexation.
But he's hoping towns can at least symbolically erase those lines to
share more services.
As towns continue to struggle with budget constraints with a weak
economy, surrounding town leaders are thinking more like him.
Through the recession, "we've learned no one town is an oasis,"
Fairfield First Selectman Michael Tetreau said. "We have all suffered.
We have all struggled."
In Trumbull, First Selectman Tim Herbst said there's room for
municipalities to combine services. "It is arcane to believe that in a
state as small as Connecticut, we have 169 towns and cities that
sometimes provide services in 169 different ways," he said.
The combined budgets for Bridgeport and its five surrounding towns from
July 1, 2009 to July 30, 2010, equaled $1.4 billion.
Cities like Raleigh, N.C., and Bakersfield, Calif., are similar in size
and population to the Bridgeport region, but both had budgets of less
than $700 million in the same time period. That's because these cities
incorporate areas that in Connecticut would be independent
"If we can harness even a percentage of that price difference, we will
save a lot of money," said Brian Bidolli, executive director of the
Greater Bridgeport Regional Planning Agency, a regional planning
organization for Bridgeport, Stratford, Trumbull, Monroe, Fairfield and
THE CASE FOR REGIONALIZING
The official term for working together is regionalization, and the
concept is not new. Easton and Redding regionalized their high schools
decades ago to create the shared Joel Barlow High School. Trumbull
sends its sewage to Bridgeport to be processed.
Other areas in Connecticut have pioneered other cost-saving services.
Greater Hartford has set up an online regional building permit
application where local contractors fill out an application that is
shared by a dozen municipalities. Towns in the state's northeast corner
combined their property revaluation processes and now hire one company
to value all properties in participating towns at once.
But there can be some resistance to regionalization. Not everyone was
immediately on board, for example, when the GBRPA proposed
regionalizing the municipalities' geographic information systems.
Trumbull had just spent $250,000 on a brand new GIS system, and some
officials there did not want to help foot the bill for a group-wide
system when some towns, such as Stratford and Fairfield, needed system
upgrades and others, like Monroe and Easton, didn't have them at all.
The Trumbull Town Council eventually signed onto the agreement because
members realized being a part of the region would mean shared
maintenance costs later on, Trumbull Chief of Staff Dan Nelson said.
"But the real money and real savings are in tougher places like public
works departments, fire departments, other public services. The hardest
sell is education," state House Majority Leader Brendan Sharkey said.
Sharkey is a proponent of regionalization and has offered a number of
bills to encourage doing so.
Greater Bridgeport towns are taking on some of those tougher sells.
Monroe, Trumbull and Easton have committed to regionalizing their
emergency dispatch centers into one. Shelton, Trumbull and other
municipalities have explored combining employee health care plans to
negotiate lower costs.
But there is still a lot of resistance to regionalizing.
"With the anti-big city sentiment in some towns, not everything will
work," said Monroe First Selectman Steve Vavrek. "Part of the problem
is the way cities are run. People don't want to inherit the city's
problems, whether it be the poor school system or whatever."
One of the biggest challenges facing the Bridgeport region is the sewer
system. Bridgeport's system is in need of updating, Trumbull needs to
find a way to lower its sewage costs, and Monroe doesn't have one at
all. Municipal leaders have floated different ideas for combining
sewage systems but no officials plans have been proposed.
EDUCATION A HARD SELL
And then there is Sharkey's hardest sell: education. For Finch, whose
school district faces financial problems, high drop-out rates and low
student achievement scores, the idea is not a hard sell at all.
"We could dream and say, wow if we had five school districts instead of
150, think how much better we could make it for children," Finch said.
"Right now, it's better for the adults, rather than the children.
"The thing we have to remember is those problems are going to be your
problems whether you live in my jurisdiction or not. If you have
thousands of undereducated children near you, they're going to become
"They won't stay on the streets of Bridgeport."
Bridgeport's relations with surrounding towns are strained. Some of
that is inherited, like the rancor with Stratford neighbors over
expanding the Sikorsky Memorial Airport runway and issues over access
to Pleasure Beach.
One of the most heated issues involves a proposed regional magnet
school. After Trumbull signed away more than 40 acres for Bridgeport to
build a regional magnet school, Finch said he never promised the town
one of the city's administrative buildings in return.
Then, at a Dec. 16 Bridgeport Regional Business Council breakfast, some
attendees said Finch criticized Trumbull residents who opposed initial
plans for a section of a regional hiking and bike trail that would cut
through their neighborhood. Vavrek said he felt he had to interrupt the
conversation. Stratford Mayor John A. Harkins said the comments made
him uncomfortable, too, because Finch made comments about Herbst when
he was not present.
Finch said his speech was about comments some Trumbull residents made
at a public information session that the trail would attract "different
characters coming in from other cities."
"I admit was not shy about sharing my displeasure with fellow leaders
at a recent regional council meeting, but I would not have then, and
will not now, sit idly by while others make thinly veiled, bigoted
remarks about the people of our city who might avail themselves of a
nature trail that will extend into the suburbs," Finch said. "Any
leader who was in the room who didn't repudiate the statements ...
should have done so."
Herbst -- who was not at the meeting -- believed the comments were
directed at him, adding that Finch has shown a pattern of alienating
those around him. He said Finch had indicated he supported the
alternate route that Trumbull residents who attended a hearing on the
hiking trail wanted.
"When you look at his behavior collectively, it gives me cause for
concern," Herbst said. "In politics you're only as good as your word.
When you go back on your word, it's disconcerting. When you get up and
disparage another chief elected official in front of 30 others, quite
frankly when you talk about regional cooperation, in essence you're
speaking with a forked tongue."
LOOKING FOR SUCCESSES
Despite his dust-ups with Finch, Herbst said he will continue to
consider partnerships with Bridgeport, especially if they benefit his
Every municipal leader has a pet service they want to regionalize.
For Harkins, it's employee health care plans.
For Vavrek, it's purchasing municipal trash trucks. For Trumbull, it's
a regional dispatch center.
If there's one thing the municipalities can indisputably agree on, it's
"There's growing municipal scarcity, but we don't have to share
scarcity," Bidolli said.
"We can share success."
MORE DETAILED HISTORY OF
PLANNING ORGANIZATION FORMAT ISSUE - CLICK HERE
HAPPY NEW OLD YEAR! WE'VE BEEN HEARING ABOUT THIS SINCE 2003 AND LONGER.
CT COUNTIES GONE IN 1960...COMING BACK?
2012, yet another replay of these 2005
arguments? How about going back a bit further...and if you want ancient history, ask this website!
governing plan divides Fairfield
Neil Vigdor, Staff Writer
Published 01:03 a.m., Sunday, January 1, 2012
A plan to create a regional governing council of mayors and first
selectmen from southwestern Connecticut is dividing municipal leaders,
with some saying it will give the area more clout in Hartford and
Washington and others fearful that it is a step toward resurrecting
The Connecticut General Assembly abolished county government in 1960.
Filling the void is the South Western Regional Planning Agency or
SWRPA, a transportation and development-focused alliance currently made
up by Greenwich, Stamford, Norwalk, Westport, Darien, New Canaan,
Wilton and Weston.
In addition to SWRPA, which has about eight employees based in Stamford
and is predominantly federally funded, the chief elected officials from
each municipality meet on a monthly basis as part of the South Western
Region Metropolitan Planning Organization, a group led by Westport
First Selectman Gordon Joseloff.
There is ongoing push within the Metropolitan Planning Organization to
meld the two organizations into what is known as a council of
governments, following the model of the majority of regions in
But Greenwich First Selectman Peter Tesei is balking at such a
transition, which he characterized as an additional layer of
"I do not support it and will not be voting for it," Tesei told his
colleagues on the Board of Selectmen Thursday at the group's most
A Republican elected to a third term in November, Tesei said the
proposal would be an extremely tough sell with the Representative Town
Meeting, which was reluctant to even let Greenwich join SWRPA in the
"I do not see it as necessary," Tesei said of creating a council of
Joseloff, a Democrat and one of the chief proponents of the plan,
denied this is an attempt to go back in time.
"It's not a step toward a return to county government," Joseloff said.
"All these are kind of false ideas that people throw up. They really
have no validity."
The plan's supporters say they have done their homework, visiting other
regional councils throughout the state and talking to elected officials
about the benefits of the setup. One of the model organizations they
cited is the Capitol Region Council of Governments, which represents 30
municipalities and has Hartford as its seat.
"None of them said they regretted the move," Joseloff said. "I think
it's pretty important as we move ahead with efforts to regionalize
"I think it raises the visibility, hopefully, of the Metropolitan
Planning Organization and it puts us on equal footing with a majority
of the other regional planning groups in the state."
Joseloff emphasized that the eight cities and towns that make up SWRPA
would not be ceding power under the proposal.
"It does not impact home rule," Joseloff said.
"It will not have any other authority over local decision making."
Stamford Mayor Michael Pavia is undecided on the proposal.
Pavia acknowledged that he is concerned that larger municipalities
could wind up carrying more of the burden.
But under certain circumstances, Pavia said he supports
regionalization, such as when a tree comes down along the Stamford/New
Canaan border and mutual aid is rendered to reopen the road.
He also thinks it makes sense to have a regional bomb squad and police
scuba diving teams.
"Now there is a general consensus that components of regionalization,
in other words taking the strengths of one community and offering them
to another, has a lot of appeal," Pavia said.
Pavia made it clear that he does not wish history to repeat itself.
"I think the last thing that we need is another layer of government,"
Pavia said of having a county bureaucracy.
In addition to the professional staff of SWRPA, the eight
municipalities that make up the organization get to appoint members to
its board based on population.
Paul Settelmeyer is one of three SWRPA representatives from Greenwich
and a former board chairman.
"A lot of people will have concerns and will interpret it as a move
toward county-level governing," Settelmeyer said. "I don't have a
concern that it is going to assume taxing powers and mandate powers."
At the same time, Settelmeyer raised concerns about mayors and first
selectmen assuming additional responsibilities under the new
"Doing strategic planning is very important, and the SWRPA board
members had the time available to do it," Settelmeyer said.
"I guess my chief concern is do the chief elected officials who are
busy people right now have the time to handle the organizational
responsibilities that they will have in running the staff organization?
I can't see Mayor Pavia or Peter Tesei being involved in the financial
reporting and reviewing the monthly financial statements of the
Joseloff disagreed that it would burden the chief elected officials of
"Frankly, it is the CEOs, not the appointed representatives, who are
accountable to the taxpayers," Joseloff said. "I don't anticipate it
would take much more time. I think there may be a little bit more
pressure on the CEO if there's a council of governments and he or she
doesn't show up."
Joseloff expects the plan to come up for a vote in the spring or early
summer in each of the eight municipalities. Five of the eight would
have to sign on to the proposal to create a council of governments, he
"You don't have to participate in the same level if you don't want it,"
Joseloff said. "I can't imagine any CEO not wanting to participate and
have his voice. Nothing stops at town borders anymore."
Without a council of governments, Joseloff argued that southwestern
Connecticut is at a competitive disadvantage to other regions in the
"I call it the Rodney Dangerfield move," Joseloff said of the late
comedian and one-time Westport resident, whose catch phrase was "no
Stay tuned for
follow up...hot time in the old town Thursday evening
to Review Revamping SWRPA
The Norwalk Hour
By Robert Koch
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
The Weston Board of Selectmen on Thursday night will get a better look
at a proposal that would revamp the South Western Regional Planning
Agency and affiliate Metropolitan Planning Organization into a Council
of Local Governments. Creation of a Council of Local Governments, which
ultimately would require the approval of the legislative bodies of at
least four of SWRPA’s eight member communities, would put
transportation, housing and other inter-municipal issues under the
direct leadership of chief elected officials, according to proponents.
On Thursday night, the selectmen will begin their discussion of the
concept. “ We’re going to have a presentation made to ( the selectmen)
and then we have to set a public hearing date and then we’ll vote on it
at our next meeting which is July 7,” said First Selectwoman Gayle
Weinstein. “I’m in favor of changing the structural organization to a
COG, because I think it will allow us to work more effectively as a
region.” Weinstein said a COG structure would facilitate
regionalization efforts, centralize purchasing and lead to government
SWRPA Chairman Gerald Ellis will make the presentation Thursday night.
Wilton First Selectman William F. Brennan and Woody Bliss, former
Weston first selectman and past SWRMPO chairman, will also be present,
she said. In December 2009, Bliss said creation of a Council of
Governments was worth considering.
New Canaan First Selectman Jeb Walker, then incoming SWRMPO chairman,
said the organization of SWRPA and SWRMPO was “probably our top
priority.” But the idea of converting the two organizations into a
Council of Local Government has faced opposition from those who believe
it’s a step toward the return to county government, or simply
shortchanging some communities.
Greenwich First Selectman Peter J. Tesei told fellow SWRMPO members in
April that Greenwich residents perceive “ a very strong push toward
regionalization and the adoption of various levels of taxes that in a
nutshell redistribute resources in an unequitable manner.” Mayor
Richard A. Moccia said this month that there’s no rush to bring the COG
concept to vote in Norwalk.
“ I’d prefer to wait until after the summer, maybe early September, to
bring it to the council, so they can make their presentation and
everything,” Moccia said.
“My position on (the COG structure) is that if it opens the door for
more grants and for more regional aid, it’s fine,” Moccia said. “As
long as everybody understands we’re not losing local autonomy. I
believe the state has some incentive grants that if you have a COG, you
can do joint purchasing and save some money and things like that.
That’s the advantage. But it has to be clear that you don’t lose local
Floyd Lapp, SWRPA executive director, said four of SWRPA’s eight member
municipalities have had public discussions and meetings on the COG
option for regional structure. “In the case of New Canaan and Westport
and Wilton, I believe they have introduced or will be introducing
resolutions,” said Lapp who limited his comments.
“The elected officials and their legislative bodies should be leading
the effort, and I should not be getting out in the front offering my
NOTE OF CORRECTION AND A QUESTION:
Five (5) municipalities' legislative bodies
must OK changeover. However, the Board of Selectmen's agenda
Thursday says the following:
"...3. Discussion/decision regarding an
ordinance to approve a
change from SWRPA’s current regional structure to a Council of
Government- Jerry Ellis, SWRPA Chair
4. Discussion/decision regarding setting a date for a public
regarding an ordinance
to approve a change from SWRPA’s current
regional structure to a Council of Government..."
Study to be completed prior to January 1, 2012:
boundaries for Regional Planning Organizations - instead of 15 they are
to shrink to 8; new boundaries to bring related regions together
- but this is going on at the same times as Congressional District
boundaries are being redrawn, too. Where is the public input here?
AND IT ALMOST DID PASS,
NEWLY ADDED LANGUAGE IN RED - ran out of time in the house.
Senate Bill No.
Senate, April 7, 2011
The Committee on Planning and Development reported
through SEN. CASSANO of the 4th Dist., Chairperson of the Committee on
the part of the Senate, that the bill ought to pass.
AN ACT CONCERNING THE PROVISION OF SERVICES BY
REGIONAL COUNCILS OF GOVERNMENT.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of
Representatives in General Assembly convened:
Section 1. Section 4-124d of the general statutes is
repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective
October 1, 2011):
The council shall consider such matters of a public
nature common to two or more members of the council as it deems
appropriate, including matters affecting transportation and the health,
safety, welfare, education and economic conditions of the area
comprised by its members. The council shall identify opportunities and
obstacles to interlocal agreements that promote regional cooperation.
The council shall promote cooperative arrangements, including regional
economic development agreements between towns entered into pursuant to
section 7-148kk, and coordinate action among its members and make
recommendations therefor to the members and such other public agencies
as exist or perform functions within the region or regions. The council shall
identify opportunities to provide regional services.
PASSED THE SENATE
DID NOT PASS IN THE HOUSE, AS WAS THE CASE FOR OTHER REGIONALISM
the historic Windsor Railroad Station on August 2, 2007:
"RESPONSIBLE GROWTH" BILL
SIGNED BY GOV. RELL
Local officials want a say in merger
New London DAY
By Claire Bessette Day Staff Writer
published Apr 1, 2011
Norwich - Sixteen area town officials gathered for two hours Thursday
at the Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments office to
discuss various state proposals to consolidate the number of regional
The group held a conference call with David LeVasseur, acting
undersecretary at the state Office of Policy and Management, and asked
for a chance to make the changes themselves wherever possible.
LeVasseur outlined two apparently contradictory bills being considered
by the state legislature and said OPM had been asked to conduct its own
study on creating new regional boundaries for the planning groups. That
study is due to the legislature by Jan. 1, 2012.
There are currently 15 regional planning agencies, three of which were
represented at Thursday's meeting.
Municipal officials said Thursday they felt the entire process was
speeding along without their input. Preston First Selectman Robert
Congdon, who chaired the meeting, agreed that consolidation was
unavoidable but said the three regions needed to present their argument
that the towns themselves know best what system would work for them.
Congdon pushed the group to lobby for input into whatever state law or
administrative consolidation directive comes from OPM. The three
planning agencies will send representatives to a legislative forum on
regionalization on April 18 in Hartford.
Though the Planning and Development Committee forum is not a public
hearing, the members will ask for a chance to speak. Chairmen of
the three COGs will also separately send letters to legislative leaders
asking for the rationale behind proposed consolidations and what
problems the moves would solve. That way, North Stonington First
Selectman Nicholas H. Mullane II said, the towns could offer their own
solutions to those problems.
Meanwhile, the 17-town Connecticut River Valley Council of Elected
Officials voted at its March 23 meeting to send a letter to the state
reaffirming its interest in merging the nine-town Connecticut River
Estuary Regional Planning Agency with the eight-town Midstate Regional
Linda Krause, CRERPA's executive director, said the Council of Elected
Officials is hoping to take advantage of funds in Gov. Dannel P.
Malloy's budget that would provide monetary incentives for regional
planning agencies that voluntarily consolidate.
"They are concerned that if the state were broken up into smaller
numbers of larger regions, that some of the sense of character that
they have would be basically torn apart," Krause said of the town
officials. "The river is a uniting factor, and it would be really sad
to break up the sense that there is around the river."
The current 15 regions were established about 50 years ago, OPM's
LeVasseur said, with criteria that made sense at the time - local phone
regions, hospital service areas and even newspaper subscriptions. But
today, many of those conditions have changed and now overlap, and
LeVasseur said his agency is struggling to find new relevant criteria
for the consolidations.
At the same time, the legislature is considering two bills that would
affect the regional planning agencies. One would reduce the number of
districts from 15 to eight, while a second bill would establish six
service regions for all state agencies.
