Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Valley Falls Road moves toward 'scenic' designation

By: Jason Rowe
Journal Inquirer
March 20, 2006

VERNON - Valley Falls Road is a step closer to becoming the first scenic road designated under a town ordinance adopted in 2004.

On Thursday, the Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously approved the scenic designation for the road. The designation will take effect unless owners of a majority of the lot frontage on the road submit written statements opposing it.

The scenic designation limits the ability of the town and property owners to make major alterations to the road, such as widening it or removing stone walls and trees along the road. PZC approval is required for such changes.

All of Valley Falls Road, which runs between Bolton and Tunnel roads, would be designated as scenic.

The town clerk will now send written notices of the impending designation to all owners of property on the road.

The property owners will have 60 days to file written statements of approval or disapproval with the clerk.

The votes of the property owners will be weighted according to their lot frontage on the road. The scenic designation will take effect unless owners of a majority of the frontage oppose it.

Owners who fail to file written statements with the town clerk by the end of the 60 days will, in effect, be considered in agreement with the designation.

The commission's action came in response to an application by Scott A. Wieting of 64 Valley Falls Road.

Wieting, a member of the town's Conservation Commission, appeared before the PZC on Thursday to argue in favor of the designation.

He said the road meets several of the criteria for the designation. Among them are that it pass through agricultural land and offer scenic views of nearby ridgelines. Another criterion is the presence of mature trees and forests along the road.

Roads also can be considered scenic if they are unpaved and have a road surface no more than 20-feet wide.

Although Valley Falls Road is paved, it passes through a relatively secluded area, which includes Valley Falls Park.

"Valley Falls Road meets many of the criteria provided in the ordinance," Wieting told the commission. "With all these qualities, I feel the road more than qualifies for the designation."

Wieting got support from two other Valley Falls Road residents.

Jon Roe, who has lived on Valley Falls Road for 30 years, said it is a popular spot for scenic drives during summer weekends.

"It's the entrance way to Valley Falls Park, which is one of our real jewels in town," said Roe, who lives at 70 Valley Falls Road. "It's a real jewel, not only for people who live on the road but people who live in town as well."

Saying that the new restrictions won't be burdensome, Jeff Carlson of 76 Valley Falls Road said he also favors the scenic designation.

The Town Council adopted the scenic road ordinance in December 2004 as a way to preserve the character of the town's older roads.

PZC member Watson "Chip" Bellows said the scenic designation is a good way to preserve unique areas of town.

"I think it's a way to preserve the rural character of the areas which seem to be forgotten as we supposedly go forward with progress," Bellows said.

©Journal Inquirer 2006