Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
PZC takes last comments on open space rule

By Ben Rubin
Journal Inquirer
February 16, 2007

VERNON - One might not have expected that a proposed revision of the town's open spaces regulations would focus so much attention on broader goals and concerns about the environment, development, and holding onto the character of the community. But it has.

The Planning and Zoning Commission's public hearing on the proposed revision closed Thursday night, ending months of testimony from landowners, residents, town staff, and commissioners. The commission will begin deliberations on the suggested changes at its March 15 meeting.

Key to the issue is the proposal to increase the amount of land developers must set aside for conservation from a voluntary 5 percent to a mandatory 20 percent.

The application was submitted jointly by the town's Conservation Commission and its subcommittee, the Open Spaces Task Force, after years of consideration.

The general sentiment of most of the public comments Thursday night was that more rigorous open space regulations are needed to maintain quality of life and protect the environment. Others mentioned that creating the new requirements could lead to lawsuits.

Two modifications to the proposed regulation were central to Thursday's discussion.

One addressed whether the Planning and Zoning Commission ought to apply the regulation to every new development or decide to exempt some developments. The other revision would drop requirement of a mandatory minimum open space for all developments.

Both Conservation Commission and task force members spoke at the meeting, saying they would be willing to reduce the mandatory requirement to 15 percent. But both groups strongly supported making the regulation mandatory with a set minimum.

Town Planner Neil Pade said regardless of the two suggested modifications, the proposed revision would be a "tremendous change form what we have now."

He said the proposed regulation would have much more clearly defined guidelines and would integrate the open space provision into the town's development application process - two important differences with the current regulation.

©Journal Inquirer 2007