Town officials at Thursday's meeting were divided on how the regions
should respond to the proposals. Coventry Town Manager John Elsesser
suggested the three regions consider establishing one governing entity
while retaining their individual "service districts" which already
provide valuable regionalized services in the three regions.
Pomfret First Selectman Mark Paquette said the regions should make a
case that their current arrangements work and are financially efficient.
Paquette said he gladly pays for town engineering and regional animal
control services through the Northeastern Connecticut Council of
Governments, and said it would make no sense for him to receive similar
services from the southeastern counterpart, based in Norwich.
N E W
S F R O M A . P . A .
E B S I T E)
Grant includes funding for Regional
Plan Association to the tune of $3,500,000 - South Western
Connecticut part of this winning application! SWRPA participated
and should bring planning funding to the region. Update of
Regional Plan should be related to sustainibility aspects of
grant. See one project
possibly in for planning funding here.
Legislators mull transportation
Martin B. Cassidy, Greenwich TIME Staff Writer
Published 09:05 p.m., Sunday, February 20, 2011
STAMFORD -- Echoing Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's call to create more jobs as
part of his recent state budget address, state Rep. Gerald Fox III,
D-Stamford, said obtaining funding for transportation projects will
help attract business.
Fox had been hoping the governor would include nearly $50 million in
funding to replace the deteriorating rail station parking garage
downtown and replace the Atlantic Street overpass where trucks
delivering goods to the South End often get stuck.
"What we plan to do in Stamford with those two projects has so much
potential to create jobs that that will be the argument we make in
seeking funding," Fox said.
The governor's budget included few specific projects, but many area
legislators said they were pleased Malloy is emphasizing the need to
maintain the state's mass transit and highway infrastructure that had
been long deferred. Among the transportation related projects and
investments identified by Malloy's budget office to be funded in his
two-year budget are:
$227 million to fully fund the Department of Transportation's
Fix-It-First program to perform high-priority repairs on highways and
$196 million to maintain bus and rail infrastructure, above and beyond
current funding levels.
$50 million over two years to support the dredging of the heavily
silted Bridgeport Harbor and other maritime projects like refurbishing
ferry slip and harbor facilities in New London.
Malloy's budget director Benjamin Barnes said the proposals would keep
rail and bus fares flat through 2011, further delaying the first of
seven consecutive annual fare increases of 1 percent to pay for new M-8
cars until January 2012. Connecticut Rail Commuter Council
Jim Cameron said that the plan to delay the fare increase seemed
reasonable given a pledge from former Gov. M. Jodi Rell to postpone the
fare increase until the M-8s were in service.
"I hope he will be able to honor it if there is any further delay in
the testing program for the M-8s," Cameron said. "I would say that it
is good news."
The state is also expected to continue releasing funds toward an $880
million project to double- track a passenger rail line to shorten
commuter trips between lower Connecticut and Massachuetts.
State Rep. Gail Lavielle, R-143rd District, and state Sen. Toni
Boucher, who both represent Wilton and Norwalk, said they supported
Malloy's pledge to block legislators from raiding the state's Special
Transportation Fund away from transit projects to cover general
"We need to protect that money for transportation purposes because we
need it to maintain what we have," Lavielle said.
Lavielle said that she supported work on the project, but felt that
investments to electrify the Metro-North Danbury Branch and upgrade the
New Canaan Branch would be prioritized.
"If you are looking for the bang for the buck for the least amount of
investment having the greatest impact, I think the New Haven Line and
its branches really have to be a priority," Lavielle said.
Boucher said that it was likely that Malloy's plan to raise the state's
gasoline tax from 25 to 28 cents a gallon to raise money for
transportation projects would likely cause an outcry.
"I saw a lot of good things in his transportation plan, but the gas tax
won't be very popular with the public because we already have one of
the highest gas taxes in the country," Boucher said.
Regional planning groups pushing
for consolidation; Connecticut
River groups think they would fit well if state imposes regionalization
By Jenna Cho Day Staff Writer
11 July 2010
Old Saybrook - If the state decides to consolidate regional planning
groups, two of the agencies centrally located along the Connecticut
River are hoping they'll get to join forces.
The Connecticut River Valley Council of Elected Officials, made up of
leaders of the 17 towns that make up the two agencies - Connecticut
River Estuary Regional Planning Agency and the Midstate Regional
Planning Agency - sent the state Office of Policy and Management a
letter on June 1 affirming an interest in merging.
"We believe that our towns share a common character which creates a
distinctive regional identity," the letter states. "The natural beauty
and cultural history of the valley is highly valued and is a source of
attraction for residents and visitors alike. It is the goal of the
CRVCEO to maintain and enhance their distinct identity, rather than to
evolve in a suburban sprawl pattern outward from existing larger urban
OPM has been tasked with reassessing the boundaries of the state's 15
regional planning groups by 2012. Many believe the end result will be a
mandated consolidation of the groups, similar to the consolidation of
the state's 117 probate courts down to 54.
Old Saybrook First Selectman Michael Pace, who is chairman of the Lower
Connecticut Valley Selectmen's Association, said the 17 towns were
being proactive in suggesting the consolidation of the two agencies.
"We'd like to design what protocols we want for our future," Pace said.
The two agencies would prefer to remain separate but understand that
the state is pushing for more regionalization of services, said Linda
Krause, CRERPA's executive director.
"The argument is that the bigger you are, the more efficient you are,"
Krause said. "I think in lots of places, that's not necessarily the
case. Sometimes you're just bigger."
Connecticut has five regional planning agencies, three councils of
elected officials and seven councils of governments, according to the
Connecticut Association of Regional Planning Organizations' May 13
Geographic Scope of Connecticut's Regional Planning."
The report was issued to, in part, suggest criteria for evaluation of
the planning groups' boundaries, Krause said.
Members of the CRVCEO felt their two agencies should stick together
because the 17 towns have more in common with each other than they do
with the surrounding cities of New Haven, New London and Hartford,
"We call it the space between the places," Krause said. "It's really
its own place. And that's the impetus behind it. They think that if
they are glued onto any other region, they'll kind of get lost."
The letter to OPM was "basically a weigh-in from this area that says,
'Look, when you're looking at boundaries, consider these things,'"
State may consolidate planning agencies
Vinti Singh, Staff Writer
Published: 09:53 p.m., Friday, June 18, 2010
BROOKFIELD -- Connecticut has already regionalized its probate courts
and is urging towns to regionalize their health and EMS departments. In
2011 the state will look into consolidating some of its planning
agencies as well, according to the Office of Policy Management.
To reduce the state budget, the Connecticut Conference of
Municipalities wants to reduce the number of regional planning agencies
from 15 to seven.
The agencies create transportation and growth management plans for
The Danbury area is overseen by the Housatonic Valley Council of
Elected Officials, which recently created plans for a Still River
Greenway in Danbury and a Metro-North rail line extension to New
HVCEO's members are opposed to merging with surrounding agencies.
HVCEO cannot merge with its southern neighbor -- the South Western
Regional Planning Agency in lower Fairfield County -- because the I-95
corridor competes with the I-84 corridor to attract private business,
said HVCEO executive director Jonathan Chew.
The agency cannot merge with its western neighbor -- the Council of
Governments of Central Naugatuck Valley in Waterbury -- because that
group is primarily concerned with downtown traffic improvements, Chew
And it cannot merge with its northern neighbor -- the Litchfield Hills
Council of Elected Officials -- because it is a rural area whose needs
conflict with Danbury's industrial base.
HVCEO members discussed the possibility of consolidation at a meeting
"The tourism districts are a disaster after they regionalized them,"
said New Fairfield First Selectman John Hodge. "Statistics show we're
doing better on our own."
Before the recession hit, the Office of Policy Management planned to do
an in-depth, detailed study to determine new borders for the planning
agencies, according to a HVCEO report.
In 1958 a similar study approved by the General Assembly cost $65,000.
Accounting for inflation, the study would cost $400,000 today, Chew
"Since they have no money, this may be something they try to do cheap
and quick," Chew said, resulting in poorly designed regions.
Contact Vinti Singh at
email@example.com or 203-731-3331.
Exploring Regionalism: Worthy
Task Won't Be Easy
NEW COMMISSION • How can the state help
towns work together?
January 16, 2010
We do not envy state Rep. Brendan
Sharkey his new challenge.
Mr. Sharkey, a Democrat from Hamden,
has been named to head a blue-ribbon commission charged with finding
money-saving efficiencies through regional cooperation. With towns
struggling and the state facing a possible $6 billion deficit by 2013,
sharing of municipal services can and should be a way to economize.
But legislative leaders didn't make
it easy. For one thing, the commission has 45 Democratic legislators
and no Republicans, a needless and counterproductive exercise in
partisanship that GOP leaders have rightly criticized. Also, the
commission will begin its work just two weeks before the 2010
legislative session begins in February. These are not simple issues, so
it is unclear how much can be accomplished this year.
Perhaps the commission, which also
will have town, union, nonprofit and business representatives, should
bring in experts to study different models of metro or regional
government and examine how they might work in Connecticut. Our ancient
and balkanized system of 169 towns would seem to lend itself to more
Or perhaps the state can help towns
do what they have begun to do on their own. For example, Canton
considered merging its police department with the larger departments in
Avon and Simsbury, but was going to have trouble matching higher salary
or benefit levels paid by those towns. What if the state came in with,
say, a three-year grant to make up the difference?
Another tack might be to look at
services performed both by the town and the state, from road
maintenance to economic development, and ask if they can be combined.
There may be more interest in
regional cooperation among towns than at any point in recent memory.
The state Office of Policy and Management held a forum on municipal
shared services Thursday at Central Connecticut State University, and
it drew more than 200 town officials — and
some gubernatorial candidates — from across the state.
Mr. Sharkey, a smart-growth advocate
and co-chairman of the legislature's planning and development
committee, is the right man to give this a try. He spearheaded regional
legislation last year that he would like to build on. If ever there was
a time to challenge the status quo, to put radical ideas on the table,
this is it.
OF PUBLIC INPUT HEARINGS - here is a link to
the almost "Gone With the Wind" - sized document
The State of Connecticut Department of Economic and Community
Development is seeking public input into the development of the State;
2010-2014 Consolidated Plan for Housing and Community
Development, the Citizen Participation Plan, the 2010-2011 annual
Action Plan, and the 2010-2014 State Long Range Housing Plan.
The Consolidated Plan for Housing and Community Development (ConPlan)
and the State Long Range Housing Plan (SLRHP) are Five-Year Strategic
Plans that govern the administration of federal and state funding
appropriated for housing and community development activities. Such
federal funding includes the following programs; HOME Investment
Partnerships (HOME), Small Cities/Community Development Block
Grant(SC/CDBG), Emergency Shelter Grants (ESG), and Housing
Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA). The Action Plan is an
annual implementation plan for the five-year ConPlan. The Citizen
Participation Plan is a process that solicits citizen input and public
review for the ConPlan. Public Hearings on housing and community
development needs in Connecticut communities will be held to solicit
input into the development of the above referenced documents. Hearings
will be held at the following times and locations:
October 5, 2009
October 8, 2009
Hamden Gov. Center
3rd Floor Conference Room
805 Brook St, Bldg. 4 2750 Dixwell
Rocky Hill, Ct
All state residents are invited to attend and provide oral or written
comments on housing and community development needs in Connecticut’s
communities. For copies of former documents, please refer to the
Department of Economic & Community Development’s web site, or the
Written comments may be sent to W. Michael Regan, Community Development
Assistant Administrator, Office of Strategy and Policy, Department of
Economic & Community Development, 505 Hudson Street, Hartford,
CT 06106-7106 or CT.Housing.Plans@ct.gov All comments
received will be addressed in the Public Commentary Sections of the
Department of Economic & Community Development programs are
administered in a nondiscriminatory manner, consistent with equal
employment opportunities, affirmative action, and fair housing
requirements. Questions, concerns, complaints or requests for
information in alternative formats must be directed to the ADA (504)
Coordinator, Irina Baj-Wright from the Department of Administrative
Services, at 860-713-5391. Locations for the public hearings are
Distribution Date: September 17, 2009
South Western CT did already!
TRASH DISPOSAL: Towns Hoping To Dump CRRA,
By JOSH KOVNER, The Hartford Courant
November 15, 2009
Dozens of contracts between individual towns and the state's regional
trash giant are expiring in the next two years, and a group
representing a swath of communities from Hartford to the Litchfield
Hills will take the first step next week to form its own solid-waste
These towns and cities are looking to beat the Connecticut Resources
Recovery Authority's $63- to $69-per-ton fee to dispose of millions of
tons of garbage a year.
They are looking for more direct control — a board made up exclusively
of representatives of member communities, rather than CRRA's mixture of
gubernatorial and legislative appointees.
Forty-two towns and cities have told the Capitol Region Council of
Governments that they are interested in exploring a regional authority
and have sent in $500 each in seed money to start the process of
creating one. The council is expected to approve the expenditure
The action will provide a glimpse of the post-CRRA landscape, the
period, around 2012, when many of the 20-year municipal contracts run
out and communities look for other alliances.
"Towns and cities want to be masters of their own destiny," said Lyle
Wray, executive director of the council of governments. "They want to
save money and respond more quickly to the rapid changes in technology,
such as the recycling of food scraps."
There are 70 communities in the CRRA's Mid-Connecticut Project sending
tons of trash per day to the agency's incinerator and recycling center
in the South Meadows of Hartford.
The council of governments' Jennifer March-Wackers said that the
outreach to towns and cities is continuing and that the council hopes
most or all of the 70 communities will join the new authority. After
the legal work, she said, the next step is to solicit proposals from
waste-disposal firms that want to do business with the new authority.
She said the CRRA would be welcome to compete.
Many town officials have wearied of the CRRA, the agency that lost $220
million in the Enron collapse. Communities had to go to court over fee
increases stemming from the loss.
"The CRRA was formed to help towns dispose of solid waste efficiently,"
said West Hartford Mayor Scott Slifka. "Instead, the relationship over
the years has turned on its head. They dictate terms to the members.
This is a bureaucracy that exists to perpetuate itself."
CRRA spokesman Paul Nonnenmacher said the agency isn't going anywhere
and wants the area's business. He said that there are four
representatives of Mid-Connecticut Project towns on the agency's
11-member board and that the agency has been responsive to new
recycling technologies. He said, for example, that the amount and types
of plastic packaging material accepted at the Hartford recycling plant
has just been significantly expanded.
At the same time, he said, "We expect that towns are going to
investigate options to make sure they get the best price."
"If it's us, great," Nonnenmacher said. "If it's someone else, well,
good for the town. We hope everyone stays, but we're not naive enough
to think we're going to be 70 for 70."
He said he was aware that Mid-Connecticut Project towns are expressing
interest in a CRRA alternative.
"What, are they going to have a 42-member board? See, at some point you
have to have some kind of a republic to represent the member towns,"
"Let us worry about the makeup of our board," said East Hartford Mayor
Melody Currey, adding that appointees would likely represent several
"The point is, we want direct control over our municipal solid waste,"
Currey said. "This is an exciting time."
Copyright © 2009, The Hartford Courant
for Route 7 transit study
By Martin B. Cassidy, Staff Writer
Posted: 09/24/2009 10:00:09 PM EDT
Updated: 09/24/2009 10:00:10 PM EDT
The elected leaders of eight lower Fairfield County municipalities gave
unanimous support Thursday to a fuller study of an unfinished
expressway and other possible projects to make travel easier along the
bustling Route 7 corridor. The vote prompted an exchange of views
among leaders about their support or staunch opposition to the
decades-old concept of a "Super 7" four-lane highway and whether the
long-delayed idea had any merit.
"No city has been affected more by not having a Route 7 expressway than
our town," said Norwalk Mayor Dick Moccia, who favors the project. "I
think we need a statement to keep all the options open."
The project, first proposed in the 1950s, would create a four-lane
highway from Interstate 95 in Norwalk to Interstate 84 in Danbury. The
initial portion of the road was completed from Interstate 95 in Norwalk
to near the Wilton town line. Opposition from environmentalists and
nearby residents has stalled the remainder of the expressway, according
to local officials. A list of prioritized projects, whether it
included the Super 7 expressway or not, should be compiled before
ruling the road out, Weston First Selectman Woody Bliss, chairman of
the group said.
"The point is to look at the infrastructure system and not just Super 7
but the future economic development of this region and enabling workers
to get from where they live to where they work," he said.
The resolution did not specifically ask that the state refrain from
selling 14 state-owned homes and other property in the proposed path of
highway. In July, in a letter to Gov. M. Jodi Rell, state
Transportation Commissioner Joseph Marie touted the benefits of selling
off the state-owned homes in the proposed expressway path, in response
to Rell's request from state department heads for lists of saleable
properties to raise revenue during the state budget crisis.
The Department of Transportation controls more than 890 acres of vacant
land along the right-of-way for the Route 7 expressway, with an
estimated value of $80 million to $150 million, according to the DOT.
Any sale of the land reserved for Super 7 had been barred until passage
last year of a law sponsored by state Sen. Toni Boucher, R-Wilton, a
staunch opponent of the project. At Thursday's meeting, state
Sen. Bob Duff, D-Norwalk, presented the results of a recently conducted
UConn-Stamford survey that says more residents support Super 7 than
The survey included 486 responses, including 164 respondents in Norwalk
and 100 in Danbury, several times the number of responses for towns
like Wilton, Redding and Ridgefield, which showed lower support for the
road, according to the survey. Boucher expressed bafflement at
Duff's effort to spur debate about the expressway and also the survey
"Quite frankly there were practical reasons it wasn't supported
throughout the region," Boucher said of Super 7.
Aside from environmental and economic concerns, Wilton First Selectman
Bill Brennan told members that completion of the Super 7 project, which
is estimated to cost billions, should be permanently shelved, if only
because of state and national budget deficits.
"We should be listening to the people in this country and this state,"
Brennan said. "They want government spending reduced and are alarmed
over the future consequences of runaway national and state debt that
will eventually require higher taxes."
Three residents at the meeting spoke in favor of the Super 7 project
eventually being completed.
"With population growth in this country, the Route 7 Expressway is
something that should eventually be done," Melvin Moore of Darien said.
Last week, members of the Southwestern Regional Metropolitan Planning
Organization met with Marie to discuss the state's long-range plans for
Route 7, and ask that design and other groundwork for another project,
the Route 7/Merritt Parkway interchange, be prioritized, Bliss said.
