Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Council gives downtown concept plan a push

By Kym Soper
Journal Inquirer
June 6, 2007

VERNON - The Town Council Tuesday endorsed a concept plan presented by the Rockville Downtown Association in May that, over the next seven to 10 years, would renovate older buildings, construct 500,000 square feet of new retail space, and open up Market Street and the Hockanum River area to pedestrian traffic.

In its endorsement, the council also directed the town planning and economic development offices to work with the RDA in furthering the plan, and voted to appropriate $9,000 for advertising to promote the concept to developers.

The area affected is bound by Union Street to the north, Brooklyn Street to the south, Court Street to the east, and Rockville General Hospital to the west.

At Tuesday's Town Council meeting Marina Rodriguez, the economic development coordinator, laid out recommendations for the next steps that should be taken.

They include cataloging affected properties, identifying the owners and determining if they have future development plans that could be integrated, performing environmental assessments on the properties, appraising the properties, developing a project budget and financing plan, performing a feasibility study to determine the project's potential, developing a plan that shows project stages, and ironing out details for a town-RDA partnership.

The council's Republican majority pushed for the endorsement, saying the project is critical to Rockville's revitalization and could significantly add to the tax base.

Some Democrats, including Mayor Ellen L. Marmer, cautioned against haste, however, saying more details are needed.

"I think at this point we're jumping the gun. What are we spending $9,000 on - we don't even have a budget yet this year," Marmer said.

Councilman George Apel said the project needs to get off the ground and quickly.

"I can see us sitting here for the next five years and nothing will ever get done," Apel said. "I really think this could help the town."

Councilman Dan Champagne echoed the sentiment.

"Even if this is going to take 10 years, it's about time we get going on something," Champagne said. "Rockville is falling apart."

©Journal Inquirer 2007