2006 News Flashes

December 31, 2006

Three Planning Commissioners derail the printing and distribution of the recently approved Plan of Conservation and Development...

The following is a summary of the full story which is contained below.

Summary:

On December 28th three Planning Commissioners (Greg Piecuch, Chip Houlihan, and Ferg Jansen) used a seldom exercised Planning Commission procedural rule to call a special meeting to rescind the release of the previously approved Plan of Conservation and Development just one day before it was scheduled to be printed and distributed to state and local government officials as well as to Simsbury citizens.  These commissioners specifically targeted the Southern Gateway (CL&P) property where Konover Development wants to build their project called River Oaks.  These three commissioners called for the elimination of any reference to retail size limits and standards in the Plan.  The Planning Commission reluctantly accepted the motion to rescind the plan and return to refining the Plan’s language, thereby delaying a plan that is already nearly three years late in delivery.

SHARE is very disappointed in the Planning Commission’s decision and specifically the actions of these three commissioners (Messrs. Piecuch, Houlihan, Jansen) who are supporting Big Box development directly and indirectly.  During this meeting, two commissioners suggested that size limitations should be put to public referendum (Commissioners Mead and Bednarcyk) while Chairman Loomis and Commission Alternates Mead and Drake argued strongly to maintain metrics in the Plan.  Commissioner Gardow relented to the dissenting trio.

As we have consistently stated, SHARE supports the direction of including metrics in the Plan and would like to see a town wide vote of some form as we believe it is the best way to finalize an already late plan and ensure that the citizens of Simsbury have a say concerning Big Box development and how metrics should be articulated in the Plan of Conservation and Development. However, the Planning Commission and the Town does not seem interested in soliciting information from a public referendum or a town wide comprehensive information gathering process.

So please voice your opinion to our town officials, the newspapers, and some state officials detailed below.  It is the only way we can defeat the forces promoting Big Box development in Simsbury.

For the full story, please get some water and antacid and take the time to read the details below.

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Dear SHARE Members:

Please read this all the way through - you have some work to do!  There were some unfavorable events that happened at the Special Meeting of the Planning Commission on December 28th.  All of us as citizens need to do something about this.

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But first we’ll set some background with an attempt at humor and with apologies to Clement Clarke Moore:


Twas the middle of vacation week when all through the town

Not a resident was stirring as the Planning Commission began to frown

Families were gathered enjoying the toys on their floors

In our wonderful town free of Big Box stores


The Draft Plan of Conservation and Development was all done and approved

With completion stamped on it and all ready to move

The State and the Board of Selectman and the Public were ready to read it

To be sure that it said what the residents wanted in it

 

When out in the town there arose such a clatter

The Planning Commission sprang from its holiday to see what was the matter

To Town Hall they flew like a flash

Turned on the lights, gathered together and began to clash

 

For while we were resting, three Planning Commissioners were scheming

To remove all metrics, size limits, and greenbelts was what they were dreaming

When what to our wondering eyes and ears should appear

But Messrs Greg Piecuch, Chip Houlihan, and Ferg Jansen disgruntled – oh dear!

 

With this unlikely trio having unity and a lot of audacity

We knew in a minute it must be politics and non-representative tenacity

More rapid than in previous meetings their strategy expressed

And in the end, previous decisions were rescinded and the metrics amiss

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OK… we’ll stop the attempt at humor but after Thursday’s Planning Commission meeting we thought that we and you might appreciate a little.  Because what we witnessed Thursday night was anything but humorous.  What we observed was the last thing we expect to see in a representative government in action.  So here’s what happened.  We’ll try to be brief and precise but please bear with us because the story is a bit long and complex.

* On December 19th there was a Planning Commission meeting where five of the voting members (Loomis, Piecuch, Bednarcyk, Gardow, Jansen) and two alternates were present (Drake, Cole). For the meeting, Chairman Loomis appointed Mark Drake (alternate) as a voting member because Chip Houlihan, a voting member, was absent from the meeting.  At that meeting the Draft Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD) was being finalized prior to having it distributed for final comment to the public and various State and Town commissions and agencies.  Significant changes were made to the document.  Most of the very specific metrics and size limitations had been removed at a Dec 12th PC meeting much to SHARE’s chagrin.  Once again, politics and the voices of special interest groups like the Chamber of Commerce (who two of the Planning Commission voting members are very active with (Jansen and Houlihan)) and commissions like the Economic Development Commission and the Zoning Commission had gotten their way at the expense of the overwhelming desire of the residents of Simsbury who made their point of view known.  The 2210 signatures that SHARE had obtained during a five week period expressing a desire for such metrics and size limitations seemed to have fallen on deaf ears.  But did they?

* But first, one brief digression from the main story because this one is of special note.  The Dec 19th meeting was originally to be held in a small room in Town Hall.  Early that day it became clear to Chairman Loomis that the room was going to be too small to accommodate the meeting so the room was changed to the large meeting room in the Library.  Chairman Loomis had signs and notices prominently placed all over Town Hall and the meeting began in the Library 15 minutes later than scheduled to allow people to make their way to the Library.  Over 40 people attended the meeting after seeing the signs in Town Hall.  Keep this all in mind for explanation later in this email.

* Late in the Dec 19th meeting (which went on until after midnight) the Planning Commission began to discuss some changes to the section of the POCD that dealt with the Southern Gateway (CL&P property) where Konover Development wants to build River Oaks.  There was a very heated discussion about adding in specific language that would provide guidelines for suggested sizes of buildings and a greenbelt along Route 10.  The opposing opinions to this revision were led by Greg Piecuch who argued vigorously against the Plan including any specific numbers.  Commissioners Loomis, Bednarcyk, Gardow, Drake and Cole as well as the Chairman of the Design Review Board, Emil Dahlquist, all agreed that the specific numbers should be included in the Plan in order to accurately articulate a vision for the future development of the Southern Gateway.    SHARE thought the additions were favorable as they returned some metrics, albeit less rigid ones, to the POCD as it pertained to the CL&P property.  In a complete reversal of his past statements and endorsements of including specific numbers in the Southern Gateway sections throughout PC meetings over the last year, Mr. Piecuch suddenly changed his mind and now is vehemently opposed to including any such metrics in the POCD.  We leave it up to you to figure out how and why he has completely reversed his position as we are completely perplexed about this.  SHARE believes that metrics do a good job of providing parameters to a vision as numbers help to put boundaries on abstract terms and concepts.  We believe, and have heard from thousands of you, that we all like numbers in such documents.  Absent numbers, limits and constraints are left to the ‘eye of the beholder’.

* After this heated debate there was a vote of 4 to 2 to return to the POCD some expression of suggested sizes for buildings (2000-25,000) square feet per floor (2 floor maximum), variable greenbelt sizes of 200-300 feet to prevent development too close to the road, encourage a 50-70 foot separation between buildings to discourage dense strip mall type development and encourage village style development.  The document also provided visionary guidance on the height of buildings and the desire to have different building heights and styles to prevent homogeneity and enhance visual appeal.  In the end, your SHARE Steering Committee thought this was all good stuff and was worded in a way that were clearly recommendations and advisory but clearly painted a picture of what the town would like to see rather than some huge monolithic ugly Big Box.  The 4 to 2 vote went as follows: Voting in favor of adding the metrics language to the Southern Gateway (CL&P parcel) section of the Plan were Loomis, Bednarcyk, Gardow, and Drake (alternate voting in the absence of Houlihan).  Voting to oppose adding the metrics language were Piecuch and Jansen.

* Despite the heated debate, the vote stood and everyone went home tired after midnight.

* But apparently some members of the PC and other involved parties had other ideas and the phone calls must have begun almost immediately.  Within a day or two a Freedom of Information complaint letter was sent to the PC by a resident (and town political ‘insider’).  Alleged in the complaint was that the meeting was illegal and all business conducted at the meeting should be nullified because the PC moved rooms without 24 hours notice.  In addition, Messrs. Houlihan, Jansen, and Piecuch used a seldom used rule in the PC’s rules to call a Special Meeting of the PC to discuss the FOI complaint and to discuss rescinding the results of the December 19th meeting.  These three commissioners wanted to have the meeting immediately so it was held on Thursday December 28th – in the middle of vacation week when many citizens are not available or paying attention to such issues.

* At the outset of the Dec 28th meeting the town attorney conveyed his analysis of the FOI complaint.  He reminded the PC that the complaint was not an actual complaint because no official complaint had been filed with the State’s Freedom of Information (FOI) Commission.  He said that he consulted the Connecticut General Statutes and consulted with the FOI Commission and it was his opinion that the complaint would not result in voiding the meeting results because prior FOI Commission rulings favored moving meetings to larger rooms to accommodate the size of an audience as long as a room change had adequate signage.  The town attorney felt that the PC was in a favorable place with regards to the FOI complaint and that if there was a hearing with the FOI Commission, the complaint would not prevail.

* Throughout this explanation from the Town Attorney, Chip Houlihan asked numerous questions about the FOI laws and rules and seemed to be the most interested PC member on the issues being discussed.

* The meeting then continued, absent the FOI issue, with an extremely lengthy discussion about rescinding the results from the previous meeting.  At issue was the desire of Messrs. Houlihan, Jansen, and Piecuch to go back to the ‘drawing board’ with the POCD to remove all metrics from the Special Areas section of the Plan and specifically from the section on the Southern Gateway (CL&P) parcel.  Numerous points of view were articulated.  Several members of the PC spoke eloquently (Loomis, Bednarcyk, Mead) that they had heard from numerous residents and the consensus is that people want metrics and specific numbers in the plan to put boundaries on the size of development.  But these proponents of numbers were speaking to an unwavering group of three (Houlihan, Jansen, and Piecuch).  These three PC commissioners, for reasons which your SHARE Steering Committee cannot comprehend, seem determined to not have any such metrics in the POCD.  And please remember that the argument at this meeting was about metrics only in the part of the POCD for the Southern Gateway (CL&P) parcel.  Why are these three commissioners so adamant to not limit the size and scale of development with numbers in the POCD for just this parcel?

* Because the PC meeting was so spontaneous and held during vacation week, SCTV was not able to video tape the meeting.  Your SHARE Steering Committee brought our own video equipment to film the meeting.  We will try to get this tape submitted to SCTV for broadcast.  There were some extraordinary statements made at the meeting that everyone should watch if possible.  A favorite of one SHARE member in attendance was Chip Houlihan’s comment about how what Simsbury needs is a store like Orvis where you could step out of the store and test a fishing pole in the river. That SHARE member went up to Mr. Houlihan after the meeting to remind him that Avon already had an Orvis and that the river is at least a quarter mile away from the CL&P property since there is a state park in between the property and the river.  He also reminded Mr. Houlihan that it was illegal to fish in the river except during fishing season.  Mr. Houlihan seemed interested in this information.  But we digress.