That project is estimated to cost $156 million. Marie said last
week that he was happy to meet with officials about transportation
priorities, but that only a limited number of larger-scale construction
projects could be funded, given maintenance needs and funding
"The reality is that there are considerably greater needs than
available resources, and we must make sure we are addressing
preservation challenges first," he said. "In other words, we must ask
ourselves if it makes sense to remodel our kitchen when the roof is
SMART GROWTH EMPHASIS IN GROWTH MANAGEMENT PRINCIPLE #2 - and by the
way where is the legend for this map?
Time To Renew The Fight Against Sprawl
5:05 p.m. EST, February 27, 2013
Here in the draft CT State
Plan 2013-2018 is the smoking gun...Growth Management Principle Two -
but wait! How about Growth Management Principles 4 and 5?
n March of 2003, the demographer
Myron Orfield warned that Connecticut, despite its wealth, was not on a
path for healthy growth.
Orfield was the principal author of
"Connecticut Metropatterns — A Regional Agenda for Community and
Prosperity in Connecticut." The study, commissioned by the Archdiocese
of Hartford's Office of Urban Affairs, looked at the state's growth
patterns and found "inequality and sprawl." His findings, hiding in
plain sight, included:
• Geographic stratification
concentrates the state's poor in municipalities — mostly central cities
— that don't have the resources to help them.
• Many smaller cities and older
suburbs, home to nearly half the state's population, also face
significant and growing poverty with weak local tax bases.
•Sprawling development threatens the
state's natural resources and farmland.
•The state's fiscal system pits
local governments against one another in a competition for tax base
that needlessly undermines the character of local communities, wastes
resources, discourages cooperation and increases fiscal disparities.
How little progress we've made in a
decade. How much of what Orfield observed holds the state back today.
The Metropatterns report was one of
many efforts in the middle part of the last decade to stop the
low-density, wasteful development patterns that were eating up
resources, creating traffic congestion, paving over the countryside and
separating the haves and have-nots. There was a blue-ribbon commission,
articles and forums and several new laws promoting smart growth, or
growth in existing town centers and transit corridors.
For all of that, sprawl continues.
The fastest growing towns, with few exceptions (Stamford), are outer
suburbs with available land. Some programs, such as HomeConnecticut
and, especially, the Community Investment Act, have made inroads
against sprawl. The push for transit-oriented development has the
potential to counter sprawl.
There is at least one more card in
the deck. The state's 2013-1018 Conservation and Development Policies
Plan has been completed and sent to the General Assembly for approval.
The plan is excellent; it calls for the kind of smart growth that Myron
Orfield and others urged on the state.
The plan calls for the
revitalization of existing (or currently planned) town centers and
transit corridors, as well as the protection and restoration of
environmental, cultural and historical resources, a broad array of
housing types and better intergovernmental planning (not an area of
The conservation and development
plan is intended to guide the activities of state agencies, and nothing
requires towns, developers or anyone else to follow it. But this year's
plan has a strengthening factor — it urges state agencies to put their
money behind the plan and invest in "priority funding areas" that echo
the principles laid out in the plan. So, for example, when state
agencies buy property or make loans or grants, the money should be
spent in town centers or within a half-mile of transit.
Will the state actually put its
money where its plan is? There is no enforcement mechanism, per se, in
the plan; the tiny planning office in state's Office of Policy and
Management serves in an advisory and coordinating capacity. So, much
depends on the implementation. Here, conservationists and other smart
growth advocates need to be engaged, to make sure agencies follow the
We all know that sprawl despoils the
countryside and creates more traffic. What we may not be aware of is
how expensive it is. The state made massive investments in its urban
infrastructure over the years, and then in the past several decades has
been abandoning it and rebuilding parts of it in the suburbs. It costs
more, and takes more time and energy, to deliver services to a
spread-out area than to a compact one. We complain about the cost of
government in this state, yet we keep running up our own bill.
As the plan points out, a region's
"development potential is highly correlated with its accessibility to
urban-scale infrastructure." We need our cities to work, to be places
where people come together, exchange ideas, start businesses.
Connecticut has invested heavily in everything from wastewater
treatment and transportation to energy generation and broadband access.
We must maintain and leverage these assets and not abandon them.
We had that great burst of energy a
decade ago, and began to get a handle on sprawl. We need to pick up the
Growth" bill passes in 2009, State Plan update to take an extra year.
Rell stresses jobs and housing in new economic strategic plan
By Patricia Daddona
Published on 9/17/2009
A 542-page Economic Strategic Plan for the state marries a sweeping
vision of Connecticut as a “competitive” place to work and live with
detailed proposals for making that happen.
Gov. M. Jodi Rell released the plan produced by Joan McDonald,
commissioner of the state Department of Economic and Community
Development on Wednesday, saying the blueprint would guide state
officials in retaining and growing jobs and investing in the
infrastructure and technology to attract business.
Specific, targeted investments are recommended for housing,
transportation and work force development. The proposal touts
responsible growth, talent and technology, and competitiveness, and
recommends a mix of bureaucratic and funding mechanisms to implement
the plan's vision.
Key proposals include creating a statewide port authority for New
London, New Haven and Bridgeport maritime business and major airports
and launching an “Angel Investor Tax Credit” to reward early
investments in biotechnology, digital media, and information technology
and green technology.
Before the recession hit, DECD held public meetings in 10 cities and
towns to gather feedback from residents, business leaders and lawmakers
on the plan. As the global economic downturn continues to take a toll
on Connecticut families and employers, causing job losses and budget
deficits, DECD plans to hold more public meetings on the plan, Rell
”These economic challenges have made the plan all the more important
even as they have complicated its development,” Rell said in a
The blueprint is intended to cover growth and economic development as
far out as 20 years from now, but it's near-term timeline calls for
action over the next five years.
”Our game plan all along has been to compile as comprehensive a plan as
we could,” said McDonald. “That's why our next step is to get feedback.
Many of the initiatives require legislation. Those that have cost
implications will have to be done as part of the overall budget.”
Setting priorities would follow the public dialogue, she added.
Specific targets for improvement in things like the literacy rate and
commuter rail miles won't be included until the public has had a chance
to further comment on which initiatives might be pursued either
administratively or through the enacting of new laws, the plan states.
Forum In Hartford, Planners Talk About Reshaping State's Future
The Hartford Courant
By DON STACOM
June 1, 2009
Clustering new housing around Connecticut's job centers, transit lines
and existing commercial hubs would significantly cut greenhouse gas
emissions and reduce the cost of infrastructure in the decades ahead,
regional planners said at a forum in Hartford.
Starting from that basic premise, the group Friday exploring possible
approaches to the state's future that ranged from the innocuous, such
as tax incentives for building apartment towers near Union Station, to
the semi-revolutionary — creating a streetcar route from downtown to
the University of Connecticut Medical Center via Farmington Avenue.
"It's about giving people freedom to choose, and preserving long-term
value for our communities," said David Kooris, Connecticut director of
the Regional Plan Association.
Planners throughout the country have debated urban development for
decades, but the conversations have taken on a new urgency in the midst
of the ferocious financial downturn, erratic fuel prices, deepening
concern about global warming and widening dissatisfaction with
relentless suburban sprawl.
Changes in streetscapes, building design and municipal zoning are
necessary, but they don't need to be as jarring as some traditional New
England suburbanites might think, according to speakers at the
Too often, towns impose development rules that discourage efficient
growth and create miles of isolated cul-de-sacs and inaccessible
neighborhoods, creating ever-worsening traffic congestion as people
relocate farther and farther from job centers, downtown commercial
zones, medical offices and mass transit routes, said Patrick Condon, a
professor of landscape architecture at the University of British
He recommended encouraging interconnected streets with good bike and
pedestrian lanes, allowing apartments and multifamily homes and
one-family houses on the same streets, and conserving land by rewarding
Connecticut has relied too long and too hard on sprawling subdivisions
of big-acreage tracts in remote suburbs and semi-rural towns, creating
isolated pockets of low-density development that mass transit can't
reach efficiently, according to several speakers.
Kooris said that with Connecticut's population shifting from
predominantly young and middle-aged families to more elderly, young
couples, single people and one-parent families, the housing market is
undergoing a long-term shift.
"We bet the bank on one-family, detached houses with big yards. The
demographics tell us we need to make our portfolio more robust — the
Connecticut of five or 10 years from now will be demanding a different
product," Kooris said. "But we're not talking about doing away with
established one-family-home neighborhoods, not at all. We're talking
about what we build, where we build, we're talking about tweaking
underperforming strip malls and dead or dying malls, brownfields, dying
Copyright © 2009, The Hartford Courant
SWRPA to see state cut for
By Martin B. Cassidy, STAFF WRITER
Posted: 02/17/2009 08:27:34 PM EST
Regional planning agency directors and local officials say they are
puzzled by Gov. M. Jodi Rell's decision to address the state's budget
deficit by cutting off funding to regional planning agencies at a time
when the state is pursuing more municipal cooperation.
Rell slashed the entire $1 million state contribution to the 15
regional planning agencies, including the South Western Regional
Planning Agency that serves Fairfield County. Meanwhile, the state is
going forward with a $50 million grant program to municipalities to
"What I don't understand is, if your theme is regionalism, why cut a
very critical source of funding that OPM (the state Office of Policy
and Management) has provided for many years?" SWRPA Executive Director
Floyd Lapp said. "If they can afford $50 million to encourage
intermunicipal cooperation, why not leave the $1 million there, and you
have planning on both ends."
If SWRPA and other regional planning organizations find their
effectiveness sidelined by funding cuts, whatever boost in
regionalization funds to Fairfield County could be used unwisely on
projects that don't serve local interests, Lapp said.
Lapp said he plans to reach out to state legislators and top elected
town officials to ask them to fight the budget cut.
The state cut to SWRPA amounts to a little more than $62,000 in
revenue, Lapp said, adding if the $1 million in state funding to SWRPA
"is not restored fully or at least partially, it will have an impact on
our regional planning. We don't expect to be able to ask as much from
towns that are furloughing and laying off people."
While the agency's overall revenue last year was nearly $800,000,
according to the agency's annual report, more than three-quarters of
that funding is for specific transportation projects, Lapp said, and
cannot be used to cover administrative costs. Last year, SWRPA
coordinated the use of about $500,000 in Department of Transportation
funds for projects in Fairfield County.
"Transportation funding cannot cover this large a loss in money for
regional planning," Lapp said.
Farther north, Carl Stephani, executive director of the Central
Connecticut Regional Planning Agency, said his group relies on $60,000
from the Office of Policy and Management to secure matching federal
grants for transportation and environmental studies conducted for its
eight member towns, including Berlin, New Britain, Bristol and Plymouth.
"It makes no sense to me," Stephani said. "We've been very productive
and don't understand why we'd be left out of the loop."
Donna Tommelleo, a spokeswoman for Rell, said the cut was one of many
difficult ones made to balance the state budget. She emphasized that
$50 million was set aside to encourage regionalization.
Tommelleo said agencies can apply for grant money from other sources,
including the federal government, to cover shortfalls.
"This budget has more money for regionalization than any state budget
ever," Tommelleo said. "Every cut has a constituency, and there are a
lot of worthwhile projects and programs that, because of the economy,
didn't get funding."
Lapp said the process of applying for grants for regional planning from
the federal government can be extensive and time-consuming, a task that
could be a hurdle without the state's additional funding.
Some of the state's $50 million designated for the towns could be
allotted for planning organizations, but the governor's proposal
precludes that, Lapp said.
SWRPA, established by the General Assembly in 1962, represents
Stamford, Darien, New Canaan, Wilton, Norwalk, Weston, Greenwich and
Westport. The group handles the federal requirement to establish
regional transportation plans and acts as a professional staff for the
Southwestern Regional Metropolitan Planning Organization, a body made
up of the chief elected officials of the eight towns and cities. It
authorizes spending for transportation projects in the area.
In Connecticut, regional planning agencies have three sources of
revenue: federal highway grants for transportation projects, dues from
member towns and state funding. Salaries and other costs are paid by
dues and state money.
Westport First Selectman Gordon Joseloff said the loss of funding, even
for a year, will derail SWRPA's continuous monitoring of trends in
housing, transportation and environmental issues that affect Fairfield
County towns and cities.
The importance of SWRPA's work is underrated, Joseloff said. "I'm
astounded that we've lost funding for what is the closest thing we have
to a county government, which seems penny wise and pound foolish," he
said. "The MPO meetings are extremely important and are underreported
and not understood."
Joseloff said he also was concerned that the state's $50 million fund
won't be doled out to towns for what they have prioritized. For
example, he said that Westport and Weston currently provide health
services jointly but might be ineligible for funding under the new
guidelines, which require combined health districts to serve a minimum
of 50,000 residents to secure funding.
"We need to see the impact of the cuts," Joseloff said.
Joseph McGee, vice president of public policy for The Business Council
of Fairfield County, said that while the lost funding would be a
drawback, he was excited about the $50 million in grants to encourage
towns to merge services and cooperate.
Sharing information technology and administrative services are two
potential areas where towns could save money by pooling resources,
"This is new ground for Connecticut," he said. "We've cooperated on
some things, but we need to go to the next level and look at the
opportunities, and I think the taxpayers are demanding that government
services be provided more productively."
THE GOVERNOR'S BILL
budget offers chance for change
Published on 2/5/2009
Connecticut taxpayers might want to jump for joy.
because the two-year, $38.4 billion state spending plan proposed by
Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell does something very unusual - it
recommends spending less in 2010 than what is budgeted for in 2009.
What a terrific idea during tough economic times. Under Gov. Rell's
suggested budget, government in the state would become smaller, less
expensive and more efficient.
She has proposed sweeping reforms that would eliminate or consolidate
23 state agencies and commissions, resulting in the elimination of 400
positions. In addition, she recommends abolishing an additional 448
state jobs that are currently not filled. The governor isn't just
saying don't fill them now, she's saying, get rid of them entirely. And
she is looking for concessions from state workers.
Some of what Gov. Rell is proposing will be a hard sell. And some of it
may be unpalatable and unacceptable. But it is the kind of forceful
attack of a difficult problem that is required.
The state's revenues are in a free-fall. Virtually every other business
and industry is reeling and taking steps to cut spending. The state is
not immune. Gov. Rell has proposed reforming government and rethinking
priorities. Her budget message: this is the state's opportunity to
change things for the better. The General Assembly must take up the
There will be resistance. Among those agencies on the elimination list:
the offices of consumer counsel and health care advocate, both watchdog
agencies. And, there is a recommendation to consolidate the state's
existing 117 probate courts to 36 and evenly distribute the workload.
Probate judges would continue to be elected but would have to be
attorneys with at least 10 years of service.
Under Gov. Rell's two-year plan, state aid to municipalities would not
be cut, but additional incentives would be available to cities and
towns that regionalize services.
Noncarbonated water would be part of an expanded bottle bill and
municipalities would be eligible for up to 3.5 cents for every
container recovered through roadside collection. The governor suggested
relief from unfunded mandates for municipalities and advocated for a
two-year delay of a change of jurisdiction for juvenile prisoners that
when implemented will be costly for the state and municipalities.
She is proposing a Civilian Conservation Corps to put the state's
unemployed to work, closing the courthouses in Bristol and Meriden, and
increasing the cost of every single licence, permit and fee issued by
the state, from a fishing license to a driver's license.
The governor's budget plan is chock full of ideas to cut the cost of
government and raise revenues, such as shaving to 4 percent (from 5
percent) the commission paid to store owners who sell lottery tickets,
cutting funding for AIDS services by $3.1 million, and creating a
“middle college system” that would consolidate technical high schools
and community colleges for job training.
There will be critics and cheerleaders. Advocates will lobby to keep
funding intact, agencies operating and state workers employed. And the
taxpayers who have already been hit, those who have lost their jobs and
savings, will push to reduce the cost and scope of state government.
Gov. Rell has certainly provided fodder for both sides.
Day For Smart Growth
LEGISLATIVE PACKAGE • New laws
encourage regional cooperation, saving money and land
January 27, 2009
Progress, the late poet Ogden Nash observed, might have been all right
once, but it has gone on too long. That might describe the state's
postwar rush to suburbia.
Stoked by VA mortgages and cheap cars and gas, development marched
outward. Cities lost population as former villages boomed. But what
boomed was mostly sprawl — ill-planned, low-density, auto-dependent,
single-family residential or strip mall construction on what had been
forest or farmland.
Only belatedly did the citizenry realize that progress has a cost, in
addition to infrastructure and services expenses, air and water
pollution, energy use and social isolation. It diminishes the open
lands that support agriculture, water supplies, wildlife habitat and
the traditional visual character of the Connecticut countryside.
In the past few years, the General Assembly has passed
several bills to discourage sprawl. These have provided some funding as
well as plans and studies. Sweeping legislation proposed on Monday
would vastly increase the state's efforts to grow more compactly and
Under the new proposal, towns would voluntarily form economic
development regions, which would entitle them to federal funds. The
towns would share the revenue from new commercial development rather
than waste time competing with one another. They would engage in
regional collective bargaining, land-use planning, purchasing and other
The legislative package is the result of a year's work by the
bipartisan, public/private Smart Growth Working Group assembled by
state Rep. Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden. The proposed laws place a heavy
emphasis on regional planning and cooperation. Mr. Sharkey and his
colleagues believe that regionalism and other smart-growth measures
will shrink the overall cost of government and make the state more
This is a threshold moment for the state's smart-growth movement. If we
really believe that sprawl is damaging the economy as well as the
scenery, the bills should pass.
A core problem with the present system is that it almost requires
sprawl. Towns have to pay for education and other services, and
virtually the only way they can raise revenue is the property tax. So
the incentive is to develop all available land, whether the development
is appropriate or not.
As an incentive, the state would give the towns a percentage, perhaps 1
percent, of the sales tax collected in the region (though this might
take a year or two to implement).
The proposals also include such things as model smart-growth zoning
regulations (most local zoning codes encourage sprawl), Geographic
Information System mapping and streamlining the state's brownfield
In all, it is the most comprehensive approach to reversing sprawl
that's yet been presented in this state. But note: Connecticut has been
behind the curve on smart growth; many of these measures have been used
successfully elsewhere. For example, Minneapolis and its suburbs have
had a revenue-sharing system in place since the 1970s, and it's worked
Still, it won't be easy to overcome years of distrust between towns and
the state. The way out of that hole is to view state and local
governments as one government, Mr. Sharkey said, and not as competing
With local budgets strained and the state heading for a major deficit,
it is essential to reduce the cost of government. If we the people can
make government more efficient, and save farms, reduce car trips and
clean the air in the bargain, we should.
