Smart Growth for Vernon, CT

Pro-development group disbands after Stafford PZC imposes limits

By Mark D. Simpson
Journal Inquirer
April 4, 2006

STAFFORD — Progress for Stafford, the citizens group that favored retail development, has been dissolved.

The dissolution was announced in an editorial letter to the Journal Inquirer.

"Our vision was to try to make some progress in our town by bringing some much needed retail here," Pat Post, president of Progress for Stafford, said in the letter.

"This would have provided our residents with the opportunity to keep their money here in town and given them the convenience of shopping locally. In doing this, it would have also helped our tax base."

Post, who could not be reached for comment, also said in the letter that the group is being dissolved "in light of recent decisions."

The Planning and Zoning Commission last week agreed to limit all new commercial developments to no more than 40,000 square feet — roughly the size of a small supermarket.

Post, in an internal memo to the group's members, said that the PZC's decision "is definitely ruling out any kind of retail, as we envisioned it, coming to Stafford." Consequently, she added, "the feeling is that we should dissolve our group."

The PZC limitation, approved on a 3-2 vote, also stipulates that a special permit is required for all buildings larger than 20,000 square feet.

PZC members John Mocko, Nicholas Hine, and Nancy Ravetto voted for the measure, while Daniel Ford and Roger V. Pelizari voted against.

Following the meeting, a number of people at the packed Veterans Meeting Room in Town Hall applauded.

Pelizari had said he favored calling a special referendum to gauge public opinion on the matter. Although it would not be binding, it would give the PZC a sense of how the public feels on the issue, he said.

But Ford who favored larger-scale development like Pelizari, said that a referendum might not solve all problems.

Ford has said that he was in favor of allowing more business space in order to help businesses succeed. He has said he is fearful that over regulation could take away from businesses' ability to be successful.

Progress for Stafford began last September.

Members of Stafford First, a rival group, was formed to oppose big-box development — specifically, the possibility that a Wal-Mart superstore might be built in town.

Stafford First filed a request for a moratorium with the PZC last July. The request was filed the same day the PZC unanimously approved an amendment to the town's zoning regulations requiring a special use permit for all buildings larger than 150,000 square feet.

In September the PZC approved a six-month moratorium that suspended any applications for developments that exceeded an aggregate of 30,000 square feet.