Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Stafford zoning future

Journal Inquirer
March 7, 2006

The time is approaching when the Planning and Zoning Commission will decide Stafford's future. The PZC will be considering new zoning regulations to limit big-box development at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 9, at Stafford High School.

Stafford citizens should know that the Connecticut Economic Resource Center study is done. Remember the CERC study? The Board of Selectmen commissioned it at a cost of $10,000. It was money well spent. The study surveyed land available for retail, commercial, industrial, high-tech, and office development, and then made recommendations for the best use of that land.

The study does not recommend big-box development as the best use for the properties surveyed, including land where Wal-Mart wanted to build. The study states that "industrial and office development, including flexible space for showrooms, distribution, and related activities, would have the greatest positive fiscal impact on municipal revenues." Positive fiscal impact means development that would produce the most net tax income.

The new zoning regulations being considered do as CERC recommends. These regulations limit retail development to building size of 40,000 square feet while allowing industrial and commercial development to proceed, producing the best tax revenue stream for the town, which would hopefully help lower town tax rates. People should also remember that retail development would, in almost all cases, raise tax rates since retail development requires more town services. This is also supported by the study.

The CERC study is 32 pages long. It discusses other areas of concern including traffic, infrastructure, and types of development, and gives recommended strategies for Stafford's future. None of these recommendations include big-box development.

One recommendation is development of an industrial park. A previous study of an industrial park on the same land that Wal-Mart wanted to build on projected annual tax revenue to the town of some $2 million. If this type of development were pursued it could mean significant net tax revenue as opposed to a tax drain from big box-development.

If you are interested in protecting your town from big-box development and doing the best thing for tax rates, support the proposed new zoning regulations by being at the public meeting on March 9.

Leonard Clark
Stafford Springs