2008 News Flashes

October 26, 2008

The Simsbury Town Survey Results Edition

“There is a power in public opinion in this country – and I thank God for it: for it is the most honest and best of all powers” – Martin Van Buren

The SHARE membership is just shy of 4,000 Simsbury residents.  Our members live in all parts of town.  Over the past three years of its existence your SHARE Steering Committee has spoken with hundreds upon hundreds of you to get your ideas, views and opinions about responsible expansion for our town.  In a variety of ways and forums we have dutifully summarized our findings and passed them onto the Town.

Recently, the Town of Simsbury decided to conduct a $15,000 professionally conducted “scientific survey of residents concerning issues facing the Town to better understand the attitudes, opinions, and preferences of residents concerning town services, development, and other important topics”.  The survey was conducted from September 30th to October 5th by a professional survey consulting firm – Pulsar Research & Consulting. The survey was designed to gather opinions through a complex random sampling method of Simsbury residents.

So what were the findings?  We are sending you a copy of the survey results for your review.  At a high level we believe the survey results say many of the same things that SHARE has been hearing from you over the past three years.  The survey touches on some familiar themes:

  • the very high value we all place on the quality of Simsbury’s school system
  • our value of the rural bucolic nature of Simsbury
  • our desire to carefully control expansion of the town and maintain the small town feel
  • the value of open space
  • maintaining Route 10 as a 2 lane road and control traffic through town
  • the importance of maintaining and expanding a vibrant town center with the core character it has today
  • the strong support among town residents for a town center charrette to do a comprehensive planning study with community involvement
  • the need for responsible expansion and economic development and more tax revenue that comports with these messages
  • And lastly, No Big Box Development!

While these survey results affirm much of what we feel and want from our town, there is still much to do – we continue to believe that a town-wide charrette is the best vehicle to translate intent and desire into concrete plans and future action for Simsbury.  And we all as SHARE members and non-members must work together as a community to ensure that the messages that are in this survey are listened to, thought about and ultimately used as one tool to manage and expand our town going forward.

We welcome your thoughts and feedback.  Just reply to this email and we will read and respond to them.

Sincerely,

Your Devoted SHARE Steering Committee

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October 2, 2008

SHARE Questions the Validity of Town Telephone Survey.

"There are two sides to every question" -- Protagoras, Greek philosopher (485 BC - 421 BC)

The Town of Simsbury has recently commissioned a public opinion telephone survey which is being conducted by Pulsar Research & Consulting (and which showed up on caller id as B. R. Interview, 609-279-0110 on one recipient’s phone).   According to the Town, this survey was commissioned in order to better understand the attitudes, opinions, and preferences of residents concerning town services, development, and other important topics and to give the Town good information regarding residents' opinions regarding a variety of future development, land use and taxation issues for Simsbury’s residents.  The cost of this survey to the Town is $15,000 and was highly endorsed by the Chairman of the Board of Finance.  A few SHARE members have already been contacted, and we would like to express concerns we have regarding the possible outcome of this survey based on underlying bias and vagueness inherent to the questions. Here are our thoughts on the survey, some of the concerns we have as to the validity of the results and some opinions we have on several of the topics contained in the survey. SHARE also finds it odd that The Town of Simsbury chose to conduct this survey during a busy election season when residents are already being inundated with phone calls regarding the upcoming elections. SHARE additionally finds it to be of questionable judgment to have conducted part of the survey during the 2nd day of the Jewish Holiday of Rosh Hashanah.

1) A question is asked regarding the charette, a holistic, pro-active and open town planning process which provides an opportunity for all stakeholders, including landowners, town officials, developers, business owners and residents, to have an equal voice in the future growth and preservation of Simsbury. SHARE strongly supports this initiative.

We feel that the survey may serve to de-rail the charette effort by using responses to the charette question, as well as responses to other questions, to inaccurately conclude that Simsbury residents do not want to pay for the charette. While the initial outlay of dollars to the Town may be high, grant money should offset the costs and the responsible development and accompanying economic benefit that will come as a direct result of the charette will more than cover the initial costs.  Additionally, the Town has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on legal costs opposing inappropriate development such as River Oaks and without a charette and proactive zoning regulations that will be enacted as a result of the charette, the Town will eventually be spending more wasted dollars on future legal fees fighting another inappropriate development.

2) There is a question regarding the proposed plan for the Town of Simsbury to purchase the Simsbury airport.

A consultant hired by the Town has already presented their findings to several Town of Simsbury boards, and the conclusion is that not only will purchasing the airport cost the town a significant amount of taxpayer money, but the financial projections indicate that the Town would continue to lose money by owning the airport. SHARE wonders why the Town of Simsbury, with all of its existing financial & management challenges, would believe the Town is equipped (or sophisticated enough) to get into the airport & air travel business.

3) There were (2) questions regarding protecting the view of the "ridgeline", one asking how much residents would be willing to pay (between $50-$500 in additional property taxes) in order to maintain the view of the "ridgeline".

First, SHARE finds the inclusion of a dollar amount to be misleading and disingenuous to town residents. Why do we need to "pay more property taxes" to preserve what we already have? Second, SHARE finds these questions vague and open to different interpretations as the question does not specify from where the view of the ridgeline originates and how much of the view of the "ridgeline" will be obstructed. Is the view of the "ridgeline" from the Southern Gateway along Rt. 10 as you enter Simsbury or further along Rte 10 as you pass in front of The Hartford (is The Hartford planning on building a 3 story parking garage on the abutting corn field that would obstruct the view but lower our taxes by $50 per taxpayer?), or the view of the ridgeline as you sit on the lawn of The Meadows, listening to a summer concert?

4) There were questions regarding protecting, purchasing and maintaining open space in Simsbury.

Again, the questions included one asking how much residents would be willing to pay (between $50-$500 in additional taxes) in order to maintain open space. The question again is too vague and non-specific to be considered of scientific research caliber. There has to be some clarification as to which parcel of open space is being referred to.  Is it open space that the Town's Open Space Commission has identified as being the top priority because it is part of a wildlife corridor or on a pristine aquifer or is it the back side of an undevelopable gravel pit? Second, the Town of Simsburyis not the only group in Simsbury with the financial resources to purchase and maintain open space. Organizations such as The Simsbury Land Trust and Keep The Woods have also funded the purchase of open space in Simsbury.

5) There was a question regarding how good a job residents felt their Town Planning and Zoning boards were doing.

This question is flawed because Simsbury has separate Planning and Zoning Commissions. Over the years SHARE has pointed out the track records of both The Planning and Zoning Commissions and feels that lumping the two boards together is inappropriate.  Did Pulsar Research Company even know that unlike many towns in the area Simsbury is unique because we have separate Planning and Zoning Commissions?

6)  There were two questions regarding maintaining Route 10 as a 2-lane road, or widening it to a 4-lane highway. 

Again, the question included asking how much residents would be willing to pay (between $50-$500 in additional taxes) in order to maintain Rt. 10 as a 2-lane road. SHARE has always advocated for keeping Rt. 10 as a 2-lane road, and finds the inclusion of a dollar amount to be bordering on extortion to town residents.

7)  There were questions regarding what type of economic development you would like to have in town. One such question was would you favor or oppose small retail business excluding restaurants.

When asked for clarification as to what was meant by "small retail" business none was given.  Is the question referring to something along the line of The Work Shoppe in town center or is it referring to something like Best Buy?  And where would that "small retail" business be located?  While Best Buy was approved for Rte 44 would it be appropriate for town center?  What do you think of when asked to define "small retail business" and is your answer different than your neighbor's response?

8) Two similar questions were asked regarding a) how much more residents were willing to pay in taxes to improve public education in Town, and b) how much more residents were willing to pay in taxes to maintain or increase town services.

SHARE fully understands the tough economic realities that both town residents and The Town of Simsbury are facing during this significant economic downturn. The harsh reality is that fixed costs such as energy (oil, gas, diesel), food, benefits, insurance (health, etc.) are all increasing, while tax revenue is projected to decrease. SHARE believes that the town needs to focus on fiscal responsibility and responsible spending in order to maintain the highest levels of town and educational services which have made Simsbury such a wonderful & popular place to live.   

SHARE believes that the validity of the results of this survey are highly questionable and we wonder how the results will be used. Due to the vague and non-specific way the questions were written the survey results could be used to make policy decisions that do not truly reflect the views of the majority of town residents with unsubstantiated and inaccurate conclusions such as the following:

  • Simsbury Town Residents feel the proposed Charette, a holistic land use planning process that would include all stake holders including residents, developers, government, is not needed.
  • Simsbury Town Residents don't care if Route 10 is widened to a 4-lane highway.
  • Simsbury Town Residents don't care about maintaining open space or the ridgeline.
  • Simsbury Town Residents think the Town of Simsbury should purchase the Simsbury Airport and get into a business which the town is ill-equipped to run.
  • Simsbury Town Residents want more Town & Educational services, yet (unrealistically) do not want to pay increased taxes.
  • Simsbury Town Residents support development (any & all) because it will lower their taxes, yet increase Town & Educational services.

SHARE continues to support the charette, advocate to keep Route 10 a two lane road, care about maintaining open space and protecting the view of the ridgeline as defined in the 2007 Plan of Conservation and Development, believe smart growth principles need to be followed in all future development, and realize that the tax issues are much more complicated than increasing development and lowering taxes.

We strongly urge you to think carefully before answering the questions for this survey, taking into consideration that Town Leadership will likely use the results of this survey to influence Town policy regarding these significant issues.

