Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Ellington PZC votes to increase open space in subdivisions

By Stacey A. Silliman
Journal Inquirer
January 31, 2008

ELLINGTON - The Planning and Zoning Commission has unanimously approved a regulation to increase open space in large subdivisions.

The PZC had previously split 3-3 on the issue when it came up last summer. But Monday's unanimous vote showed a PZC in sync with the view that the amount of open space in large new subdivisions should be increased.

The new regulation will require any new subdivision of 100 acres or more to set aside 20 percent of the total land for open space or pay a fee in lieu of open space. The fee in lieu of open space is set at 10 percent of the undeveloped land value, PZC Chairman Arlo Hoffman said.

The town previously required developers to set aside 10 percent of the total land in a subdivision as open space.

"We'd previously talked about it and it's part of our Plan of Conservation and Development," Town Planner Robert Phillips said Tuesday. "It was a split vote in the summer but then after the vote in November, I think some of the members changed their minds."

Hoffman had voted against the measure this past summer. But he changed his vote Monday after being influenced by residents' overwhelming approval at referendum last November of a measure to preserve farmland in town.

"Before, some of us felt that it (the regulation) was asking a lot of just one segment of the town," Hoffman explained.

"We viewed (the vote) as a commitment by the town to say 'we really want it (open space).' The people stepped up and said we will support it," he said of the change in his vote.

Voters had overwhelmingly approved the referendum, which allowed the town to borrow $2 million in bonds to buy development rights from local farmers.

The measure, which was approved by a 1,651-vote margin, would prevent farmers who sell their development rights to the town from transferring their parcels to commercial or residential developers.

The town has approximately 5,000 acres of agricultural land of which less than one-seventh is protected from development.

"Ultimately, the moral from a tax perspective is this helps the town fiscally. It costs the town more for residential services than having open space," Phillips said of the importance of open space.

According to a draft of the town's Plan for Preservation and Conservation, roughly 2,473 acres or 11 percent of the total land in the town is dedicated open space.

Phillips said that the town has no pending subdivisions that fall under the new regulation. He added that most developers choose to pay a fee in lieu of setting aside the required open space.

©Journal Inquirer 2008