Ellington residents want smarter development along Route 83
By Steve Smith - Staff Writer
Ellington - posted Fri., Dec. 13, 2013
Ellington residents packed into the meeting room at Town Hall on Dec. 12 to discuss the future development of Route 83. Before the discussion began, they were asked to put small, round, color-coded stickers on a map of town, to indicate where they live, things they were proud of about Ellington, and things about which they felt were "sorry."
Most of those in attendance lived on or near Rt. 83, and while the "proud" stickers were distributed around the town, the "sorry" stickers were notably clustered on the southern half of the north-south state route.
The discussion was facilitated by Town Planner Lisa Houlihan and the Ellington Planning and Zoning Commission and was led by Glenn Chalder of Planimetrics – a consulting and project management firm based in Simsbury.
Houlihan said the PZC commissioned the study about what the future of Route 83 should look like. "The primary goal of tonight's event is to engage community involvement regarding Route 83 in terms of land uses, zoning and future build-out," Houlihan said.
In keeping with the "sorry" map, many of the residents' comments centered on what they consider to be already too much development on the southern part of the route, as well as increased traffic in that area. Many said the "mish mash" of businesses is unpleasant to look at, and that any future development should be better regulated to decrease the number of curb cuts and conform to appearance parameters more in line with the character of the town, including smaller (and smarter) parking lots, more trees and landscaping, and better-looking building facades.
Chalder said that in many ways, Route 83 is the "spine of the community."
"Is that spine doing everything we want it to do," Chalder asked. "Can it do more? Should it do more? Or, should it do less in certain areas? Are there things we are uncomfortable with that we'd like to change?"
Resident Ellen Karadimas said she had a problem with the "spine" terminology. "You can see [on the "sorry" map] that it's the canker sore of Ellington," she said. "It's the under belly of Ellington, and I think the planning commission really needs to look at that, and see what's going wrong, and really be vigilant about what type of businesses are going in, and what they need to look like."
Karadimas said that the area along Route 140 near Main Street (and the town green) is an apt representation of the character of the town.
Many also felt that the development that includes McDonald's and Big Y is not in keeping with the town's character.
"The design review, in my opinion, wasn't sufficient to make it fit into Ellington," one resident said, urging that future businesses face stricter guidelines.
"Perhaps the easiest way to describe what we don't want is Route 83 through Vernon," said one resident.
"Stoplights galore," said another resident, piggybacking on the previous comment.
"If we don't come up with a plan to incorporate these properties into a single, long-term scheme," said resident Dan Keune, "we are inevitably going to look like Vernon."
Connectivity, via sidewalks and better bicycle access, was another provision in which many expressed interest. Chalder said pedestrian and bike access will certainly be part of the study.
Another thought was that more businesses are needed in town, in order to bring more employees to support the retail and restaurants in town.
"Our hope is that by studying the corridor now and looking ahead, we can avoid some problems in the future," Chalder said, adding that he will be working with the commission over the next three to six months and then come up with a package of ideas, and that most-likely, another public meeting will take place.
Residents are encouraged to send additional thoughts and comments to Town Planner Lisa Houlihan at firstname.lastname@example.org.