By Lindsay Carey
The Planning and Zoning Commission recently sought out the input of the public to develop a new Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD) for the town.
Glen Chalder, president of Planimetrics LLC, facilitated the meeting, as he will assist the town in coming up with the plan.
“Our job is do research and investigation to help understand these issues and try to give good guidance for the community overall,” said Chalder.
Chalder explained that a POCD is an “advisory document to help guide a community into the future.” He said that it is a plan that needs to be visionary, have a long term view, and involve physical development both economically and socially.
In 2015, a new policy is going into place that says that a town’s POCD must be updated every 10 years. Southington’s last POCD was formed in 2006.
According to Chalder, it is the Planning and Zoning Committee’s responsibility alone to develop the POCD, after a referral from the Town Council and some public input.
Upon arriving to the meeting, residents were asked to do an exercise in which they voted on concerns that they felt should be considered as the plan is created.
The topics that received the most votes for were open spaces, natural resources, community facilities, and traffic and circulation.
Open space received the most votes and Chalder said that is typically a sign that the town may be losing itself to development.
“Often times what that can mean is that residents feel that we might be losing parts of our character and we need to kind of do more to preserve open space,” said Chalder.
Residents shared their concerns regarding not only maintaining, but also increasing open space in Southington.
“We’re not only looking for preservation for preservations sake, but we’re looking to add passive recreations places such as Crescent Lake, but we also try to do some historical preservation,” said Bonnie Sica, a member of the Open Space Committee.
Chalder pointed out that a lot of times, once open space is preserved in a community there is often conflict over what to sue the open space for.
“Some people want to preserve it for wild life,” said Chadler. “Some people want to put fields on it, because kids want to play soccer and some people want to put trails on it, because it would beautiful to walk their and see the ridge.”
A few residents did express their concerns about open space regarding wild life and how demolishing their habitat can cause certain species to become extinct. Some residents mentioned wanting to keep the one moose that has been spotted in Southington and others wondered how it could affect the bird population.
“Not only does open space preserve natural resources, but it preserves species,” said Town Councilor and Chair of the Open Space Committee Stephanie Urillo. “Lots of times when you get development in an area of growth and space, the wildlife has no place to go.”
A couple of residents asked why the town would not purchase certain fields in town that could serve as open space. Chalder and PZC Chair Michael DelSanto said that sometimes it’s a matter of private property and the town cannot tell property owners what to do. DelSanto also said that if the town made those kinds of purchases, it would cost tax payers.
The discussion regarding Natural Resources revealed that residents feel there is a threat to natural resources and that the POCD should include preventative measures against that.
Chalder said that one of the biggest things that is brought up in natural resources is water and water quality protection. Residents at the meeting said that they were most concerned about water quality.
Resident Art Cyr said that he thought that water quality had been improved over the last 15 years, because of Zero Increase In Run Off (ZIRO).
Chalder explained that ZIRO is about maintaining the way the water flows off a site before development. He said that storm water could be retained in a basin, so that the run off after development would remain the same as before.
According to the Planimetrics President, ZIRO typically improves water quantity and not quality, because the storm water can run off anything in the environment.
He explained that now more and more towns are looking towards low impact development (LID) as a strategy to improve water quality.
“This approach to drainage is where we try to capture and treat rainfall as close to where that rain drop falls, because if we wait for the water to collect and build up, somewhere downstream we get a flood,” said Chalder.
Another hot button concern was traffic on two particular streets, Queen Street and West Street. A few residents suggested that more traffic studies be done to figure out how to remedy the congested areas in town.
Sica said that she feels West Street should go in a different direction than Queen Street.
“We need to bring in business in medical, science, research that don’t create a retail environment, but they’ll bring in people,” said Sica
Others suggested an alternative ways to reduce like examining the air quality and speeds on certain roads, which may be causing people to not want to walk or bike. Another person suggested a bus system come to Southington.
School zones and plowing the roads in the winter were also expressed as traffic concerns.
The group also discussed topics like Public Safety, Senior Citizens, and the Water Department along with others.
By Lindsay Carey