Please feel free to contact us with any questions, comments, etc. and we would like to hear from you if you participated in the survey.

Sincerely,

Your devoted SHARE Steering Committee

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September 10, 2008

Debates for Simsbury State Representative Election Candidates

SHARE has consistently stated that it strongly supports open and transparent government.  Debates are typically sponsored by various civic organizations to allowSimsbury political candidates to express their opinions about issues to the voters of our town.  This year, two debates are being sponsored by the third political party in Simsbury – Simsbury Citizens First.  SHARE wanted to send this press release we received from Simsbury Citizens First to our members because we know that so many SHARE members are interested in knowing more about the candidates running for political office as representatives to our town.  This event was also announced in the Hartford Courant.

Simsbury, CT – September 7, 2008

Simsbury Citizens First (SCF) will host two debates for the four candidates for the 16th District, State House of Representatives. 

The first debate is scheduled for Thursday, September 18th at 7:30 pm at the Simsbury Public Library and the second debate on Thursday, October 16th at 7:30 pm at the Simsbury Public Library.  The debates are open to the public and will be filmed by SCTV to be aired during the weeks leading up to the election on November 4th.

The four candidates, Robert Heagney (Republican), Robert Kalechman (Petitioning Independent), Deborah Noble (Working Families Party) and Linda Schofield (Democrat) have all committed to participate in both debates.

The moderator for the first debate on September 18th is Trinity College Professor Adrienne Fulco.  Professor Fulco is an Associate Professor and Director of the Public Policy and Law Program who teaches courses that focus on the intersection of law, politics, and public policy.  Professor Fulco has presented her works at professional conferences in the United States and abroad, and has served as a political commentator for local and national media.

SCF will provide further information regarding the moderator of the October 16th debate once that has been confirmed.  

The format for both debates will allow for opening and closing remarks by each candidate and questions provided to the candidates prior to the debate as well as additional unanticipated questions posed to them that evening

The second set of unanticipated questions will come from the residents.  Voters are encouraged to go to our website www.SimsburyCitzensFirst.com to submit a question they would like us to ask the candidates and we will choose two to be included as unanticipated questions for the candidates.

If you have any questions please contact the Simsbury Citizens First Chairman, Kirsten Griebel at 658-7240 or go to www.SimsburyCitizensFirst.com.

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September 1, 2008

Breaking News: New Development Planned for CL&P Site

“He that can have patience can have what he will” –-- Benjamin Franklin

This past week your SHARE Steering Committee received an email from Mr. Mark Greenberg, the owner of the 60 acre CL&P property, that he has closed a deal with the Shelter Group ( www.thesheltergroup.com )  to develop a senior continuing care facility on 23 of the 26 acres on the southern portion of the Southern Gateway CL&P site (abutting Avon Meadows office park).

In a subsequent phone call with a member of the SHARE Steering Committee, Mr. Greenberg stated that he hoped to also develop a medical office building on the remaining 3 of the southernmost 26 acres to complement the continuing care facility.  He also confirmed that the CL&P service station would remain at its current location on about 11 acres at the center of the overall property.  That leaves about 23 open acres on the northern portion of the 60 acre site available for future development.  Mr. Greenberg does not appear to have current plans for the northern portion of the site at this time.

While the proposed senior continuing care project is in the very earliest stages of development and details are not available at this time, we, your SHARE Steering Committee, are pleased with what we are hearing from a conceptual perspective.  A senior continuing care facility and medical office building are good examples of the type of land use that will be most beneficial to the town from a tax revenue and net economic benefit stand point and from their impact on quality of life for Simsbury especially in terms of traffic, preservation of Simsbury’s character, and the like.

Additionally, we were told by the landowner that the development will be designed to comply with the 2007 Plan of Conservation and Development for the Southern Gateway in terms of the design and site plan to do things such as preserve the view of the ridgeline.

SHARE appreciates the commitment from Mr. Greenberg to keep an open dialogue with the residents and we look forward to an ongoing collaborative relationship as this project moves forward.

As always we will continue to provide information to you as we learn it through our SHARE News Flashes.

If you have any questions please email us and we will try to answer them as best we can.

Sincerely,

Your Devoted SHARE Steering Committee

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August 7, 2008

Possible Vote on Dorset Crossing & Hoffman Applications – Version ‘X’

“Bill Gates is a very rich man today… and do you want to know why?  The answer is one word: versions” – Dave Barry

Zoning Commission Meeting - Monday August 11th at 7 PM

At the Apple Barn, Old Farms Rd.

Dorset Crossing Update:

At the last Zoning Commission meeting on July 21st, the applicant, Keystone Properties, finished their presentation of their zoning text amendment and their request for a zone change in order to build their proposed mixed-use development called Dorset Crossing.  Public audience followed their presentation and while some of the speakers spoke in favor of the application it appeared that most of those in favor of the application were basing their comments on the proposed conceptual site plan for the Dorset Crossing project.

This is an important distinction that we want to emphasize.  The SHARE Steering Committee has repeatedly stated that we are not opposed to the mixed-use Dorset Crossing project as currently proposed.  Rather we are opposed to the submitted zoning text amendment which if approved would significantly change and jeopardize Simsbury's use-based zoning regulations which have protected the beauty and character of our town for years.  While we respect other's opinions and remarks about the positive value that Dorset Crossing might bring to Simsbury, we continue to make the point that this application is not about the specific concept plan for Dorset Crossing, it is about a fundamental and drastic change to our zoning regulations.

We believe the Zoning Commissioners understand that distinction and urge them to deny the zoning text amendment as submitted.

Again, this isn’t a vote about Dorset Crossing as a concept!  It’s about a proposed town-wide zoning text amendment!

One interesting option was discussed during the applicant's presentation.  Zoning Chairman Barney asked if the applicant had thought about subdividing the parcel into two separate lots, since the conceptual site plan for Dorset Crossing showed all the retail and commercial use buildings the front of the parcel abutting Hopmeadow Street and all the residential units to be built in the rear of the parcel.  Our understanding is that if the applicant subdivided the parcel and requested the front lot remain zoned B2 all the retail and commercial he has proposed could be built on that lot and the rear lot could be rezoned to what is called ‘Village Cluster’ which would allow him to build a variety of housing options as he has planned.  An alteration to the current Village Cluster zone regulation might be needed in order to allow an increase in the density of housing to make the project work for the developer.  However, if the increase in density is balanced with a requirement to design the residential plan in such a way that housing is clustered and compact and there is an appropriate amount of dedicated and connected open space, resulting in a conservation subdivision, this would appear to be a possible option.  A conservation subdivision, allowing for an increase in density of housing within the Village Cluster zone with appropriate dedicated open space and is an example of applying some of the principles of Smart Growth to our current zoning regulations.

Hoffman Application Update from South West Homeowners Association:

It's decision time.  The agenda for Monday's Special Zoning Meeting has included "Discussion and Possible Vote" on the Hoffman Auto Park application. It is important to be in the audience to support the opposition of this application as well as to hear first hand what the Commissioners say in their remarks about the application and to be there for the vote.

Please try to attend the August 11th  Zoning Commission meeting to hear and see what they do regarding both of these applications.

Sincerely,

Your Devoted SHARE Steering Committee

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July 18, 2008

"What did you do during your summer vacation?"

The latest news on Dorset Crossing & Hoffman Applications

Monday July 21st 7:00 pm at Simsbury Public Library

Zoning Commission Public Hearings Continued for Dorset Crossing & Hoffman Applications

The dog days of summer have seen the Zoning Commissioners hard at work!  At the last ZC meeting on July 7th they finally ended the meeting at 10:30 pm after hearing from the applicants and the public regarding the proposed zone change for the Hoffman property which consumed about two hours followed by an hour and a half of an initial presentation by the Keystone Properties on their application for a zone change and text amendment for Dorset Crossing.  They were unable to hear public comment on the Dorset Crossing application because of the late hour.  We assume the public will get to speak at this next meeting on Monday July 21st for both applications.  Below is a summary of last week's meeting and what's to come.  But first...

Having watched both the Hoffman and Dorset Crossing applications go through the detailed scrutiny by the Zoning Commission while they are also dealing with other regular business items, we want to take a moment and thank these dedicated volunteers for the time and effort they put in to this very important Commission.   They serve a critically important stewardship role and take their work on the Zoning Commission very seriously.  While we may not always agree with their decisions we are appreciative of the countless hours they put in to carefully reviewing all applications that come before them. So if you have a chance please be sure and personally thank the following Zoning Commissioners for taking a lot of time out of their lives, especially during these hot summer months, to work diligently in the best interest of the Town to maintain the unique character and beauty of Simsbury;  Chairman Dunny Barney and Commissioners, Scott Barnett, Garret Delahanty, Bruce Elliott, Jim Gallagher, Madeleine Gilkey, Joe Grace, and John Vaughn.

