Dear Planning and Zoning Commission:
I am supplementing my prior comments to you on the draft Plan of Conservation and Development because while I previously emphasized the reasons why you should not include some of your concepts in the POCD, in so doing, to some extent I neglected to address the reasons which you give for including your concepts.
Your concepts for the village district and commercial zone and clustered development (as well as congregate care, age-restricted housing and planned retirement communities which I had not previously commented on) are proposals for radical changes in zoning in Easton. We should all be able to agree that if radical changes are to be implemented, there should be good reasons for doing so. Let’s take a brief look at your reasons.
P&Z has stated that the village district concept may help lower taxes in Easton. Incorrect. It would take 185 Easton Village stores to make a 10% reduction in taxes.
P&Z has stated that the village district concept will improve the grand list and house sales which are lagging behind other towns. Incorrect. The latest statistics for the first half of the year as published by one of the members of the planning and zoning commission shows that Easton leads all of the neighboring towns in the percentage increase in number of homes sold for the first half of the year. In that same report, although the median selling price for the same period has decreased by 14%, this is pretty much on par with all of the neighboring towns with the exception of Redding which increased by 9.2% and Wilton which increased by 3.9%. We would suggest that Easton sells better than all of the surrounding towns and that might well be due to its bucolic nature which in the future will become more and more important as other towns continue their commercial development.
P&Z has stated that the village district will provide a place for town people to congregate. Incorrect. There are already many places of congregation in town including the already existent grandfathered businesses within the proposed village district.
P&Z has stated that the village district will provide more control to P&Z. Incorrect. The planning and zoning commission already has ample control over the grandfathered businesses in the proposed village district. Moreover, the town does not now enforce the regulations which it has, evidenced by the apparent violation existing currently within the proposed village district and other obvious violations in town such as the logging operation on Route 59.
The planning and zoning commission also argues that it would be desirable to encourage millennials to move to Easton. While some would argue against that, in any event creating a village district is not going to do it. What might be of help would be to increase the amenities available in town, such as a year-round swimming pool for residents, but the cost of such improvements is probably prohibitive. What might be of help, and importantly not significantly costly, would be to give every new resident a one-year free membership in the Easton Community Center. To do so would encourage use of a presently existing gathering place in Easton and perhaps would encourage use and support of the Community Center after the year’s free membership.
I have not previously addressed the POCD concepts of “congregate care or similar facilities to provide housing alternatives,” “age-restricted housing/planned retirement communities,” or “multifamily dwellings.” All of these concepts, while not fully developed in the POCD, would be radical changes in our zoning and, as the commission itself points out, difficult to achieve given the need for protection of the water supply to over 400,000 Fairfield County residents which Easton provides.
The Board of Selectmen has received and is considering the POCD. I urge the members of the Board of Selectmen and indeed all of the citizens of Easton to oppose the radical changes proposed in the plan of conservation and development. Many do not recognize that the planning and zoning commission is the only entity which will vote on the POCD. The citizens of Easton do not have a vote in this matter. The commission is, however, holding a public hearing on October 1 at which comments will be received. The commission previously held a public hearing in June with about 130 people in attendance. The strong majority of those in attendance was to oppose radical changes in our zoning as suggested in the draft POCD. Nevertheless, the commission ignored the sentiment of the meeting and made virtually no changes in the draft POCD. Hopefully, if a large number of residents oppose the radical changes at the meeting on October 1, the planning and zoning commission will heed the sentiment of the town’s people and remove the proposed radical changes and keep Easton to jewel of Fairfield County.