Public weighs in on Plan of Conservation and Development

By Christian Mysliwiec - Staff Writer
South Windsor - posted Thu., Jul. 18, 2013
Planning and Zoning Commissioners Stephanie Dexter, Elizabeth Kuehnel and Viney Wilson listen to public comments. Photos by Christian Mysliwiec.
Planning and Zoning Commissioners Stephanie Dexter, Elizabeth Kuehnel and Viney Wilson listen to public comments. Photos by Christian Mysliwiec.

After laboring for more than a year, the Planning and Zoning Commission issued a close-to-finished Plan of Conservation and Development, which will guide land use decisions within the town of South Windsor for the next decade. At a public hearing held Tuesday, July 16, residents and elected officials had a chance to share their thoughts, concerns, compliments and suggestions for alterations to the plan.

Heidi Samokar from Planimetrics, a consulting firm that assisted with the preparation of the plan, gave a presentation before the floor was opened to comments. She explained that 18 months were spent gathering input from the public. From this, they found that South Windsor has a relatively high quality of life, which is due in no small part to services provided by the town. The study revealed a strong desire on the part of residents to preserve open space and farmlands. Residents also want a town center.

Samokar also noted that residents believe that the best of both worlds – business expansion and preservation – is within South Windsor's grasp. "People believe there is room to development business while still being who we are as a community," she said. The POCD plan seeks to attain that balance.

With these goals in mind, P&Z crafted a POCD that strives for three main factors:

- environmental sustainability, or the preservation of open spaces and the protection of natural resources, as well as the ability to grow local produce. Environmental sustainability is also in line with the goals of South Windsor Walk and Wheel Ways, who advocate for a community that can be traveled easily on foot or by bicycle;

- economic sustainability, by maintaining current business zones and updating them, maintaining the amount of land zoned for industrial use, improving the appearance of business zones;

- and social sustainability, by striving to provide a high quality of life for residents, preserving the town's heritage, and preparing for emerging housing needs.

Study responders also revealed that two-thirds of residents believe having a town center is important, and the majority considered the center to be the crossroads near the Town Hall, or the "Four Corners" where Sullivan Avenue, Oakland Road, Buckland Road and Ellington Road meet. The plan suggests reinforcing a "town center brand," improving the area physically, and encouraging a vibrant, mixed-use setting.

David Joy, chair of the Board of Education, said that as a town, "we do not have one unified plan." He described the POCD as a "tapestry," a collection of goals and guidelines for the future, but also noted that the town departments all make decisions independently. He said he hopes the town agencies will come together in agreement over the POCD.

Andrew Paterna of the South Windsor FOOD Alliance, or Families Organized for Optimal Development, thanked the commission for its hard work. "I love the fact that sustainability issues are being addressed," Paterna said. He recommended that as the town prepares to launch a new town center, it should consider putting in a South Windsor Agricultural Store at the location. Just as a new shopping mall launches with an anchor store, the agricultural store would be the center's openning attraction, and would provide a place for locally-grown food to be sold.

Patty Lazas Hood, a member of the South Windsor Walk and Wheel Ways, commended the emphasis on a town center. "It would be great if this became a high priority," she said, hoping for a "charming, New England town center, rather than Any Suburb, USA."

Tom Tam, who will be closing on a house in town, identified himself as one of the minorities the plan's statistics cited: a young adult who remains in town rather than finding a career and home elsewhere. He said he only found out about the public hearing by "liking" South Windsor on Facebook, and suggested that the P&Z and other departments might better expose their meetings to generate more community involvement.

Rob O'Connor, a member of the Park and Recreation Department and a member of the South Windsor Walk and Wheel Ways, appreciated the plan's many maps, which allows readers to get a visual impression of many of the plans being proposed in town. "People should turn to this document once it's published to put into context all the other plans," he said.

Town Councilor Janice Snyder agreed. "I think this is going to be our bible going forward," she said.

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