Rell: Towns Will
Receive Help Planning Affordable Housing
By LORETTA WALDMAN | The
11:35 AM EST, November 11, 2008
The Capitol Region Council of
Governments, a regional planning agency representing Hartford-area
municipalities, has been awarded federal assistance to develop
responsible growth strategies for affordable housing, Gov. M. Jodi Rell
CRCOG will receive direct technical
assistance valued at approximately $45,000 from a team of national
experts organized by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Rell
said. The largest of the state's 15 regional planning agencies, CRCOG
has long been a proponent of the environment, social, and economic
benefits of smart growth and will use the funds to enact "incentive
housing zones" that encourage affordable housing development. CRCOG
requested EPA assistance with technical policy analysis and public
participation processes to develop and promote model smart growth
regulations that include provisions for incentive housing zones in
rural, suburban, and urban areas in the Capitol region.
"This assistance will help Hartford
area towns promote a regional approach for combating sprawl," Rell
said. "By developing zoning regulations based on responsible growth, we
will be able to promote more affordable housing options in the greater
Other communities receiving the
funding are Miami-Dade, Florida and New York City. Connecticut
Communities represented by CRCOG are: Andover, Avon, Bloomfield,
Canton, East Granby, East Hartford, East Windsor, Ellington, Enfield,
Farmington, Glastonbury, Granby, Hartford, Hebron, Manchester,
Marlborough, Newington, Rocky Hill, Simsbury, Somers, South Windsor,
Suffield, Tolland, Vernon, West Hartford, Wethersfield, Windsor and
One of the recommendations to come
out of Rell's Responsible Growth Task Force last year was to develop
models of smart grown zoning regulations that could be used by
Connecticut's municipalities and regional planning organizations.
"If left unchecked, sprawl will
continue to chop up the landscape and impair our ability to remain
economically competitive," she said. "Responsible development ensures
that we protect valuable natural resources at the same time we take
important steps to grow and strengthen our economy."
More information about the
communities receiving EPA smart growth technical assistance: http://www.epa.gov/smartgrowth/sgia2008.htm
Growth Not Easy: Task force provides vision for future Connecticut
By The Day
Published on 2/17/2008
The "Responsible Growth Task Force" recently issued its report to Gov.
M. Jodi Rell and it envisions a state developing far differently in the
future than was the case for the second half of the last century and
the first decade of this one.
For the last four decades development has meant a flight away from the
urban centers. The result is a sprawling suburbia entirely dependent on
the automobile. Developers have built ever-larger homes on ever-larger
building lots, chopping away at farms and woodlands to make way for
Zoning was established in such a way to segment it all - residential
here, commercial over there. No neighborhood stores, no local diners,
So to build, care for and fill their large homes and maintain their
large lots suburban dwellers drive to large shopping centers filled
with big-box megastores. The simplest tasks - taking the kids to Little
League, picking up a few groceries, getting a bite to eat - require
long drives in the car.
Meanwhile, our city centers have suffered, left with empty storefronts,
substandard housing and higher crime rates.
In terms of energy use, pollution, creating a sense of community,
protecting our natural resources, maintaining our agrarian culture, it
has been a time of irresponsible growth.
In its report to the governor the task force encourages reuse and
rehabilitation of existing infrastructure. That means rebuilding
Connecticut's cities. It calls for coordinating housing with the
location of jobs, services and mass transportation.
The task force says Connecticut needs to concentrate development and
stop using up what little open space it has left. It calls for
developing "walkable districts" with a mix of residential, commercial,
educational and recreational services. The panel wants to revitalize
the state's existing village centers.
Such a strategy would protect natural resources, wildlife habitats and
It urges regional planning and regional control of "projects of
regional significance," meaning major projects, which if done right can
promote responsible growth and if done wrong can be detrimental to an
It is a great vision, a necessary vision, but it will be a major task
to get there.
Connecticut does not take well to change. Its governance and property
tax structure is predicated on an every-town-for-itself attitude.
Big-box shopping centers mean tax revenue. Single-family homes on
two-acre lots mean low impact on municipal services, keeping town costs
Conversely, the kind of dense development proposed by smart growth
means more kids in schools, and so higher property taxes. Mixed-used
communities with residential and commercial development are foreign to
the zoning model drilled into the collective consciousness of town
officials for decades. And the idea of towns granting regional control
over major projects planned within their borders? Forget about it.
Real responsible growth will take real change. Reforming the tax system
to end the over-dependence on property-tax revenues. Providing the
financial help and incentives to rebuild the cities and bring people
back to the downtowns. Making mass transit user-friendly. Creating
But changing mindsets may be the biggest challenge. Accepting the
premise that perhaps big homes on big lots and shopping at big-box
stores was not the culmination of cultural advancement after all.
T A S K F O R C E T O
R E P O
R T T O G O V E R N O R
I N O C T O B E R . . .
story of "Responsible Growth" bill signing ceremony in Windsor on
August 2, 2007
of OPM head, legislator on PRI studying regional issues, head of
Transportation Strategy Board, DEP, LWVCT, "1000 Friends..."
and Agriculture Commissioner meet in Windsor (Governor Rell noted that
the Office of Responsible Growth [its head to her right--between LWV
and DEP Dep.Commissioner] had been formed about a year ago by her
Executive Order). The Governor's bill (sHB7090) eventually absorbed some of the concepts
of S.B.1215...at the ceremonial signing some familiar faces!
New Mass Transit
Commissioner (within the D.O.T.) thanks the Governor for taking action
- above; Windsor officials with Governor Rell below.
Station is at one of those on-grade crossings--lots of clanging, red
lights and barriers.
Freight train at the beginning of the ceremony trundles by--no speaking
while that happened! To close the event AMTRAK pulled in!
AN ACT IMPLEMENTING A PROCESS OF
STATE-WIDE RESPONSIBLE GROWTH. This
bill got changed beyond
recognition--some of it just waltzed into sH.B. 7090!
S.B.1215 - the particular section
affecting SWRPA (if the bill
passes)...March 5th Public Hearing at P&D, according to sources.
Sec. 6. Section 8-35a of the general statutes is repealed and
following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective July 1, 2007):
(a) At least once every ten years, each regional planning agency
make a plan of development for its area of operation, showing its
recommendations for the general use of the area including land use,
housing, principal highways and freeways, bridges, airports, parks,
playgrounds, recreational areas, schools, public institutions, public
utilities, agriculture and such other matters as, in the opinion of the
agency, will be beneficial to the area. Any regional plan so developed
shall be based on studies of physical, social, economic and
governmental conditions and trends and shall be designed to promote
with the greatest efficiency and economy the coordinated development of
its area of operation and the general welfare and prosperity of its
people. Such plan may encourage energy-efficient patterns of
development, the use of solar and other renewable forms of energy, and
energy conservation. Such plan shall be designed to promote abatement
of the pollution of the waters and air of the region. The plan shall
include provisions for disaster response and regional purchase of
interoperable equipment and communication devices for first responders.
The regional plan shall identify areas where it is feasible and prudent
(1) to have compact, transit accessible, pedestrian-oriented mixed use
development patterns and land reuse, and (2) to promote such
development patterns and land reuse and shall note any inconsistencies
with the following growth management principles: (A) Redevelopment and
revitalization of regional centers and areas of mixed land uses with
existing or planned physical infrastructure; (B) expansion of housing
opportunities and design choices to accommodate a variety of household
types and needs; (C) concentration of development around transportation
nodes and along major transportation corridors to support the viability
of transportation options and land reuse; (D) conservation and
restoration of the natural environment, cultural and historical
resources and traditional rural lands; (E) protection of environmental
assets critical to public health and safety; and (F) integration of
planning across all levels of government to address issues on a local,
regional and state-wide basis. The plan shall identify measurable
economies of scale for government functions, including, but not limited
to, health districts, planning assistance and interoperable geographic
information system mapping of the region, compatible with the state
geographic information system. The plan of each region contiguous to
Long Island Sound shall be designed to reduce hypoxia, pathogens, toxic
contaminants and floatable debris in Long Island Sound.
(b) The regional planning agency shall prepare and include in
a comprehensive economic development strategy. In developing the
strategy the agency shall:
(1) Evaluate economic development in the region, and shall
review of population, geography, workforce development and employment,
transportation access and resources, environment and any other aspects
of the region's economy the commissioner deems appropriate;
(2) Analyze economic and community development problems and
opportunities in the state, including (A) review of other government
sponsored or supported plans and applicable state and local workforce
investment strategies, and (B) identification of past, present and
projected future economic development investments in the region;
(3) Define economic development problems of the region and
goals and objectives to solve the economic development of such problems;
(4) Provide for community and private sector participation in
implementation of the plan;
(5) List all projects and estimated numbers of jobs to be
(6) Identify and prioritize vital projects, programs and
that address the state's greatest needs or that best enhance the
state's competitiveness and identify sources of funding for past and
potential future investments;
(7) Identify economic clusters that are growing or declining
(8) Propose a plan of action to implement the following goals:
Promoting economic development and opportunity, (B) fostering effective
transportation access, (C) enhancing and protecting the environment,
(D) maximizing the effective development and use of the workforce
consistent with applicable state or local workforce investment
strategy, (E) promoting the use of technology in economic development,
including access to high-speed telecommunications, (F) balancing
resources through sound management of physical development, and (G)
obtaining and utilizing adequate funds and other resources;
(9) List performance measures to evaluate successful development
implementation of the plan, including, but not limited to, (A) the
number of jobs created after implementation of the plan, (B) the number
and types of public and private investments undertaken in the state,
(C) the number of jobs retained, (D) the amount of private section
investment in the state after implementation of the plan, and (E)
changes in the economic environment of the region; and
(10 ) Outline the methodology for integrating the plan with
[(b)] (c) Before adopting the regional plan of development or
thereof or amendment thereto the agency shall hold at least one public
hearing thereon, notice of the time, place and subject of which shall
be given in writing to the chief executive officer and planning
commission, where one exists, of each member town, city or borough.
Notice of the time, place and subject of such hearing shall be
published once in a newspaper having a substantial circulation in the
region. At least sixty-five days before the public hearing the regional
planning agency shall post the plan on the Internet web site of the
agency, if any, and submit the plan to the Secretary of the Office of
Policy and Management for findings in the form of comments and
recommendations. Such findings shall include a review of the plan to
determine if the proposed regional plan of development [is not
inconsistent] conforms with the state plan of conservation and
development the state comprehensive economic development plan. Such
notices shall be given not more than twenty days nor less than ten days
before such hearing. [The regional planning agency shall note on the
record any inconsistency with the state plan of conservation and
development and the reasons for such inconsistency.] Adoption of the
plan or part thereof or amendment thereto shall be made by the
affirmative vote of not less than a majority of the representatives on
the agency. The plan shall be posted on the Internet web site of the
agency, if any, and a copy of the plan or of any amendments thereto,
signed by the chairman of the agency, shall be transmitted to the chief
executive officers, the town, city or borough clerks, as the case may
be, and to planning commissions, if any, in member towns, cities or
boroughs, and to the Secretary of the Office of Policy and Management,
or his designee. The regional planning agency shall notify the
Secretary of the Office of Policy and Management of any inconsistency
with the state plan of conservation and development and the reasons
regional planning agency shall revise the plan of development not more
than three years after July 1, 2005.
[(d)] (e) The regional planning agency shall assist
within its region and state agencies and may assist other public and
private agencies in developing and carrying out any regional plan or
plans of such regional planning agency. The regional planning agency
may provide administrative, management, technical or planning
assistance to municipalities within its region and other public
agencies under such terms as it may determine, provided, prior to
entering into an agreement for assistance to any municipality or other
public agency, the regional planning agency shall have adopted a policy
governing such assistance. The regional planning agency may be
compensated by the municipality or other public agency with which an
agreement for assistance has been made for all or part of the cost of
The South Western Regional
Planning Agency and its Metropolitan
Planning Organization for transportation funding watch over issues of
import to our little part of Connecticut...
Link to a good
group that watches the water issue...
THE REGIONAL PLAN OF CONSERVATION AND DEVELOPMENT
2006-2015 WAS ADOPTED AT THE FEBRUARY 6, 2006 MEETING OF SWRPA:
- News of planning and development
trends in the eight towns making up the Southwestern Region of the
State of Connecticut, as illustrated in aerial mapping by C.L.E.A.R.
SWRPA towns a new perspective;
- Maps from the State of Connecticut Plan
of C&D formed the basis for the new Regional Plan below, and a
water color painting (based upon C.L.E.A.R. aerial photography).
the word in Southwestern CT - so what does this mean? Focus on
transit corridors, especially East-West, connecting the string of
cities/large employment hubs along the way (this website's definition).
- Other communities
in the SWR.
Connecticut's Quality At Stake
Hartford Courant editorial
November 12, 2006
few weeks ago, Gov. M. Jodi Rell went to the Windsor railroad station
to announce a new initiative to battle the sprawling development that
is consuming Connecticut's countryside.
Now that Mrs. Rell is officially at the throttle for the next four
years, it's time for this train to leave the station.
Mrs. Rell issued an executive order creating a new agency, the Office
of Responsible Growth, in 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
This group will then assemble a set of policies to encourage growth in
town centers and along transit corridors, create more transit options
and more transit-oriented development, protect vistas and other natural
resources, and create a better mix of housing choices.
The new office will be headed by Undersecretary W. David Levasseur,
chief of OPM's intergovernmental policy division. A lawyer,
conservationist and former first selectman of Killingworth, Mr.
Levasseur directed the state Plan of Conservation and Development,
which has a definite smart growth bent.
Mr. Levasseur promises to broaden the reach of the steering council to
gain information and advice from other state agencies as well as
municipal, quasi-public, university, nonprofit and private entities. He
likened the relationship to that between the U.N.'s Security Council
and General Assembly.
He's right to make the process as open and inclusive as possible. Many
local officials do not trust the state, to put it bluntly. They have to
be part of the endeavor, and must buy into the notion that responsible
growth is in their best interest. If they don't, the effort will fail.
One of the first tasks of the steering council will be to do an
inventory of the smart growth tools already available in the state.
Although the state was slow to respond to the challenge presented by
low-density exurban development, it has a number of planning and
funding mechanisms - village district legislation, brownfield
remediation, historic tax credits and open space acquisition, among
others - meant to encourage sound development.
Mr. Levasseur said such a survey will tell the council as well as local
officials and developers what is available, what needs to be
coordinated and where the gaps are.
When this is accomplished, the council will face the challenge of
determining where to encourage growth and where to discourage it. This
will take regional planning, a traditional weakness in Connecticut.
Mrs. Rell has said that regional planning cannot usurp local zoning.
That leaves one practical alternative, which is to plan around natural
resources. The state Department of Environmental Protection under
Commissioner Gina McCarthy has moved aggressively to protect water
supplies and other natural resources. The department is updating its
"green plan," through which it identifies which parcels of open space
to target for preservation.
Perhaps this work can be the basis for regional plans that will protect
natural resources and direct growth to the already built areas. There
should also be incentives for communities to increase population
density in certain areas. This is the essence of smart growth.
Smart growth can happen here, but it won't unless Gov. Rell and
legislative leaders work together to make it a top priority. In so
doing, they will be protecting the state's quality of life. That should
not be a partisan concern.
Western Regional Planning Agency ("SWRPA"): Regional_Plan_of
Conservation and Development 2006-2015
of contents for this page:
IMPLEMENTATION OF THE PLAN:
drawn to guide public decision-making. This advisory Plan
contains an overview of how decisions of regional import might be made
by the eight towns in the South Western Region. What questions
should be asked? Who are the participants to be gathered together
to make a decision of regional import? What are the pros and cons
of alternative courses of action?
advances in technology, it is possible to read and/or print out a copy
of the recently adopted Regional Plan for Southwestern Connecticut
(click above). Below is the "Foreword" section, which, in a
nutshell, reflects the policy direction of the Agency. Bound
copies are in public libraries and Town Halls, were distributed to
Planning and Zoning Commissions and Mayors and First Selectmen in the
Region. This Regional Plan has been declared "not inconsistent"
with the CT State Plan of C&D 2005-2010.
In the six
(6) subject chapters in the SWRPA Plan (Land Use, Transportation,
Infrastructure and Critical Facilities, Housing, Natural Resources and
Recreation, and lastly, Emergency Planning and Disaster Relief), there
are approximately 40 specific recommendations for action.
As global warming is accepted as fact, the question of water
supply being adequate rises to the surface...and Google Earth doesn't
have anything on "About Town" (we get our aerial images off the CLEAR
"Aerial Saugatuck" detail of "The Grand Plan" and "Norfield
Easter '07" by Margaret Wirtenberg
FROM THE SOUTHWESTERN CT
Stamford and Norwalk lead the way...
major tenants extend their leases at Merritt 7 Park
By CHRIS BOSAK, Hour Staff Writer
June 13, 2007
NORWALK — Three biggies are staying put in Norwalk.
General Electric Commercial Finance, Eastman Kodak and Siemens have
extended their leases at the Merritt 7 Corporate Park, it was announced
Tuesday by Albert D. Phelps, Inc., the managing and leasing agent for
the six-building office complex.
General Electric also expanded its lease by 7,627 square feet, bringing
its total lease to 348,907 square feet at the complex. GE now occupies
201 Merritt 7 in its entirety and has more than 108,000 square feet in
401 Merritt 7.
According to JoAnn Brennan McGrath, director of leasing for Merritt 7,
the staggered lease renewal dates for GE have all been extended to
2014. The landlord also worked with Kodak to take back some space
company no longer needed without penalty and was therefore able to
retain Kodak for another five years. Kodak leases 48,756 square feet in
"Tenant retention was key for us," McGrath said. "It's important for us
to have that tenant roster. These lease extensions stabilize the
property a lot."
Other companies at Merritt 7 Corporate Park include: FactSet,
Webloyalty, FASB, EMCOR, Marsh, Arch Chemicals, Principal Financial and
Related to the recent lease renewals, the complex also moved its
fitness center and conference facility from building 201 to 301. "They
are updated and more centrally located now," McGrath said.
The fitness center and conference center are now located next to the
newly refurbished dining facility on the plaza level of 301 Merritt 7.
"The timing was very important," McGrath said. "We needed to move
quickly in relocating the property's on-site amenities, in order to
have the additional space built out for General Electric in an
efficient manner. GE was able to expand their occupancy and satisfy
their growth needs."
Siemens renewed its lease for 17,278 square feet in 101 Merritt 7.
"We are delighted that Kodak, GE and Siemens, each valued and long-term
tenants of Merritt 7, have renewed their lease commitments," McGrath
said in a release. "The completion of these three transactions reflects
the landlord's commitment to forging strong tenant relationships and
accommodating space requirements."
