Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
PZC adopts Plan of Conservation and Development with focus on preserving open space, farmland

By Max Bakke
Journal Inquirer
March 28, 2008

ELLINGTON — Preserving open space and local farmland are the dominant themes of the town’s new Plan of Conservation and Development adopted by the Planning and Zoning Commission Thursday.

The plan, approved unanimously by the commission, will be a guide for town land-use decisions for the next 10 years, Chairman Arlo Hoffman said.

Some recommendations from the plan have already been implemented by the commission, including increasing the open space set-aside for subdivisions from 10 percent to 20 percent.

“It’s a good plan, and a lot of it will be implemented in a relatively short time,” Hoffman said. “I think the plan’s a reflection of what people would like to see happen.”

Only a few residents spoke at Thursday’s public hearing — some raised concerns about town traffic flow and sidewalks while others encouraged the commission to create a drumbeat for its farmland preservation initiative.

In November voters approved $2 million for the town to use in purchasing development rights to local farmland.

“I’m alarmed at the rate that farmland is being consumed by housing development,” said resident Edward Wysocki. “You have to give the farmer incentive to do this — not just make it available.”

State statutes stipulate that towns must adopt a Plan of Conservation and Development every 10 years. Work began on Ellington’s plan in January 2007 and was put together with assistance from residents, town officials, and Planimetrics, an Avon-based consulting firm contracted to put the plan together, Town Planner Robert Phillips said Wednesday.

The plan aims to establish land-use policies to guide residential and commercial development in town, protect natural, scenic and cultural resources, enhance and preserve the town’s rural character and ultimately create more comprehensive and flexible land-use regulations to effectively manage growth in a responsible manner.

The plan also hopes to encourage the preservation of historical buildings in town, suggesting the town offer tax abatements to entice property owners to renovate those buildings.

Members of the Conservation Commission and First Selectman Michael P. Stupinski praised the plan.

“It’s a topnotch job,” Stupinski said.

Earlier this month, the selectmen entered into a partnership with the Northern Connecticut Land Trust to purchase the 58-acre Moseley property between Route 140 and Tolland Turnpike as open space.

A survey in the plan shows that 86 percent of residents favor the town purchasing land to preserve open space, with 40 percent of those willing to pay an extra $100 in property taxes to do so.

Bruce Hoben, a consultant from Planimetrics, encouraged the commission to look hard at implementing the plan’s recommendations and not let it sit on the shelf.

“It’s a schedule that points fingers at some people and says you need to get something done in a certain amount of time,” he said.

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