For decades, New Milford has focused on developing its economic base.

To some, that focus has outweighed the town's quest to maintain its traditional New England character.

Danbury Road (Route 7 South) has evolved into a series of shopping plazas as the town's Zoning Commission has acquiesced to commercial business needs.

Richard Saitta, a commission alternate, is acting to stem the tide.

He did the legwork to develop a draft of architectural guidelines to be used by the Zoning Commission to encourage developers to follow traditional New England designs when building in town.

"The blueprint for these guidelines comes from what I saw in the hearts and minds of members of the commission," Saitta said, "and the people who come before us."

He foresees the architectural guidelines as a way for the commission to formalize the desires of New Milford residents to salvage their community's New England flavor.

"This gives us a way to communicate that wish to developers," Saitta said.

When completed, the architectural guidelines will be added as an appendix to the town's zoning regulations.

Zoners sat down Jan. 13 with members of the New Milford Trust for Historic Preservation to go over the draft of the guidelines.

Saitta has already presented the draft to the town's Economic Development Commission. Its members encouraged the addition of architectural renderings and photos of exactly what the town has in mind.

"I think everything that you have here is excellent," said Pat Greenspan, the trust's vice president. "Economic development and historic preservation can go hand in hand. Towns that maintain their traditional historic look are bringing in business and revenue."

The guidelines have commercial development in mind -- creating harmony between the town's commercial and residential districts.

The focus is on the village center and the routes 202 and 7 corridors.

Guidelines include design standards; scale, massing and proportion of buildings; equipment and service areas; and historic resources.

"We ask that old stone walls are maintained, tree stands preserved on open space edges," explained Laura Regan, the town's zoning enforcement officer.

Sharon Ward, the zoners' vice chairwoman, noted the commission has already had some influence on commercial buildings coming into the town.

The new 10,000-square-foot Goodwill store under construction at 115 Danbury Road made roof line changes to avoid a box store look.

"Dunkin' Donuts originally came to us planning to build a box-style building (at Dodd Road)," Ward said. "Through encouragement from the commission, the building's design was changed with roof peaks and gabled windows."

stuz@newstimes.com; 203-731-3352