Heeding Communications At All Levels
The gateways to Newtown are being improved at Exits 9 and 10. One, at 75 Church Hill Road, is nearing completion; at Exit 9, developers still wade in the waters of approvals. Well-groomed properties as visitors exit the highway toward Newtown are commendable. Still, unintended consequences with longstanding impact arise when planning collides with development.
Glitches in communication between developers, Planning & Zoning, the DOT, and the Land Use Agency, resulting in issues unforeseen when approval was first granted, have frustrated officials charged with approving the Exit 10 project.
The original proposal for the retail building there showed an entry/exit driveway controlled by a traffic light near the eastbound ramps of Exit 10 on Church Hill Road. The Department of Transportation, however, has oversight as to how traffic flows at that intersection. In April 2018, the DOT notified the Land Use Agency that the development would be approved only for entry of vehicles there. An entry/exit driveway will connect to the newly reconfigured Edmond Road.
The change to traffic flow is one that rightly concerned members of the P&Z, who only recently were made aware of the change and expressed their concerns for pedestrian safety in particular, at meetings held in late December and January.
The developer also requested additional parking spaces to accommodate a large restaurant and pizzeria intended to occupy that retail space.
Retail can have multiple meanings, and developers are not required to list precise businesses that might occupy a finished project. Competition for two nearby similar food businesses cannot have been in the minds of P&Z members voting to approve this project.
But despite reservations, P&Z has granted the developer’s latest requests.
Good planning and public input are necessary for regulated growth in Newtown.
We look past public hearing notices; we take no time to ponder outcomes or address proper authorities, questioning actions that will reverberate in town for generations.
Coming up next is consideration by the Inland Wetlands Commission of an expansion to the Exit 9 Hawleyville project, a 583,500-square-foot, four-building warehouse/office/medical proposal — with no currently identified occupants — off of Hawleyville Road. The public hearing on February 13, at 7:30 pm, in the Municipal Center, will address the request for a wetlands/watercourses protection permit allowing three acres of wetlands to be filled and other alterations to an earlier proposal.
This remains a proposal that can be beneficial to the town if approached with sensitivity to the environment. The public hearing is an opportunity to learn about and address the pros and cons before the IWC makes its decision.
There are many details to which various agencies must attend with every change that comes across the desks. It would be unfair to suggest that effort is not put into examining proposals, but clarification of use by developers and modifications passed through proper channels in a timely fashion, as well as consideration of public comments, would allow for thoughtful progress.
Beautifying the gateways to Newtown is a positive; balancing planning and development is essential, and keeping projects to scale will maintain Newtown’s character.
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