Dorset Crossing Update:

The presentation kicked off with statements by Bruce Elliott and John Vaughn, the two Simsbury Citizens First Zoning Commissioners that were asked to recuse from voting on the Dorset Crossing application by Attorney Fahey on behalf of Keystone Companies.  Keystone Companies had requested their recusal because Keystone said there was a long standing relationship between these two Commissioners and SHARE.  In a nutshell, Commissioners Elliott and Vaughn stated for the record that they are not involved with SHARE and that they believe they are able to hear, review, analyze and decide the merits of the application without any predetermined bias.  That should have been the end of the discussion because by law it is up to the individual commissioner to determine his/her ability to hear an application without bias. However, Keystone continued to press on the issue, then insinuating that not only were these two Commissioners biased but that the entire Zoning Commission was biased, by asking each Commissioner to state "for the record" if they had talked to anyone outside of the Zoning Commission about the Dorset Crossing application.  We commend the Zoning Commissioners for maintaining their professionalism and their composure, under this challenge which apparently is a first ever, during the long tenure of many of the Zoning Commissioners, and a request which raised the ire of many of the public in attendance and for good reason.  We can only assume that this challenge was intended  to set the stage for a possible law suit against the Town in the event the Dorset Crossing application gets denied.

We believe the application for the zoning text amendment submitted by Keystone companies should be denied!  We want to be clear, we are not opposed to the conceptual site plan we have seen for the Dorset Crossing project itself, but rather we firmly believe the developer should wait until our elected officials write a mixed-use zoning regulation that will both protect the residents as homeowners and the town from unpredictable and undesirable development and also provide the developers with a regulation that could be applied to the Northern Gateway to develop Dorset Crossing. We are opposed to the zoning text amendment they have proposed because if approved it would:

  • Greatly reduce the predictability of outcome of a proposed development because of the lack of site specific requirements - one size does not fit all!  The developer’s submitted language, if passed, would create a one size fits all component for a portion of Simsbury’s zoning regulations.
  • Not regulate the density of a development with regard to the number of buildings that could be built on any given site zoned or rezoned B3 with the maximum size footprint of 25,000 square feet and with up to three stories.  This means a developer could potentially build a little city in the Northern Gateway, Southern Gateway or Town Center.
  • Conversely, the required maximum footprint of 25,000 sq ft for a retail building could make other sites around town that are currently B3 or would want to rezone to B3, nonconforming.  For instance, Hoffman's property is zoned B3 and the brand new Best Buy store has a 32,000 sq ft footprint.  Would that mean Hoffman's brand new store would be nonconforming?  What if Andys or Fitzgeralds wanted to rezone to B3 in order to take advantage of the new mixed-use zoning regulation in order to redevelop to mixed-use some time in the future?  Both retail stores are greater than 25,000 sq ft.  so would be unable to do so under the Dorset Crossing B3 zoning text amendment that requires a 25,000 sq ft retail limit.  This is the same argument SHARE heard two years ago from opponents to Bill Miller's application for a zoning text amendment to have a 20,000 sq ft cap on new retail stores in Simsbury - that it could make existing stores nonconforming.  Both the Planning Commission and the Zoning Commission used this argumen to deny his application. We would assume the same would hold true for this application.  As a side note we find it odd that the Chamber of Commerce quite vociferously spoke out against the Bill Miller 20,000 sq ft retail cap two years ago and now are embracing the Dorset Crossing amendment that caps retail to 25,000 sq ft.  It certainly makes us wonder why the complete turn around and what has changed?
  • Not require a mix of uses at all nor require any set percentages of uses.  So this zoning text amendment does not reflect true smart growth mixed-use principles.  Once again we could end up seeing just another shopping mall being built on a site rezoned under this zoning text amendment.
  • Does not require net economic impact and other necessary studies to provide the land use commissions the necessary information critical to judging the benefits or negatives of any proposed development to the town.
  • Allow development at the Northern Gateway without studying and planning for the total traffic capacity of Route 10 and its impact on the Town Center as well as diminishing the right of development of other landowners along Route 10 because Route 10 has a limited traffic capacity.  In other words, without the charrette and the creation of appropriate holistic zoning regulations, this text amendment could create a first come first serve model, with the first developer to build getting a greater allotment of traffic for their project and each successive project getting less due to diminished road capacity.
  • Jeopardize the integrity of Simsbury's town-wide long-standing "use-based" zoning regulations by allowing Residential in a Business zone which could be applied for anywhere in town.
  • Set a legal precedent for an applicant to request permission to build a business (such as a convenience store) in a Residential zone and substantially diminish the protection that our current use=based zoning regulations provide to all residents of the town.
  • Circumvent the proposed public planning charrette process that would allow our elected and appointed officials on the Simsbury land use boards, along with the resident’s and developer’s input, to work with highly expert consultants to draft appropriate and responsible mixed-use zoning regulations that would be site specific and that would most benefit the Town and not just the developer.

To truly embrace smart growth principles that include new form-based zoning regulations to allow mixed-use development in Simsbury, the Town must take the lead in the planning, drafting, vetting and adopting these regulations, specific to sites identified by the Simsbury 2007 Plan of Conservation and Development. 

We strongly urge all of you to attend the July 21st Zoning Commission Public Hearing on Dorset Crossing.  If approved, this will be make permanent changes to our zoning regulations allowing significant and unalterable changes to the character of our Town!

Say No to the Dorset Crossing zoning text amendment!

Hoffman Zone Change Application:

The Southwest Homeowners Association has taken the lead on this very important zone change application.  As we have done before we are including a message from the SWHA for your information below.

They're Back!

There is an other new plan with some adjustments from the last meeting, but it still has parking spaces on the former Markie property.

The driveway has been moved to behind the Body Shop building, more parking has been removed from the north-west parking area. 

No other suggestions have been used or requested. It seems that Honda is the only manufacturer that has an inventory storage parking requirement the others leave it up to the dealer.

Please come to the Zoning Meeting on Monday, July 21st, the agenda is listed below.

Sign up to speak. Summarize what you have said before and then speak to additional or new concerns.

South West Homeowners Association

Your Devoted SHARE Steering Committee

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July 2, 2008

Dorset Crossing: The Mouse That Could Roar!

Rescheduled Zoning Commission Public Hearing

Dorset Crossing Zoning Text Amendment

Monday, July 7th, 7:00 pm Simsbury Public Library

“Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts” – Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan

The Developer’s Delay of Their Own Process

The June 16th Zoning Commission's public hearing on Dorset Crossing was postponed until July 7th at the request of the Zoning Commission because the attorney for the developer of Dorset Crossing had sent a letter requesting that two Zoning Commissioners recuse themselves from the hearing and vote on the application.  However the two Commissioners had not received the letter by email until 4:00 pm that day and did not have time to review the request.

Both Commissioners (Bruce Elliott and John Vaughn) are members of the Simsbury Citizens First party and were elected in last November’s election.  The attorney for the developer requested their recusal based on the Commissioners' alleged association with SHARE.  SHARE wants to publicly state that while Bruce Elliott was at one time on the SHARE Steering Committee, he resigned in June 2007, prior to becoming a candidate for office and John Vaughn was never a member of the SHARE Steering Committee.  Neither commissioner is currently involved with SHARE.

Recusal is an elected officials’ personal decision as to whether they can evaluate a project in an independent and unbiased fashion and also to ensure that a vote doesn’t have a personally direct financial benefit or conflict with the commissioner.  For the Dorset Crossing developer to request that these two commissioners recuse themselves seems to be an attempt by the developer to do whatever it takes to get his application pushed through the land use process.

At the risk of giving this issue more airtime than it deserves, for those of you who enjoy reading legal case law precedent, we refer you to the case of Robert Cioffoletti, et al. v. Planning and Zoning Commission of the Town of Ridgefield, 209 Conn. 544 and Furtney v. Zoning Commission, 159 Conn. 585, 594, 271 A.2d 319 (1970) and In re J. P. Linahan, Inc., 138 F.2d 650, 651-52 (2d Cir. 1943).

A combined concluding summary from these case discussions in Lexis Nexis states:

The law does not require that members of zoning commissions must have no opinion concerning the proper development of their communities. It would be strange, indeed, if this were true. The human mind is no blank piece of paper. Interests, points of view, preferences, are the essence of living. An "open mind," in the sense of a mind containing no preconceptions whatever, would be a mind incapable of learning anything, and would be that of an utterly emotionless human being. Local governments, therefore, would be seriously handicapped if any conceivable interest, no matter how remote and speculative, would require the disqualification of a zoning official. Such a policy would not only discourage, but might even prevent capable men and women from serving as members of the various zoning authorities.

‘Nuf said on that, don’t you think?

Public Hearing Next Steps

The SHARE Steering Committee has reviewed the Dorset Crossing zoning text amendment and strongly opposes its approval for several reasons. We want to be clear that we are NOT currently opposing the conceptual site plan that Keystone Properties has presented for the Dorset Crossing project itself, but rather we firmly believe the developer should wait until the elected officials write a mixed-use zoning regulation that will both protect the residents as homeowners and the town from unpredictable and undesirable development and also then provide the developers with a regulation that could be applied to the Northern Gateway to develop Dorset Crossing.

Our opposition to the Dorset Crossing zoning text amendment is that if approved it would:

·        Jeopardize the integrity of Simsbury's town-wide long-standing "use-based" zoning regulations by allowing Residential in a Business zone which could be applied for anywhere in town.

·        Set a legal precedent for an applicant to request permission to build Business (such as a convenience store) in a Residential zone and substantially diminish the protection that our current separate use-based zoning regulations provide to all of us as residents of the town.

·        Circumvent the proposed public planning charrette process that would allow our elected and appointed officials on the Simsbury land use boards, along with the residents, land owners and developers input, to work with highly expert consultants to draft appropriate and responsible mixed-use zoning regulations that would be site specific and that would most benefit the Town and not just the developer.