* To make a ‘short story long’, unfortunately after much debate the three dissenting PC members (Houlihan, Jansen, Piecuch) prevailed because the PC was concerned that they were in a deadlock situation.  Commissioner Gardow made a hasty decision to vote on this issue with the dissenting three because he was concerned that if they voted to continue with the POCD as it was currently drafted then changes might need to be made after the draft was distributed to the public.  Commissioners Loomis and Bednarcyk did not support this position because they believe that the plan needs to go to the public for review and comment first as it is ‘the people’s document’ and they wanted people to have the opportunity to read it before the PC continued to tweak it.  They believed the tweaks could be made later while the public reviewed the document and then presented to the public later.  Commissioners Loomis and Bednarcyk argued strongly to keep the metrics in the document because they believe such boundaries and limits are important for the town to publicly express.  Incidentally, all of the other issues voted on at the Dec 19th meeting were not disputed and remained intact in the POCD.  Your SHARE Steering Committee finds it odd that Messrs. Houlihan, Jansen, and Piecuch have such unified and strong opinions against metrics in the POCD and why no other issues discussed and modified in the POCD were of interest to them for further discussion.

* So the Planning Commission now goes back to the drawing board to hash out their differences.  The POCD was close to being done but now its completion date is unclear.  Also unclear is the status of having metrics in the POCD.

To conclude we are giving you all some very important ‘homework’:

* Please, please, please get noisy.  Let your thoughts and desires be known to the Planning Commission, the Zoning Commission and the Board of Selectman.  Write letters and emails both directly to our elected officials as well as to the Hartford Courant and the Simsbury Post.  Use names of the commissioners you are disappointed in within your letters to the newspapers. Politicians don’t like public criticism but we believe that some of them deserve it.  The email addresses and mailing addresses of all commissioners are on the www.ShareSimsbury.com website in the Contact Town Officials section.

* Let all the planning commissioners know your points of view.  But in particular let Planning Commissioners Houlihan, Piecuch, Jansen and Gardow hear your points of view.  Let them know how important you think it is to have metrics in the POCD.  Let them know that you expect them to represent you and do what you, as the citizens who elected them, want them to do.  When you send emails or letters, carbon copy the other commissioners so everyone sees what you have to say.

* Write letters to CRCOG (Capitol Region Council of Governments) about this issue.  CRCOG, a Connecticut regional planning organization, will be reviewing the POCD when it is completed and it is important for CRCOG to hear from citizens with their point of view about this issue.  Address your emails to Lyle Wray, Executive Director (lwray@crcog.org) and Mary Ellen Kowalewski, Director of Community Development (mkowalewski@crcog.org) or send letters to them at CRCOG, 241 Main Street, Hartford, CT 06106.

* Attend meetings.  We need more people to regularly attend all town meetings.  We believe strongly that one of the reasons why some of our town officials are successful in doing things that are contrary to the wishes of the citizens is that they don’t feel accountable enough.  And a big reason for this is that there isn’t enough diverse attendance at various town meetings – the commissions see the same citizens in attendance all the time.  We need more people to attend and if lots of people attend and speak to them about their views, the commissions will better hear the people and feel the pressure to represent the people they were elected by.  Go to www.TownofSimsbury.com to see the meeting schedules (http://simsburyct.virtualtownhall.net/Public_Documents/SimsburyCT_MeetingCal/?FormID=158 ).

Please get involved more with SHARE.  Reply to this email and let us know if you are able to volunteer to help with this struggle.  We need more people to get directly involved because we are an all volunteer organization.  At the very least, as the effort grows, we need your monetary contributions.  We hate to ask, but SHARE has bills to pay and legal expenses for the advice we continue to need.  Please send us a check for whatever you can afford to SHARE, PO Box 594, Simsbury, CT  06070.

We are planning to have some form of ‘No Big Box’ lawn signs made up.  Please reply to this email if you would be willing to put such a sign on your lawn.  We believe it would be an effective tool to communicate how many of us are opposed to Big Box development in Simsbury beyond Route 44 if everywhere you drove in town you saw such signs.  So please let us know if you want a sign (there will be a nominal charge for this to recover the cost of the sign).

Lastly, again, please speak out.  Please let your town officials know your point of view.  Please write letters to the newspapers.

As always, thanks for your help and support.  And Happy New Year!  We hope the new year brings a more open town government that is willing to listen and act on the resident’s overwhelming desire to not have Big Box retail built and then spread up and down Route 10.

Sincerely,

Your Loyal SHARE Steering Committee

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December 17, 2006

SHARE NEWSFLASH:  URGENT - ALTHOUGH OVER 2200 SIMSBURY CITIZENS SIGNED A PETITION SEEKING SQUARE FOOTAGE LIMITATIONS ON SINGLE-USE RETAILERS, ABSENT A DIRECT CURB CUT TO ROUTE 44, THE SIMSBURY PLANNING COMMISSION’S PROPOSED PLAN OF CONSERVATION AND DEVELOPMENT (WHICH ORIGINALLY INCLUDED THESE LIMITATIONS) HAS REMOVED THESE SPECIFIC NUMERIC PROTECTIONS FOR OUR COMMUNITY.  APPARENTLY THE PLANNING COMMISSION DECIDED THAT THE VOICES OF THE VERY FEW SHOULD OVERRIDE THE VOICES OF THE MAJORITY.
This past Tuesday, December 12th, at the Planning Commission's (PC) meeting, the PC board
 had discussions regarding the feedback they had received from the public hearings on the town Plan of Conservation and Development. They handed out copies of suggested revisions to the POCD many of which affect Route 10 parcels including parcels at the North End of town (Northern Gateway) and also the CL&P parcel (or as it is referred to in the Plan, the Southern Gateway). Despite hearing from a very large number of residents during the public hearings that the Plan should remain as written with retail size limits intact, the newest revisions remove those important details from the Plan.  During these meetings, the PC was also made aware of the over 2200 signatures obtained from town residents calling for a size limit on new retail development in Simsbury beyond Route 44.  Also removed from the Plan are a variety of other metrics including those governing greenbelts that set development back from roadways to prevent construction from being too close to roads and obstructing scenic vistas.  We have attached the pertinent pages for your information and review.

The Planning Commission will be meeting this Tuesday, December 19th at 7 pm at Simsbury Town Hall to continue their discussions about these revisions. While there is no opportunity for public comment at their next meeting, we would urge you to try to attend the meeting in order to listen to their discussions and to show, by your presence, your support for the original plan and the vision that it had defined for our town for the next ten years.  We continue to believe that having specific metrics in the Plan helps to better articulate boundaries between what is responsible development versus what is development for development’s sake.

Thank you for your ongoing support.

Your SHARE Steering Committee

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November 29, 2006

We wanted to thank those of you that attended Monday night's public hearing before the Planning Commission regarding the draft Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD). The hearing began with a short, 20 minute, PowerPoint presentation summarizing the POCD, it's purpose, and the timeline from formal acceptance to implementation. It was very clear and educational. Following the presentation, there was a short question & answer session followed by public comment.

There were comments both for and against the POCD. SHARE supports the Planning Commission and believes they have done a great job creating this insightful and visionary document.  This document conveys and captures many of the core principles and issues that SHARE believes are essential to responsibly develop and expand Simsbury while maintaining the lifestyle we all cherish and enjoy. 

Unfortunately there were several "self-interested" people who also spoke,  in opposition to some of the Planning Commission's language that focuses on the Southern Gateway (the CL&P site) as well as sections of the POCD that attempt to limit the size and scale of development in Simsbury. In addition to hearing opposing viewpoints, we also heard some rather ridiculous ideas such as building a bridge from Nod Road to access the back of properties along Rt. 10 such as The Hartford, and the proposed River Oaks site, in order to alleviate traffic concerns along Rt. 10.

We believe strongly that the POCD should address the desires and needs of the majority of taxpayers in Simsbury and not a special few who feel their self-interests are more important than everyone else.  We believe strongly that the POCD should be more about how our town should be developed and preserved and the lifestyle that we want to maintain and enjoy and not just about how a small minority can ‘make a buck’.

We would like to let you know that in addition to the two remaining public hearings, you can also submit your thoughts, no later than this Friday December 1, 2007, by emailing The Town Planner (Hiram Peck) at hpeck@simsbury-ct.govor by mail at:

Hiram Peck

Simsbury Town Hall

Simsbury, CT 06070

The two remaining public hearings are as follows:

Wednesday 11/29 at the Henry James Middle School Cafeteria at 7 PM

http://simsburyct.virtualtownhall.net/Public_Documents/SimsburyCT_MeetingCal/S00B9C38A

Thursday 11/30 at the Henry James Middle School Cafeteria at 7 PM

http://simsburyct.virtualtownhall.net/Public_Documents/SimsburyCT_MeetingCal/S00B9C36F

Please feel free to read more about the Plan of Conservation and Development (below).

We look forward to seeing you at the public hearings, and hearing you voice your opinion.

As always, thanks for your support of SHARE and we will be in touch again soon.

Please feel free to send us emails with your thoughts, concerns, ideas, etc.  We are very interested in hearing from you.

Sincerely,

Your Devoted SHARE Steering Committee

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November 25, 2006

SHARE NEWSFLASH

This is a long email – please bear with us and read this all the way through!

However if your time is limited and you only have time to read a few things, skip below to the section called “Highlights of the POCD” and read the sections for page 56, pages 58-61, and pages 98-102.  But, we do think you would benefit from reading this whole email !!!

Next week the Planning Commission (PC) will be holding three public hearings on the proposed draft of the town Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD).  The PC has done a great job creating this insightful and visionary document.  This document conveys and captures many of the core principles and issues that SHARE believes are essential to responsibly develop and expand Simsbury while maintaining the lifestyle we all cherish and enjoy.  The meetings for the PC to hear your opinions on this document are:

Monday 11/27 at the Simsbury High School Auditorium at 7 PM http://simsburyct.virtualtownhall.net/Public_Documents/SimsburyCT_MeetingCal/S00B9C363

Wednesday 11/29 at the Henry James Middle School Cafeteria at 7 PM

http://simsburyct.virtualtownhall.net/Public_Documents/SimsburyCT_MeetingCal/S00B9C38A

Thursday 11/30 at the Henry James Middle School Cafeteria at 7 PM

http://simsburyct.virtualtownhall.net/Public_Documents/SimsburyCT_MeetingCal/S00B9C36F

(there is some confusion on the start time for this meeting because the link above indicates both 6PM and 7PM however other information SHARE has obtained seems to indicate a 7 PM start time – assume the meeting starts at 7 PM)

These meetings will be your first and potentially only opportunity to let the Planning Commission hear your opinions on this very important document that will serve as the vision and guide for future land use decisions throughout Simsbury for the next 10 years.  Please try to attend at least one of these meetings - but if you can, attend two or all three of the meetings.  It is essential that SHARE’s voice be heard during this important process.  So come to the meetings prepared to speak or, if you don’t want to speak, come to listen and let your presence be felt by our town officials.

The POCD has a direct impact on the future of the 60+ acre CL&P lot now under option by Konover for its massive mixed-use development called River Oaks that will include a 128,000 sq ft big box retail store and another nearly 100,000 square feet of retail and restaurants as well as some residential and office space.