Merritt 7 Corporate Park is owned by Merritt 7 Venture, a joint venture
between New York State Teachers' Retirement System (NYSTRS), and
Fairfield Investors Inc.
gets OK to develop West Avenue
ROBERT KOCH, Hour Staff Writer
November 29, 2006
NORWALK — The Common Council last night gave local developer Stanley M.
Seligson his marching orders for redevelopment of West Avenue: Come
back to us by mid-March with an acceptable plan and you may reshape
Norwalk's urban spine with new retail, housing and offices.
On Tuesday night, the council approved designating Stanley M. Seligson
Properties as master developer for Area B of the city's West Avenue
Corridor Redevelopment Plan, and giving Seligson until March 16, 2007
to present the council an acceptable development team and conceptual
If Seligson fails to do so, the city will issue a request for proposals
seeking other developers. Leaving City Hall Tuesday night,
expressed confidence that he will deliver by next March.
"(After) close to 60 meetings, we've listened and changed the plan
dramatically — listening to the neighbors and listening to the
citizens," Seligson said. "We feel we're using the best planners in the
country, and we're in a position with them to be able to address what
I'd like to believe are all the needs of the community. Our goal is to
make this a very, very special project."
The West Avenue Corridor Redevelopment Plan, drafted by the
Redevelopment Agency and approved by the council last June, will serve
as a framework for Seligson to work. It allows for up to 350 new
residential units, 75,000 square feet of office space and 393,174
square feet of new retail space in the core area.
Seligson left City Hall with Douglas T. Adams, his vice president of
development, and planners from Street-Works, the urban design firm
engaged in West Avenue redevelopment. So far, Seligson said he has
presented new concept plans to several neighborhood groups. Aside from
the smaller scale, the new plans leave streets more intact and call for
several small parking garages rather than a single large one, he said.
What Seligson has come up with so far has won over Gordon F. Tully, a
registered architect who vigorously opposed Seligson's earlier designs
for the West Avenue area.
"When Seligson Properties and Street-Works presented the current design
at a recent meeting of the Eastern Norwalk Neighborhood Association, on
which I serve as a board member, the project really took my breath
away. Not only had the major problems been resolved, but a wonderful
and cohesive design had been created," Tully said. "I strongly support
the designation of Stanley M. Seligson Properties as master developer
for the West Avenue Corridor Redevelopment project."
On a nearly unanimous vote, the council approved designating Seligson
the preferred developer. The vote came after comments by the public —
split roughly for and against — and discussion among council members.
Councilman Matthew T. Miklave, chairman of the Planning Committee, gave
five reasons to give Seligson the "first crack" at reshaping West
Avenue: Seligson owns roughly 60 percent of the land in the
redevelopment area, has invested about $12 million in the project, has
demonstrated his development abilities with Lohmann's Plaza and other
projects, and has listened to the public.
And, according to Miklave and others, seeking other developers at this
point would delay the project.
"Putting this out for a request for proposals will delay the process.
This process should move forward as expeditiously as possible," Miklave
said. "If we're going to develop West Avenue, we should do so and get
on with it. If we're not, we should take the cloud of redevelopment off
the property owners and let them get on with the lives and livelihoods."
The potential use of eminent domain, although not at stake Tuesday
night, has prompted property owners in the West Avenue area to oppose
the redevelopment plan and Seligson's designs for the area.
"What bothers me is people are trying to make plans with my property,"
said Keal Evans, owner of European Auto Center Repair Inc. at 539 West
Ave. "Now people are telling me they're going to take my property and
make something else. What's going to happen to me?"
On that point, Mayor Richard A. Moccia indicated that property owners
will be treated fairly.
"There will be relocation efforts made for people living in the area,
so we're not going to be chasing them out of town," Moccia said.
"Property owners there have to be treated with respect."
Councilman William M. Krummel cast the only vote against making
Seligson preferred developer.
"Our American business history has repeatedly shown us that open
competition is the best way to achieved excellence," Krummel said. "I
understand that because of the preferred developer's very large
holdings that there may not be a significant response to an request for
proposals, however, I think that is a necessary risk to take to ensure
that we continue to maintain the principles of open competition."
A forward vision for
CT POST editorial
Article created: 11/10/2005 04:23:18 AM
Plaudits to Rep. Christopher Shays, R-4, for his new "One Coast, One
Future" initiative — in which the congressman hopes to strengthen the
economic ties between the Bridgeport, Norwalk and Stamford communities.
Ideally, "One Coast, One Future" will help spur new jobs and
development opportunities along all of the Southwestern Connecticut
corridor. The initiative is being launched with an initial investment
of $493,322 in federal funds.
"One Coast, One Future" is meant to play into the strengths and
weaknesses of each of the three major coastal communities in Fairfield
County. In practical terms, though, the benefit of this initiative
might be slightly more complex.
After all, Stamford is a major community of business headquarters and
facilities. Norwalk and Bridgeport, on the other hand, have struggled
to find their selling points in convincing major corporations to open
up shop in their cities.
The initiative has already put forth several concrete ideas, such as
building a regional network to create a "Comprehensive Economic
Development Strategy," producing a marketing initiative to increase
cross-regional usage of the region's restaurant and cultural
attractions, and linking wi-fi hotspots to enable seamless connectivity
between housing and employment centers.
While most of that sounds like typical business double-speak, the
overlying concept is what's important here — that it is in the best
interest of Stamford, Norwalk and Bridgeport to work together, rather
than against each other.
And not just in the business world, either. Hopefully, this coalition
will help push forward regional initiatives on the state level and
federal government level, too.
If its communities work together, Fairfield County has nearly limitless
untapped potential. The pieces are all there. Our region just needs the
foresight to help put them together. Shays' vision has helped provide
some of that foresight.
FROM SECTION 3 (effective July 1,
2005) OF P.A.05-205...
(d) Any revision after July 1, 2005,
shall describe the progress towards achievement of the goals and
established in the
previously adopted state plan of
conservation and development and shall identify
(1) areas where it is prudent
(A) to have compact, transit
accessible, pedestrian-oriented mixed-use development patterns and land
(2) priority funding areas designated
under section 5 of this act, and
(B) to promote such development
patterns and land reuse,
(3) corridor management areas on
either side of a limited access highway or a rail line. In designating
corridor management areas, the secretary shall make recommendations that
(A) promote land use and
transportation options to reduce the growth of traffic congestion;
(B) connect infrastructure and other
(C) promote development that minimizes
the cost of new infrastructure facilities and maximizes the use of
infrastructure facilities; and
(D) increase intermunicipal and
State Of Sprawl:
Helter-Skelter Development Is Chewing Up Connecticut's Landscape At An
Appalling Rate And Diminishing Our Quality Of Life In Myriad Ways
Hartford Courant Editorial
October 9, 2005
Tolland and Hartford were going in opposite directions.
Tolland was on a development tear that would add more than 1,000 homes
through 2004. Hartford, on the other hand, began a demolition program
to reduce its inventory of more than 800 abandoned buildings.
The city even considered asking the National Guard to help knock down
buildings, because some of the structures were being used by squatters
and drug addicts. The boom in Tolland and the bust in Hartford are
opposite sides of the same coin: sprawl in Connecticut. In the
post-World War II period, and particularly in
the past two decades, subdivisions and strip malls have pushed through
the inner suburbs to what had been quiet, rural communities - scenic
farming towns or small manufacturing villages that hadn't changed much
in a century or more.
They are changing now. The 2000 census showed dozens of small rural
towns in both the eastern and western parts of Connecticut growing at a
breakneck rate, while population fell in four of the state's five
largest cities. In the eastern part of state, for example, there were
10-year population increases of 33 percent in Colchester; 28 percent in
East Hampton; 24 percent in East Haddam; and 22 percent in Hebron, in a
decade when the state's overall population grew only three percent.
Many of these towns and others have been adding 100 homes or more a
year for several years.
Nearly all of this development is sprawl - ill-planned, low-density,
auto-dependent, single-family residential or strip mall construction on
what was forest or farmland. From 1997 to 2002, the state lost 12
percent of its farmland, nearly 50,000 acres, the highest percentage of
lost farms among the 50 states, according to U.S. Department of
Agriculture data. Much of this development has come without
concurrent population growth.
From 1970 to 2000, according to the Connecticut Metropatterns study by
demographer Myron Orfield, the state's population grew by 12 percent
but the amount of land in residential use increased by 102 percent.
Countless residents have come to see that their towns are at a
crossroads. So is the state. Sprawl may bring the dream houses that
some people want, but it comes at a cost only slowly being appreciated.
Sprawl carries the expense of building new infrastructure and the waste
of the old. It diminishes open lands that support agriculture, water
supplies, wildlife habitat and the traditional visual character of the
Connecticut countryside. It promotes driving and fuel consumption and
increases the cost of services. It isolates poor and senior citizens,
and limits housing variety.
"Sprawl is the most serious environmental problem facing Connecticut,"
said Karl Wagener, executive director of the state's Council on
Environmental Quality. To date, nearly 20 states have mounted
serious anti-sprawl efforts.
Connecticut is just starting. The state has been slow to respond to
this self-inflicted wound.
How Sprawl Happened
In 1950, Connecticut was as generations remembered it: a land of a few
mid-size cities, some smaller ones, and towns and villages in a
countryside full of farms and woods. Hartford had nearly 180,000
people. Downtown streets in the capital
were crowded; people shopped at G. Fox and bopped at the State
Theater. But change was coming. Over the next half-century, the
city would lose
nearly 60,000 residents, and the towns in the country would boom.
Americans had been pushing out to settle the countryside since the
Colonial era. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, "streetcar
suburbs" such as West Hartford and Wethersfield began to radiate from
core cities. But the real explosion in suburbanization came in the
confident days after World War II. In just seven years, from 1946 to
1953, banks provided mortgages for 10 million new homes across the
country. Huge subdivisions the size of cities were built along new
roads and highways. The new suburbs were celebrated by the new
entertainment medium, television, in comedies such as "Ozzie and
Harriet" and "Leave It To Beaver."
The reasons for the suburban explosion are plentiful: from the
completion of the AC electrical grid and the rise of a consumer culture
to racism and an anti-urban bias. The real estate and construction
industries had grown strong enough to influence public policy - in the
1920s, they successfully lobbied Congress for a tax deduction on home
mortgage interest, according to Yale University Professor Dolores
Hayden, author of "Building Suburbia."
But the major factor, the sine qua non of sprawl, was the growing
availability of cheap cars and cheap gas. Nothing changed the American
landscape like the automobile, because once free of the need for
fixed-path transit, development could go anywhere. As the car culture
developed, the highway lobby gained the muscle to get its way.
Of the many factors that pushed and pulled people helter-skelter into
the suburbs and exurbs of Connecticut, some are still at work, causing
sprawl today. They are:
Government policies. Many
Connecticut residents who moved to the
suburbs, especially in the 1950s, came from the cities. Many doubtless
wanted a suburban Cape Cod-style house with a lawn. But even those who
might have stayed in the city were discouraged from doing so.
In the 1930s, banking reforms made it easier for middle-class workers
to afford new homes, but government policy virtually assured that those
homes would be in the suburbs. The Home Owners Loan Corp., a New Deal
program created to stabilize the real estate industry by refinancing
mortgages, shamelessly "redlined" urban working-class and ethnic
neighborhoods, making it difficult for potential homeowners to buy in
cities. The Federal Housing Authority followed this lead.
After World War II, millions of Americans took advantage of FHA and
Veterans Administration mortgages to move to the suburbs. The federal
government and the states provided the means to get there when they
constructed the interstate highway system at the behest of the powerful
highway and automotive industries. These highways were often built
right through cities, as I-84 and I-91 were in Hartford, fragmenting
them and demolishing historic buildings and urban neighborhoods.
Also, tax incentives, such as the 1950s rule on "accelerated
depreciation," encouraged the building of suburban malls at the expense
of traditional downtowns.
While the federal government was subsidizing single-family homes in the
suburbs, it was building housing projects in cities. These eventually
became home to the very poor, increasing the pattern of racial and
economic segregation that is characteristic of sprawl.
Also, newly adopted zoning laws worked against the
best interests of cities. The separation of uses - forcing industrial
or commercial districts away from residential districts - sometimes
went too far and made once-vibrant urban neighborhoods sterile and
uninteresting. At the same time, many suburban subdivisions were built
before towns passed zoning laws.
Finally, state government in Connecticut aided sprawl by moving state
workers out of Hartford offices to suburban office parks in Rocky Hill
Today, despite a growing concern over the effects of sprawl, government
continues to subsidize it, building roads, schools and infrastructure
in the hinterlands.
Poor planning. Although
the forces pushing and pulling people out
of cities made some growth inevitable, it didn't have to be as chaotic
as it has been. It could have been planned, if the state had any
meaningful land-use planning. Alas, there isn't much beyond site
planning. Nearly all land-use decisions in the state are made on the
local level, giving Connecticut 169 approaches to land use.
Locally, especially in small towns most recently hit by sprawl,
planning is iffy. In some cases, a town's plan of conservation and
development isn't consistent with the zoning map, or isn't updated
every decade, as state law requires. Some towns don't have town
planners, some have outdated zoning codes; three small Connecticut
towns - Eastford, Bethlehem and Sterling - still do not have zoning.
Connecticut has had regional planning since before World War II, but
the regional planning agencies have no statutory authority to review or
alter local plans or even to make their own plans. The current regional
plans are essentially compilations of local plans. Without regional
standards, natural features such as forests or ridgelines may be
protected in one town but developed in the next.
The one comprehensive plan that's available is the Conservation and
Development Policies Plan, published every five years by the state
Office of Policy and Management. The 2005-10 plan offers a
growth-management strategy that balances economic growth with
conservation of the environment. The problem is that no one but
state agencies has to follow it. Its
authority has been narrowly limited to telling state agencies where
they should or shouldn't build or expand. If towns followed the plan,
we'd be attacking sprawl.
The state took a baby step this year when the legislature passed a law
requiring that local planners consider whether their plans are
consistent with regional and state plans of conservation and
Tax structure. The Connecticut Metropatterns Report, the Blue
Ribbon Commission on Property Tax Burdens and Smart Growth Incentives,
and other studies all reach the same conclusion: Connecticut towns are
so heavily reliant on the property tax that they make bad land-use
decisions to compete for property tax revenue.
For example, Canton had been growing quickly, but was still one of the
smallest towns with a self-contained school system. As its population
grew, so did the school budget. So a few years ago, the town abetted
the sale of a lovely golf course on Route 44 for a shopping mall and
didn't act to protect a historic site across Route 44, a seven-acre
farmstead settled by the founder of the town in 1796, now also ticketed
for commercial development. Town officials said they needed the
property tax revenue.
So do other towns that practice what is called "fiscal zoning,"
land-use policies designed to grow the grand list, often at the expense
of orderly development. Many towns opt for expensive homes on large
lots to generate more tax revenue. "Active adult" developments without
children are also becoming more popular.
"Our tax system, which is over-dependent on property taxes, virtually
mandates that communities zone in tax and sprawl generators, such as
shopping strips and office parks, and zone out all but expensive,
large-lot housing," said Robert Yaro of New Canaan, head of the
Regional Plan Association, who has done two studies of sprawl in
What's Wrong With Sprawl
It would be wrong to say that the postwar movement to the suburbs was a
bad thing, because for countless Connecticut families it wasn't. People
from Hartford or New Haven who moved to Tolland or Guilford bought
houses, made friends, raised families and got involved in their
communities. But the continual, relentless development of once-rural
areas has an economic, environmental and social cost. The costs of
Waste and expense. Hartford has an extensive system of roads,
sewers and other infrastructure. To rebuild it in the suburbs is
inherently wasteful. Because suburbs spread out, it's more expensive to
build and maintain infrastructure and deliver services there.
A study of sprawl in Pennsylvania, done in 2000 for the advocacy group
10,000 Friends of Pennsylvania, found that towns spend up to $120
million a year more than they would if more compact forms of
development were used. Avoiding sprawl can save up to 25 percent of the
cost of building roads, utilities and schools.
A study the same year, commissioned by Grow Smart Rhode Island, found
that if the state stayed on its course of sprawl, taxpayers would
shoulder a $1.5 billion burden in the next 20 years. Half that expense
would be for lost tax revenue in decaying urban centers, and 30 percent
would be for building and maintaining extra infrastructure.
consumption of land. From 1988 to 2002, Connecticut lost 100,000
acres of farmland and 300,000 acres of forested land to development,
according to a 2002 study by the Harvard Graduate School of Design
titled "Promoting Smart Growth in Connecticut." Only about 11 percent
of the state's land is still in active agricultural use, and the
percentage is dropping by 2 percent a year, twice the national average.
A study by the University of Connecticut's Center for Land Use
Education and Research, covering 1985 to 2002, found the state is
losing an average of 18 acres of forest per day and adding 12 acres of
buildings, parking lots and roads.
If this continues unabated, the consequences are
almost unthinkable. Most of the state will be an undifferentiated
mishmash of subdivisions and malls. Much of today's privately owned
woodland will be gone, few farms will be left and the Connecticut
landscape, which has inspired residents and visitors for centuries,
will be compromised. And once it's gone, it isn't coming back.
More driving. That means more congestion, lost time, pollution
energy use. With development stretching farther from urban centers, the
median commuting time in Connecticut increased 16 percent, to 24
minutes, from 1990 to 2000, according to the Harvard study. The number
of "vehicle miles traveled" on local roads increased 46 percent from
1986 to 1995, according to the Regional Plan Association. Most sprawl
settlers have to drive because low-density, spread-out development
discourages the use of transit. Fully 80 percent of the state's 1.6
million workers drive to work alone.
Traffic congestion on I-95 has gotten so bad that it inhibits the flow
of goods by truck, which led consultant Michael Gallis to opine that
unless congestion is abated, the state will become an economic
cul-de-sac. That report was issued seven years ago. Since then, traffic
has gotten worse.
An increase in air and water pollution. Although it has improved
somewhat in the past 20 years, Connecticut's air quality is still worse
than most other states, and motor vehicles are a major cause. Cars,
SUVs and other light trucks emit more than 40 percent of airborne toxic
chemicals, according to the Connecticut Fund for the Environment.
Sprawl also challenges the quality of streams and rivers, because of
the loss of vegetation and increase in paved surfaces. "In Connecticut,
more miles of river are impaired by pollution from the land that goes
into runoff and storm sewers than by industrial and municipal pipe
discharges combined," according to the 2004 annual report of the state
Council on Environmental Quality.
