Suggests efforts be coordinated about zoning, housing issues
Published 10:58 pm, Monday, August 31, 2009
To the Editor:
Two issues have been raised [in New Milford] recently that, while intriguing on first view and on the surface, require additional study and evaluation.
Both the proposed riverfront zone change and the proposed workforce housing zone appear to offer substantial benefits at least to some elements in town.
At least as far back as the early Art Peitler administration, during the 1990s, proposals were advanced to take advantage of the fact the Housatonic River flows through New Milford.
A Riverfest was conducted but unfortunately never was repeated. The 1997 Plan of Conservation and Development urged appropriate development to "maintain scenic vistas & and to enhance public access."
The Connecticut Plan of Conservation and Development identifies the Housatonic as a "proposed preservation and conservation area," while New Milford's plan proposed a greenway along the banks from Gaylordsville to Brookfield.
Unfortunately, no Zoning Commission action ever implemented these proposals.
Now, the Zoning Commission is proposing a change that would modify development patterns along a short section of the Houstonic in downtown New Milford.
While this may be a step in the right direction, it hints of spot zoning, since it would especially benefit one property owner, who previously has sought zone changes for his property. It also would not address development along the rest of the river or along other notable rivers in town, especially the east and west branches of the Aspetuck, and the Still River.
New Milford does need to emphasize its unique relationship with the town's rivers and lakes, but not in a piecemeal fashion.
It's time for all New Milford's land-use agencies, planning, zoning, conservation and inland-wetlands, in conjunction with the Economic Development Commission, to develop a comprehensive review of our waterways and how they best will benefit all residents.
The workforce housing zone change also looks positive on the surface, but needs much more review.
New Milford residential areas often appear higher class, with a substantial number of "McMansions."
The town, however, can provide a central housing base for the workforce who cannot afford to reside in surrounding, more affluent communities.
And, while New Milford does have a substantial percentage of housing that meets the state guidelines for afford ability based on cost, it does not meet the state requirements for afford ability based on deed restrictions or "Section 8" availability.
Before adopting the proposed workforce housing zone, there should be a coordinated effort to ensure the housing meets all the state requirements.
This undoubtedly should involve multiple town agencies, including the Economic Development Commission, Housing Partnership, Social Services, the Housing Initiative, etc.
If New Milford is to tackle both of these issues, and New Milford First thinks it should, it needs to do so with a coordinated, thorough, intelligent plan.
It's time for planned action to make New Milford first.