Your SHARE Steering Committee has been following this process by attending all PC meetings over the past year and we have reviewed this draft with specific attention to its impact on the Southern Gateway CL&P site. We have listed below some of the most salient points for your information. We strongly urge you to read the complete POCD draft in order to have the greatest understanding of the document. You can access the draft of the POCD on the town web site at:

http://simsburyct.virtualtownhall.net/Public_Documents/SimsburyCT_POCD/index

We expect that there will a number of people who are self-interested agents of developers and Konover Development that will attend the public hearings to speak in opposition to some of the Planning Commission's language that focuses on the Southern Gateway (the CL&P site) as well as sections of the POCD that attempt to limit the size and scale of development in Simsbury. Therefore we feel we need to have a large number of residents attend and speak at the meetings so that the PC will go forward with the POCD as it is currently written and not be swayed by those self-interested developers and other town supporters of the developers.  We believe strongly that the POCD should address the desires and needs of the majority of taxpayers in Simsbury and not a special few who feel their self-interests are more important than everyone else.  We believe strongly that the POCD should be more about how our town should be developed and preserved and the lifestyle that we want to maintain and enjoy and not just about how a small minority can ‘make a buck’.

Highlights of the POCD

·         Pages 9 to 11:  Highlights - What We Want to Protect (Online Document: 02 Plan Summary.pdf) - we believe this to be an insightful and visionary overview

·         Page 12:  Highlights - How We Will Make It Happen (Online Document: 02 Plan Summary.pdf) - particularly the section titled Implementation - we believe this is key to achieving the vision set forth in the POCD

·         Page 27: Open Space Overview (Online Document: 04 Open Space.pdf) - we believe this section reinforces our opposition to big box retail development in Simsbury as it would adversely effect Simsbury’s character and sense of place

·         Page 45: Scenic Resources: Overview (Online Document: 07 Scenic Resources.pdf)- the opening statement emphasizes the scenic vistas, including Talcott Mountain as an important aspect of Simsbury's rural characteristics and as a significant contribution to Simsbury's "sense of place"

·         Pages 49 to 50: Community Character: Overview (Online Document: 08 Community Character.pdf)- all three sections (Resources, Sense of Place and Quality of Life) reflect the basic foundation of the SHARE philosophy

·         Page 53: A Future By Design: Overview (Online Document: 09 A Future By Design.pdf)- The closing sentence states that it is important for the town to encourage increased community involvement and SHARE agrees that it is essential to prevent bad development like Big Box development while supporting responsible development in Simsbury

·         Page 55: Form-Based Regulations (Online Document: 09 A Future By Design.pdf)- we believe form based regulations in general are a better way to develop the remaining large sites of land that are available in town

·         Page 56: Form Categories (Transects) (Online Document: 09 A Future By Design.pdf)- we believe that these categories will help define a vision for the future growth of Simsbury in a very clear and appropriate manner.  We believe that the Transect concept is one of the most important sections of the document as Transects describe how land is developed in harmony with surrounding, existing and new development. Essentially, the Transect concept represents a numeric scale, or continuum, that controls how contiguous or close proximity development takes place in relationship to one another.  The numeric scale starts at the lowest most natural form of land usage (T-1 Natural Area) and ranges up to the highest most dense and busy form of land usage (T-7 Town Center and T-I, T-O, T-R Single Use District Industrial, Office, Retail).  In this fashion, usage should not skip from a low T to a high T between adjacent or close proximity areas and there would be guidelines for how the Transects transition from one to another.  This ensures a smooth continuum of development in town and avoids a ‘cliff’ style of development where large scale development gets ‘plopped’ down in the middle of a field without appropriate development and zoning transition.  However, SHARE believes that the PC should expand the explanatory prose and comments regarding the transect concept in the POCD and provide more details about the concept of transects and how to use and interpret them.  We believe the document is a bit ‘skinny’ in this very important area.  Such clarification will help readers better understand the manner in which transects provide an essential tool in the responsible planning and development of Simsbury.

·         Pages 58 to 61: Transect Graphics (Online Document: 09 A Future By Design.pdf)- These four pages are absolutely key to responsible expansion in Simsbury and to SHARE's mission. Pages 60 and 61 have been hotly debated by some members of the Board of Selectman, the Zoning Commission and the Economic Development Commission as well as by two members of the Planning Commission. The opposition is to the specific numbers currently included in this draft of the POCD especially to the 5th and 6th lines that define the maximum retail size (square footage) as of right and by exception. These numbers, with specific size restrictions to limit large scale retail development in Simsbury beyond a curb cut to Route 44, are absolutely necessary to the later sections that explore the vision for the Southern Gateway (page 98) and we hope you will urge the PC to keep them as is. It is important for both developers and residents that these numbers are kept specific in order to manage everyone's expectation and to safeguard the future growth of the town.  We think it is entirely appropriate to have square footage caps on development (particularly retail development) in our town and over 2200 of you (as of the date of this email) have signed a document in support of that concept.  We find it strange and puzzling that any of our town officials who have been elected to represent us would oppose such square footage caps given the extremely vocal and overwhelming support for such caps among town residents in order to prevent Big Box retail development in Simsbury beyond Route 44.  We also fail to see the controversy in such a concept considering that other towns have such Big Box restrictions in their POCD (a partial list is Portland, East Hampton, Bethel, Granby, Guilford, and Tolland).  We think it is important to listen carefully to what the opposition is saying about such common sense language and then ask why they might be opposed to it.

·         Page 67: Goals, Policies & Objectives: Policy 1 (Online Document: 09 A Future By Design.pdf)- Objectives A and B both are important to ensuring that the vision of the POCD is followed

·         Pages 82 to 86: Northern Gateway (Online Document: 10 Special Areas.pdf)- the vision for the Northern Gateway as a Village Center (T-6) is both appropriate and exciting to us

·         Pages 98 to 102: Southern Gateway (Online Document: 10 Special Areas.pdf)- SHARE completely endorses the vision that the PC has set forth for the Southern Gateway, both with their idea that it should remain as is under its current designation of I-1 (light industrial) as a best use for the site or as an alternative option for a mixed-use small-scaled Hamlet or T-5. Within these pages the PC has established very specific guidelines that along with the Transect Graphics on pages 58 to 61 would set forth a vision that would be absolutely compatible with SHARE's hopes for responsible expansion at the Southern Gateway.  One clarifying point we want to make is that Light Industrial does not mean factories with smoke spewing stacks.  Rather light industrial more appropriately includes office, medical arts, small companies, small industrial building with controlled facilities, etc.

·         Page 135: Transportation: Policy 1: Objective C (Online Document: 14 Transportation.pdf)- we strongly agree with the objective of maintaining Hopmeadow Street as a two-lane road with traffic levels maintained at manageable and livable levels.

In conclusion, we understand that the POCD is a lengthy and onerous document to read.  But it is the framework for how our town is likely to grow, develop, expand, and be maintained and preserved.  The contents of this document matters greatly to each of us and we ask that you take the time to read those portions that interest you and that impact your concerns about how Simsbury expands responsibly.

As always, thanks for your support of SHARE and we will be in touch again soon.

Please feel free to send us emails with your thoughts, concerns, ideas, etc.  We are very interested in hearing from you.

Sincerely,

Your Devoted SHARE Steering Committee

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November 16, 2006

SHARE Newsflash: Thank you to the many volunteers who helped collect signatures in support of the SHARE zoning amendment proposal this past election day. We were able to meet lots of new people at the polls and get signatures from existing and new SHARE supporters. Because of all your efforts we now have over 2,200 signatures of residents from all areas of town. The support for the proposal is wide and loud and makes it clear that this is a town issue and not a NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) issue.

We will be presenting the proposal and the signatures to the Zoning Commission at the public hearing next Monday, Nov. 20th at 7 pm at Eno Hall. This is your opportunity to voice your support of the SHARE proposal to limit all new retail stores in Simsbury to 40,000 sq. ft., unless it is built with a curb cut (direct access) to Rte 44. An example of a comparably sized retail store, is Andy's Market on Hopmeadow St. We strongly urge you to attend this public hearing and let your voices be heard. Either at the end of the public hearing or at the next Zoning Commission meeting the commissioners will vote on the proposal - when the commission vote takes place is up to the discretion of Zoning Commission Chairman Barney.

Just to clarify the process to everybody (based on a question we frequently get asked)...the residents of Simsbury do not, and will not, have the right to vote on this zoning amendment proposal. Nor will we have the right to vote on whether or not Konover's River Oaks (which will be anchored by a 128,000 square foot big box store) will be built on Rte 10 in Simsbury. Unfortunately, this is the way the Simsbury zoning regulations work - citizens do not have a vote on this issue. The only chance you have to express your opinion about having a big box store in our town, is at the various public hearings. The final decision rests with the land use boards - the Design Review Board, the Planning Commission and ultimately the Zoning Commission. We cannot stress enough the importance of having large numbers of people turn out for these public hearings. It does make a difference! Your elected officials need to see you and hear from you - they need to represent you - then maybe they will cast a vote that truly represents their constituents, the residents of Simsbury, and not just the developers.

So, please attend any and all public land use and Board of Selectmen meetings. Call, email, and write your public officials to let them know your opinions on this issue. Write letters to the editor of the Hartford Courant and the Simsbury Post. Be sure your voice is heard as individuals, not just as a household - each household often represents more than one legal vote or voice, so let the town officials hear each and every one of you. Again, let your voice be heard!!! Your voice and your words are your only way to express yourself on this issue because, again, you do not get a vote!!!  Your words and your voice needs to be your vote!!!

Sincerely, 
Your SHARE Steering Committee

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November 1, 2006

SHARE Volunteers Needed on Election Day!

Many of you have asked repeatedly "What can I do to prevent a big box store from being built in my town?" or "How can I help SHARE?". Well, next Tues., 11/7, election day, is your chance to help out! With a large voter turn out expected, we have a great opportunity for SHARE to educate Simsbury residents about the potential for big box development in town and register new SHARE members. The only way to do this is for you to volunteer a few hours at one of the four polling places to hand out SHARE literature and to collect signatures and home/email addresses for the SHARE petition prohibiting big box stores from being built in Simsbury.

Polls are located at Eno Hall, Latimer Lane School, Tootin Hills School and Tariffville School. They open at 6 am and close at 8 pm. We will provide you with the SHARE literature and petition forms. Please reply to SHARE or to KGriebel@SBCGlobal.net and let us know when and where you would like to volunteer and the best way to contact you. Thank you for supporting SHARE! We can't win this without all of you!

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October 26, 2006

Dear Simsbury Resident and SHARE Supporter:

Here is a long email… please stick with us and read it through.

We’d like to follow up on last Monday night’s public hearing regarding the Zoning Commission’s amendments to the Town Zoning Regulations. There were over 300 people in attendance at Eno Memorial Hall – it was filled to standing room only capacity. We thank everyone who was able to attend this 2-hour+ meeting. Zoning Commission chairman Barney started the meeting by explaining the four points to the Zoning Amendments and then he set explicit rules for public comment which included a 3-minute time limit for each speaker.

Several days prior to the meeting, the SHARE Steering Committee had been assured by Town Planner Hiram Peck that Mr Frank Cochran, a land use attorney retained by SHARE to review and render a legal opinion on the proposed zoning amendments, would have as much time as he reasonably needed to speak on behalf of SHARE.  It was agreed that Mr. Cochran would speak first as he was going to be a common voice for many citizens and by speaking for SHARE, he would allow for the consolidation of numerous, potentially redundant, speakers. Unfortunately at the meeting Mr. Barney disagreed with Mr. Peck’s assurance and enforced his 3-minute rule, to the dismay of many in attendance. Mr. Cochran delivered the first 3-minutes of his speech, and followed up after all other participants spoke. His speech methodically addressed SHARE’s concerns regarding the draft amendments, and we have attached a copy of his comments.