·        Greatly reduce the predictability of outcome of a proposed development because of the lack of site specific requirements - one size does not fit all!  The developer’s submitted language, if passed, would create a one size fits all component for a portion of Simsbury’s zoning regulations.

·        Not regulate the density of a development with regard to the number of buildings that could be built on any given site zoned or rezoned B3 with the maximum size footprint of 25,000 square feet and with up to three stories.  This means a developer could potentially build a little city in the Northern Gateway, Southern Gateway or Town Center.

·        Not require a mix of uses at all nor require any set percentages of uses.  So this zoning text amendment does not reflect true smart growth mixed-use principles.  Once again we could end up seeing just another shopping mall with a Big Box being built on a site rezoned under this zoning text amendment.

·        Does not require net economic impact and other necessary studies to provide the land use commissions the necessary information critical to judging the benefits or negatives of any proposed development to the town.

·        Allow development at the Northern Gateway without studying and planning for the total traffic capacity of Route 10 and its impact on the Town Center as well as diminishing the right of development of other landowners along Route 10 because Route 10 has a limited traffic capacity.  In other words, without the charette and the creation of appropriate holistic zoning regulations, this text amendment could create a first come first served model, with the first developer to build getting a greater allotment of traffic for their project and each consecutive project getting less due to diminished road capacity.

To truly embrace smart growth principles that include new form-based zoning regulations to allow mixed-use development in Simsbury, the Town must take the lead in the planning, drafting, vetting and adopting these regulations, specific to sites identified by the Simsbury 2007 Plan of Conservation and Development, and not be swayed by the promises of a developer who wants to force through a mixed-use regulation in order to build a project to benefit his bottom line while potentially opening a Pandora's Box (Big Box?) of unwanted and oversized development in Simsbury.

We strongly urge all of you to attend the July 7th Zoning Commission Public Hearing on Dorset Crossing.

Dorset Crossing has been proposed and discussed as a small mixed-use development.  But the submitted zoning text amendment could make it the “Mouse That Roared” as the proposed modifications to the zoning regulations could set the stage for very detrimental development throughout Simsbury.

If approved, this will be make permanent changes to our zoning regulations allowing significant and unalterable changes to the character of our Town!

Say No to the Dorset Crossing zoning text amendment!

Rescheduled Zoning Commission Public Hearing

Dorset Crossing Zoning Text Amendment

Monday, July 7th, 7:00 pm

Simsbury Public Library

Sincerely,

Your Devoted SHARE Steering Committee

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June 15, 2008

Simsbury Zoning Commission

To have Two Public Hearings

Monday June 16th at 7 pm at the Simsbury Public Library

This Monday, June 16th at 7:00 pm at the Simsbury Public Library the Zoning Commission will be holding two very important public hearings.  The first hearing on the agenda is on the Dorset Crossing zoning text amendment which we emailed you about a few days ago.  If you have not already done so, we encourage you to use the email links from the previously sent SHARE News Flash to send an email to the Zoning Commission to state your opposition to this zoning text amendment by clicking on the link at the end of the News Flash, or by clicking on the link below:

The second public hearing is on the Hoffman proposal for a zone change for property on West Mountain Road for a requested zoning change from Residential to Business in order to allow them to build storage space for their auto dealership.  This hearing is a continuation from a May 19th public hearing.  The Simsbury South West Homeowners Association(SWHA) has spoken out against this application as it would remove a conservation easement and allow 'commercial creep' to extend up West Mountain Road.  If conservation easements, which are supposed to exist in perpetuity, can be removed just through zoning change applications, we wonder what the purpose of a conservation easement is at all!?  And what does perpetuity mean?

We have included an email below from the SWHA for your information.

Sincerely,

Your Devoted SHARE Steering Committee

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From the Simsbury South West Homeowners Association

The next zoning meeting is on June 16th at 7:00pm. This is a continuation of the May 19th meeting, and the public participation is still open.

Please come for the entire meeting and show your interest in all the agenda items.  It is important to get as many people to come to the meeting, it will be noticed and can make a difference.

Hoffman has a new version to present.  This is another version of their ever changing plans.

If you spoke last time and wish to speak again make sure it is new material.  A short reminder of the last meeting would be OK, but then go to the new issue.

Thank you.

South West Homeowners Association

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June 12, 2008

Another ‘What Are They Thinking???’ Edition

“The nicest thing about not planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise rather than being preceded by a period of worry and depression” – Sir John Harvey-Jones

IMPORTANT Zoning Commission Public Hearing on Dorset Crossing Zoning Text Amendment Monday, June 16th, 7:00 pm at Simsbury Public Library.  We urge all residents to attend and speak out against a permanent and drastic zoning change that could destroy the integrity of the current Simsbury zoning regulations!  If approved this zoning amendment will remove the protections our current use based zoning regulations provide to all of our homes and neighborhoods and open the entire town to undesirable and inappropriate development.

This is a long but very important email.  Please read it through! 

We wanted to alert you to a disturbing development which could, in a worst case scenario, have a dramatic impact on how Simsbury develops and could facilitate the reemergence of Big-Box development in Simsbury on the CL&P Southern Gateway site or in other areas of Simsbury.  It could also, quite literally, destroy the concept of single use zones in Simsbury and allow for businesses to be built in any zone, including residential.

Here are the details…

On April 21st, the Keystone Companies LLC and Dorset Crossing LLP submitted a Zoning Text and Zoning Map Amendment for their property commonly referred to as the Northern Gateway site in the Simsbury Plan of Conservation & Development (POCD).  We have attached a copy of this application for your reference.  In this application the developers want to change the zone designations for portions of their property in order to build a mixed-use development.  They also submitted text changes to be made to Simsbury’s town-wide zoning regulations which would enable the development of Dorset Crossing as a mixed-use development however these changes to the Simsbury zoning regulations could then be applied anywhere in Simsbury.

It is essential for you to understand that if these zoning text changes are approved by the Zoning Commission, then they will apply to all properties with those zone designations.  A further concern is that land owners of properties with other zone designations may apply for a change to this new zone.  This is a similar situation to what Konover Development was attempting to do with the creation of a town-wide floating Planned Development District (PDD) zoning text amendment.

As with the Konover PDD, the Dorset Crossing proposed zoning text amendment, if approved would have permanent and critical, town wide ramifications to our current zoning regulations.  These include:

·        The amendment, if approved, will provide legislation for future applicants for new development or for re-development, to request a mix of uses in current single use zones. Essentially all zones can become mixed use throughout all of Simsbury.

·       If the Zoning Commission approves this amendment as is, it will allow residential (R) in business (B) zones.  Therefore, it would set a legal precedent for an applicant to apply for business (B) use in residential (R) zones (e.g. a convenience store in a neighborhood)!

·        The applicant is requesting a fundamental change of our current use based zoning regulations (the concept in which all of Simsbury’s zoning regulations are predicated on), by asking for the ability to mix uses in a single use zone which would destroy the integrity of use based zoning throughout Simsbury.

·        Approval of this zoning text amendment would therefore remove the protection that our current separate use based zoning regulations provide us as homeowners and property owners throughout the Town of Simsbury

There are numerous flaws with the Dorset Crossing zoning text amendment.  Recently SHARE sent the attached email to John Loomis the Chairman of the Simsbury Planning Commission outlining our concerns and urging the Planning Commission to send a negative referral to the Zoning Commission on this application.  Below is a summary of some of the other concerns we have regarding the Dorset Crossing zoning text amendment:

·        The application’s omission of specificity in the percent of mixed-use and enforcement language for the ultimate construction of the proposed mixed-use components. As in the Konover PDD, without required percentages of mixes of use, a developer would be able to build either just retail or just residential.

·        The application’s large individual building square footage caps when total allowable square footage is calculated (the application allows for multiple buildings of 25,000 square foot per floor with up to 3 floors = 75,000 square foot buildings), and with no restrictions on how many of these buildings could be built on a single lot, could result in a development of excessive and inappropriate size, scale and density without regard to the surrounding areas

·        The omission of language requiring bonding and phasing and completion for a complete build out, which would allow a developer to walk away from a project that was only partially built

·        The omission of required net economic, net fiscal, environmental and traffic studies needed to determine the actual costs and benefits to the town of a proposed project

The above are just some of SHARE’s main concerns with the Dorset Crossing zoning text amendment application.  Frankly given these glaring issues, we thought it was obvious that the Planning Commission would provide a negative referral to the Zoning Commission.  However, in the 2.5 years of SHARE’s activities in Simsbury, we have learned that the Town of Simsbury often seems to strive to surprise its citizens - and this was no exception!

Please understand that the Planning Commission, by law, must evaluate all such applications to the town and provide the Zoning Commission with either a positive or negative referral.  SHARE felt that it should be obvious to the Planning Commission that the application as written had numerous significant deficiencies and that the zoning language submitted by the application was clearly too vague and insufficient to serve the town’s interests.

However, shockingly, by a vote of 4-2 the Planning Commission voted to provide a positive referral to the Zoning Commission for the Dorset Crossing application – a positive referral that is truly strange, inconceivable, inconsistent with their past thinking and actions, inherently flawed reasoning, and really, really bad precedent.

Voting in favor of the positive referral to the Zoning Commission were Chairman John Loomis, Gerry Post, Ferg Jansen, and Chip Houlihan.  Voting against the positive referral were Sue Bednarczyk and Julie Myer.

So What’s Next?

