Mansfield Tomorrow kicks off
By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Mansfield - posted Tue., Feb. 5, 2013
On Wednesday, Jan. 30, dozens of residents gathered at the Mansfield Public Library for the first public event to kick off the Mansfield Tomorrow Project. “With important projects like Storrs Center, the UConn Technology Park, and extension of public water and sewer service to the Four Corners area already in the works, Mansfield needs a plan for what's next – a plan that gives us the vision, the strategies, and the tools to become the type of community we want to be,” read a press release.
Some of the questions that Mansfield Tomorrow seeks to answer include: How can residents preserve what they value about the town? Where do residents want new development to occur? What should new development look like? How can the town grow local businesses and farms? How can residents make living in Mansfield more affordable for working families?
“Community participation is a big part of this project, both through face-to-face meetings and through online and mobile phone engagement,” continued the press release. At the Jan. 30 meeting, officials such as Mayor Betsy Paterson and Town Manager Matt Hart provided an overview. Mansfield Tomorrow, they said, was expected to continue for approximately 18 months, culminating in a comprehensive plan and zoning and subdivision regulations reflecting the plan. “The Mansfield Tomorrow Plan will build on the Mansfield 2020 Unified Vision Plan developed in 2008 and update our state-required plan, the Plan of Conservation and Development,” read a handout.
Among the slides included in a Powerpoint presentation was one bearing the heading: "A consultant team that combines local and national experience." It listed seven different firms that would be involved in the project: Goody Clancy and Associates out of Boston, acting as the lead consultant in urban design and housing; Milone and MacBroom out of Cheshire, Conn., described as the zoning and regulatory process lead, planning and infrastructure; Farr Associates out of Chicago, described as the sustainability advisor and innovative zoning advisor; Mt. Auburn Associates out of Somerville, Mass., described as an economic development strategy expert; PlaceMatters out of Denver, described as a community participation expert; and Shipman and Goodwin-Tim Hollister, Esq. out of Hartford, Conn., providing model Connecticut sustainable land use codes and legal advice regarding zoning.
Ken Snyder, from PlaceMatters, took over the meeting after the introductions. His approach was to break the room down into smaller groups, each provided with a laptop. The groups were assigned to tackle three different subjects: 1. Decide what kinds of topics and questions people should be asked to answer and discuss; 2. Decide what kinds of Mansfield-oriented prizes could be offered for participation; 3. Decide who should be invited to participate in Mansfield Tomorrow and how to get them involved.
Water was an issue that immediately came up at a table near the front of the room. Water has been a frequent topic of conversation recently due to concerns regarding the source of increased supply required due to the university's expansion plans. “I’m worried that in my retirement years, I won’t be able to afford to live in Mansfield because of the huge amount of taxes we’ll have to pay to ship in water,” said Crawford Elder. Cost, as well as quality of life and environmental concerns, should be a focus of discussion, agreed the majority of the table.
Regarding the question of who to get involved in discussions, a resident pointed to a map at the front of the room with dots representing the location of residences of those in attendance. The southwest corner of the town, they noted, was conspicuously blank. Noah, who did not want to use his last name, said that he believed residents in that part of town felt isolated from town politics. “I think that they’re bitter, because they feel that they’re looked down on,” he said. Noah felt that there is a divide in town between those who are affiliated with the university, and those who are not.