We heard additional speeches that were very well stated as well as very passionate about the proposed amendments and how they could potentially forever change the character of our town. Although the main topic discussed were the Zoning Amendments, some speakers addressed the rushed process for preparing the amendments, the odd timeline for the amendments given that no formal development proposal has been received by the town, the urgency for our town officials to avoid developing the town with undesirable development, and the appearance of conflicts of interest by members of the Zoning Commission and other town officials. At several points during the meeting Mr. Barney sternly addressed the citizens claiming that their comments were inappropriate but the citizens held their ground and continued speaking – reminding Mr. Barney and the rest of the Zoning Commission that open government should allow citizens to express their points of view in such public meetings.

The meeting was recorded by Simsbury Community Television (SCTV) volunteers and will be broadcast over the coming weeks.  We recently heard that the meeting will be broadcast each Friday in October at 1:00 PM and 8:00 PM on Channel 21 and Fridays at 8:30 PM in November on Channel 21.  The length of the broadcast is 2 hours and 20 minutes.

A reporter from the Hartford Courant and WVIT Channel 30 news were also present covering the meeting.

We thank everyone that spoke, and hope that more of you take the opportunity to speak at future public meetings. SHARE would like to post copies of the speeches on the www.sharesimsbury.com website if you are willing (please email a copy of your speech to newsflash@sharesimsbury.com). We feel that it is important to make available a record of the public sentiment for these issues. Even if you didn’t speak at the hearing, we would like to receive and publish your thoughts. A democracy can not function without input from town residents. In addition to hearing thoughts from residents, we heard from Town Selectmen Joel Mandell, and Planning Commission Chairman John Loomis who both cautioned the Zoning Commission to spend more time drafting their amendments to the Zoning Regulations in order to better define numerous areas of vagueness and non-specificity as well as to wait until the Planning Commission has completed the Town’s Plan of Conservation and Development which is currently in the final stages of development.

Finally, we would also like to convey to all of you an exchange between Mr. Barney and the SHARE Steering Committee after the public hearing. Your SHARE Steering Committee wrote Mr. Barney to protest his imposing the 3-minute time limit on Attorney Cochran after being assured by Town Planner Hiram Peck that he would be allowed to speak first and have as much time as needed. Mr. Barney’s written response was quite pointed. He not only told us that it was his decision as chairman of the Zoning Commission to enact the 3-minute rule, but added that “the Zoning Commission would appreciate less invective and more civil behavior by your actual or alleged membership in future meetings or hearings.”

Your SHARE Steering Committee believes that the job of our elected officials is to represent the people by whom they were elected.  As a result, we believe that the voices of The People are the most important voices worth hearing.  The People’s voices come in a variety of tones and styles but each is worth listening too - rather than focusing on how things are said, it should be more important for our elected officials to think about why and what they are saying.

So what happens next? We are under the impression that the Zoning Commission will now look to discuss and revise the draft amendments over the next few weeks, and quite possibly hold another public hearing on their revised amendments.

We will post updates on the web site, as well as email you as soon as we hear anything new regarding the draft amendments, or anything else.  Please check the website often and very importantly, please write letters to the editors of the local newspapers and the Hartford Courant, and phone, call, email or write all of our elected and appointed officials to express your point of view.  By hearing from all of you we can combat the point of view expressed by Mr. Barney where he implies that SHARE’s large membership is “alleged”.  For your information, our current membership exceeds 2100 citizens!  Let the town hear your voice!!!

Sincerely,

Your SHARE Steering Committee

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October 5, 2006

Dear Concerned Simsbury Resident & SHARE Supporter:

IMPORTANT:  The re-scheduled Zoning Commission Public Hearing is to be held on Monday, October 16th at 7:00 PM at Eno Memorial Hall.  It is extremely important that SHARE members pack the room to show the Zoning Commission how deeply concerned Simsbury’s citizens are with the potential for Big Box development in Simsbury.  SHARE’s members must visibly and in large numbers voice its opposition to any proposals that include Big Box retail or other such forms of large scale retail development.  Please attend this important meeting and bring your family, friends, and neighbors.

This will be your only chance to voice your opinion to the Zoning Commission expressing your opposition to any new zoning regulations which would allow Big Box retail to be built in Simsbury. Any change in the Zoning Regulations would not only effect the CL&P parcel (at the South end of Rt. 10), but these changes would also allow for Big Box retail to be developed at the North end of Rt. 10 by the International Skating Center. Changes to these regulations will effect the entire town.

Now that the rescheduled meeting has been posted by the town, we wanted to provide you with some information regarding the recent Monday evening Zoning Commission public hearing on proposed amendments to the town Zoning Regulations.

On Monday September 18th, the Zoning Commission had scheduled a public hearing on proposed amendments to the town's zoning regulations which would allow for mixed use developments, including River Oaks, with Big Box stores.  The proposed regulations will not include important metrics which any incoming development proposal can be measured against (e.g. square footage caps).

Fortunately an overwhelming crowd of over 150 town residents showed up at Town Hall for the 7:00pm meeting. We thank all of you that attended. This was certainly not a waste of time, as it sent a loud & clear message to the Zoning Commission that Simsbury residents are very concerned with these hasty actions that the Zoning Commission is looking to take, and that we should not allow our elected officials to act in any manner which does not represent the wishes of large numbers of concerned citizens.

To the apparent surprise of the Zoning Commission this large crowd of town residents showed up for the public hearing portion of the Zoning Commission meeting.  As a result of the large number of people and the small room to accommodate them, the public hearing portion of the meeting was postponed. Many of you in attendance were upset that the Zoning Commission did not anticipate a sizable crowd.  However, we must continue to express our views and be sure to let our elected officials know what we think and how we feel about development and expansion in Simsbury.  It is essential that SHARE members continue to attend such meetings in large numbers whenever we alert you to such events.  We cannot allow ourselves to get distracted with changing dates, agendas, or issues.  Rather we must remain vigilant and focused on the core issues to ensure that our town expands in a manner consistent with the lifestyle we want to maintain in Simsbury.

Your SHARE Steering Committee will continue to notify you of all such critical meetings. We encourage everyone to attend this important meeting on October 16th and for each of you to strongly encourage 5 additional friends or neighbors to attend the re-scheduled meeting. Instead of sending a message to the Zoning Commission from 150 people in attendance, let's send them a message from many hundreds of residents. Multiple members of your family can attend and speak. You don't have to speak extensively if you choose but it is important for the Zoning Commission to hear our point of view about your opposition to any amendments which would allow Big Box Development or other forms of large scale retail development anywhere in the town of Simsbury other than property which has direct access to Rt. 44.

Finally, in addition to attending the re-scheduled meeting we encourage all of you to contact the Zoning Commissioners (by email, mail, or phone) ahead of the meeting to express your concern & opposition one on one.  Phone numbers, email addresses, and mailing addresses for our elected officials can be found on the www.sharesimsbury.com website.

Thank you for your commitment to SHARE.

Sincerely,

Your SHARE Steering Committee

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September 17, 2006

This is one of your only chances to voice your opinion against Big Box Development!

Dear concerned Simsbury Resident & SHARE supporter,

Tomorrow evening (Monday September 18th) at 7:00pm, the Zoning Commission will hold a public hearing on proposed amendments of the town's zoning regulations which will allow for mixed use developments including River Oaks.

It will be located at Town Hall in the Main Meeting Room, and town residents will be allowed to speak before the Zoning Commission.

At the end of this message is a detailed explanation of what the Zoning Commission is looking to accomplish with their amendment, and why it is of great concern to SHARE and it's supporters.

This may be your only chance to voice your opposition to this significant change in what our town allows to be built, and will forever change the character and quality of our town.

Yes, we have requested your attendance in the past. Yes some of these meetings have been extremely boring and tedious. However tomorrow's meeting will be the most important (to date) for everyone to attend, and voice their opinion.

We thank you for your past efforts in supporting SHARE's mission. Your signatures, email, letters and phone calls have all been greatly appreciated. But tomorrow evening is the time to use your voice. It is time for all supporters of SHARE's mission to collectively voice their opposition to anything that would allow for Big Box development in the Town of Simsbury. This is not a time to be apathetic. This is not a time to think that someone else will be there to show your opposition to the Zoning Commission.

If we as a town fail to attend tomorrow nights meeting in large numbers, the Town Zoning Commission will assume that the majority of Town residents support Mixed Use and Big Box development in town and will act accordingly.

If the Zoning Commission votes to approve a mixed use zone, our town will head down a slippery slope where we will most certainly end up with Big Box development along Route 10, and possibly elsewhere in town.

We look forward to seeing all of you tomorrow evening.

Sincerely,

The SHARE Steering Committee.

PS - We are still collecting signatures for our petition to the Zoning Commission for an addendum to the town zoning regulations to limit the building of single-use retail stores that do not have direct access to Rte 44, to 40,000 sq ft.

If you have already signed this new petition, thank you. If you have not signed it, or know someone who has not seen or signed it, please do one of the following: 

    - Go to www.SHARESimsbury.com  and  sign our online petition (http://www.sharesimsbury.com/SignUpForm.htm)

    - Reply to this email message with the names & addresses of all members of your family that are over 18.

    - Print off the Microsoft Word document, complete & sign the bottom of this message, and mail it back to our P.O. Box

      (listed below).

    - Print this email, complete & sign the bottom of this message, and mail it back to our P.O. Box (listed below):

Our Mailing Address is:

SHARE

P.O. Box 594

Simsbury, CT 06070

We need 2000 signatures to present to the zoning commission in the next few weeks so we need everyone and their neighbors and friends, to participate! Please forward this email to your Simsbury friends and  neighbors. Unless we allact now Konover will build River Oaks, a big box shopping center, and forever change Simsbury!

On Mon. 9/18 7:00 pm at Town Hall in the main meeting room, the Zoning Commission will hold a public hearing on the proposed new amendments of the town’s zoning regulations.  Specifically, we are concerned with the adoption of a new zoning regulation which would allow for a Planned Development District (PDD) or in other words a mixed use development such as River Oaks. While mixed use development can be a good thing if done right, mixed use development that also allows for a big box store is all wrong for the two lane, Rte 10 parcel that serves as the southern gateway to Simsbury. The SHARE steering committee believes that the Zoning Commission must add the restriction of limiting the size of single retail stores to a total of 40,000 sq ft (or 20,000 sq ft footprint with a two story maximum) to the new PDD regulation. This is your first opportunity to be heard! Please attend this meeting and speak out in favor of adding a restriction to the PDD regulation that would limit new single retail buildings on Rte 10  to a maximum of 40,000 sq ft and help us stop a big box from being built where it doesn’t belong!

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September 14, 2006

Many of you have asked “What can I do to help prevent Konover from building a 128,000 sq ft big box store on Rte 10?” Well, here is your opportunity to do something! There are two important town meetingsscheduled in the next few days. Please make every effort to get to at least one of these meetings – attendance by SHARE members is always noted by our town officials and does make a difference on how they vote!

On Sat. 9/16, from  8:00 to 11:30 am, at Town Hall in the main meeting room, the Planning and Zoning commissions will be holding a joint meeting to discuss the new draft of the Town Plan of Conservation and Development. Part of their discussion will focus on the Rte 10 CL&P parcel and the question of limiting the size of retail buildings in the town plan. There will be no opportunity for the public to speak but by filling the room with SHARE members we will say volumes.