Your SHARE Steering Committee feels strongly that the job to create zoning regulations should be the job of the Town and its elected officials and not the job of some developer who wants to shoe-horn regulations into place that may help that developer but disadvantage the town and the homeowners.  Keep in mind that once zoning regulations are altered for the convenience of one developer, they are permanently in place for everyone.

As an example of why this is potentially problematic, the 25,000 square foot times 3 floors cap in the application language would allow buildings of up to 75,000 square feet in particular business zones throughout Simsbury.  That is a Big Box!  That is bigger than the Super Stop and Shop in Simsbury Commons!  And if the Zoning Commission allows this to be a part of the zoning regulations, then any business parcel anywhere in Simsbury could have any number of buildings up to 75,000 square feet in size.  This is clearly a BIG ISSUE for Simsbury!

Next Monday June 16th at 7 PM at Simsbury Public Library the Zoning Commission will hold a public hearing on this application and possibly vote on it.  It is important that SHARE members attend the meeting to express their opinions about it. We believe that special focus for comments should be on the zoning text amendment and the deficiencies we outlined in bullet form above.

Please be sure to either email Dunny Barney, Chairman of the Simsbury Zoning Commission (ABarney@simsbury-ct.gov) and CC Hiram Peck, Simsbury Town Planner (hpeck@simsbury-ct.gov) or attend the Zoning Commission meeting on June 16th.  If you send an email, we suggest your email say something like:

<<Click here to email the Chairman Barney "Please vote to deny the current Dorset Crossing Zoning Text Amendment application".>>

(if experience a problem with this link, please refer to the email cut-n-paste solution(s) below)

EMAIL Cut-n-Paste Solution:

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Dear Chairman Barney:

We believe that the Dorset Crossing Zoning Text Amendment is overly vague and is not appropriate for adoption into Simsbury’s zoning regulations.  We think that the Town of Simsbury should write its own site specific mixed-use zoning regulations that allow for mixed-use zones in appropriate locations only  and in a way which are legally responsible and not subject to litigation or controversy.

Please vote to deny the current Dorset Crossing Zoning Text Amendment application.

Thank you for your consideration of my views.

Sincerely,

Name

Address

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In either case, you need to let the Town know what you think about these issues and why the Town shouldn’t let developers write town-wide zoning regulations for their own purposes that can impact the entire Town of Simsbury.  Please be sure your voice is heard!

Sincerely,

Your Devoted SHARE Steering Committee 

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May 19, 2008

SHARE News Flash: Tuesday, May 20th - Vote YES Question 4 - Meadowood Triangle Referendum

We would like to forward to all our SHARE members a letter written by Chuck Howard of the Simsbury Land Trust in support of the Town's acquisition of the 77 acre Meadowood Triangle which is a referendum vote (Question 4 on the ballot) on Tuesday, May 20th, at Henry James Middle School from 6:00 am to 8:00 pm.

SHARE Steering Committee

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At the referendum on May 20, Simsbury voters will be asked to spend $2.75 million to acquire open space:  77 acres of land near Firetown, Holcomb, and Barndoor Hills Roads

As you may recall, the original Meadowood development proposed building over 600 new homes on the former Culbro land in this area.  Town boards and commissions had substantial questions about the environmental and planning implications of the proposed development, and the resulting litigation lasted over 7 years. The court-approved settlement is the result of years of effort by the town to find the right balance between development and preservation.  The settlement substantially reduced the density of the proposed development and gave the town this unique opportunity to preserve a signature piece of land that helps define the qualities of town that brought many of us to town in the first place. 

There are many long term reasons for the town to buy this property:

  • It has been identified in the town’s plans of development for the past 25 years as Open Space and Prime Farmland.  The town’s Open Space Committee has designated it as the town’s highest-ranked open space priority.  It abuts Great Pond State Park, McLean Game Refuge, and other property designated as open space.  Both the town’s plan of development and the DEP have recognized the crucial role of this parcel in maintaining a wildlife corridor.  Particularly with the other development that will occur as a result of the settlement, this corridor is important. 
  • It has long term possibilities for agricultural purposes.  Whether it ultimately is used for hay for the Town Farm Dairy, garlic, vegetables or other agricultural purposes, preserving this property will, in the long term, enable us to foster important local resources.

The alternative is more houses on this land.  The same court-approved settlement that gives the town the opportunity to buy this land also gives the developer the right to build 26 homes on the triangle and another 20 homes on the parcel east of Barndoor Hills Rd. if the town does not buy it.  The current economic situation may not favor immediate development, but we should not delude ourselves—if the town does not acquire this land now, houses will be built on it and the opportunity to preserve it will be lost..  As First Selectman Glassman said at the Special Town Meeting last week, only 16% of the land in town remains undeveloped, so a preservation opportunity like this has added urgency.

I hope voters will see the long term benefits of this acquisition.   The challenge we face no different than the decision to preserve Simsbury Farms, when building new schools for the baby boom generation was also an imperative during the 1960’s and 1970’s.  And yet we all benefit today both directly and indirectly from that effort, as well as other efforts by the town, the State, and the Simsbury Land Trust to preserve and protect special areas in town.

Sometimes the timing of a decision is not of our choosing, but the need to think of the long term interests of the town remains.  We can and should approve this acquisition.

Chuck Howard

President, Simsbury Land Trust

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May 18, 2008

SHARE News Flash: Meeting Reminders & Remember to Vote!

Monday, May 19th Zoning Commission Public Hearing, 7:00 pm at

The Apple Barn, 60A Old Farms Road, West Simsbury

(Please Note Meeting Location has Changed from Eno to Apple Barn)

Tuesday, May 20th, Henry James Middle School, 6:00 am to 8:00 pm

Vote YES on Question 4:  Referendum for the Town to Purchase 77 Acres of Open Space on the Meadowood Triangle Near Firetown, Holcomb and Barndoor Hills Roads as part of the Griffin Land, Meadowood Settlement Agreement with the Town of Simsbury.  

Wednesday, May 21st, Simsbury Public Library Meeting Room, 7:00 pm

Dorset Crossing (Proposed Mixed-Use Development for the Rte 10 Northern Gateway) Public Information Session

We have included below copies of prior SHARE Newsflashes on each of these three events - the Zoning Commission public hearing, the referendum vote and the Dorset Crossing presentation.

Monday, May 19th Zoning Commission Public Hearing:

The public hearing is on the proposed zone change application by Jeffrey S. Hoffman, Hoffman Enterprises – Owner, Thomas J. Donohue, Jr., Attorney, Agent, for a Zone Change from R-40 to B-3 on property located at the Hoffman Auto Park, 395 West Mountain Road

Below is a letter from the Southwest Homeowners Association regarding their concern about this proposed zone change.

To: SHARE Members

From: Southwest Homeowners Association

Just as the SHARE group had concerns about irresponsible commercial development along Route 10, the Southwest Homeowners Association has concerns relating to commercial encroachment on West Mountain Road.

Jeffrey Hoffman, of Hoffman Enterprises, and T. J. Donahue, the lawyer representing Hoffman, have made application to the Simsbury Zoning Commission (ZC) to rezone the residential property at 395 West Mountain Road, which last year was known as the Markie property, to build a parking lot.

In March, 2007, Hoffman made application to the ZC to rezone this same property from R-40 (residential) to B-3 (commercial).  At that time, the ZC denied the rezoning because it was not in character with the surrounding neighborhood.

That did not stop Hoffman from purchasing the property.  In April of 2007, Hoffman purchased the Markie property.  This property (5.5 acres) consists of a large ranch style dwelling, a three car garage, a barn for horses, a shed, swimming pool, and a utility dressing building.  The land is clean and has a natural slope of land which drains water to the nearby detention basin.

On May 6th the Simsbury Southwest Homeowners Association Board of Directors met and voted to recommend to the Association membership that they reject the Hoffman's rezoning application.

If Hoffman Enterprises were to get this property rezoned to B-3, it would set a dangerous precedent for the homeowners and the citizens of Simsbury.  Creeping commercialism up West Mountain Road and the nearby areas could have devastating results to our community.  This area has been saturated with commercial development for the past 35 years.  If this property is rezoned to commercial, what would stop them from changing the parking lot to a big box store, a fast food store, or a gas station?  Is this what we want for our town?  Route 44 is already another Berlin Turnpike – let’s not let it creep into our neighborhoods.

If you are interested in trying to maintain the rural character in all of Simsbury and would like the town to be more selective as to the type of growth needed in our town, it would be to your advantage to attend the Simsbury Zoning Commission meeting on May 19th, at Eno Hall, at 7:00 p.m.

Feel free to contact the Simsbury Southwest Homeowners Association at SWHA@snet.net.

Tuesday, May 20th Vote YES Referendum Question 4:

As we have stated in prior SHARE News Flashes, SHARE continues to follow land use and development issues throughout Simsbury and send out the information to our SHARE members in an effort to keep you informed about these important issues.  Next Tuesday, May 20th at Henry James Middle School from 6 am to 8 pm, there is a referendum vote on the acquisition of 77 acres of open space near Firetown, Holcomb and Barndoor Hills Roads as part of the Griffin Land, Meadowood Settlement Agreement with the Town of Simsbury. 

It is important to note that the Board of Selectmen, the Board of Finance, the Zoning Commission, the Planning Commission and the Inland/Wetlands Conservation Commission have all voted to accept the Settlement Agreement with Griffin Land.  Included in that Agreement is the Town's right to purchase the 77 acre Meadowood Triangle.  Under the Simsbury Town Charter, the $2,750,000 cost of the acquisition of the Meadowood Triangle, requires approval by Simsbury voters through a referendum vote.