Though it has received little publicity, the most serious environmental
aspect of sprawl may be to the water supply. The legislative Blue
Ribbon Commission on Property Tax Burdens and Smart Growth Incentives
said that sprawl may "overtax water supplies, aquifers and delivery
Lower housing production. Douglas I. Foy, Massachusetts'
of Commonwealth development and former head of the national
Conservation Law Foundation, said sprawl largely limited housing
production in his state to "McMansions," large houses on large suburban
lots. The result was many fewer units than could have been built in
more compact design, and a shortage of affordable housing.
Connecticut followed a similar path to a similar bind. A blue ribbon
commission said five years ago that the state was short 68,000 units of
affordable housing. Since then, the price of housing has increased 60
to 80 percent, while wages have gone up 13 to 15 percent. With the
price of land continually bid up, it has become uneconomical for
developers to build affordable housing. McMansions on suburban
greenfields are the easiest and most profitable homes to build, and so
they continue to be built.
Many believe the lack of affordable housing is a main reason for the
anemic growth of the state's workforce. From 1995 to 2000, the state's
workforce grew by only 0.2 percent, while New York's increased by 6.3
The legislature took a significant step toward solving the affordable
housing crisis this year when it created a $100 million fund. Where and
how the money will be used remains to be decided.
Obesity and other health problems. An extensive Rand Corp. study
released last year, using data from more than 8,600 people in 38
metropolitan areas, found that those who lived in compact, walkable
communities were less likely to report chronic health problems such as
obesity, abdominal and digestive problems, migraines and arthritis than
people who lived in sprawl suburbs. Researchers believe the result is
mostly related to exercise, or lack thereof.
Social isolation. The first wave of young couples who moved to
suburbs after World War II are now, if they are still in the earthly
choir, well into their 70s or 80s. As they become unable to drive, they
become isolated. Many seek a place with services and amenities within
walking distance. These needs won't be met if we continue to build only
At the same time, the pull of middle-class people out of cities has
left the very poor behind. The loss of middle-class role models and
community leadership, along with the loss of manufacturing jobs that
cities such as Hartford and Bridgeport could once offer, has
exacerbated the problems of drugs, violence, teen pregnancy and other
pathologies that make it so difficult to revive the urban areas.
For all of this, Connecticut is still a desirable place to live. But it
won't be if sprawl continues unabated. It's time to do something about
What To Do
When it comes to battling sprawl, Oregon was way ahead of the
other states. In 1979, environmentalists teamed with Republican Gov.
Tom McCall to create urban growth boundaries around the state's urban
areas. Though a few other states have followed the Oregon model, the
idea of government-mandated growth limits is highly controversial, even
in Oregon, and a tough political sell.
In the past decade, a dozen states have taken a different tack and
offered incentives for towns and regions to implement "smart growth"
measures that would channel development into town centers and transit
corridors. This approach is sometimes known as the "Maryland model"
because it was pioneered by Gov. Parris M. Glendening in the 1990s.
Connecticut has yet to embrace either model. Though it's been
obvious for years that poorly planned, low-density development was
devouring the countryside, the state has been slow to react. Gov. John
G. Rowland, first elected in 1994, was interested in large capital
projects in cities. He did champion an open-space acquisition program
in 1999, when the state was last in the nation in acquiring open land,
but never developed a comprehensive program to confront the reasons
open space was being lost.
Nor has anyone else. Despite the efforts of a
small coterie of interested legislators in the past decade, few bills
have been passed. The handful of new tools these bills made available -
zoning protection for village districts, rural cluster development,
multi-town planning, revenue sharing actions - have rarely been used.
This year, the legislature put money into smart growth when it passed a
bill to create a permanent fund to conserve farmland and open space,
preserve historic buildings and construct affordable housing through a
$30 filing fee on real estate transactions. Another law encourages -
but doesn't require - officials to make local, regional and state plans
of conservation and development consistent with one another. That tepid
law also asks towns to identify areas where "transit accessible,
pedestrian-oriented mixed use development" might be built.
These are preliminary steps toward an incentive-based
anti-sprawl program. But Connecticut still has a long way to go to
reverse its decades-long pattern of poorly planned, helter-skelter
development. If it's to happen, there must be changes at both the local
and state levels. There are land-use groups in many towns, and a new
statewide organization called 1,000 Friends of Connecticut, pushing for
change. But history tells us that nothing will happen without the
leadership of the governor.
In each of the states that have embraced some kind of growth-management
program, it was the governor's baby. Democrats such as Mr. Glendening,
Janet Napolitano of Arizona and Jennifer Granholm of Michigan and
Republicans such as Jeb Bush of Florida, Mitt Romney of Massachusetts
and Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania all led the fights to control sprawl in
If Connecticut is to get a handle on growth, Gov. M. Jodi Rell or her
successor must take the lead, articulate the vision and make it a top
priority. This is the threshold step. Beyond that, the governor and
other state leaders should:
Continue the educational programs begun by groups such as the
CenterEdge Coalition, a Connecticut group that has held scores of
meetings to publicize the findings of the Connecticut Metropatterns
Report. That report says that the state's pattern of development has
led to economic stagnation and social isolation.
Do a build-out study. Sprawl is a slow-motion crisis. People
to understand its implications to support change. One major step, as
recommended by the Blue Ribbon Commission on Property Tax Burdens and
Smart Growth Incentives, would be a "build-out" study showing what the
state would look like if development patterns continue. This should
provide a ghost-of-Christmas-yet-to-come glimpse at what Connecticut
will look like if present development patterns continue.
Create meaningful incentives. If the state chooses to follow the
"Maryland model" - though the Oregon growth-boundary plan shouldn't be
dismissed out of hand - the governor and lawmakers should then create a
series of incentives that would encourage development in town centers,
employment areas and at transit stops. The incentives could be grants,
loans, tax breaks or some form of zoning override. There should be an
incentive for towns to make their plans of conservation and development
consistent with the state's plan.
Also, the state should focus on preserving historic assets such as
19th-century factory buildings, entire mill villages, well-preserved
fishing harbors and heritage roadways. Most of the state's highway
infrastructure spending should be used to repair existing roads and
In short, the state's money would go into the built areas. There would
be no more subsidy for sprawl.
Change the tax system. Everyone who studies this issue reaches
conclusion that the state's heavy emphasis on property taxes to pay for
municipal government leads to poor and ultimately self-defeating
land-use decisions. Towns give up beautiful green space to jam in big
box stores simply because they need the tax revenue. Some spending -
most likely in education - ought to be shifted to other taxes, as
Michigan, Texas and some otherstates are doing. We need to do something
different. One radical idea is to have the state collect all business
and commercial property taxes and return the money to the towns as
Make a real investment in transit and transit-oriented
development. Gov. Rell was rightly applauded for committing $1.2
billion to transportation. But that was mostly to upgrade the existing
system, which is inadequate. Connecticut has to bite the bullet and
make a real investment in transportation. Gov. Romney of Massachusetts
just committed $31 billion to transportation over 20 years, nearly half
of which is earmarked for mass transit.
When the I-84 project in the Waterbury area is finished, and the I-95
widening east of Branford is concluded, the state's highway system will
be essentially completed. It's already congested. To stave off
gridlock, we must shift people onto trains and buses.
One way to achieve that goal is population density near the stations.
People living near train and bus stations lessen the need for more cars
and highway lanes and draw development away from rural greenfields. For
example, nearly every suburban stop of the Washington, D.C., Metro has
become a pod of housing, stores and offices. One way to make this
happen in Connecticut would be to earmark the $100 million affordable
housing fund for transit-oriented development.
The governor may want to create a super-agency that oversees
transportation, planning and all other aspects of development, as
Massachusetts has done. Short of that, a reorganization of the state
Department of Transportation might temper the department's tendency to
solve the state's transportation woes by widening the highways.
Strengthen the cities and inner suburbs. As should be obvious,
cities and inner suburbs are strong and healthy, people are more likely
to live there and not join the sprawl parade. State leaders need to
look for opportunities to strengthen these core areas. In recent years,
for example, inner-ring suburbs have been penalized by the state's
school funding formula. That shouldn't be. If the West Hartfords and
West Havens don't thrive, there will invariably be more pressure on the
small towns farther away from the cities.
Study regionalism. People in Connecticut aren't wastrels, as a
rule. The costs of municipal government continue their steep climb. If
some services can be provided more efficiently and inexpensively on a
regional basis, people will listen. It makes sense to have stronger
regional planning, and to give regional planning agencies real
authority. Regional revenue sharing, as practiced in Minneapolis,
Pittsburgh and some other cities, may solve some problems for
Connecticut. The governor ought to empanel a study that would answer
Help the towns. Hartford lawyer Dwight Merriam, a nationally
recognized expert in land-use law, said the state should increase its
planning capacity and have a "sprawl-buster" office that helps towns
plan and manage growth. The state could offer such things as model
zoning and subdivision codes, Geographic Information Systems services
and planning assistance to towns that don't have planners.
On The Local Level
While the state wrestles with the big picture, sprawl actually happens
on the local level, one public hearing at a time. Since nearly all
land-use decisions in Connecticut are made at the local level, town
officials can stop sprawl if they work at it.
Start with planning. Towns are supposed to update their plans of
conservation and development every 10 years. Some aren't particularly
assiduous about it. East Hampton's plan was last published in 1989,
using some 1980 data. While a new plan is in the works, the town is
being overrun with development, with almost 1,100 new homes either
finished or in the pipeline from 1998 through 2004. In some instances,
town plans are not consistent with local zoning. In others, zoning
codes are outdated.
Thomas Byrne of the Connecticut Federation of Planning and Zoning
Agencies says towns should update their plans all the time, not every
10 years. "Make decisions on what you want your town to look like, what
kind of development you want and where you want it," he said. Then make
zoning consistent with planning.
Plan the development for the developer. When towns are able to
control some or all of the land in a deal, they begin to set parameters
for development and offer incentives to developers who'll sign on to
build the project. This is known as "getting the developer to eat the
carrot." The Blue Back Square project in West Hartford is a variation
of this idea. There, the town offered to sell some of its land, plus
provide help in bonding, to a developer who would buy an adjacent tract
for mixed-use development in West Hartford Center.
Examine the effect of local zoning. Some towns use large lot,
to 3-acre zoning in the belief that it reduces sprawl, when in fact it
actually encourages more development. The lots are too small for
anything besides homes, and a developer needs more land to build a
certain number of houses to make a profit.
Educate members of land-use boards. In most towns, members of
land-use boards are volunteers from all walks of life. While many gain
experience on the job, and sometimes ask consultants for assistance,
they can be overmatched by teams of high-powered lawyers, architects,
engineers and consultants that big developers can assemble. Obviously,
the better trained the board members are, the better job the board will
This list is not meant to be exclusive. The private sector, for
example, can also play a major role in fighting sprawl by building the
kind of compact, walkable, mixed-use developments that are both lively
and easy on the environment. Land trusts and other local groups are
seeking to buy and preserve important parcels.
Sprawl is the most serious challenge facing the state.
leaders can address it, and manage the state's growth smartly and
sensibly, if they have the imagination and the political will.
To that end, this page will continue to highlight sprawl issues. We
will ask all candidates for governor to explain how they will attack
the sprawl problem if elected. Sprawl must be a centerpiece of the 2006
campaign. We'd like to hear your thoughts as well.
- Hartford Courant
Regional Cooperation Is Imperative
January 2, 2005
cities and towns are
slowly but inexorably being drawn into regional relationships that if
exploited can help bring property taxes under control, end wanton
of open space and encourage better mass transportation systems.
officials are preparing budgets
for what will undoubtedly be another difficult fiscal year. State aid
schools and other grants are not likely to rise this year, which will
more pressure on property taxes.
local officials have few choices
when seeking revenue, they can make their problems known to their
and push for action that will force the state to live up to a promise
an average 50 percent funding for public school education from
through high school. Sending more state money to the towns for special
education expenses is also critical.
meaningful changes in the
way municipalities pay their bills, they will continue the
of the landscape that makes them desirable. Canton, for example, lost
centerpiece of green space on Route 44 as the lure of tax revenue from
big-box stores meant digging up a golf course and surrounding property.
chains seem determined to
provide town after town with a cluster of look-alike department and
improvement stores that they built the year before just a few miles
Studies and forums have decried the trend for decades, but without the
will to make change, commercial and retail developments will be built
major roadways until they form continuous eyesore strips interrupted by
small areas with trees.
municipalities have inadequate
planning and zoning regulations. A proposal to raze the small East
Mall and replace it with a super-sized supermarket resulted in a
but poorly conceived piece of state legislation, which was passed in
last year. The new law prohibited developments of more than 12,000
feet within 2,000 feet of a lake of 500 acres or more. While aimed at
proposal, the new law affects other buildings in East Hampton and in
municipalities. Using such narrow legislation instead of good planning
and zoning is an indication of the patchwork approach to growth in the
Hampton is likely to end up
in court over the supermarket proposal. Town residents and officials
to be finally paying proper attention to getting the town's plan of
updated and to other ways of controlling growth. Officials in many
have the same kind of work to accomplish before they are faced with
but inappropriate development.
officials should also work
toward forging regional relationships so that development of
residential and industrial areas is done with an eye to what's best for
all the cities and towns in a region. Lyle Wray, executive director of
the Capital Region Council of Governments, is advocating a regional
center for reviewing developments. The center would work to make
or planned developments complement each other and link them to mass
systems. If dependence on property taxes can be lessened, such planning
will allow municipalities to, in effect, share regional shopping
or industrial areas and leave more of the state's appealing landscape
one of the shoreline's last
and largest tracts of land from development should be a primary
of residents in Old Saybrook, Westbrook and Essex. Called The Preserve,
the 1,000-acre forested parcel forms the watershed for the Oyster River
and is home to several species of plants that are considered endangered
or causes for concern. Buying this land from River Sound Development,
plans to build 248 homes and an 18-hole golf course, should be a
State officials who have expressed a desire to help protect The
should act before it is too late.
shoreline challenge is getting
towns near Long Island Sound to address septic problems. A state law
last year allows towns more flexibility in finding creative solutions
handling waste - beyond sewage lines and treatment plants once sought
the state Department of Environmental Protection. Now that the towns
the flexibility they sought, they need to clean up the problems.
recently joined New Haven
as the second municipality to embrace a new energy future by making a
to purchase 20 percent of the town's power from clean sources by 2010.
Power generated by wind, solar and hydropower can help reduce
on oil and natural gas. It also helps reduce air pollution. The cost of
buying clean energy may be more at first, but the long-term rewards are
worth the expense. It's an opportunity for all of Connecticut's
to take meaningful action on a global concern.
initiatives can have positive
regional effects. Manchester, for example, should settle on a site for
a downtown bus station that would be on the line of the proposed busway
running east from Hartford. A site decision would help clear the way
the transit system to operate.
taken too long to get busways
around Hartford underway. A proposed route from Hartford to New Britain
appears to be bumping along, but more signs of tangible progress this
would be welcome.
Windsor and Manchester need
not hesitate to get started on creating a shuttle bus route to serve
Buckland commercial maze. New stores and other development make
efforts to reduce vehicle traffic in this already over-congested area.
Transit planning around major developments should be an automatic
concern and initiated before any additional construction begins.
mall owners should drop
their lawsuit aimed at blocking construction of Blue Back Square in
Hartford Center. The innovative and thoughtful redevelopment of several
moribund blocks will add to the vitality of the center. With
marketing, Westfarms and Blue Back could complement each other and
together as a regional shopping attraction.
a related point, West Hartford
officials should work to create an enforceable neighborhood design
for the Elmwood section to protect it from ill-fitting development.
neighborhood activists have strong ideas about Elmwood's growth and
be involved in discussions of its future.
number of local issues will have
regional effects and could use a boost in the new year.
that the attention of the owners
of the Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam has turned back to putting
an additional theater in town rather than shifting up the Connecticut
to Middletown, efforts should be redoubled to get started on the
A new theater will allow for more ambitious theatrical productions, but
opening a second venue should not mean leaving the restored, historic
house dark. The magnificent riverfront building is a signature landmark
that benefits from the vitality of use.
momentum going for the redevelopment
of Rentschler Field in East Hartford means generating important revenue
for the town and expanding the job base for the region.
Windsor has a chance to make
a regional connection by building hiking and bicycling trails to link
to similar routes in Manchester and Vernon. A trail near the Evergreen
Walk shopping center would be a good place to begin.
and renovation top the list
of jobs to do in many municipalities, along with efforts to make new
blend in with the old. Ellington has a chance to get control of such
by making its ad hoc design review board a permanent commission.
can get on the same track by continuing work to make its downtown more
attractive to businesses. Bristol could benefit from taking a
look at the proposals for revitalizing downtown along with an overdue
to refurbish its beautiful city parks.
buildings that need to be renovated
or simply put to a good use offer opportunities in many municipalities.
Enfield officials should focus on finding a new role for the old senior
center. Manchester has dawdled too long over making a decision on the
of Bennet Middle School. Glastonbury has let another year pass without
finding a purpose for the vacant Academy School. Vernon must finish the
renovation work on its town hall.
should install lights
at Cottone Field so that working parents can get to see more of their
games. Careful installation can reduce the effect on the neighborhood
minimize disruption for nearby residents. And how about finally getting
serious about improving the hideous appearance of Silas Deane Highway?
In Simsbury, it's time neighbors of the Metacon Gun Club reached an
over use of the firing range. The 50-year-old club appears to be on
legal ground to operate with proper safety procedures and a strong
and towns in Connecticut will
not flourish by pursuing separate goals. Their hope is in developing
ties that transcend borders. Only by pulling together to push for less
reliance on property taxes and for coherent regional land-use policies
will towns be able to maintain services while leaving a legacy of
open space and with intelligent development.
a state where home rule is cherished
to a fault, local independence may ironically rely in large part on a
to join with other municipalities to solve vexing property-tax-driven
such as sprawl and pressure to cut school budgets even as student
increases. Regional cooperation requires strong local leaders willing
look for new ways to operate.
down the same rutted paths
that, in some cases, were carved decades ago will have a predictable
result. Finding practical, common- sense solutions to nagging and
problems will in many cases involve going beyond a municipality's
Monroe may bail from health
council set to vote
By TONY SPINELLI firstname.lastname@example.org
Article Launched:12/02/2006 07:34:56 AM EST
MONROE — The Town Council may vote soon to pull out of the
Trumbull-Monroe Health District, which some officials say is
shortchanging the town with poor communication and weak
representation. The council is scheduled to vote on the prospect
of leaving the health district when it meets at 8 p.m. Dec. 11 in Town
"Communication has been horrible," council member Steve Rugh said of
the health agency. He said he is leaning in favor of pulling out, but
will make a final decision based on what is the best choice for the
citizens of Monroe.
