Easton Village District Proposal
Town Plan Update/Commercial Center
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South Park Avenue Property
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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.
Forever Yours or Forever Gone: On Thursday, August 18, 2016 (location and time to be determined by Board of Selectmen) Citizens for Easton will present to the Selectmen a proposal to retain the unique 29.6 South Park Avenue property as open space in perpetuity. This pastoral landscape is part of Easton’s rural character and abuts the Mill River, one of only nine Class A Wild Trout streams left in Connecticut. Your presence will send a strong message to the Selectmen that townspeople feel very strongly about preserving this important part of Easton’s character and heritage for current and future generations.
Please also pass this information to others interested in preserving part of what makes Easton special and safeguarding the sensitive Mill River.
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Thank you for your support!
The Easton Conservation Commission was constituted in 1970 with the responsibility of enforcing the state Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Act. Under State Statute, the commission has the following additional responsibilities:
• To develop, conserve, supervise and regulate natural resources including water resources.
• To conduct research and provide recommendations into the actual and potential use of land areas.
• To keep an index of all open areas whether public or privately owned.
• To acquire land in the name of the town when deemed advisable.
Major land acquisition
In 1975 the town completed one of the largest land acquisitions in its history. At this time Conservation Commission members Alden Speare, Robert J. Nicola, Pauline S. Marks, Leslie B. Warren, Mimi J. Boyd, Jean Everett and Margaret Kerr made the recommendation that the town purchase 128 acres of land from Ralph D. Paine Jr. for what is known as the Paine Open Space.
The purchase was a collaborative effort with a total of $435,000 being raised. Half of the funds came from a federal grant, while the remainder was split evenly between the state of Connecticut and the town of Easton.
Paine Open Space
Easton owns the majority of the Paine Open Space, however, the Aspetuck Land Trust owns two adjacent parcels containing approximately 10 acres. Since the original acquisition, the Conservation Commission and the town have added an additional 15 acres for a total of more than 150 acres that will be preserved forever.
All parcels are interconnected with hiking trails that meander through different habitats from open meadows to woodland areas, as well as wetlands with a number of ponds and bridges. There is even an island that is connected by a bridge in one of the larger ponds.
The trails are great for hiking and horseback riding, as well as snowshoeing or cross country skiing in the winter. Many residents have enjoyed ice skating on one of the ponds in the colder months. There are 10 ponds of varying sizes on the property and seven interconnected ponds built by Paine. Go to eastonct.gov and enter Paine in the search section for a downloadable map of the Paine Open Space trail system.
We encourage all Eastonites, young and old, to explore this beautiful piece of town-owned land. The property is on Maple Road with two entrances. The main entrance, between #210 and #220, has plenty of parking while a smaller entrance further down the road, beyond #290, can accommodate a couple of cars only.
Since federal funds were used to cover part of the Paine Open Space purchase price, the following rules are in place:
• Open daily during daylight hours.
• No motor vehicles of any kind, including ATVs, are allowed except in designated parking areas and for maintenance and emergency use.
• No hunting or discharging of firearms.
• No fires permitted for any purpose.
• No smoking allowed.
• No cutting or felling of trees or removal of plants or plant material.
• Horses restricted to designated trails.
• No camping, swimming or picnicking.
• Dogs must be leashed.
Historic hay barn
A classic English hay barn on the Paine property was built in 1847. Today, only the stone foundation remains. Easton wanted to repair the barn and raised funds to do so, but since the building inspector wouldn’t let preservationists onto the roof for safety reasons, the restoration was never completed.
The barn was offered to the public, and John Baldwin of Canterbury was awarded the barn by Easton’s Board of Selectmen. Baldwin owns a home built in 1712, and he planned on rebuilding the Paine barn on the site of an old barn foundation is on his property.
Enjoyed by diverse groups
Many different groups have enjoyed the Paine Open Space over the years. In addition to visits by Easton residents, the property was used for a Sacred Heart University student film class project entitled, “Purdy’s Crossing” about the underground railroad.
The property was also used by Easton Woods and Fields (horse-riding group) for trail riding. Recently, the Easton Fire Department conducted a mock fire rescue at Paine Open Space.
Various Troop 66 Eagle Scout projects have been completed on the property. Anthony Battaglia and his team created a new trail that connected two existing trails. Dan Gonzalo and his team built and repaired several bridges. Other Scouts have helped with trail marking over the years.
Over the years there have been several acts of vandalism at the Paine Open Space. Though all residents are encouraged to use this wonderful town asset, everyone who visits should remember that Paine is a town park, for the use by the townspeople. Each of us should safeguard it as we do our own backyards.
Ralph D. Paine Jr.
Ralph “Del” Delahaye Paine Jr. was born March 31, 1906, in New Jersey and died January 12, 1991. He was the oldest son of author and journalist Ralph Delahaye Paine Sr. and had two younger twin brothers. Ralph Paine attended Yale University, where he was a member of Skull and Bones and graduated in 1929.
Like some other Eastonites, Paine was a Wall Street securities analyst after college. He became the business editor for Time magazine in 1933.
In 1938, he was the personal assistant to publisher Henry Luce, the co-founder of Time. During World War II, Paine was in charge of The March of Time newsreel series and the European operations of Time Inc. publications.
Paine served as managing editor of Fortune from 1941 to 1953 and following the departure of Charles Douglas Jackson, he was publisher from 1953 to 1967. During his tenure, the magazine created its famous Fortune 500 list. Paine also served as publisher of Architectural Forum from 1954 to 1963 and House and Home from 1962 to 1963.