The Board of Finance has said that the settlement acquisition price of $2,750,000 will be spread out over five years (four years of $500,000 each and the fifth year at $750,000) and will be bonded in future years.  Kevin Kane, the Town's Director of Finance, stated that a ten year bond of $2,750,000 based on highest estimate figures would cost the average Simsbury taxpayer an additional $33 per year for ten years.  

If not approved at referendum then Griffin Land would be allowed to build an additional 46 homes on the parcels above and beyond the 296 homes already approved as part of the legal settlement.  Various parties that have done the analysis which has shown that not building on this land will produce a net economic benefit greater than the construction of 46 homes and the resulting town costs associated with those homes eg: education. Keep in mind the Settlement already allows Griffin Land to build 296 homes in the north end on the Meadowood property which is already an extraordinary amount of residential construction. Additionally, the Open Space Committee unanimously voted that the Meadowood Triangle is their top priority for open space preservation and the Simsbury Land Trust has stated that the Meadowood triangle is among their highest priorities for open space acquisition.

The SHARE Steering Committee feels that voting yes on Question 4 to approve the town's purchase of this property which will then prevent additional residential development is, ironically, responsible development as it produces the best long term economic benefit to the town. 

Wednesday, May 21st,  Dorset Crossing Public Information Session:

SHARE is hosting an open public information session on the submitted zoning application by the Keystone Companies for Dorset Crossing, a mixed-use development proposed for the Northern Gateway of Simsbury on Route 10 on Wednesday, May 21 at the Simsbury Public Library meeting room at 7:00 p.m.  Representatives of the Keystone Companies will make a brief presentation on their proposed zoning application and site plan then will take questions from the public. 

SHARE is neither endorsing nor opposing this development at this time but rather wants to ensure that information about the proposal becomes available to the public.  We believe that it is essential for Simsbury to continue developing responsibly and an important ingredient is to have as much information as possible about proposed developments made available to the public.  We encourage the public to attend in order to have an opportunity to become informed on this pending mixed-use development project prior to the Zoning Commission's public hearing and vote.

Your Devoted SHARE Steering Committee 

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May 17, 2008

SHARE News Flash:  Dorset Crossing Information Session Weds. May 21st Simsbury Public Library 7:00 pm

SHARE is hosting an open public information session on the submitted zoning application by the Keystone Companies for Dorset Crossing, a mixed-use development proposed for the Northern Gateway of Simsbury on Route 10 on Wednesday, May 21 at the Simsbury Public Library meeting room at 7:00 p.m.  Representatives of the Keystone Companies will make a brief presentation on their proposed zoning application and site plan then will take questions from the public.  SHARE is neither endorsing nor opposing this development at this time but rather wants to ensure that information about the proposal becomes available to the public.  SHARE believes that it is essential for Simsbury to continue developing responsibly and an important ingredient is to have as much information as possible about proposed developments made available to the public.  We encourage the public to attend in order to have an opportunity to become informed on this pending mixed-use development project prior to the Zoning Commission's public hearing and vote.

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May 16, 2008

SHARE News Flash: May 20th Referendum - Vote Yes on Question 4: Meadowood Triangle Purchase

As we have stated in prior SHARE News Flashes, SHARE continues to follow land use and development issues throughout Simsbury and send out the information to our SHARE members in an effort to keep you informed about these important issues.  Next Tuesday, May 20th at Henry James Middle School from 6 am to 8 pm, there is a referendum vote on the acquisition of 77 acres of open space near Firetown, Holcomb and Barndoor Hills Roads as part of the Griffin Land, Meadowood Settlement Agreement with the Town of Simsbury.  The information provided by the Town of Simsbury at the Town Meeting on May 6th is included below.

It is important to note that the Board of Selectmen, the Board of Finance, the Zoning Commission, the Planning Commission and the Inland/Wetlands Conservation Commission have all voted to accept the Settlement Agreement with Griffin Land.  Included in that Agreement is the Town's right to purchase the 77 acre Meadowood Triangle.  Under the Simsbury Town Charter, the $2,750,000 cost of the acquisition of the Meadowood Triangle, requires approval by Simsbury voters through a referendum vote.

The Board of Finance has said that the settlement acquisition price of $2,750,000 will be spread out over five years (four years of $500,000 each and the fifth year at $750,000) and will be bonded in future years.  Kevin Kane, the Town's Director of Finance, stated that a ten year bond of $2,750,000 based on highest estimate figures would cost the average Simsbury taxpayer an additional $33 per year for ten years.  

If not approved at referendum then Griffin Land would be allowed to build an additional 46 homes on the parcels above and beyond the 296 homes already approved as part of the legal settlement.  Various parties that have done the analysis which has shown that not building on this land will produce a net economic benefit greater than the construction of 46 homes and the resulting town costs associated with those homes eg: education. Keep in mind the Settlement already allows Griffin Land to build 296 homes in the north end on the Meadowood property which is already an extraordinary amount of residential construction. The SHARE Steering Committee feels that voting yes on Question 4 to approve the town's purchase of this property which will then prevent additional residential development is ironically responsible development as it produces the best long term economic benefit to the town.  Additionally, the Open Space Committee unanimously voted that the Meadowood Triangle is their top priority for open space preservation and the Simsbury Land Trust has stated that the Meadowood triangle is among their highest priorities for open space acquisition.  Below is the information presented by the Town of Simsbury at the May 6th Town Meeting.

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ACQUISITION OF 77 ACRES NEAR FIRETOWN, HOLCOMB AND BARNDOOR HILLS ROADS

(a) That the Town of Simsbury appropriate TWO MILLION SEVEN HUNDRED FIFTY THOUSAND DOLLARS ($2,750,000) for acquisition of approximately 77 acres of land bounded by Firetown Road and Holcomb Road and located on both sides of Barndoor Hills Road, subject to certain conservation restrictions as to the use of the land, as provided in certain Settlement Agreements approved or to be approved by the Board of Selectmen. The appropriation may be spent for land and easement acquisition, legal fees, net interest on borrowings and other financing costs, and other expenses related to the project or its financing. The Board of Selectmen is authorized to determine the scope and particulars of the project.

Acquisition of 77 Acres Near Firetown, Holcomb and Barndoor Hills Roads

Acquisition of 77 acres in fee simple as public open space

Total purchase price is $2,750,000 (Includes $50,000 for issuance and legal costs associated with transaction)

Per-acre price is $35,064.94

Unanimous Planning Commission positive referral pursuant to C.G.S. 8-24

Property has been designated as Open Space and Prime Farmland on Town Plans of Development for over 25 years

This 77 acre parcels abut existing Town Open Space, Great Pond State Park and McLean Game Refuge and would preserve an important wildlife corridor (identified by CT DEP and Town POCD)

Open Space Committee voted unanimously to make “Meadowood Triangle” its highest-ranked open space priority

Subdivision regulations and court settlement allow 26 additional proposed homes on the Triangle if not purchased by the Town

•Subdivision regulations allow approximately 20 additional homes to be proposed on the parcel east of Barndoor Hills Road as it reverts to the R-40 Zone if not purchased by the Town

Requires approval at Referendum-In excess of 2% of the annual operating budget  ($1,738,769)

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May 13, 2008

To All SHARE Members:

As you know, the acronym SHARE stands for Simsbury Homeowners Advocating Responsible Expansion.  While much of our focus over the past 2.5 years has been on issues pertaining to the Southern Gateway (CL&P parcel), we also bring you important information about other development issues in Simsbury and we help our fellow Simsbury citizens groups advocate for responsible development and oppose development that is not appropriate for our town.

Attached is an important and newsworthy notice from the Simsbury Southwest Homeowners Association (SWHA).  There are many issues in town that require the attention from all of us in order to ensure that Simsbury only expands responsibly… and this is one of them!

Your Devoted SHARE Steering Committee 

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From the Simsbury Southwest Homeowners Association - HOFFMAN - THEY’RE BACK!

Just as the SHARE group had concerns about irresponsible commercial development along Route 10, the Southwest Homeowners Association has concerns relating to commercial encroachment on West Mountain Road.

Jeffrey Hoffman, of Hoffman Enterprises, and T. J. Donahue, the lawyer representing Hoffman, have made application to the Simsbury Zoning Commission (ZC) to rezone the residential property at 395 West Mountain Road, which last year was known as the Markie property, to build a parking lot.

In March, 2007, Hoffman made application to the ZC to rezone this same property from R-40 (residential) to B-3 (commercial).  At that time, the ZC denied the rezoning because it was not in character with the surrounding neighborhood.

That did not stop Hoffman from purchasing the property.  In April of 2007, Hoffman purchased the Markie property.  This property (5.5 acres) consists of a large ranch style dwelling, a three car garage, a barn for horses, a shed, swimming pool, and a utility dressing building.  The land is clean and has a natural slope of land which drains water to the nearby detention basin.

On May 6th the Simsbury Southwest Homeowners Association Board of Directors met and voted to recommend to the Association membership that they reject the Hoffman's rezoning application.

If Hoffman Enterprises were to get this property rezoned to B-3, it would set a dangerous precedent for the homeowners and the citizens of Simsbury.  Creeping commercialism up West Mountain Road and the nearby areas could have devastating results to our community.  This area has been saturated with commercial development for the past 35 years.  If this property is rezoned to commercial, what would stop them from changing the parking lot to a big box store, a fast food store, or a gas station?  Is this what we want for our town?  Route 44 is already another Berlin Turnpike – let’s not let it creep into our neighborhoods.