Questions about communication problems between health district
officials and town officials were hashed out at a joint meeting in
No serious problems have arisen since then, said Enid Lipeles,
chairwoman of the council, but council members have been discussing
among themselves that perhaps Monroe would be better off hiring its own
"We want to decide Dec. 11 because we have to give them six months'
notice if we are leaving," Lipeles said.
The Trumbull-Monroe Health District was established two years ago.
If Monroe leaves the district, Trumbull would be in a predicament, said
Trumbull First Selectman Raymond Baldwin.
"No, Trumbull is absolutely not interested in leaving the health
district, so it does put us in a bit of a dilemma," he said. "I hope
the Monroe Town Council will consider staying in the district. There
are concerns they have; we have them as well. But I don't want to throw
the baby out with the bath water."
Trumbull also would be forced to hire its own health staff, Baldwin
said, if the regional agency were dissolved.
"You need at least two" towns to establish a regional district, said
Dr. Larry Dinkes of Trumbull, the chairman of the health district.
He said the agency has responded to all requests from Monroe and
Trumbull, despite concerns there was a communication breakdown.
Earlier this year, Monroe council members became alarmed when they saw
a newspaper article about how health district officials were
considering closing the Monroe branch office, though no one consulted
them. Town Council members said they want to be kept better informed
about such developments. The office closing did not occur, but
communication was lacking, they said. Some council members also
expressed concern over whether the town is getting good dollar value
for the services it receives.
Trumbull officials said they have similar questions.
In the current fiscal year, Trumbull paid $191,000 and Monroe
contributed $107,000 to the district for health services, including
mosquito control, restaurant inspections, hair and nail salon
inspections and well water tests.
The remainder of the district's $561,000 budget this year is funded by
the state, several grants and fees.
Judy Wrenn, the health director, could not be reached Friday for
The agency has six full-time staffers and one part-timer.
Red Cross chapters weigh mergers
By Hoa Nguyen
Published June 25 2006
In a move that brings up the idea that some American Red Cross chapters
should consider merging, the Greenwich chapter is helping to respond to
disasters and provide emergency services in Stamford.
Following the departure of Stamford's director of disaster and
emergency services, the chapter struck a deal with its counterpart in
Greenwich for help in running the program.
"It's been going on since April," said Kerri Hah, the Stamford
chapter's assistant executive director. "It's been doing fine. It's
still using Stamford volunteers. They're still on call and they're
still responding to local Stamford calls."
Greenwich, which has two employees trained to run the program, is under
contract to assist disaster relief and emergency response in Stamford,
primarily during the weekday business hours when Stamford lacks a staff
member who can coordinate the activity. Stamford volunteers are
available at night and on weekends to coordinate, though members of the
Greenwich chapter are available for backup.
Sharing services between two chapters is common, but this particular
arrangement is unique because it deals with disaster and emergency
response services -- a core Red Cross activity that all chapters must
provide if they are to operate independently.
The Stamford chapter has existed on its own for 92 years, though
officials there and at other nearby chapters are discussing the
possibility of a merger. Officials said such discussions have occurred
several times over the years, though each time the board of directors
for both chapters decided against it.
"The conclusion was the discussion was a nice discussion, but no action
was taken," said Brook Urban, who served on the Greenwich chapter's
board of directors before taking over as executive director in 2003.
"Each of the chapters were doing well at what they were doing, and just
decided they were going to continue in the way that they were going."
But officials said the chapters may now be more amenable to the idea of
a merger, especially because there are vacancies in several key
Stamford's chapter not only went without a disaster and emergency
services director but also lacked an executive director until recently
when Madeline Piccolo, a financial and office manager for the chapter,
was appointed to the position. The chapter now employs five full-time
staff members and two part-timers.
Greenwich has more than double that number of staff, though Urban has
announced she is leaving her position at the end of this month to work
in Eagle Hill School's development office. Her successor has not yet
"Obviously when there are changes in staff, you think about those
conversations re-opening," Urban said of the possibility of mergers.
Tom Stark, a former board vice chairman of the Greenwich chapter who
has worked on several national disaster response efforts, recently
resigned because he said he was disenchanted with the Red Cross system
and what he saw as its unwillingness to change.
"I've worked hard on some projects and there's no movement," he said.
Stark said area chapters should have moved forward with a merger years
ago so that they could capitalize on the efficiencies gained by having
one set of staff. He also said that the way the chapters are organized
now, funds raised in a wealthy community such as Greenwich, appear as
surpluses at the end of the year, instead of going to help pay for
needed programs in cash-strapped chapters.
"People in Greenwich only want to give money that only goes to
Greenwich and the areas that have more need, get less," Stark said.
In response, Urban said, "He's no longer on the board and so he's
unaware of what is and what is not going on."
Jim Schwarz, vice chairman of Stamford's board of directors, said he
has researched the possibility of a merger and finds that the chapter
would not benefit as much as he thought it might.
"The cost savings are not as obvious," he said. "The chapters are
running really efficiently now. You look at Stamford, we don't have a
lot of non-service delivery people. We don't have any ... people we
Schwarz said he started looking at the idea of a merger about four
years ago and though the concept stalled, he believes there will
eventually be some consolidation among chapters.
"The board are just being really scrupulous about are we doing the
right thing for the community," he said. "I do think there's good
operational reasons to do it. Ultimately, I think yes, there will be
some consolidation. I don't know who will be involved."
Darien, New Canaan
study combining health departments
By Lauren Klein, Special Correspondent
Published February 21 2006
A committee formed by New Canaan and Darien will examine whether a
combined health program would be cheaper and more efficient for both
towns. The effort comes after Norwalk halted a similar plan with
New Canaan last year. New Canaan approved a motion to form a
joint health district, but Norwalk's Common Council did not.
"It was disappointing, but there was too much resistance," New Canaan
First Selectman Judy Neville said. "We look favorably toward working
The New Canaan-Darien committee, which has 12 members, will look at
possible budgets, the pros and cons of combining the health departments
and similar health districts elsewhere.
Each town has a population of about 19,500, but their health programs
must provide the same services as big cities, including restaurant,
sewer, septic tank and nail salon inspections, and must be prepared to
handle SARS, Avian flu, the West Nile virus and other emergencies. Each
department has a staff of about four.
"There are a lot of things you have to be responsible for, and you
can't do everything," said John Crary, a Darien town administrator and
health committee member. "It's not just about a bigger program, because
bigger isn't necessarily better."
The committee wants to determine whether a joint district could provide
better services at the same cost or less, he said.
Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the state requires
municipal health departments to provide protection for bioterrorism
without additional funding, which is difficult for small departments
with limited resources, said Dr. David Reed, director of the New Canaan
Health Department and co-chairman of the committee.
"Ultimately, what we're trying to do is get to a level where we can
deal with new public health threats," Reed said. "The only way to deal
with it is to grow larger through a new health district."
Darien First Selectwoman Evonne Klein said the idea of a health
district was introduced about five years ago, and residents followed
the meetings held last year between Norwalk and New Canaan.
"This is truly the first time that the community has engaged in this
discussion," Klein said. "Ultimately the big question is, 'Is this the
right thing for the Darien community?' "
A joint health district would serve about 40,000 people, which would
make it eligible for more grants, Reed said. Health district employees
would be able to specialize in skills needed for better inspections,
If committee members decide the idea is worthwhile, the aim is to adopt
it by June 30, which would allow the towns to receive double funding
from the state for the last fiscal year, committee members said.
Each town now gets 49 cents per capita in state grants. The state is
pushing for municipalities to create joint districts, so the New
Canaan-Darien rate would increase to $1.69 per capita. The joint
district would receive an extra $47,268 per year from the state.
Klein hesitated to give an opinion about the health district proposal,
but Neville said it would benefit both towns.
"It's very cost-effective for both towns, you can expand your services,
especially to the seniors," Neville said. "It makes perfect sense."
A New Canaan-Darien health district would be the second in Fairfield
County. Westport and Weston formed one in 1966.
There are 88 health departments in Connecticut and 19 health districts,
said Bill Gerrish, a spokesman for the state Department of Public
The committee held its first public meeting earlier this month in
Darien. Three meetings will be scheduled in the coming weeks.
Darien members of the planning committee, appointed by Klein, are
Selectwoman Susan Young, Town Administrative Officer John Crary, Human
Resources Director Alison Graham, Social Services Director Judy
Morrison, Board of Finance member Barbara Cook, Representative Town
Meeting member Philip Weyhe and Social Services commission member Nancy
New Canaan members, appointed by Neville, are Director of Human
Resources Cheryl Jones, Director of Human Services Carol McDonald and
Board of Finance member John Laird.
Reed and Peggy McLaughlin, Darien health director, are the committee's
Critics attack merger
By ROBERT KOCH, Hour Staff Writer
June 28, 2005
Common Council action
tonight, critics stepped up their attacks on a proposed Norwalk-New
re- gional health district, as representatives of four municipal unions
representing Norwalk Health Department employees sat down with Mayor
Knopp on Monday. Peter Thor, director of police and planning for
4 of the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees
Council 4 Locals 1303 and 2404 afterward described the differences
the city and unions as broad.
looking to protect the quality
of the jobs and services provided to the city of Norwalk, and we don't
believe the proposal the city has put on the table comes close," Thor
"The issues are associated with the protection of the jobs. We're
about pension, health insurance and wage issues." Knopp, later Monday,
announced that he will ask the council tonight to table action on the
until questions concerning the public health benefits are answered.
the merger, the 28 full-time
employees of the Norwalk Health Department would move from working for
the city to working for the district -- and return to working for the
if the district were dissolved. As district employees, they would
in the city pension plan and keep their salaries and benefits.
are concerned about what will happen to those salaries and benefits
their contract expires in June 2006.
the two-hour meeting, Knopp
said the city made counter proposals to union requests. He
their discussions as "serious and constructive in which there was both
agreement and disagreement." "We have agreed to meet again in two weeks
to give both sides the opportunity to review the proposals and so that
Norwalk can discuss these proposals with New Canaan, as the unions have
requested that New Canaan be a party to whatever memorandum of
on collective bargaining issues may be negotiated," Knopp said. Lewis
Brey, the Westport attorney representing the Norwalk Municipal
Association, like Thor, refused to discuss details of the meeting, but
said afterward that no resolution was reached.
this wasn't going to be
settled in one sitting. We entered that meeting with fundamental
and at this point nothing has been resolved," Brey said. "The mayor
that we meet again, which of course we will do." In a related matter,
4 enlisted Dr. Fred Hyde, a health services consultant, to comment on
proposed health district. In a 10-page report e-mailed to council
over the weekend, Hyde challenged the conclusions of a task force
last fall to study a merger.
11-member task force, comprising
health officials from Norwalk and New Canaan, concluded unanimously
forming a regional health district would boost state reimbursement and
improve health services in both communities. Hyde, citing demographical
differences between Norwalk and New Canaan, concluded otherwise.
the short term, if the citizens
of New Canaan are enamored of the services available in Norwalk, let
purchase more of those services. They can afford it," Hyde wrote. "But
if the citizens of Norwalk want to retain the focus and perspective of
a larger health department, turn this proposal down." Councilman Bruce
I. Kimmel, who was poised to vote against the merger, defended Hyde's
and conclusions. Kimmel said his wife, an assistant to the president of
the Service Employees International Union Local 1199, is familiar with
praised Hyde's report. "It raised
a number of issues that people have been raising in a very persuasive
such as whether or not there will be real savings in the long run for
and whether the level and kind of services that Norwalk requires will
there," Kimmel said. "And whether the level of services will be to our
satisfaction down the road."
and at least one Norwalk Board
of Health member expressed regret that Hyde's letter and other concerns
were not raised earlier. The task force met seven times. All meetings
open to the public, as was a public hearing before the Common Council's
Public Health & Welfare Committee and three subsequent committee
Thor's letter addressed in the
most part what is good for the union and not what is good for the
of Norwalk and New Canaan," wrote health board member Dr. Jack John
in an e-mail to city Health Director Timothy J. Callahan and forwarded
to Knopp. "I would assume that Dr. Hyde was paid by the union for his
... Stick with it Tim, you have done your job well"
Norwalk chapter of the National
Association for the Advancement of Colored People, meanwhile, held a
meeting last Thursday to address the merger. Board members voted to
it for now. "We agreed that we would oppose the merger at this time,"
the Rev. Lindsay E. Curtis, chapter president and board chairman.
board just felt that we just
didn't have enough information to endorse it. What does the city of
get out of the merger? It seems it is to the advantage of New Canaan."
Lauricella, a Norwalk resident
and environmental consultant, said she is not opposed to the concept of
a regional health district, but urged the council not to approve the
proposal. She said key stakeholders, including the African-American
were not invited to discussions about the merger. Lauricella maintains
that the Norwalk Health Department is not providing mandated services.
She described the proposed merger as an 'outsourcing' with shortcomings
that have not been addressed. "All we're hearing about is a beautiful
penny," Lauricella said. "They're not admitting there are any
and that leads to suspicion right away."
One thing that Rell thinks is worth extra
By Karin Crompton
Published on 2/5/2009
In a day marked by deep cuts, one of the only areas where Gov. M. Jodi
Rell suggested a budget increase came in her $50 million push to
encourage towns and cities to band together.
idea of regionalism factored heavily in the proposed budget, from new
bonding money (the $50 million) that cities and towns can apply for to
work and purchase together, to Rell's proposal to consolidate probate
court services and health districts.
PROPOSED REGIONALIZATION EFFORTS
- Create a $40 million Regional Incentive Grant
financed through state bond funds. Grants would be used to offset the
capital infrastructure costs of services like trash collection and
recycling, highway maintenance, animal control, administrative
functions, and merging police departments and emergency communications
- $10 million Municipal Capital Expenditure Purchase
Grant program. Funds to provide assistance for municipal cooperative
purchases of equipment with a useful life of at least five years.
Grants would equal 75 percent of joint municipal costs up to a maximum
- 10 percent bonus in Local Capital Improvement
Program (LoCIP) entitlements and Town Aid Road grants for three years
for towns that undertake regional projects.
- Enable towns to negotiate inter-municipal master
contracts with municipal employee and teacher unions
- Allow a town to delay a revaluation for up to two
years so the town can enter an interlocal agreement with another town
or towns for the services of a revaluation company.
Governor's Budget Summary
The governor's proposal also went so far as to suggest allowing towns
to negotiate inter-municipal contracts for town employees and teacher
”It's time regionalism was more than just something we talk about. It's
time for it to be a reality,” Rell said during her budget address.
The new bonding money includes $40 million in Regional Incentive Grants
towns can apply for jointly to consolidate such things as technology
upgrades, animal control or administrative functions. An
additional $10 million would be put into a grant program aimed at
helping municipalities in their capital purchases - items such as dump
trucks or sanders - as long as the equipment has a “useful life” of at
least five years. The state would cover up to 75 percent of municipal
costs up to $250,000.
Also, while the total pool of money contained in two key areas of state
aid to towns - the Local Capital Improvement Program (LoCIP) and town
road aid - remains the same, the structure of them could change.
Rell suggests that towns that meet the criteria could receive a
10-percent “bonus” those two areas, while towns that don't participate
could see their aid decrease.
The governor has also proposed regionalizing local health districts, a
move her budget office said would save $2.6 million in fiscal year 2010
and $2.8 million in fiscal year 2011.
”If a municipality wants to have their own health district, God bless
them, but they'll pay for it by themselves,” Robert Genuario, Rell's
budget chief, said during a budget briefing held before Rell's speech.
Locally, most mid- to large-sized towns in southeastern Connecticut
already belong to the Ledge Light or Uncas health districts. Some
smaller towns still run their own health departments and argue it is
more cost-effective for them. The governor also took a swipe at
the state's probate courts, whose system of 117 courts, according to
her budget summary, “is unwieldy, inefficient and too costly.”
Rell proposes consolidating the 117 courts to 36, using judges who must
be attorneys with at least 10 years of experience. Judges would still
be elected. The new, regional courts would be open 40 hours a week.
”It would offer a better service for the public and a more professional
service for the public,” Genuario said.
Towns wary shared
services lead to loss; Cities, towns
shared services would lead to losses
Stamford ADVOCATE (as well as Greenwich TIME)
By Brian Lockhart, Staff Writer
Posted: 02/01/2009 01:34:16 AM EST
HARTFORD -- Norwalk and New Canaan considered merging health
departments in 2006 to recoup an estimated $84,000 annually in
additional state funding.
But that was not enough to overcome concerns among members of Norwalk's
Common Council that they would be sacrificing local control of health
The merger died.
Democratic legislators in Hartford launched a new push last week to
encourage the state's 169 cities and towns to consolidate more
services, ideally shrinking local government and reducing local
property taxes during the economic crisis.
But several current and former officials in lower Fairfield County said
so-called regionalization is far easier said than done.
"You have a bunch of towns that are hard-wired to oppose consolidation
for fear it will lead to consolidation of things they don't want," said
Stamford Mayor Dannel Malloy, a Democrat. "This fear -- if we start
doing anything voluntarily it will lead to something else -- has been
enough to stifle cooperative efforts."
Unlike many states, Connecticut abolished county governments --
structures that typically encourage or require municipal cooperation.
Instead, Connecticut has 15 bodies that are councils of governments --
groups of local elected officials who meet regularly. And it has
regional planning agencies whose members are appointed by elected
officials or municipal planning commissions.
In Fairfield County, the Southwestern Regional Planning Agency was
created in 1962. Much of its work is focused on addressing regional
transportation issues, though SWRPA has purchasing pools for sand and
salt, as well as for diesel fuels and gasoline.
Some state lawmakers and other proponents of regionalization want SWRPA
and its fellow planning agencies transformed into councils of
government to foster better cooperation.
"With no disrespect to the regional planning agencies, their focus is
much narrower than a council of governments' would be," said James
Finley, head of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities.
Councils of government also are considered more accountable to voters
because local elected officials play a more direct role, Finley said.
Malloy and former Westport First Selectwoman Diane Farrell have
unsuccessfully encouraged neighboring towns to agree to turn SWRPA into
a council of governments.
"I felt it would give us strength in
terms of our relationship with Hartford," Farrell said. "It went nowhere.
There was a general suspicion about the loss of individual identity."
Greenwich First Selectman Peter Tesei, a Republican, said he has no
problem working with neighbors or seeking advice on how they handle
issues in their towns.
But he said he is satisfied with SWRPA and does not see the need for a
council of governments.
"I think the decisions that are made best are done at the local level
by individuals who understand the needs of a particular community,"
Norwalk Finance Director Thomas Hamilton, who worked for Stamford in
the past, said the reluctance is not just at the executive level.
"You have departments -- managers and other people in charge -- who may
not want to give up their control over certain operations," he said.
