Selectmen Agree To Property Donations, Support Sustainable CT

Published: February 25, 2018 at 12:00 am


At its regular meeting February 20, the Board of Selectmen unanimously agreed to support the community joining a statewide sustainability initiative, as well as accepting three small land parcels that were being donated to the town by their owners.

While taking no action and with little discussion, the selectmen also began a process by which they would eventually make a recommendation on a referral by the Water & Sewer Authority (WSA) on whether to expand the sewer service area, and provide the capacity requested by developers for a proposed rental apartment complex at 79 Church Hill Road. A presentation by the developer and action on that referral is expected to happen at a scheduled selectmen's meeting on Monday, March 5.

To begin the meeting, Sustainable Energy Commission Chair Kathleen Quinn requested selectmen support a resolution so Newtown could join a growing number of communities, including neighboring Roxbury, in a new municipal-sustainability certification program offered by Sustainable CT.

Ms Quinn said her commission has agreed to take on any preliminary administrative duties tied to qualifying and maintaining Newtown's participation and getting the project off the ground locally. She said the town would essentially fulfill various qualifications under nine separate categories of practice, which would earn Newtown points toward bronze, silver, and eventually gold status under the Sustainable CT criteria.

She said her commissioners recognized a number of advantages to participating, including bringing municipal and quasi-municipal and service groups like the Newtown Health District, Lake Authorities, Newtown Forest Association, and Newtown Cultural Arts Commission and schools together working toward gold status. Ms Quinn said as other neighboring towns sign on to participate, she believes it could lead to greater regional cooperation.

"It ties together efforts of a lot of different groups each working on their own now," Ms Quinn said. The selectmen unanimously agrees to support joining the effort, and will determine whether the Legislative Council must also endorse the resolution.

Following the November launch of Sustainable CT, the communities of Middletown, Durham, Killingly, Greenwich, Portland, Torrington, Hamden, Hartford, Roxbury, and Madison registered to be charter communities of the effort, according to a release from the program. Its objective is to help Connecticut's diverse municipalities become more sustainable through action on economic development, land and natural resources, cultural development, planning, transportation, infrastructure and operations, public services, housing, community equity, and innovation.

The program was founded by the Institute for Sustainable Energy in conjunction with the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities; it is being administered by the institute. It is modeled on the popular Sustainable Jersey program, in which 445 communities participate.

Statewide Director Lynn Stoddard said, "Towns see great value in the voluntary road map of sustainability actions, additional resources to support action at the local level, recognition for their achievements, learning from peers, and sharing best practices."

Initial funding for Sustainable CT has been provided by the Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation, the Common Sense Fund, and the Hampshire Foundation.

Land Acquisitions

Under new guidelines set forth in the latest Charter Revision, Deputy Director of Planning Rob Sibley went before the selectmen on Tuesday to seek authorization to accept three small parcels being donated by their owners to the town, each appraised for less than $20,000.

Mr Sibley explained that the three donated properties had passed all stipulated town agency and commission processes to qualify for acceptance. While it has little bearing on whether donated parcels would be accepted, Mr Sibley told selectmen that all such properties go through a ranking process to helps identify open space attributes.

The ranking process, he said, examines a number of features, including whether accepting the parcel enhances the protection of wildlife, whether it is already abutting public or private open space, whether accepting a parcel will help protect water quality, and if the parcel has any significant historical value.
The land use official also praised the new process by which his agency and the town could now expedite acquisitions, since under former onerous and protracted Charter mandates, property donations could take three to five years to complete the process of being formally accepted.

"We're so excited at the prospect of moving these so quickly," Mr Sibley said.

The properties that were unanimously accepted by selectmen are 155 Riverside Road, a parcel of approximately .11-acre, that abuts town-owned property; 78 Mountain View Road, a .22-acre parcel close to more than 30 acres of town open space; and 125 Great Quarter Road, a .23-acre parcel, near Eichler's Cove and adjacent to town-owned property.

Mr Sibley said each of the parcels also touch other properties he hopes to see transferred to the town eventually.

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