If you are interested in trying to maintain the rural character in all of Simsbury and would like the town to be more selective as to the type of growth needed in our town, it would be to your advantage to attend the Simsbury Zoning Commission meeting on May 19th, at Eno Hall, at 7:00 p.m.

Feel free to contact the Simsbury Southwest Homeowners Association at SWHA@snet.net

Hope to see you there! 

Southwest Homeowners Association

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May 4, 2008

SHARE News Flash

It's official!  Konover Development no longer has the option to build River Oaks on the 60 acre CL&P property!  This week the owner of the property has told the SHARE Steering Committee that as of this past week he no longer has a contract with Konover Development and that he will now be taking direct responsibility for whatever gets built on his property and that he will only build something that both he and the town “can be proud of” (his words).  He will not build a Big Box store on his property!  Furthermore, he wants to work collaboratively with the town and the residents and he said that he supports the charrette initiative for his property stating that he will be an active participant in the planning process.

Your SHARE Steering Committee wants to thank you and the thousands of SHARE members who have tirelessly supported the ‘No Big Box’ and ‘Responsible Development in Simsbury’ causes throughout the past two and a half years.  It has been a long road but the outcome is certainly rewarding.  Your voices have been heard by our town’s leaders, by developers, and by land owners and it is you that have made that possible!

So, What's Next?

SHARE will continue to be active advocating for responsible development for the entire town.  We plan to continue living up to our name – SHARE – Simsbury Homeowners Advocating Responsible Expansion.  As a result, there are two pending issues critical to maintaining the character of our town:  (1) the multi-site charrette initiative (Northern Gateway, Town Center, Southern Gateway) proposed by First Selectman Glassman and (2) the application for a zone change and zone text amendment for Dorset Crossing on the Northern Gateway.  We have outlined these two issues below.

The Charrette Initiative:

We believe that mixed-use development may be appropriate in certain areas of town, to enhance the overall character of Simsbury and to provide desired tax revenue with accompanying net economic benefit, if it is built in scale and in harmony with the surrounding areas, if it complies with the 2007 Simsbury Plan of Conservation and Development and if it adheres to smart growth principles. Obviously a one-size-fits-all Planned Development District (PDD) is not the right answer for Simsbury as each site has its own unique characteristics in terms of natural resources, architectural and historic landmarks, patterns of daily use, traffic impact, and the like.  Additionally, a PDD is a very complex legislative regulation that needs to be crafted carefully and with the optimal level of input from residents, land owners and elected officials facilitated by expert planning consultants and vetted by special land use counsel.

It is clear that the only way to achieve a mixed-use PDD regulation in the most cost effective and expeditious manner for the three major developable sites along Route 10, the Northern Gateway, the Town Center and the Southern Gateway, is to initiate a public planning charrette facilitated by a nationally recognized firm such as Dover Kohl and assisted by Special Land Use Counsel such as provided to the town in the past by Attorney Dwight Merriam of Robinson and Cole. The attendance at the various public hearings over the past two years by hundreds of residents, from all parts of town, is certainly indicative of the level of public interest in land use issues in Simsbury.  It is time for our elected officials to acknowledge and embrace the residents' desire to be an active participant in land use planning and to now take the necessary steps to initiate the charrette process.

Various elected officials have voiced opposition to the charrette, stating that the charrette will be ineffective because the land owners are not willing to participate in the process.  That is not the case in the Northern Gateway and the Southern Gateway.  Landowners of both Gateways have said that they will be active participants in the charrette.  In fact the landowner of the Southern Gateway believes that the only way to come to a consensus is to work collaboratively with the town and the residents through a charrette process to develop something that works for everyone and that he (as the landowner) and we (as the town) can be proud of.

The other major objection to the charrette from some elected officials is the cost.  Currently there is no definite known cost yet for a charrette.  The dollar amount of $300,000 to $500,000 has been tossed around but we will not know for certain until the Board of Selectman puts the charrette out to bid via a Request for Proposal (RFP) process.  There are other means of funding the charrette through state and federal grants, private foundations and private donors; in fact the Town of Suffield received $900,000 in grant money for a charrette done there in 2001. Simsbury is blessed with very enthusiastic and intelligent volunteers who are willing to work in conjunction with the town to obtain these sources of funding.  And, as Simsbury's Special Counsel, Attorney Merriam cited in his presentation about the charrette process that in the long run a charrette saves the town from litigation costs (think Meadowood) as well as resulting in a proactive marketing tool that brings in appropriate and desirable development with the accompanying tax revenue much sooner than would happen otherwise.  Missed economic development opportunities would likely be more costly to the town than the actual fees required to perform a charrette.

There has been some discussion about "compromising" on the charrette initiative proposed for the three major sites on Route 10 by having the charrette focus solely on the Town Center.  We believe this is extremely short sighted.  While the Town Center is the heart of the town, the Northern and Southern Gateways have been identified in the Plan of Conservation and Development as significant opportunities for mixed-use development.  All three sites are linked by the Route 10 corridor and it is critical to include a traffic analysis by CRCOG to determine development capacity in order to maintain Route 10 as a two lane road.  There are clearly complex relationships, synergies, and potential conflicts between any development on the three sites and how they relate to each other and for that reason it is essential that the three sites be studied together.  That was the advice of Victor Dover, the nationally recognized land planner from Dover Kohl.

It is far more cost effective to have a charrette for all three sites at once than to do them separately.  Significant economies of scale will be realized, duplicative activities will be eliminated, redundant consultant travel and expenses will be avoided, and town officials and resident’s time would be optimized if a charrette for all three sites is done simultaneously.

We ask you to email the Board of Selectman (BOS) and the Board of Finance (BOF) to tell them it is time to put aside political agendas and to do what is right for the town.  They should vote to approve the charrette initiative for all three sites on Route 10 - the Northern Gateway, the Town Center and the Southern Gateway.  They should immediately begin an RFP process for expert planning and legal consultants to assist in the charrette process while lining up the funding necessary to do the charrette for all three sites.  In developing these last three major areas, we have only one chance to "get it right" and this is it!

 

Click here to email the BOS: "Let's Get it Right!" I support the complete charrette initiative.

(if experience a problem with this link, please refer to the bottom of this email cut-n-paste solution)

 

Click here to email the BOF: "Let's Get it Right!" I support the complete charrette initiative.

(if experience a problem with this link, please refer to the bottom of this email cut-n-paste solution)

Dorset Crossing:

On April 21st, Keystone Companies submitted an application to the Simsbury Zoning Commission for a zone change and text amendment and a site plan for their property located at the Northern Gateway on Route 10, just north of the ISCC.  We have attached the documents for your review.  We plan to study this application carefully and would also like to hear from our SHARE members as to your reaction to what the developer is proposing.  We will keep you informed about upcoming meetings and public hearings on this matter as they are scheduled.

Yours truly,

Your Devoted SHARE Steering Committee

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EMAIL Cut-n-Paste Solution: Please use the following (2) messages to voice your opposition to the Zoning Commsiions and Board of Selectmen.

email to: mglassman@simsbury-ct.gov

Subject: I support the Complete Charrette Initiative!

Dear First Selectman Glassman,

I support the Complete Charrette Initiative!

As a resident and concerned citizen of Simsbury, I believe that the Town should have a development charrette for the Northern Gateway, the Town Center, and the Southern Gateway sites.  I would like to see the charrette performed simultaneously for all three sites to ensure a thorough and efficient evaluation of the ways in which these properties could best be developed.  Please vote to approve the three site charrette so that a collaborative process involving all interested parties can take place at the same time.

Sincerely,

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email to: PHenault@simsbury-ct.gov

Subject: I support the Complete Charrette Initiative!

Dear Chairman Henault:

I support the Complete Charrette Initiative!

As a resident and concerned citizen of Simsbury, I believe that the Town should have a development charrette for the Northern Gateway, the Town Center, and the Southern Gateway sites.  I would like to see the charrette performed simultaneously for all three sites to ensure a thorough and efficient evaluation of the ways in which these properties could best be developed.  Please vote to approve the three site charrette so that a collaborative process involving all interested parties can take place at the same time.

Sincerely,

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April 20, 2008

SHARE Newsflash:  Zoning Commission Meeting on Konover PDD: Monday 4/21, 7:00 pm at SHS Auditorium

The Zoning Commission will meet this Monday, April 21st at 7:00 pm in the SHS Auditorium to discuss and possibly vote on the Konover PDD zoning text amendment.  We encourage all interested residents to attend and hear first hand the thoughts and opinions of the individual Zoning Commissioners as they discuss this critical legislative action. 

Remember, the Zoning Commission's vote is the definitive vote on this zoning regulation that if approved would allow Konover's River Oaks and Big Box stores to be built in many areas of Simsbury. The attorney retained on behalf of SHARE has advised us that the courts rarely, if ever, overturn such a legislative decision, as they do not want to interfere with a town's right to govern itself.  Needless to say, this is an extremely important vote for all SHARE members in our ongoing effort to maintain the beauty and character of Simsbury by opposing irresponsible and inappropriate development.

Thank you to the over five hundred and fifty residents who attended the public hearing last week, not just once, but twice, and the more than three hundred and fifty people who took the time to email the zoning commissioners in an effort to show the elected officials that this Big Box issue is important to residents town wide, and not just to the residents of the south end.  We greatly appreciate the support we have received from all SHARE members over the past two and a half years and for your continued interest and responsiveness.