On Mon. 9/18 7:00 pm at Town Hall in the main meeting room, the Zoning Commission will hold a public hearing on the proposed new amendments of the town’s zoning regulations.  Specifically, we are concerned with the adoption of a new zoning regulation which would allow for a Planned Development District (PDD) or in other words a mixed use development such as River Oaks. While mixed use development can be a good thing if done right, mixed use development that also allows for a big box store is all wrong for the two lane, Rte 10 parcel that serves as the southern gateway to Simsbury. The SHARE steering committee believes that the Zoning Commission must add the restriction of limiting the size of single retail stores to a total of 40,000 sq ft (or 20,000 sq ft footprint with a two story maximum) to the new PDD regulation. This is your first opportunity to be heard! Please attend this meeting and speak out in favor of adding a restriction to the PDD regulation that would limit new single retail buildings on Rte 10  to a maximum of 40,000 sq ft and help us stop a big box from being built where it doesn’t belong!

One last reminder – We are still collecting signatures for our petition to the Zoning Commission for an addendum to the town zoning regulations to limit the building of single-use retail stores that do not have direct access to Rte 44, to 40,000 sq ft.

If you have already signed this new petition, thank you. If you have not signed it, or know someone who has not seen or signed it, please do one of the following: 

    - Go to www.SHARESimsbury.com  and  sign our online petition (http://www.sharesimsbury.com/SignUpForm.htm)

    - Reply to this email message with the names & addresses of all members of your family that are over 18.

    - Print off the Microsoft Word document, complete & sign the bottom of this message, and mail it back to our P.O. Box

      (listed below).

    - Print this email, complete & sign the bottom of this message, and mail it back to our P.O. Box (listed below):

Our Mailing Address is:

SHARE

P.O. Box 594

Simsbury, CT 06070 

We need 2000 signatures to present to the zoning commission in the next few weeks so we need everyone and their neighbors and friends, to participate! Please forward this email to your Simsbury friends and  neighbors. Unless we all act now Konover will build River Oaks, a big box shopping center, and forever change Simsbury!

Thank you for your continued support.

The SHARE Steering Committee

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September 5, 2006

Dear concerned Simsbury Resident:

The zoning commission is deciding on some new zoning ordinances to allow mixed use development in Simsbury.  The present wording would allow Konvover to build their big box development on either the CL&P land or the land near the skating center.   Big box development in Simsbury along route 10 in either the southern and northern part of town would lead to turning route 10 into a 4-lane highway and change the character of Simsbury forever.  If you approve a prohibition on big box development, please do one of the followingand encourage your neighbors to do one of the following:

  • Reply to this email and/or send to newsflash@sharesimsbury.com and list all registered voters (and address) in your family who also approve (this is the easiest way)
  • Print either this message or the attached Microsoft Word document (zoningsignup.doc), sign the proposal and send to SHARE, PO Box 594 Simsbury, CT.
  • Go to the www.sharesimsbury.com website and sign up there

PROPOSED ARTICLE IN ZONING REGULATIONS

No application will be accepted for a proposed zone change or modification of an existing zone, or for the creation of a new zone which would permit large-scale retail development.  There are two exceptions:

1) Where the retail development would have a curb cut to route 44; and

2) To replace or upgrade an existing retail building or center with a new building of size no larger than 120% of the existing building.  Large-scale retail development is defined as  a building/buildings with a footprint(gross floor area measured at the interior of the perimeter walls) of greater than 40,000 square feet on one floor or a building with a footprint of greater than 20,000 square feet if more than one floor.

I/we support this change to the zoning regulations:

Name                                    Address                                        Signature

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August 9, 2006

To all SHARE members and other supporters of responsible growth and expansion in Simsbury:

This is a long email because there are some attachments at the end.  We hope this email is interesting to you.  As always, please send us your comments and feedback.  We very much want to hear from you.  We are working on some emails to answer the questions you have been asking.  Those will be sent out to you within a few weeks.  Again, as we have urged before, send emails, write letters, or make calls to all of our town's land use officials and selectman to let them know how you feel about responsible development in Simsbury.  Also write letters to the editor of area newspapers.  For a list of officials, go to the www.sharesimsbury.comwebsite.

We wanted to provide you with some feedback from the recent Zoning Commission (ZC) meeting (July 24th) and give you some of our commentary on what transpired:

* We heard from a couple of you that you were disappointed that the meeting was plodding and not as action packed as anticipated.  Our thoughts on this are (a) welcome to the town government process which is not always captivating; (b) there were some very important and subtle things going on at the meeting which we will discuss below; and (c) these meetings are essential for SHARE members to attend because we have heard that our presence makes the commissioners very conscious of what they say, occasionally they feel nervous because we are there, they become more aware of how they say things, and they are more aware of what they do from a variety of perspectives.  We ask you all to please stay determined and focused on the SHARE mission and attend as many Simsbury town government and commission meetings as you can.

* Here are some notes from the July 24th Zoning Commission meeting:

- There were about 40 'spectators' at the meeting.  One we know was a reporter.  Another we understand to be an attorney for Konover Development.  There were a bunch of SHARE members too which is very good!

- The ZC indicated that they desire to define Mixed Use zones because there are several proposals for such developments being preliminarily discussed with the town by developers and they want to be ready for the submission of these applications by the developers.

- The purpose of the meeting was to review a draft document prepared by the town's planning and development consultant (Hiram Peck) outlining suggested changes to the town's zoning regulations to facilitate the development of Mixed Use zones.

- There was discussion about how the ZC wants language in the regulations to require developers to pay for studies for proposed developments (e.g. traffic, environmental, economic) and that the town would hire the consultants to do these studies and the consultants would work for the town but get paid indrectly by the developer via the town.  In this fashion the town is the consultant's client and not the developer but the developer pays for the consulting costs of their proposal.

- There was considerable discussion around definitions of terms in the zoning regulatons - some of the definitions pertained to important concepts like how square footage is calculated, how to calculate percent utilization of a property when some of the property cannot be developed (e.g. due to wetlands or terrain), and how to define maximum building height restrictions.  Again, the discussion was somewhat technical in nature but you can see the concepts are very instrumental to the issues SHARE cares about.

- Zoning Commission Chairman Dunny Barney made an interesting comment about the currently being constructed Powder Forest development where he said that the development is turning out to be denser than was envisioned or originally discussed based on the village cluster concept.  He went on to say that "the zone got misused" relative to what was intended.  Your SHARE Steering Committee thinks this is a very significant point and is one we should as concerned citizens make our feelings known - this is what happened in Canton at the Shoppes at Farmington Valley and is what developers often do - developers say one thing and do another because once the zone is changed or defined in a certain way, the developer has very significant latitude to do what they want within the scope of the regulations. (see the comments touching on this issue in the editorial attached below).  Couple this observation with the several times that Konover has hedged their comments about office and residential going into River Oaks with the big box retail (various articles and interviews) - they have made comments that the office and residential phases of the development would be completed 'if  market conditions' were favorable to the concept.  We interpret these comments from Konover as ominous and make the mixed use concept of River Oaks a big MAYBE with the only sure thing being Big Box Retail.

- We note that all of the ZC's discussion about these issues and the discussion about how to create Mixed Use zone regulations is being done without the finalization and approval of the revised Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD) that is being drafted by the Planning Commission.  The ZC must still operate under the language of the 1994 POCD.

In summary, as you can see there were some important nuggets that occurred in the meeting.  We hope you found this summary helpful.

Sincerely, 
Your Devoted SHARE Steering Committee

P.S. Because it is summer and many people are taking vacations, you may not have had the opportunity to read all of the editiorials about the Big Box issue that have been appearing in the local papers.  We attach below two letters to the editor that we think are worth reading if you haven't seen them already.

Hartford Courant - July 30, 2006 - Letter to the Editor - Reality of Big Boxes

By Jane Latus (the writer is vice president of the Canton Advocates for Responsible Expansion)

In "A Kinder, Gentler Big Box?" [July 23, Place Section], columnist Tom Condon asks, "Can a big box be part of an appealing mixed-use development?"  There are two answers: a theoretical "maybe," but a realistic "no."

If warning bells are clanging in Simsbury residents' minds over Konover Development's Route 10 proposal, it's no surprise.  They have seen the unfortunate result of similar promises next door in Canton.  Some hints from those who learned the hard way:

It is not smart growth to co-opt the term "mixed-use" in order to camouflage the fact that a development's main tenant is an inexpensive-to-build, but costly-for-the-community-to-support, big-box store.

Don't expect that what's promised at the time of a zone change request is the plan that will actually be delivered.  Konover President Michael Goman has stated that the market will drive the uses within the development.  That's the same "escape clause" that the developer at Canton's Shoppes at Farmington Valley used.  The athletic-facility-based, mixed-use proposal that prompted Canton to rezone its golf course from residential to business was widely welcomed in town - before it morphed into a faux village center and then a three-big-box mall.  The market so dictated, said the developer.

Simsbury presumably zoned this land for light industry because it was deemed appropriate for such high-ratable uses.  Why squander it on a low-paying, high impact use such as a glorified shopping center?

As a member of Simsbury's Republican town committee, Mr. Goman was instrumental in attempting to oust longtime zoning Commissioner Austin Barney (known for his thorough but fair scrutiny of applications) in favor of Timothy Ellsworth, the very individual who successfully requested the Canton Golf Course rezoning for the mixed-use athletic development, then proposed a shopping center - because the market so dictated.

Hartford Courant - July 28, 2006 - Letter to the Editor - Stop the Sprawl and Big Boxes in Simsbury

By Mary Lubozynski of Simsbury

There is no such thing as "A Kinder, Gentler Big Box" (Tom Condon column, July 23, Place section).  Big Box development does not belong in New Urbanist design and does not belong on the CL&P property in Simsbury.

Patrick Pinnell sold his soul to the devil when he agreed to design River Oaks.  This development's design consists of one big box store of 128,000 square feet, a second slightly smaller big box store, and a smattering of housing, restaurants, and offices.  The parcel in question is only 60 acres.  With the parking needed for two big boxes, there isn't land left for much else.

Condon mentions Pinnell's successes in New Urbanist design including Seaside, Fla., and Kentlands in Gaithersburg, Md.  Interestingly, Seaside has no big box.  Kentlands is 358 acres, and the residents there were successful in rejecting proposals from Target, Wal-Mart, and Kohl's.

The objections to River Oaks by a vast number of Simsbury citizens are valid.  Two-lane route 10 is not designed to take on the extra burden of traffic that the big boxes will create.  Condon calls Route 44 "Sprawl City."  Let's try to hold it there, and not allow it to sprawl up Hopmeadow Street as well.