Finley acknowledged the problem is common throughout New England.
"We're a Yankee 'go it alone' heritage," Finley said, noting that the
Connecticut Conference of Municipalities is a relatively young
organization, having been founded in 1966. Similar groups nationwide
formed in the late 1800s.
Farrell said state lawmakers must offer credible incentives to
encourage regionalization, particularly during tough financial times.
Legislative Democrats last week proposed sharing portions of the state
sales tax with cities and towns that partner. But with the state facing
a budget deficit in the billions of dollars, they could not promise how
much money might be available or when it would be provided.
"It's too ambiguous," Farrell said. "I'd be surprised if anybody jumped
on the bandwagon."
On the other hand, state legislators expressed reluctance to pass any
laws requiring regionalization, which Malloy agreed would not be
welcomed in Connecticut.
"I don't think anyone's going to agree to be forced into doing
anything," he said.
But municipalities in lower Fairfield County work together on some
For example, Norwalk and Stamford are part of a statewide consortium of
15 communities that purchase prescription drug coverage and life
But Democratic lawmakers are suggesting more ambitious endeavors, such
as regionalized collective bargaining with municipal unions to better
control labor costs.
"That sounds to me like a pretty daunting undertaking," Hamilton said.
"One community might be interested in keeping wages as low as possible,
and another might be interested in taking on retiree health insurance."
He said it would make more sense to instead have a regional government
that provides regional services.
Democratic legislators last week also suggested municipalities forge
no-compete agreements on economic development. But Joseph McGee, vice
president of public policy for the Business Council of Fairfield
County, said that was unnecessary.
"What does it mean? If you're an economic development official in
Norwalk, you can never talk to a company in Stamford? That's not
realistic," McGee said. "You want some competition. You want one town
McGee said the state would be better served by being more conservative
about providing tax breaks and other incentives for businesses that
relocate from one town to another.
"That is absolutely wacko," he said. "The only way those become
palatable is if the company is legitimately going to move out of state.
You have to figure out if that is 'the game of bluff' or real."
But municipalities have recognized the benefits of regionalization in
Norwalk Fire Chief Denis McCarthy and many neighbors have established a
joint HAZMAT team that none could afford individually.
But McCarthy pointed to failures. Soon after the Sept. 11, 2001,
terrorist attacks, emergency responders and chief elected officials met
to discuss creating a single communications system and dispatch center.
"Once you do that, you're just moving pieces around on a single radio
frequency, and you can mix and match resources very easily," McCarthy
It never moved forward.
McCarthy also has explored building a new fire station to serve
Norwalk's Cranbury neighborhood as well as areas of Westport and Wilton.
But at a time when some municipal officials might begin to recognize
the financial savings of a shared fire station, their budgets are
stretched too thin to finance the project.
"When times are good, no one has the compelling reason to discuss any
type of regionalization," McCarthy said. "When times are bad . . .
there's no money to do it."
Norwalk, New Canaan consider new
By Christiana Sciaudone
Stamford ADVOCATE Staff Writer
November 28, 2004
did away with county
government in 1960, but as health departments consider merging into
districts, a reverse trend toward regional governance is returning to
are 19 health districts of
varying sizes statewide, and Norwalk and New Canaan are considering the
possibility of creating the 20th in Connecticut and the second in
know that there is a need and
an advantage to working on a regional level," said Norwalk Health
Timothy Callahan. "You look at some of the regional diseases we've had
to deal with. . . Those things do not understand town borders. Another
reason is that there is a financial benefit to districts."
really tried to encourage
multiple towns to become a district," said William Gerrish, a spokesman
for the state health department.
districts are a way for two or
more departments to combine services. A health district receives more
from the state than individual departments do; it offers comprehensive
health staff for smaller towns that did not have such expertise before;
and it offers economies of scale with more potential to provide
to the public.
has 96 health departments
, including 40 that are part time, 37 that are full time and 19 health
process of creating it is tough,"
Gerrish said. "There is some sense of a loss of control," particularly
for smaller municipalities.
as times change, , a regional
approach is requisite, according to health officials, to address issues
ranging from bioterrorism to the flu.
health problems don't tend
to be localized to one area," Gerrish said. "These are issues that cut
across municipal borders."
Kertanis, the executive
director of the Connecticut Association of Directors of Health, said
health departments are different from other states.
Connecticut, unlike the majority
of the country, local public health departments are very small,"
said. "Other places are much more county-based and therefore more
Westport-Weston Health District
was the first district in Connecticut, established in 1966, according
Westport First Selectwoman Diane Farrell.
been a good working relationship
with Weston," Farrell said. "I think any attempt at regional
is very, very important."
with nearly 26,000 residents,
is about 2 1/2 times the size of Weston.
would say there is an economy
of scale for a small town like Weston to participate in a larger
said Weston First Selectman Woody Bliss.
Salsbury, president of the
Connecticut Association of Health Directors and director of the East
Health Department, said state law mandates municipalities have at least
a part-time director and a full-time sanitarian in their health
Part-time directors tend to be local doctors.
problem is that many of these
towns can't afford both," he said. "It doesn't make sense to try and
public health services with one half-time health person in every town.
You get scattered crisis-oriented services and that's not public
that's emergency response."
district, the Ledge Light
Health District, was founded in 1993 and consists of the city of
the towns of Groton, Ledyard and Waterford. The district covers more
Light Health Director Francis
"Sam" Crowley said the towns have benefited from having a full-time
-- they previously had part-timers -- and where the departments once
$1 per capita, they are now getting $1.66. The funding increases
the state rewards districts since they are more effective in addressing
lot of these small communities,
all they do is environmental health enforcement," such as septic system
issues and food inspections, he said. "These districts permit a vehicle
for financial and, structure wise, provide better, more comprehensive
it comes to some cities, though,
health districts are not seen as an option.
you get a city the size of
Stamford," Crowley said, "they can afford to pay for all the services
their population base is high enough."
Johnnie Lee, health director
of Stamford, said he sees Stamford staying on its own.
don't think you will ever see
Stamford as a part of a health district," Lee said, " because the towns
that immediately surround us have full-time functioning health
Health Director Caroline
Calderone Baisley said that geographically, a health district would not
work for Greenwich since there are no other small, adjacent
needing its resources.
New Canaan-Norwalk task force
charged with examining the possibility of a health district must submit
a recommendation in April on whether to establish it.
health department of Norwalk,
a city of 80,000, currently receives $79,079 from the state . New
with 20,000 people, receives $9,669, Callahan said.
the municipalities merged into
a district, they would receive a total of $172,409 from the state,
said. They would receive an additional $30,000 for the public health
of emergency preparedness. New Canaan currently receives no emergency
Canaan's three-person health
department has an annual budget of about $300,000, officials said.
health department has a staff of 25 and a budget of $1.5 million,
to city officials. No layoffs would accompany the district.
don't see any negatives," Callahan
said. "The public health system in the area would become a lot stronger
by putting the two towns together."
task force will meet Thursday
to hear from two health district directors. The meeting at the Norwalk
Health Department will be open to the public.
can be made available of this Symposium
Planning Organizations: Better Use of a Hidden Asset
The Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental
Relations ("ACIR") sponsors the following meeting: a half-day symposium
for Municipal, Regional and State Government stakeholders on issues
to enhancing the roles and functions of Connecticut's Regional Planning
November 16, 2004
Inn, North Haven
12 off I-91
NEWS: The Legislature approved this Plan the following
adopted its new Regional Plan of Conservation and Development in
February of 2006, it used maps from the State Plan of C&D
Citizens of Connecticut
David LeVasseur, Undersecretary, Intergovernmental Policy Division
May 11, 2004
Recommended Conservation and Development Policies Plan for Connecticut
2004 - 2009
of this memorandum is to inform you that the General Assembly has
the adoption of the Recommended Conservation and Development Policies
for Connecticut 2004 - 2009 until the 2005 legislative session.
General Assembly believed that the Continuing Legislative Committee on
State Planning and Development should take more time to consider public
comment. Until the General Assembly adopts the Recommended 2004 -
2009 Plan, the 1998 - 2003 Plan will remain in effect.
please be advised that specific project reviews will continue to be
on the 1998 - 2003 Plan.
House Bill 5522, as amended, the Office of Policy and Management will
the Recommended Plan to the Continuing Legislative Committee on State
and Development on or before December 1, 2004. The Continuing
Committee will hold a public hearing on the Recommended Plan within 35
days of the first day of the 2005 Session.
I thank you
for your interest in and support for the Plan. I would also like
to thank you for your comments that we received during the Office of
and Management's two year revision process. The public input we
has been overwhelmingly supportive, constructive and insightful.
The Recommended Conservation and Development Policies Plan for
2004 - 2009 is an outstanding document that constitutes a balanced and
relevant guide for state conservation and development investment
comments you may have should be sent to the Continuing Legislative
on State Planning and Development, Attention Steven Azzara, Legislative
Office Building, Room 2100, Hartford, CT 06106. I would also ask
that you provide a courtesy copy to Dan Morley of my staff at The
of Policy and Management, Intergovernmental Policy Division, 450
Avenue, MS#52ASP, Hartford, CT 06106-1308.
I look forward
to your continued support for the adoption of the Recommended Plan by
General Assembly during the 2005 legislative session.
of the Continuing Legislative Committee on State Planning &
the General Assembly
Marc S. Ryan,
David A. Kalafa,
Planning Specialist, Office of Policy and Management, Intergovernmental
Avenue - MS52ASP
Fax: 860 418-6495
Aquarium redesign to focus on river, Long Island Sound
By Matt Breslow, Staff Writer
Published December 26 2006
NORWALK -- Like a molting lobster, the Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk is
preparing for a new look.
A master plan is under way for the SoNo attraction that will shape it
over the next 15 years.
Tom Hennes, principal of Thinc Design, provided a glimpse at
Wednesday's annual meeting of the Maritime Aquarium Authority and Board
Goals include heightening the profile of Long Island Sound and
capitalizing on the aquarium's proximity to the Norwalk River.
The redesign also aims to make the aquarium more inviting to
passers-by, particularly given the increased pedestrian traffic that
redevelopment projects are expected to bring.
Officials also hope to make the aquarium a more attractive destination
on sunny days by increasing outdoor activities.
Hennes, whose Manhattan firm is crafting the master plan, spoke of
"branding" the Sound at Wednesday's meeting.
Explaining the concept in an interview Friday, aquarium President and
Chief Executive Officer Jennifer Herring, who described the Sound as
the "front yard of Connecticut," said other bodies of water are more
evocative in people's minds, citing San Francisco Bay and the Hudson
The aquarium should communicate to visitors that the Sound "and its
watershed are alive with rich and diverse wildlife, tightly interwoven
with human life," according to Hennes' PowerPoint presentation.
"It's a really important ecosystem," Herring said Friday. "It's not
just any body of water."
The aquarium always has focused on the Sound, Herring said, "but there
isn't very much that tells you that." As a result, aquarium visitors
sometimes don't know that certain animals live in the Sound, she said.
The aquarium, which opened in 1988, attracts more than a half-million
Hennes' presentation covered the first phase of master planning. Thinc,
hired for $191,000, began work in October and is expected to finish in
March or April.
The first phase consisted of fact-finding, identifying problems and
seeking ways to expand the aquarium's appeal, Hennes said.
During the next phase, which is under way, Thinc will develop ideas for
exhibits and changes to the building. The firm will examine the
potential for attracting visitors to exhibits and costs for potential
changes, Herring said.
"The finished product will be a narrative description of the future
aquarium, with drawings, diagrams and renderings to show what it might
look like," she said in an e-mail.
Hennes said the project is meant to create a sustainable increase in
the number of visitors.
In his presentation, Hennes suggested the aquarium should take
advantage of its position on the bank of the Norwalk River.
The site has "a great river, so why not use it?" Hennes said.
Urban redevelopment around the aquarium will increase foot traffic,
Hennes said. The aquarium feels "closed off" from the neighborhood and
should appear more welcoming to potential visitors, he said.
"We want to be part of the streetscape, and we want to make the
aquarium inviting when you walk by on the street," he said.
Plan revisions enter final lap
By ROBERT KOCH, Hour Staff Writer
December 23, 2006
NORWALK — The overdue revision of Norwalk's Master Plan of Conservation
and Development — the city's blueprint for zoning regulations — is
entering its final lap.
Chan Krieger & Associates, the Cambridge, Mass.-based planning firm
hired by the city to assemble Norwalk's new "master plan" met last week
with department heads, school officials, members of the Planning
Commission, as well as neighborhood association representatives and
Mayor Richard A. Moccia, to solicit input and update the various
parties on where they stand in assembling the new plan.
"They had some very, very detailed questions concerning the direction
the mayor wants to go, as far as philosophy and what I thought," said
Moccia, recapping his discussions with the Chan Krieger planners. "And
they had discussions with other departments. (Residents) are concerned
about over development, neighborhood preservation, zoning issues, land
conservation, things of that nature."
A municipality's master plan guides zoning regulations. State law
requires municipalities to update their master plans every 10 years.
The updated master plan is five years overdue.
For several years, the Planning Commission, with input from residents,
neighborhood associations and consultants has worked to update the
Norwalk's master plan — last revised in 1990. Walter O. Briggs,
commission chairman, anticipates the new plan will be more
comprehensive than the plan it will replace.
"There is no draft yet," Briggs said Friday. But "I think (the final
plan) is going to be very comprehensive in that it will (about) 50
pages long. It will give a comprehensive overview of what is needed,
what development should be, and how we think development should occur
in the city."
Briggs said the Chan Krieger consultants will return to Norwalk in
January, or early February, with a more defined document. Planning
commissioners will review that document, make corrections or changes as
fit. A preliminary and later final draft will emerge. The Planning
Commission then will schedule two public hearings.
From there, the new master plan will go to the Common Council's
Planning Committee, then up to the full council for approval or
rejection. Moccia, as mayor, must sign the approved plan.
In September, the Common Council approved paying Chan Krieger &
Associates, the firm that prepared the Mid-Harbor Planning and the
South Norwalk Planning studies, $82,126 to assemble the new master plan.
Over the last week, Chan Krieger Principal Alan Mountjoy and Senior
Planner Kimberly Jones met with city officials and others, as Mountjoy
put it, to "get an overall cumulative (idea) of where the city is
"Part of our goal is making this into something that is understandable
by the community and is a useful document in sort of setting the tone
for Norwalk," Mountjoy told Planning commissioners Tuesday.
Jones said Chan Kriegesr are drawing upon three sources of information
when assembling the revised master plan: Interviews with city
department heads and their "wish lists," current plans and documents,
including the 1990 master plan, and planning principles developed by
the Planning Commission.
Earlier Tuesday, representatives of several neighborhood associations,
including the Eastern Norwalk Neighborhood Association, met with
Mountjoy and Jones. The Eastern Norwalk Neighborhood Association, among
other neighborhood groups, has submitted its own "mini-master" plans to
be incorporated into the larger master plan. The discussion Tuesday
touched upon neighborhood uniqueness, zoning regulations and
development concerns, according to ENNA President Laurel Lindstrom.
"We emphasized the uniqueness and history of neighborhoods. There are
unique neighborhoods throughout Norwalk that need to be protected,"
Lindstrom said. "We really had a concern about the trend toward
overdevelopment and that it doesn't end up destroying neighborhoods."
Mountjoy, speaking to Planning commissioners later Tuesday,
acknowledged that issue.
"There were still concerns about small-scale development in
neighborhoods," Mountjoy said.
Residents' concerns about over development have ranged from
several-unit condominium developments in residential neighborhoods,
such as along Stuart Avenue last year, to large projects running in the
range of several hundred units, which have been proposed for along
Moccia, while acknowledging that development concerns will continue,
added that the potential for overdevelopment may be limited, given the
fact that few large tracts of land remain in the city.
"There are not too many more Norden or Pepperidge sites left, so I
think it's going to be more smaller projects in neighborhoods, maybe
like we had on Stuart Avenue, that cause concerns," Moccia said.
Greenwich zoning board adopts 10-year plan
By Colleen Flaherty, Staff Writer
The Planning and Zoning Commission has adopted its new 10-year Plan of
Conservation and Development, despite continued criticism from
residents and town agencies.
Chairman Donald Heller said Wednesday that the document has been
received well enough by the community and he can't please everyone.
"We're not looking for unanimity of opinion," said Heller. "We've been
out there with this for two years and at a certain point in time,
you've got to say, 'Let's wrap it up.' "
Published every 10 years, the Plan of Conservation and Development
serves as a framework for zoning and municipal improvement decisions
made during the next decade. In a July draft of the document, the
commission prioritized drainage improvements, conservation of air,
water and land resources, meeting state requirements for affordable
housing and developing downtown Greenwich as an arts and cultural
At a public hearing in September, the draft was praised for its focus
on the environment but criticized for being vague in its conservation
goals, overcommitted to affordable housing and resigned to Greenwich
becoming a regional shopping and arts center, as well as insufficiently
linked to the budgeting process.
It was called poorly organized and difficult to read.
The commission released a new, final draft of the document last week.
The term "work-force housing," or affordable homes for town employees,
was removed from the housing section of the document.
It also no longer suggests developing downtown Greenwich as an arts
center. Instead, the new draft recommends that the first selectman
appoint and oversee citizen committees responsible for further
exploring these issues.
The new document also recommends that the first selectman create and
oversee three other committees: Traffic and parking, mixed use
development around train stations and implementation of the plan.
"We're a big believer in leadership," said Heller, commenting on the
first selectman's potential new responsibilities, should the plan be
adopted by the Representative Town Meeting next month. "Who's the
leader if not the first selectman?"
That sentiment bothered Franklin Bloomer, chairman of the RTM's Land
"The Planning and Zoning Commission has two responsibilities --
planning and zoning," said Bloomer Wednesday, after speaking at a
public hearing on the document held at Town Hall on Tuesday night.
"Planning is not the responsibility of the first selectman, who is the
executive officer of the town."
Bloomer said he doubts the RTM will approve the plan as it is now.
Also critical of the plan Tuesday night was Jennifer Boone. The
Riverside Association president said she opposed the plan's support of
mixed-use, including industrial, development around train stations.
Such construction around the Riverside station, she said, would
threaten the residential character of the village.
Connecticut League of Women Voters spokeswoman and town resident Cheryl
Dunson added that the plan hadn't been written with as much
collaboration among town agencies, including the Conservation
Commission, as necessary.
Town Planner Diane Fox said Wednesday that until the RTM approves the
new Plan of Conservation and Development, the commission will continue
to operate from its 1998 plan.
Heller said no substantive changes will be made to the document before