Letter: Argues arts in town won't be jeopardized by zoning regulation

To the Editor:

Thank you to Louise van Tartwijk for the Letter to the Editor published in last week’s Spectrum which encourages Washingtonians to realize we are not townspeople against the town’s arts and culture scene, but a group of residents trying to protect life in our residential neighborhoods.

Mind you, the arts and culture scene has been a part of Washington since the early 1900s.

Washington Dramalites, The Washington Art Association, Gunn Memorial Library, Washington Friends of Music, Shepaug Friends of Music, St. John’s Church Concert Series, Shepaug Dramatics, ASAP, events in Judy Black Park, The Litchfield Jazz Festival, Shakespeare in the Litchfield Hills, and The Gunnery’s Drama Society are just some of the past and current cultural and performing groups here in Town.

We in no way would be jeopardizing the arts and cultural growth in our community by tightening up a zoning regulation in the residential sections of town.

We are not opposed to change, not opposed to the arts, not opposed to businesses coming to town.

It has been wonderful to see change evolve in Washington and New Preston, but with these great changes also comes the need to review and update some zoning regulations that are far outdated and no longer protect the residential landowner.

The zoning regulation which currently exists for Temporary Uses under Section 12.8 and 12.8.1 states the following: “Temporary permits may be issued by the Zoning Enforcement Officer for the following uses if in his judgment, the public convenience and welfare can be substantially served and the appropriate use of neighboring property would not be substantially or permanently injured.

A circus, carnival, or similar type of entertainment for a period of not more than seven days.”

Nowhere in this Section does it suggest: that approval should go before the Zoning Commission, not just the ZEO, how the seven days are to be used (i.e., consecutive or over a certain period of time), how many times per calendar year a land owner can apply for a Temporary Uses Permit, what kind of event is permitted (i.e., non-profit, political, religious, for-profit), and the hours of operation.

While we thank our local Zoning Commission for its tireless efforts in governing, preserving, and enforcing the current zoning regulations, property owners need assurance that clear restrictions and guidelines have been put in place to protect us all.

Unless there is change to the current Residential District Temporary Uses Regulation, each and every one of us living in Washington and New Preston in a residential neighborhood will continue to be vulnerable and subject to neighbors hosting multiple day events, with few guidelines on how these events are to be held.

I do believe that most neighbors still look out for one another and respect each other’s privacy and valued land.

But I also fear some have lost sight of the big picture in this proposed regulation change, and have convinced themselves and friends, that this is some kind of threat to Washington’s cultural development, and not a change to preserve and protect every residential neighborhood in town.

When you go home this evening and listen to the quiet as you walk into your home, think about how a seven-day event of any sort, with traffic, lights and noise could play out on your street should your neighbor have the resources.

Julie Q. Fredlund