Over the period of 1936 to 1941 the Paine family acquired the eight parcels of land that was to become the Paine Open Space.
In 1947, Paine married Nancy White, who at the time was associate fashion editor of Good Housekeeping and later became the editor of Harper’s Bazaar.
At the time of his death, Paine was president and treasurer of the Vermont real estate holdings company Barton Mountain Corporation.
Conservation Commission and Inland Wetlands Agency
As the Inland Wetlands Agency, the commission enforces the provisions of Connecticut’s Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Act. In this capacity, it reviews applications for regulated activities, conducts site visits and if appropriate, holds public hearings prior to approving or denying a permit.
The Conservation Commission is responsible for maintaining town-owned land designated as open space and also for planning future open space acquisitions. To that effect, it works closely with developers and conservation groups, recommending to the Planning and Zoning Commission specific areas to be acquired by the town or otherwise protected.
Recent maintenance activities at the Paine Open Space included replacing drainage pipes under several trails, trimming trees that have been damaged in storms and other general maintenance activities. Commission member Steve Corti has been doing most of the work along with help from a neighbor, Peter Smith. Depending on availability, Easton’s Highway Department has been lending a helpful hand as well.
Aspetuck Land Trust
The Aspetuck Land Trust is a non-profit Connecticut Corporation devoted to preserving open space and the natural resources of Easton, Fairfield, Weston and Westport for the benefit of the public. You can visit their website at
— Other Conservation Commission/Inland Wetlands Agency members also contributed to this report.
I oppose the proposed amendment to current zoning regulations to create a new district called a “Town Green Center” at the intersection of Sport Hill Road, Center Road and Banks Road.
I oppose this amendment for the following reasons:
- Approving the proposed amendment will effectively break our Town’s current zoning laws that have protected Easton from developers and businesses since 1941. The stores that are currently doing business in Easton pre-date Easton’s strict no-commercial zoning regulations.
- We cannot limit commercial development to a particular piece of property in Easton since “Spot Zoning” is illegal.
- The revenue generated from a small shop is negligible. For example, a small commercial facility with a fair market value of $1 million would generate annual taxes of $16,520 or a savings of about $6.61 per household. Accordingly, it would take approximately 20 to 30 village stores to make a 1% dent in the Town budget.
- Commercial development will bring about increased traffic, higher Town expenses for the infrastructure to support it, a loss of the uniqueness of our Town and a decrease in property values.
- Some people advocate commercial development for the sake of convenience, including a bank, pharmacy, dry cleaner, ice cream shop, hardware store, wine shop, butcher, pizzeria, etc. If everyone’s idea of convenience is not satisfied, then what is accomplished and at what cost?
- As the current stewards of Easton, the residents bear a responsibility for our Town. Anything we do will affect the Town for generations to come and any changes that are enacted will be irreversible.
- Many people point to the Weston Town Shopping Center as a model for Easton. This is a bad comparison for several reasons. First, Easton is close to Monroe, Fairfield, Trumbull where Easton residents can go to stores, restaurants, etc. Weston does not have the same proximity to town(s) with significant commercial development. Second, Weston was in the process of enacting zoning regulations which would have prevented the center, but the center was rushed to get in under the gun. Weston continues to have pressure to expand the center which they resist or to have other commercial areas which they also resist.
- The State Department of Environmental Protection discourages development in the watershed, especially sewers, and encourages no more than two bedrooms per upland acre. Easton does not have the infrastructure (i.e. – sewers, roads, etc.) for commercial development.
- Remember that once the doors to development are open, they can never be closed.
- The bottom line is the “reward” of having some minor conveniences and minimal revenue is outweighed by the risk of jeopardizing our current protective zoning regulations.
Thank you for your time and consideration. James Riling 265 North Park Avenue. Easton, CT 06612
As an Easton taxpayer, I feel privileged to be among the custodians of a precious gem of 21st century New England: our rural oasis from strip-mall sprawl. My mate and I bought our home here three years ago with great admiration for our new neighbors and predecessors who have had the fortitude to preserve Easton’s rural character.
In the Pennsylvania farm town where I grew up, my siblings and I loved bicycling the 2 miles along our “Sport Hill Road” past cornfields to the village store, and my mother endured a 30-minute drive to Delaware for grocery shopping. Today, three decades later, my parents battle traffic to drive within 3 miles to any one of 6 supermarkets, 8 mega pharmacies, 7 gas stations, and 17 car dealerships. The road is too busy for kids on bikes, the old village store is a bustling bistro, and, with the acres of nearby farms and woods gone, you can hear distant highway traffic from the back yard.
The business district that has been proposed here might seem a “sleepy” or “low-key” project. But changing town zoning regulations to allow commercial expansion in Easton would betray the vision of our forebears and corrode our legacy. In under a decade we would have dismissed the thoughtful 2006 Easton Town Plan of Conservation and Development that townspeople spent five years composing.
Some are under the impression that new mom & pop shops would reduce homeowners’ tax burdens. Citizens For Easton has already debunked that myth; their data show that the opposite could occur (see citizensforeaston.org).
Based on the Easton Courier’s recent reports, others support a business district because the developer is well intentioned. Perhaps he is. But the decision about a zoning amendment should be based not on his character, but on our town’s, which could be changed forever. No matter how architecturally charming, there is abundant evidence in our county and across the country that there would be no turning back after our first shopping center is installed.
If you share my concern, voice your opinion to the Planning & Zoning Board at the town meeting at Helen Keller Middle School on Wednesday, May 29 at 7:30 p.m.
Adrienne Jane Burke-291 North Park Avenue-Easton