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P&Z Begins To Plan For The Next Decade



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P&Z Begins To Plan For The Next Decade

By Andrew Gorosko

Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) members plan to seek out residents’ views on how the town can best balance local growth against the conservation of natural resources, as the P&Z begins revising the decennial Town Plan of Conservation and Development leading up to the year 2013.

The 2013 town plan, which will replace the 2003 plan, will serve as an advisory document providing a conceptual framework, which P&Z members use for general guidance in decision making on development applications. A town plan is a public policy guide, which helps set the agenda for future action. P&Z members often cite whether a particular development application adheres to the concepts in the town plan, or violates those concepts, in approving or rejecting the application.

“This [plan] is probably one of the most important things the commission does,” P&Z member Robert Taylor said at a May 31 P&Z session at which members started defining the scope of the project. The 2013 town plan is scheduled for completion in 2003. State law requires municipalities to update their plans at least once each decade.

P&Z members May 31 decided how they would solicit the public opinion to be used in formulating the plan’s goals and objectives.

The P&Z will conduct a mail survey, in which respondents will be polled on their attitudes and ideas about conservation and growth. Also, the commission plans to hold a session at which “focus groups” will address the various specific planning issues facing the town. P&Z members also plan to approach members of other town agencies to solicit their ideas on conservation and growth.

The town’s 2003 plan, which the P&Z approved in 1993, covers topics including demographic and economic trends, natural features, the environment, land use, development, transportation, the economic base, housing, public utilities, open space land, recreation, and implementation of the town plan. In 1998, the P&Z amended that plan, adding a section on Hawleyville transportation and development. In 1999, the commission added a plan section on the need to preserve local scenic views.

Since approving the 2003 plan in 1993, the P&Z has slowly implemented its recommendations in the form of various new and revised land use regulations.

The 2013 plan may also include sections on public facilities, local infrastructure, and historic preservation.

P&Z members will analyze growth trends during the past decade in developing the goals and objectives for the revised plan leading up to 2013, said Elizabeth Stocker, the town’s community development director, who serves as the P&Z’s planning aide.

Ms Stocker recommended that P&Z members include the category “community character” in the upcoming plan, which would address topics such as the preservation of farming and agriculture.

Opinion Survey

When formulating a town plan, most communities conduct some type of public opinion survey to gauge local sentiment about development issues, Ms Stocker said.

P&Z Chairman Daniel Fogliano said collecting and analyzing public opinion about local growth is an important aspect of town plan formulation.

Mr Fogliano recommended against employing a “task force” approach in developing the 2013 town plan’s content. Such task forces tend to be an aggregation of special interest groups, which seek to promote their own agendas, Mr Fogliano said.

In a planned mail survey of public opinion, the P&Z would mail out about 2,500 questionnaires to local addresses, expecting to receive 400 to 500 completed responses, Mr Fogliano said. The poll would provide a broad gauge of public opinion, he said.

P&Z members would formulate the content of the mail questionnaires and would work in conjunction with a professional polling firm. A mail survey is expected to cost $8,900. The mail poll would be conducted in the fall.

Commission members considered, but then dropped, a proposal to conduct a telephone survey instead of a mail survey.

The P&Z also decided that its members would individually seek out the opinions of town agency members. The various town agencies broadly help to implement the goals of a town plan, Ms Stocker noted.

P&Z members plan to conduct a planning session at which several “focus groups” of residents will be formed to consider significant development issues facing the town in the decade leading up to 2013.

When the P&Z developed its current town plan in the early 1990s, it had proved helpful to have such focus groups participate in the planning process, Ms Stocker said.

Ms Stocker suggested that P&Z members read Monroe’s town plan, which was formulated last year, to review how Monroe addresses the issue of housing density.

P&Z member Meg Maurer said she wants to review other communities’ town plans to help in formulating the 2013 Newtown plan.

In late March, P&Z members listened to residents’ comments on the town’s future in an initial session on revising the town plan. About 30 people attended.

The need to preserve local open space land, while diversifying the property tax base through commercial and industrial development, were among the topics raised by residents at that session.

The 2013 town plan will be developed following a decade of rapid growth, during which the local population increased by 20.5 percent between 1990 and 2000, rising from 20,779 to 25,031 residents.

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