Category Archives: Easton Government

Planning and Zoning Hearing on Proposed Town Plan of Conservation and Development 2018-2028 29, 2018 – Monday, October 7:00pm @ Helen Keller

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.

Housing Needs

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.

Farms

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

Additional Recommendations

  • 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.

Respectfully submitted,

Citizens for Easton Board

Preserve Easton: Important P&Z Public Hearing , Monday, October 29 at 7 p.m Helen Keller Middle School

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The Village District proposal in the draft of the 2018-2018 Plan of Conservation and Development will put this country-like area at risk.

Monday, October 29, 2018, 7 p.m. at Helen Keller Middle School is the official Planning and Zoning public hearing during which residents can speak regarding the updated draft of the 2018-2028 Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD), which will guide the conservation and development of Easton for the next 10 years. Your attendance is critical.

Among the proposals is a “Village District” (Section 8-2j of the CT General Statutes) in the Sport Hill Road, Firehouse Green and Silverman’s Farm area. The proposed POCD lists that possible uses for that area could include small retail stores, specialty shops, restaurant, farm and garden centers, craft centers, business, professional offices, public services, post office, and residential. The Firehouse Green and Silverman’s Farm area are a special part of Easton’s identity. More stores, traffic, congestion, lights, and commercial businesses will put this country-like area at risk. Read more here.

There are many other important items in the POCD, so please take some time to review this critical document.banner_tri_web

LETTER TO P&Z ON THE DRAFT PLAN OF CONSERVATION & DEVELOPMENT

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.

 

Bill Kupinse

South Park-Sacred Heart Proposal to Lease for Baseball Field- Thursday August 16th, 7:30 PM at Senior Center

Sacred Heart University will be presenting a proposal to lease a portion of the South Park Property for the purpose of a baseball field. The public is invited to comment and ask questions. This is agenda item #1 of the regular BOS meeting.
Item #3 is public comment.
We urge you to attend.

Planning & Zoning Special Meeting Agenda for Thursday, July 12 at 7 p.m.

P&Z will review with Glenn Chalder comments received as a result of the public information meeting held June 20, 2018.

If you wish for your opionion to be considered, it must be received prior to this meeting. Please email P&Z at: manania@eastonct.gov

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PUBLIC MEETING ON 2018 PLAN OF CONSERVATION AND DEVELOPMENT WEDNESDAY JUNE 20

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P&Z Releases Proposed Update to Plan of Conservation & Development

Do you cherish what makes Easton a special oasis amidst the bustle of Fairfield County? P&Z is considering a “Village District” in the proposed update of the Easton Plan of Conservation and Development (click here for more info) that could allow new commercial businesses in the Firehouse Green, Route 59 and Silverman’s Farm area such as small retail, specialty shops, restaurants, farm/garden centers, craft centers, businesses, professional offices, and public buildings.

P&Z will hold a public meeting on the draft on Wednesday, June 20, 7 p.m. at Helen Keller Middle School.

Existing retail establishments in town predate current zoning restrictions adopted in the 1940s when the town forefathers wisely enacted one- and three-acre residential zoning to control development and protect the watershed. With increasing stresses on the watershed and development pressures, it is more important than ever to retain our existing zoning.