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July 17, 2006

To all SHARE members and other supporters of responsible growth and expansion in Simsbury:

Your SHARE Steering Committee wanted to alert you to an important Zoning Commission (ZC) Special Meeting being held on Monday July 24, 2006 at 7 PM in the Board of Education Conference Room in Simsbury Town Hall.  In this meeting, the ZC will be holding "a workshop to discuss possible amendments to the Town of Simsbury's Zoning Regulations and a possible date for the public hearing".  This workshop will be to discuss how the ZC can create language to the zoning regulations to accommodate mixed use zones in Simsbury.  For background:

* In a recent ZC meeting, the chairman started an informal discussion because he is increasingly concerned that the current zoning regulations lack specific provisions regarding multi-use zoning

* The ZC is concerned that there are several potential multi-use zoning applications to be filed in the near future

* The ZC chairman wants their zoning consultant to lead a workshop for the commissioners to begin to draft a revision to the zoning regulations that will accommodate multi-use zoning applications

* On several occasions at previous ZC meetings, developers have expressed their views to the ZC about multi-use zones.  The public has not yet had the opportunity to express its views.  It is not clear when the ZC will listen to the public's views about such zones and how Big Box retail will fit into these scenarios.

Your SHARE Steering Committee thinks it is very important for all interested SHARE members to attend this and future ZC meetings to watch and guard the process the ZC goes through as it discusses this important topic.  We believe that the ZC will either make it easy or hard for Konover to develop River Oaks with Big Box retail stores depending on how they draft this language, what restrictions are or are not placed in the language, and how the ZC listens to all interested parties (especially citizens/residents) and not just developers.

Please try to attend this important meeting and all future ZC meetings where this topic will be discussed.  As always, we will alert you to the occurrence of these meetings and other issues pertaining to SHARE's mission.

Stay tuned for a future email with a bunch of questions posed to us by SHARE members and our answers to the questions.

Sincerely,

Your Devoted SHARE Steering Committee

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July 5, 2006

To all SHARE members and other supporters of responsible growth and expansion in Simsbury:

Your SHARE Steering Committee wanted to briefly mention two things to you:

1) Last week we told you that there was a scheduled joint meeting on July 10th of the Simsbury Planning and Zoning Commissions where Konover was to present their pre-application plans for the proposed River Oaks development.  We have heard that for reasons unknown to us, the meeting will not take place as originally discussed at the recent Design Review Board meeting.  We will let you know when we hear that such a meeting will take place.  In the meantime, enjoy your night off but since you won't spend the time at a meeting, perhaps you can instead spend the time writing and calling your town officials about this issue and also writing letters to the editor of the local and area newspapers.  Please remember, the sure way to get the town to understand your point of view is by ensuring they hear your voice!  A list of your town officials' addresses and phone numbers are available on the www.sharesimsbury.com website.

2) Over the next few weeks the SHARE Steering Committee will be sending you another long email with a list of questions that we have been asked by many of you and our answers to your questions.  We have received numerous questions about various aspects of the River Oaks and responsible expansion issues and we want to begin answering your questions to the best of our ability.  For better or for worse, we have developed quite a bit of expertise in this area and we want to let you know what we now know.  If there are questions you specifically want to see an answer for, please reply to this email with your question and we will try to answer as many questions as we can.  It may take us a few emails to answer them all.

Sincerely,

Your Devoted SHARE Steering Committee

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June 29, 2006

To all SHARE members and other supporters of responsible growth and expansion in Simsbury:

This is a long email, so please take the time to read it all the way through.  

Tuesday June 27th was a very interesting evening in town with the presentation by Konover Development of the River Oaks proposal to the Simsbury Design Review Board.  This was the first formal town meeting where Konover shared their vision and plan to develop a large scale Big Box retail development in Simsbury on Route 10 on the property formally called the CL&P Property.

Thank you to everyone who attended the meeting.  There were about 130 people in attendance to hear Konover attempt to communicate their plans to the Design Review Board.

In the opinion of your SHARE Steering Committee, we think the empty promises, vagueries, and distorted vision of Konover and River Oaks came through loud and clear at the meeting.  The Design Review Board asked Konover many excellent, insightful and challenging questions and Konover seemed to struggle mightely to provide substantive information in return.  Some of the highlights from the meeting included:

  • The Simsbury Design Review Board did an excellent job listening and probing Konover with questions.  They seemed hungry for facts, figures, and definitive information only to be seemingly disappointed by Konover's inability or unwillingness to provide details.  We commend the Design Review Board for their thoroughness and their scrutiny of what they saw and heard.  We expect the Design Review Board will receive more details from Konover at a followup meeting at a later date.  We were also pleased to see numerous members of the Planning and Zoning Commissions in attendance to learn about what is to come.  We think it is essential for our town officials and all citizens to be proactive with regards to this proposal.
  • We did hear confirmation of some basic facts and figures: (a) the primary big box store on the site will be 128,000 square feet [notice the word 'primary' - there will be other large and small stores on the site as well]; (b) the plan calls for 80% coverage of the available land with buildings and impervious surfaces which is considerably greater than the current allowable ratio [high ratios can cause significant water drainage and runoff problems and pollution of surrounding areas - wetlands, Nodbrook Park and the Farmington River are adjacent to the site]; (c) no studies or research have yet been done by Konover concerning the marketability of this type of development for combined residential/office/retail in the same structures in Simsbury; (d) a road the size of Hopmeadow Street is in the plans located near the back of the property and seems to need to be connected to Avon and Route 44; (e) the proposed 'round about' on Hopmeadow Street is intended to slow traffic to 15-18 MPH; (f) Konover intends to submit their formal proposed plan to the town in September.
  • Patrick Pinnell, Konover's River Oaks architect, presented a lengthy monologue on New Urbanism which is, as the name describes, a form of urbanism and not a form of suburbanism which is what Simsbury is… a suburban town.  He also made several colorful comments including "Route 44 is a scandal" which failed to acknowledge the value of containing all such retail development in a defined location where there is existing road infrastructure versus the sprawl that River Oaks would be.  When asked, he also acknowledged that no development in keeping with the New Urbanism concept has been built in Connecticut or New England… so apparently Konover and the architect seeSimsbury as an experiment.  SHARE doesn't think Simsbury wants to be some form of grand retail development experiment.  Many of the comments the Konover architect made were about design and not about economics and how such a development would benefit Simsbury's net tax base.
  • TJ Donohue, Konover's River Oaks attorney, made some comments about how if Konover isn't able to build River Oaks as they want, then Konover will build something the town really doesn't want, like ten 6 acre industrial complexes with a road down the middle.  We found this to be an odd approach to try and win public support.  Was this a veiled threat?  We don't think Simsbury will react well to threats nor do we think his example about ten industrial buildings has much economic viability as a development option.
  • Very few comments or references were made about the Big Box in the development plans.  We believe this is because the Big Box contradicts the other claims made about 'lifestyle' and 'quality of life' benefits of River Oaks.  We also believe Konover is trying to down play the clearly devisive aspects of the development - Big Box retail and retail sparawl.
  • An acknowledgement that the vista of Heublein Tower and Talcott Mountain as portrayed in the water color paintings in Konover's River Oaks brochure is from the perspective of an arial view along Route 10.  In other words, the view in the brochure is not what a person would see walking or driving along Route 10 but rather is what one would see if they were flying at some altitude above the roadway along Route 10.  Clearly this is not a realistic perspective and SHARE believes this is done to deceive and not to inform.
  • The Konover architect made a statement that the view of Heublein Tower and Talcott Mountain would be enhanced by the presence of River Oaks.  As SHARE has said before, we are pro-responsible development but we don't believe for a minute that any development, responsible or otherwise, would be an enhancement of the view from what it is today.  Any development would be worse than today's view and to say otherwise is nonsensical to us.  Again, we feel that this is one of the developer's empty and deceptive comments.
  • The Konover people were not able to provide any concrete drawings or specific plans about River Oaks.  The Design Review Board seemed disappointed that they had nothing to look at beyond the materials they have seen in the brochure that was mailed by Konover to all residents.  After all this time, Konover has still not yet provided any definitive plans or vision for River Oaks.  They seem to expect the citizens and the town officials to buy into the plans based on impressionistic watercolors and broad overreaching statements.  Even when asked by the Design Review Board members, Konover was not able to discuss the design of River Oaks in any specific detail nor could they address in any detail the traffic or economic impacts of the development.

As we wrote to you a few days ago, the time is NOW for everyone to get noisy on this issue.  Call/write your elected and appointed town officials (a mailing list for all town officials can be found on the www.sharesimsbury.com website, and at the bottom of this message), attend all town meetings on this topic (more are coming in the next few weeks), talk to and inform your friends and neighbors on the relevant facts about this issue, and very importantly, write letters to the editor of the Hartford Courant, Simsbury Post, and other relevant publications.  You must be vocal.  You must let people know your views and feelings.  You must get involved.  Because if you don't get involved, you may find something built inSimsbury which you may not be happy with and could irrevocably change the personality of our town.

Lastly, if you haven't already joined SHARE, please do so.  Reply to this email with your name, address, phone number, and email address.  Or go to www.sharesimsbury.com and register your interest on the "Sign Our Petition" page.  And if you are able to, please send a donation to SHARE to help pay for all the things we have done to date and the things we will be doing going forward to ensure that Simsbury expands responsibly (our mailing address is SHARE, PO Box 594, Simsbury, CT  06070).  As volunteers, we hate to keep asking for donations, but as you know, mailings, websites, bumper stickers, speakers at forums, research consultants, etc. cost money and we need to be sure we can keep serving this cause for all of you.

So that you know that we're not just trying to get donations from all of you, we are very pleased and honored to announce that we applied for and have been awarded a grant of $2,300 from the New England Grassroots Environment Fund (NEGEF).  The NEGEF is a small grants program designed to foster local grassroots environmental initiatives in CT, MA, NH, RI, and VT.  SHARE applied for this grant because we are working hard to ensure that Simsbury expands responsibly and we believe that River Oaks, as it has been designed and described, is adverse to Simsbury's character and responsible development objectives.

You will be receiving another email in a few days with the details for the next public meeting which will be a presentation by Konover to a joint session of the Planning and Zoning commissions.  Put the evening of July 10th at Eno Hall (probably at 7 PM but we'll let you know for sure) on your calendar and we will send more details shortly as they become available.

Again, thanks for your support and passion on these important issues.  Also, please forward this email to your friends and neighbors to help inform them and encourage their involvement too - please encourage that they join SHARE as we now number over 2000 citizens throughout Simsbury.

Sincerely, 
Your Devoted SHARE Steering Committee

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June 25, 2006

As we now know, Konover Development is readying its plan to develop the property on Route 10 formerly known as the CL&P Property.  Konover calls this proposed plan "River Oaks".

On Tuesday June 27 at 7:00 PM at Eno Memorial Hall, Konover will be presenting their 'pre-application' for the River Oaks development to the Simsbury Design Review Board and other land use officials.

Many of you have asked what can be done to stop the development of Big Box stores in the part of Simsbury.  Here is what you can do.  The time to act is now!!

WHAT IS THIS ABOUT?

* This issue is about an attempt by a developer to fundamentally change the character and composition of Simsbury by beginning a trend to develop Big Box retail stores in town on the large vacant property on Route 10. This issue is not a NIMBY or anti-development issue.

* SHARE believes that this trend will likely cause further growth of large format retail throughout Simsbury which will over time destroy the tranquil way of life we all enjoy and slowly destroy the Simsbury town center.

* We believe development that properly balances tax benefit with traffic, crime, property valuations, quality of life factors and other criteria must all be considered to allow Simsbury to grow in the most advantageous manner.  Responsible development does exist and can be done in Simsbury - just look at how Avon has enjoyed so much medical arts, office and other low impact forms of development in recent years.  We all must approach this issue from a more proactive visionary perspective.

WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE NOW? 
* We need you and your neighbors and friends to attend this meeting on June 27 and as many future meetings as you can.  We will continue to notify you of future meetings when we find out about them.  Please keep in mind that the town can not always give a lot of advanced notice for these meetings so sometimes the meetings are held fairly suddenly.  We believe Konover benefits from this approach by ensuring attention from the town but not as much attention from citizens.

* We want to emphasize to SHARE members that it is now time for everyone to get involved, pay regular attention to events and news on this issue, tell our elected and appointed town officials how you feel about this development, and be sure that your voice and opinion gets heard.  If you want a mail and phone number list of our elected land use officials, please reply to this email and we will send it to you.  You should write and call these elected and appointed officials regularly to be sure they understand and hear your point of view.

* Write letters to the local newspapers expressing your opinions. 
* Pay regular attention to events and news on this issue. 

THE PROBLEMS WITH BIG BOX DEVELOPMENT 

* Large scale Big Box retail is the weakest form of economic development.  Significant net tax benefits will not be realized.  This is a fact that is grounded in dozens of studies throughout the US.

* Traffic within Simsbury will become excessive if Big Box retail comes to Simsbury.  If you think Route 44 traffic is unbearable at times, it will be the same or worse in Simsbury because Simsbury does not have the road infrastructure to support large retail development.  SHARE believes that Route 44 should remain the large scale retail corridor for the area and Route 10 should remain a 2 lane road throughout Simsbury.

* There are concerns about how crime will evolve from Big Box retail.  This is common for all large retail areas and, again, there are studies to show it (just check the crime reports at The Shoppes at Farmington Valley in Canton).  Simsbury may need to increase its police protection as a result.

* Large scale Big Box retail does not fit with the Simsbury we know.  It should not be part of the Simsbury we pass on to the next generation.

* Studies and facts supporting these issues were discussed at the SHARE public forum in April and be found on the www.sharesimsbury.com website.

THE PROCESS 
* To accomplish its Big Box development goal, Konover must get a zone change on the property.  The land was purchased by the owner and developer knowing that the land was not zoned for their desired intent.

* Konover must also, to build River Oaks as described in the brochure they mailed to all Simsbury residents, create a new mixed use zone and get that zone approved by the town.  Such a mixed use zone does not currently exist in the town's zoning regulations.  Again, this was known when the landowner/developer purchased the land.

* The zone change would be voted upon by our elected officials on the Zoning Commission.  The Planning Commission, the Design Review Board, the Economic Development Commission and the Board of Selectman would also have input prior to the vote by the Zoning Commission. A vote for such a zone change would change the zoning and the character of Simsbury forever.  You need to be sure that the various land use commissioners hear your point of view.

* You, the taxpayers of Simsbury, will not have an opportunity to vote on this issue and this radical change to our town.  The process does not work that way.  This is why you must be sure your voice is heard.

* You must all write, email, and call our town officials to let them know what you think about this type of large format Big Box retail development in Simsbury.

* The SHARE Steering Committee believes that some town officials want to do the right thing by serving as true representatives to the people of Simsbury.  However, it is also believed that Konover has worked hard to gain influence within the town governmental process to their advantage.  Again, be sure the town officials know your point of view!

To conclude, PLEASE get involved now before it is too late!!! 
Please pay as much attention as you can to this issue from this point forward.  Please raise your voice when necessary, become more informed, talk about these issues to your neighbors/families/friends, attend town meetings, write and call your town leaders, and support SHARE's efforts both with your feet, and with some of your dollars so we can continue to pay for our efforts (if you can, please send donations to SHARE, PO Box 594, Simsbury, CT 06070).  If you want to speak with anyone about any of this, please feel free to email "newsflash@sharesimsbury.com" and we will call you back to talk (we try to avoid broadcasting our phone numbers so that our phone numbers don't spread all over the internet).

Again, as always, thank you for being passionate about this issue.  We believe Simsbury's future health, vitality and quality of life depend on all of us being involved in ensuring responsible growth in Simsbury.  This is one of the most important issues we all need to pay attention to in the coming months.  It is an issue that will significantly impact our collective lives as a community.

Sincerely, 
Your devoted SHARE Steering Committee

P.S. Please send this email to at least 10 Simsbury friends that you think are also interested in preventing Big Box development on Route 10 in Simsbury.  Please have them go to www.sharesimsbury.com and provide their name and email address so we can include them as members and directly send them future emails.

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June 18, 2006

There will be a very important meeting between The Town's Design Review Board and The Konover Development Corporation regarding the River Oaks proposal. This meeting is open to the public, and considered a "pre-application" meeting, where Konover will discuss various aspects of the River Oaks proposal with the town.

We need you to show up in large numbers to demonstrate your support for SHARE, that we are still active, and still opposed to the River Oaks development.

When: Tuesday June 27, 2006 @ 7:00pm

Where: Eno Memorial Hall

Why: A meeting between the Design Review Board and Konover regarding the River Oaks Development proposal.

Kindly reply to this email if you intend to be at the meeting, or if you have any questions, comments, etc.

Thank you for your support.

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June 8, 2006

Attached you will find a letter we have received and are forwarding to you. It is in regard to the controversial & impending proposal for "Big Box" development in The Town of Simsbury by Konover Development. I've found this letter to be very interesting & insightful.

It is my understanding that this letter has already been sent to the following individuals and groups in The Town of Simsbury:

- Tom Vincent – First Selectman

- Lou George – Chairman of the EDC

- All members of the Board of Selectman

- All members of the Planning Commission

- All members of the Zoning Commission

- All members of the Design Review Board

- All members of the Economic Development Commission

- All members of the Board of Finance

Please feel free to contact myself, or the author of the letter (John Lucker) with any questions, comments, etc.

Thanks you for your time,

Chuck Ward

The Letter:

John Lucker

88 Blue Ridge Drive

Simsbury, CT 06070

June 3, 2006


Mr. Tom Vincent

First Selectman

Town of Simsbury

Simsbury Town Hall

Simsbury, CT 06070


Mr. Lou George

Chairman – Economic Development Commission

Town of Simsbury

Simsbury Town Hall

Simsbury, CT 06070


Dear Mr. Vincent and Mr. George:

Over the past nine months I have become involved in a variety of town issues as a steering committee member for SHARE (Simsbury Homeowners Advocating Responsible Expansion). However, I am writing this letter to you as a citizen and taxpayer of the Town of Simsbury.

I have attended several EDC meetings in the past year as well as numerous Planning, Zoning, Board of Selectman, and Ethics Commission meetings. On numerous occasions at these meetings the topics of economic development, growth, sprawl, traffic, crime, and tax generation have been discussed. I have noticed during several of these discussions that many of our town officials go on record with views on these topics but often base their statements not on fact but on belief, assumption, or what has been told to them by interested parties. On occasion, officials have even stated that they don’t know precise facts nor do they have a study to provide those facts.

In the recent May 11, 2006 EDC meeting I spoke during the public comment period about how I felt it was essential for Simsbury to commission a professionally performed study that evaluates various growth options for our town and parameterizes the components of those forms of development with regards to the gross and net impacts to the Town of Simsbury. For example, the town should have a fact book that provides financial and non-financial metrics for the impact of various types of industrial, residential, office, retail, medical arts, recreational, and other types of growth and development. I know for a fact that Professor Fred Carstensen of the University of Connecticut and the Director of the Connecticut Center for Economic Analysis is leading the performance of a study for the Town of Farmington at a cost to the town of less than $15,000. I’m sure Professor Carstensen could provide, upon request, more details on the scope of the study being performed as well as the cost of other studies the Connecticut Center for Economic Analysis has performed.

There has been much public and private discussion and debate about how emotional the topic of town growth and expansion has become over the past few years. Recent events with regards to Konover Development’s potential project on Route 10 (River Oaks), highlights the emotion that has been generated throughout our town. Much of the negative emotion and the related political and relationship fallout could be avoided, I believe, if the discussions taking place could be grounded on facts and figures that spoke from a position of neutrality and accuracy. In this manner, citizens and developers don’t have to argue about the impact of development to the tax base, property values, traffic, crime, quality of life, existing business, etc. Rather all parties can refer to the same fact book and explanatory prose for the basic parameters of the discussion. If all parties agree that the basis for the facts and figures is primarily sound then decisions can be made in an objective and educated manner. People may disagree with outcomes but at least the disagreements are grounded on fact and objective measurements. However today, Simsbury has no such facts or figures about the impact of various types of development to our town. Instead our officials and commissions rely on professional opinions, position papers, lobbyist influence, or presentations made by clearly interested parties which an opposing party can dismiss as biased. This lack of factual accuracy is a big part of what I believe is the cause of the negativity swirling around our town today. What we need is something for everyone in Simsbury to put their finger on and point to so people can say “there is no reason to argue because these are the facts that we have agreed to rely upon”.

I believe it is essential for Simsbury to immediately commission such a study and have it performed before any further work is performed on the Plan of Conservation and Development, before any action is taken on any potential projects that require zoning changes, before any further EDC projects are performed, and before any more negative energy is expended among our citizens, property owners, and officials. I further suggest that you form a small committee of local officials, citizens, and interested parties representing the various special interest citizens groups to design the specifications for this study and then oversee the commissioning, execution, and review of the results. Additionally, with regards to funding the study, if the town is not able to fund the study from its operating budget, I would be willing to volunteer to lead a fundraising effort to raise the money to perform such a study under the oversight of the town.

In conclusion, as we all know, there are only a handful of substantial development sites left in Simsbury. The effective development of these sites needs to be optimized as much as possible to ensure that the character, lifestyle, and affordability of Simsbury is maintained for generations to come. I fear that without solid and definitive facts about the impact of various forms of development for these sites, our town could make decisions and proceed blindly or naively. We clearly would not want to look back and regret our decisions - decisions which we would need to live with forever.

I look forward to your feedback and I welcome the opportunity to speak with you privately or at an upcoming town meeting.

Sincerely,

John Lucker

CC: All members of the Board of Selectman

All members of the Planning Commission

All members of the Zoning Commission

All members of the Design Review Board

All members of the Economic Development Commission

All members of the Board of Finance

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SHARE News Flash - May 4, 2006

The SHARE "Think Outside the Big Box" forum held on 4/27 will be aired on SCTV ch 21 at 12:30PM and 7:30PM each Friday in May.  The first airing is tomorrow (5/5).  This is a chance to catch up if you were not able to attend.  Please tell your friends.

SHARE Steering Committee

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SHARE News Flash - April 25, 2006

SHARE members: 

Just a reminder that we are having a SHARE forum about big box development on Thursday, April 27th at 7pm at St. Mary's Parish Hall, 940 Hopmeadow Street.  We need your support. Please come for a very informative 90 minutes.  We will have experts on big-box development, traffic, and the economic impacts of big-box development. 

Look forward to seeing you there,

SHARE Steering Committee

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SHARE News Flash - April 10, 2006

Think Outside the Big Box

Please join us to hear what the experts have to say about future development in Simsbury and why big box retail will hurt, not help Simsbury.

