Update of Easton Plan of Conservation and Development

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

Monday, October 29, 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

It is important to voice your concerns to PZC; they are the town entity that will be voting on this. 

The Planning & Zoning Commission (PZC) is proposing a “Village District” in the update of the town Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD) that would allow new commercial businesses in the area of the Firehouse Green and Silverman’s Farm. Potential uses listed are small retail, specialty shops, small restaurant, farm and garden centers, craft centers, business/professional offices, public services, post office and residential.

TAKE ACTION: If you cherish what makes Easton unique and a special oasis amidst the congestion of Fairfield County then let P&Z know that you want to keep the current zoning as is.
– Review the proposed 2018-2028 Plan of Conservation and Development.
– Attend the important PZC Public Hearing on Monday, October 1, 7:00 p.m. at Helen Keller Middle School.
– If you cannot attend or do not wish to speak, email your concerns to the PZC secretary before the close of business (4:30) on Monday, October 29.

Village District should be excluded from POCD:

  • It’s more important than ever to retain existing zoning because of increasing stresses on watershed & development pressures.
  • It would require 185 more Easton Village Stores to reduce the average resident’s tax bill 10%. – Andrew Kachele,
    Easton Board of Finance.
  • Traffic, congestion, alterations such as traffic lights, sidewalks and illumination will irreparably degrade rural character.
  • Easton’s farms and existing establishments already provide many products (including ice cream!) and gathering places.
  • Bordering towns already fulfill a vast variety of shopping and commercial needs.
  • The location under consideration is in an area where farms are located, putting them at greater risk of development.
  • This area is close to the Easton Reservoir. The risk of pollution from commercial activity is increased.
  • Threat of commercial expansion spreading to other areas of town.
  • Additional time and increased taxpayer costs associated with managing this district.
  • Civic and cultural opportunities already exist in town for social interaction and meaningful sense of community.
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 
  • Supported is 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.
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 Firehouse Green area. The State POCD looks to minimize the need to expand infrastructure to support new development in rural areas.

The Greater Bridgeport Regional Council fact sheet on Easton notes:
“In the ever more complex and congested 21st century, bucolic Easton remains a serene and special place…although Easton lies on the fringe of an increasingly urban and suburban area of Fairfield County, it remains distinctively different from its neighbors. Here there still exist extensive forests, open meadows, sparkling streams and lakes, country homes and stone-wall-bordered winding roads and lanes. …When one enters the town from any direction there is a sense of arriving at a country-like unspoiled place…”
By being wise and dedicated stewards in upholding our residential zoning as is, current and future generations will be able to experience the unspoiled and unique treasure that is Easton.