The proposed 2018-2028 Easton Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD) is an important document that will guide the town for the next 10 years. The following remarks reflect Citizens for Easton’s mission statement to vigorously pursue, support, and encourage efforts that preserve Easton’s scenic, rural, agrarian, and small town characteristics. Our current POCD’s introduction outlines well the role of Easton and vision for the future, and we urge the Planning and Zoning Commission to retain those values in the introduction the proposed 2018-2028 POCD. Continuing development pressures, the importance of low-density housing, demands on the watershed and public drinking water supply, have only made the Introduction and Summary in our current town plan even more applicable today and into the future.
We have the following suggestions to improve the proposed Town Plan:
Exclude a Village District as it would create more issues and cost to the Town than any perceived advantages it may create:
- Traffic, congestion, traffic lights, sidewalks and illumination will irreparably degrade rural character creating a traffic nightmare
- Zoning enforcement would be problematic and costly
- Threat of pollution to the Easton reservoir
- Since Sport Hill Rd is a state road, Easton would not be in control of whatever measures the State may implement for control
- It is doubtful that implementing a village district would create a space for social interaction-people just do not gather to socialize in stores. There are already numerous spaces in Town where people congregate like the ECC, Library, Gazebo, and the ever-popular Citizens for Easton Farm Tour
- The tax burden would not be alleviated- It would require approximately 185 more stores similar in size to the Easton Village Store to reduce the average resident’s tax bill 10%; tax revenues would then be offset by costs of additional town services.
- There is already a multitude of shopping in all of our border towns, so creating a commercial district in Easton for the convenience of the residents is just not necessary.
- It would open the door for other areas of commercial development changing the rural character of Easton forever.
- The main issue of the P&Z public meeting on June 20 was the Village District and the majority was not in favor of this proposal. This was also noted in the Easton Courier on June 28: “About twice as many speakers opposed the Village Center as favored it, with some others just raising concerns about the POCD process.” This is contrary to the first bullet point on page 1 of the draft POCD noting: “ This DRAFT is based on: Input from the community at a June 2018 informational meeting.”
Designate the town-owned 18-22 South Park Avenue property as Dedicated Open Space
- Although there appears to be much “open space” in Easton, the updated draft notes that 6,434 acres in town is “Managed Open Space” which is not preserved or restricted to open space, nor protected from development or permanently reserved as conservation land. The preservation of the 18-22 South Park Avenue property would be a valuable addition to the town’s Dedicated Open Space.
- The State Office of Policy and Management designated the 18-22 South Park Avenue parcel as a local conservation priority for the Town of Easton’s upcoming 2018-2023 State C&D Plan and we urge the PZC to designate it as such.
- The 18-22 South Park Avenue property is a critical habitat for sensitive species and the Mill River is a Class 1 wild trout stream.
- Numerous letters from many conservation organizations such as Connecticut Audubon Society, Connecticut Fund for the Environment/Save the Sound, Wildlife in Crisis, National Audubon Society, Rivers Alliance and more have been submitted urging preservation of the property.
- The entire length of South Park Avenue to the Fairfield/Trumbull border should be noted as a future scenic road.
- The southern end of South Park Avenue should also be a “Desirable Gateway Element.”
- The 18-22 South Park Avenue property should be added to the Mill River Valley Greenway.
- On August 18, 2016, CFE made a presentation to the Board of Selectmen for retaining and designating the South Park property as open space preserved in perpetuity. That presentation is online at https://citizensforeaston.files.wordpress.com/2016/08/sp_presentation_081816-post-presentation.pdf and we submit that as part of our comments.
We do support the recommendations on page 44 #1a and #3 to investigate successful aging in place initiatives that could help resident seniors stay in their own homes, such as the “Stay at Home” program, whereby neighbors help neighbors “age in place” with transportation, simple home repairs and tasks, in addition to offering neighborly connections and fostering a caring sense of community. However, urge the exclusion of age-restricted and/or retirement communities. These cannot be restricted to solely serve our town’s seniors, and the cost of this type of housing is expensive. Should sales lag in newly built age-restricted, high-density developments, developers could appeal to convert the sales to non age-restricted buyers, as happened in neighboring Fairfield’s Stratfield Falls Development. The need for protection of the public drinking water supply is a critical concern, also.
CFE applauds P&Z’s efforts in exploring ways for farms to expand their base of operations to help them thrive and see a way forward in the future, so long as it does not foster congestion, traffic, – or above all – threaten the fragile watershed, the protection of which has remained a core Easton mandate for over a century. Allowing major non-agricultural uses (e.g. distilleries, breweries, etc.) is of concern since such enterprises have been known to have adverse environmental effects and should not be included in the POCD without further study.
Conservation Design Development
This type of development could be an invitation to more intensive development of land and adversely affect water quality and other natural resources. Until a more in depth study of this approach is conducted, in addition to how it relates to septic, wells and the water table, this section should not be included. The future will put increased demands on our current reservoirs imminently such as the upcoming increased intensive use of the reservoirs to supply 1.5 million gallons a day to other Fairfield County towns
- Protect the town‘s groundwater resources by enacting additional aquifer and watershed protections.
- Review the town health code with stricter standards in recognition of our town’s special environmental issues including its presence on a public water supply watershed.
- Require a biological survey to identify species from the State Natural Diversity Database on land where development is proposed.
- Incorporate guidelines to preserve the attractiveness of lakes and waterways; protect rare and endangered natural and archaeological features.
- Any street lights or lights from buildings should be shielded appropriately, timed or use motion sensors.
- POCD 5.1 Maintain and Enhance Community Facilities- Page 50- expand DPW garage by closing Bibbins: Local residents utilize this road to escape the 136 freeway. Closing this road would force the residents to be stuck in the commuter traffic. Also, the 2016 Morehouse Civic Park Amendment to the Town Plan calls for DPW Yard Relocation. If DPW garage needs to expand, doesn’t Morehouse fill that need?
- Explore reciprocity with Fairfield and Westport regarding use of town beaches
- Explore offering a one year subscription to the ECC for new residents
Inconsistencies with State Growth Principals
- Principle 3: The Village District does not seem to be applicable here. The State POCD’s intent seems to be regarding competition for and generation of economic growth and development along urban arterial roads with significant commercial development.
- Principle 4: The proposed Easton POCD seems inconsistent because it recommends (on page 60) supporting the extension of natural gas service and extension of the public water supply system to the Firemen’s Green area. The State POCD looks to minimize the need to expand infrastructure to support new development in rural areas
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Citizens for Easton Board