Thurs. April 27th

7:00 pm

St. Mary’s Parish Center

Featuring Guest Speakers:

Fred Carstensen, Ph.D. Director of the CT Center for Economic Analysis, University of Conn. Dr. Carstensen is frequently called upon to testify regarding economic issues throughout the state.

Paul Mission, Traffic Engineer, Principal Transportation Planner and Transportation Geographic Information Specialist for theSoutheastern MA Regional Development District. Over the past 18 years, Mr. Mission has completed and presented numerous transportation studies at several national conferences.

Al Normanof SPRAWLBUSTERS fame.  Mr. Norman is a nationally recognized expert on sprawl and the negative impact of Big Box development. He has appeared on 60 Minutes and has gained widespread media attention from the Wall Street Journal to Forbes Magazine.

Sponsored By SHARE

SHARE is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting responsible development in Simsbury.  SHARE’s mission is to preserve the essential character of Simsbury while supporting responsible expansion.  More than 1400 residents from throughout Simsbury have registered their support of SHARE.

NOTE: We are in the process of reconciling our email distribution list. Please kindly reply to this message to verify that you are receiving our email messages. Thank you.

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SHARE News Flash - March 13, 2006

TO: SHARE Supporters
RE: Progress, Changes and Next Steps.

We are very happy to report that, after many hours of considerable research and deliberation, the Simsbury Planning Commission appears to be developing reasonable and meaningful land use guidelines for the former CL&P site on Route 10 at the Avon border, as part of its draft Plan of Conservation and Development (“Plan”). The current version of the Plan, among other items, maintains an I-1 zoning, with a clearly defined alternate of an I-Design district.  The I-Design district will incorporate a mixed use "village" approach, requires a 300' green belt along Route 10, limits development to 50% of the parcel, preserves natural vistas, limits the amount of retail development and limits the foot print of any retail building to 20,000 sq feet.  This type of development criteria, along with other protections provided in the Plan, will help ensure that future development of the former CL&P parcel will be consistent with the present character of Simsbury and prevent Route 10 from being converted into a 4-lane highway to support the thousands of cars that big box retail on that site would generate.  Thank you for your letters and coming out last fall to the Planning Commission meeting to let your voices be heard.  The draft of the Plan will be presented to the Zoning Commission on March 18th (in an open forum), where it will be equally important for Commissioners to understand your perspective on the development of this area of town.

Unfortunately, Konover and its CEO, Mike Goman (who is also a Simsbury resident, a Simsbury Board of Education member and President of the Simsbury Main Street Partnership) have not heard your voices.  As you may now have received, Konover has printed a slick brochure describing its "River Oaks" big box development plan.  Konover of course did not focus in its marketing materials on the 128,000 sq. ft. big box anchor retail store, which a well-recognized regional traffic expert indicates would increase traffic by at least 6,000 cars per day, 7 days per week. This additional traffic is before our expert to estimate traffic associated with the second smaller big box retail structure shown in the “River Oaks” brochure.  Astonishingly, Konover’s marketing materials suggest that there will be little traffic impact by this massive development on the entire 60 acre former CL&P parcel.

The brochure talks also about $1 million in new taxes provided to Simsbury ($70 per household), but ignores the net tax impact of its proposed big box development, including loss of taxes from the CL&P building, its equipment, computers, other personal property, and the trucks and other equipment housed there that are also taxed, as opposed to a Big Box which has little “personal property” to be taxed. It also doesn’t address the impact on area home devaluation as a result of the highway and traffic, the impact on town services like police, fire and infrastructure, the potential impact to the Farmington River and other precious natural resources with the creation of so much impervious surface, or the potential impacts on local Simsbury merchants and independent businesses.  A UConn professor and expert in this area has now testified before several Simsbury commissions saying that the net tax and spending effect of such a big box development in town could be negative for Simsbury (i.e. could produce higher, not lower, taxes)  and cites a number of nationally recognized studies. 

The Planning and Zoning Committees are having a joint meeting this Saturday (3/18) at 8am to discuss the Planning Committee’s draft of the plan. This is very important to the mission of SHARE, so please attend, if you can make it, to indicate to the zoning commissioners that we support the draft plan.

Sincerely, 

Cal Anderson, Duncan Mackay, Rob Ecker, Kirsten Griebel, Alan Needham, Jay Bailey,

Jan Anderson, Bill Miller, John Lucker, Jim Dykes, Scott Gaskill, Chris Rohrs

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SHARE News Flash - February 7, 2006

SHARE UPDATE #3

(Simsbury Homeowners Advocating Responsible expansion)

This is the 3rd update in a series from SHARE concerning Big Box development in Simsbury.  Our goal is to inform the public about the issues surrounding bringing any of these giant stores into Simsbury.  Please visit our website at www.SHAREsimsbury.com.

BIG BOX RETAIL IS THE WEAKEST FORM OF ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT FOR SIMSBURY

The true benefits of any type of development can only be determined if you look at the NET economic results.  That is to say the Town should conduct a cost benefit analysis for any development proposal.  What will the development contribute in tax dollars and what will it cost in tax dollars? What is the NET tax relief to homeowners (if any)?  Does the project increase the Town’s expenses?  Will the development cause homes to decrease in value? 

The evidence overwhelmingly suggests that Big Box is the least effective way to achieve tax relief.

  • Big Box development creates more direct expenses to a town than is found with other types of development.  A widely used study from Barnstable MA found that a business park yielded NET revenue to the town of $112 per 1000 sq. ft. of development.  Big Box retail actually cost the town more than it brought in.  It created a NET LOSS to the town of $468 per 1000 sq. ft.  Another study shows a NET LOSS in Dublin, Ohio of $712 per 1000 sq.. ft. Other studies from around the country have yielded similar results.
  • Development other than Big Box is a better “deal” for Simsbury.  For example, office type buildings are assessed at higher values because the equipment inside them (such as computers) is subject to property tax.  Very little property tax comes from retail stores. Inventory is not taxed.  Also, office type development does not cost the town as much because there is less traffic and crime.
  • Costs to towns include increased interaction with town employees as well as boards and commissions, road maintenance for town access roads and increased emergency response services.  Surprising expenses occur.  In Canton, the Fire Department had to spend $20,000 on new hoses in order to protect the new mall.  The Canton Police went to their mall 688 times from 4/04 to 4/05.  Half of these trips were for traffic accidents, suspicious characters, shop lifting, bad checks, medical emergencies, car lock outs and between 20 to 25 larcenies.  Extra Police and Fire expenses are borne by the Taxpayers.  Taxes have not gone down in Canton even with the construction of the huge mall on Rt. 44.
  • Shifting of tax burden will occur.  According to an economist we interviewed, depreciation on home values will radiate out from the Big Box like ripples in a pond.  As the value of surrounding homes decrease, the tax levy on those homes will also decrease, shifting more of the burden to other taxpayers.
  • Development of this type creates a “disequilibria” driving residential values down while increasing commercial values.  This creates a clustering effect where neighborhoods gradually become sites for more stores as homes become more valuable as commercial property than residential.  This spread is readily apparent in surrounding towns.  A local example is that there are plans to commercialize the residential area found between the mall in Simsbury and the Hoffman car dealerships.  Is this desirable for Route 10?
  • State Aid to Education grants to Simsbury will be reduced.   Aid to education is determined by a weighted formula that in part includes a town’s wealth based on its tax base (Grand List) and the income of its residents.  Wealthier towns get less aid.  Therefore, if development increases faster than the population growth, the large “bump” in the Grand List caused by a development of this scale will cause a recalculation of the town’s wealth. As a consequence, aid to education will be reduced requiring individual taxpayers to pay more.

BIG BOX RETAIL IS THE WEAKEST FORM OF ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT IN ANY PART OF SIMSBURY

Look for future updates on traffic and other issues.  Please forward the updates to people in your address book so that they too can consider the information we provide.

SHARE Steering Committee

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SHARE News Flash - February 1, 2006

SHARE update #2

(Simsbury Homeowners Advocating Responsible Development)

This is our second update dealing with the issues associated with Big Box development in Simsbury.  Please pass it along to your friends and neighbors and visit our website at WWW.SHAREsimsbury.com.

WHAT WILL HAPPEN WHEN A BIG BOX STORE IS FORMALLY PROPOSED IN SIMSBURY?

The sites that big box developers are interested in are currently zoned I1 (light industrial, office) and are located in both the North and South ends of Town.  Big box would require rezoning to B1, B2 or B3 with B1 being the most restrictive.  This type of development cannot happen unless the appropriate commissions agree to it.

Zone changes go first to the Planning Commission (PC) and then to the Zoning Commission (ZC) for their approval.  A “no” vote by the PC can be overturned by a 2/3 vote of the ZC which in our case is only 4 votes. There are only 65 days before the ZC must act and another 30 days before a decision has to be made.  There will be a public hearing and very little time for the public to react.

The P.C. is in the midst of rewriting the Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD) which is the master plan for Simsbury’s future in terms of development for the next ten years.  The new plan promises to be very different from previous plans.  It will be influenced by the “Smart Growth” principles that have had a positive impact in communities nationwide.  It is the basis for a re-write of Zoning regulations that will take place later this year.

THE DEVELOPER’S ATTORNEY HAS SAID THAT AN APPLICATION FOR A ZONE CHANGE ALLOWING BIG BOX DEVELOPMENT WILL BE COMING IN THE NEXT FEW WEEKS AND SO THE OLD PLAN OF DEVELOPMENT WILL APPLY.

The Zoning Commission has the ultimate authority to decide Simsbury’s future.

Therefore it is critical that you let them know how you stand on this issue.  SHARE’s presentation before the PC last September drew 400+ residents who made it clear that they were against big box.   Many letters were written. Those numbers made a huge difference and now we need to express our opinions to the Zoning Commission.  Now is the time to write a letter to each of the Zoning Commissioners to let them know how you stand on development that risks Simsbury’s character, potentially detracts from downtown revitalization efforts and creates the need to make a portion of Route 10 a four lane highway with all the problems that will bring.  Please remember that this particular application will only be “phase one” and that similar development of the rest of the CL&P parcel and a parcel in the North End of Town is planned.  This first “domino” must be carefully chosen to avoid the spread of big box type development all along Route 10.

These are the names of the Zoning Commissioners.  Their names are listed on the Town’s website so that residents can contact them.  It is ok to write them.  They spend many volunteer hours trying to better their community and are anxious to hear your opinion.  It is imperative that you write now so that they understand that any application including a big box store should not be approved.

Chairman

Mr. Michael Bradley

119 N. Saddle Ridge Dr.

West Simsbury, CT 06092

Secretary

Mr. Austin D. Barney

168 Stratton Brook Rd.

Simsbury, CT 06070

Regular Member

Mrs. Patricia Askham

5 Branch Brook

Simsbury, CT 06070

Regular Member

Mr. Garrett Delehanty

14 Brownstone

Weatogue, CT 06089

Regular Member 

Mrs. Alexis Popik

44 Old Stone Crossing

W. Simsbury, CT 06092    

Regular Member

Mr. James Gallagher

27 White Oak Lane

Simsbury, CT. 06070

Alternate

Mr. Joseph Grace

12 Gates Lane 

Simsbury, CT 06070

Alternate

Mr. Louis Donofrio

16 Timber Ridge

Simsbury, CT 06070

Alternate

Mr. Scott Barnett

15 Ox Yoke Dr.

Simsbury, CT 06070


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