We sincerely hope that our elected officials now see that the residents care deeply about important land use decisions that will have a long term impact on the future quality of life for our town, which is why we believe the public planning charrette for the developable land along Rte 10 would be an important process for the town to undertake.  We will continue to advocate for that as the next positive step towards responsible development in order to give all residents a chance to be heard.

Your Devoted SHARE Steering Committee

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April 7, 2008

Zoning Commission Meeting Postponed

Rescheduled for Thursday April 10th 7PM at

Simsbury High School Auditorium

This Is The Hottest Ticket In Town

This is what Simsbury Zoning Commission Chairman Dunny Barney said about attendance at the Public Hearing for the Konover PDD tonight (April 7th) when the Zoning Commission had to postpone tonight’s public hearing because Eno Hall could not accommodate all the residents who attended the meeting.  The Simsbury Fire Marshall had to shut the meeting down due to over capacity laws for Eno Hall – we estimate that there were over 500 residents in attendance at tonight’s ‘almost meeting’.

Your SHARE Steering Committee wants to thank you all for attending.

But we REALLY NEED YOU AGAIN because the meeting has been:

Rescheduled for Thursday April 10th at 7 PM at

Simsbury High School Auditorium

Chairman Barney said that the Konover PDD Public Hearing will now take place this Thursday April 10th at 7 PM at the Simsbury High School Auditorium.  The auditorium holds about 900 people.

Let’s fill up the Simsbury High School Auditorium!!!

Bring your friends!  Bring your neighbors!  Bring everyone who opposes the Konover PDD which would make River Oaks and Big Box development in Simsbury a reality.

Please come to this Thursday’s rescheduled Zoning Commission meeting and SAY NO TO BIG BOX STORES IN SIMSBURY BY SAYING NO TO THE KONOVER PDD!  You will not get to vote on this issue but you do get to speak at this meeting if you sign up to speak when you arrive at the meeting.

Also, if you haven’t already done so, please send an email to the Zoning Commission and the Board of Selectman to let them know your views about this critical issue. 

To send an email to just the Zoning Commission, Click Here

(if experience a problem with this link, please refer to the bottom of this email cut-n-paste solution)

To send an email to just the Board of Selectman, Click Here 

(if experience a problem with this link, please refer to the bottom of this email cut-n-paste solution)

Your Devoted SHARE Steering Committee

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April 6, 2008

Zoning Commission Public Hearing Mon. April 7th, 7pm, Eno Hall

Reminder:  Important Zoning Commission's Public Hearing on the Proposed Konover Planned Development District (PDD) Zoning Text Amendment is scheduled for Monday, April 7th, 7:00 pm at Eno Hall. 

PLEASE MAKE EVERY EFFORT TO ATTEND THIS CRITICAL MEETING AND ENCOURAGE YOUR FRIENDS AND NEIGHBORS TO SHOW UP AS WELL - IF THE ZONING COMMISSION APPROVES THE KONOVER PDD THEN RIVER OAKS WILL BECOME A REALITY - SAY NO TO BIG BOX STORES IN SIMSBURY BY SAYING NO TO THE KONOVER PDD!

As of Sunday, April 6th we are aware of over 250 residents who have sent an email opposing the Konover PDD and we believe that number represents the majority of Simsbury residents.  We have seen very little support from the general public for Konover's River Oaks project over the past two and a half years despite what Konover Attorney Donohue may claim.

If you haven't already done so please send an email to the First Selectman Glassman and the Zoning Commission Chairman Barney by clicking on the links below.  Public comment will be accepted until the zoning commission closes the public hearing which will most likely be after tomorrow nights meeting so ITS NOT TOO LATE TO MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD!

To send an email to just the Zoning Commission, Click Here

(if experience a problem with this link, please refer to the bottom of this email cut-n-paste solution)

To send an email to just the Board of Selectman, Click Here 

(if experience a problem with this link, please refer to the bottom of this email cut-n-paste solution)

Your Devoted SHARE Steering Committee

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April 2, 2008

SHARE Newsflash

Planning Commission & Design Review Board Vote NO to Konover PDD

Last night, both the Simsbury Design Review Board (DRB) and the Simsbury Planning Commission (PC) unanimously voted to recommend that the Zoning Commission deny the Konover PDD application (see attached documents).

This is obviously a favorable outcome, however the Zoning Commission has the ultimate responsibility to either approve or deny the Konover PDD application, so it's not over till it's over!  Both DRB and PC meetings were taped by SCTV and will air on Channel 21 this Fri., April 4th most likely at 10 am, 12 pm and 7 pm as well as different times on Sat. and Sun. (check the community calendar on http://www.simsburytv.org/ for specific weekend times).

We still need your help to defeat - once and for all - the Konover River Oaks Big Box development!  Here is what you can do to help: 

  • If you haven't already done so please send an email voicing your opposition to the Konover PDD to both the Zoning Commission's Chairman Barney and the First Selectman Glassman by clicking on the links below.  Feel free to add your own personal message to the prepared statement from SHARE - the elected officials need to hear from you!

To send an email to just the Zoning Commission, Click Here (if experience a problem with this link, please refer to the bottom of this email cut-n-paste solution)

To send an email to just the Board of Selectman, Click Here (if experience a problem with this link, please refer to the bottom of this email cut-n-paste solution)

  • Come to the Monday, April 7th Zoning Commission public hearing at 7:00 pm at Eno Hall. The SHARE Steering committee has retained a land use attorney to represent the thousands of SHARE members.  Our attorney has written a detailed legal opinion on the Konover PDD and will speak at the public hearing for us.  But, we still need you because just by showing up you will send a loud message to the Zoning Commissioners that there is wide spread opposition to the Konover PDD Zoning Text Amendment application.

Also, a town resident provided us with a document given to them by Konover Development as part of their PR campaign.  We found this document to be misleading and disingenuous at best.  Below is the Konover PDD Facts-At-A-Glance which we have copied for you to read along with the SHARE interpretation of their "facts" in red and underlined.

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Konover Planned Development District

Facts-at-a-Glance

On April 7 the Simsbury Zoning Commission will hold a public hearing to determine whether or not the town should approve a Planned Development District (PDD) that would allow mixed-use development in town. Currently, mixed-use development is not permitted in Simsbury.

Important factors that need to be considered include:

  • If Simsbury wants quality mix-use development - like Blue Back Square - that will substantially add to the town’s tax base and quality of life, Zoning must first approve a Planned Development District (PDD). SHARE Comment: Ask the residents of West Hartford if Blue Back Square has added to their quality of life and lowered their taxes this year.
  • The April 7 public hearing is not about whether one supports or opposes River Oaks, it’s about whether one supports or opposes a PDD that is needed in order to bring mix-use economic development toSimsbury. SHARE Comment: The April 7th public hearing absolutely IS about River Oaks!  If the Konover PDD is approved it will provide the legislative framework in the form of a mixed-use zoning regulation under which Konover will submit their application to build River Oaks.  We can't imagine that Konover paid substantial amounts of money in attorney and consultant fees to submit a PDD application just because they felt some form of civic duty to help Simsbury write PDD zoning regulations - we don't see other large development corporations offering to "help" the town in such a way.
  • The PDD application submitted by Konover is identical to the PDD drafted by the town earlier this year, with two additions that further limit what a developer can do. SHARE Comment: Konover used a "draft" of a PDD written by one person on the town staff without any input from any of our elected or appointed land use commissions or from the public. This town PDD draft was exactly that - an unfinished, incomplete first draft that had not been discussed or vetted by the people that have the statutory responsibility to adopt a new zoning regulation.
  1. The Konover PDD – would prohibit “Big Box” structures as defined.  SHARE Comment: Notice that Konover uses the wording, prohibit Big Box "structures" and not prohibit Big Box "retail stores".  The Konover definition of Big Box structures would allow a Target or WalMart as long as there are architectural details that hide it and disguise it, such as a cupola, a few awnings, a park bench, a coffee shop, and some small retail stores lining the front.  Konover is simply putting "lipstick on a pig"- Big Box stores bring Big Time problems, no matter what they look like and there are many many studies that say that.
  2. The Konover PDD will utilize “street and block” grids to establish streetscape and neighborhood scale like Blue Back Square. SHARE Comment: Is a Blue Back Square appropriate for the CL&P site?  BlueBack Square was built on a site within a very different surrounding context - semi-urban - with lots of pre-existing walkability.  River Oaks would be plunked down in a corn field where there is currently very little pre-existing walkability. Most people would get to River Oaks by car not by foot. Is the Blue Back density right for Simsbury and especially at that location?
  • If approved, the proposed PDD would NOT accommodate the current configuration of River Oaks and would NOT allow the project to be built. Changes and modifications to the River Oaks plan would need to be made in order for it to meet approved PDD regulations.  SHARE Comment: If the Konover PDD is approved very minor changes would need to be made to the current River Oaks project, since the Konover PDD requires absolutely NO SPECIFIC STANDARDS OR MEASUREMENTS except that buildings cannot be more than four stories tall.  The Konover PDD would provide for 60% lot coverage which could be increased by special exception, so we concede that maybe River Oaks might need to be scaled back a bit, BUT since the Konover PDD has no requirement for set percentages of mixed-use, Konover would be free to build exactly whatever type of building they want such as 100% retail and NO business or residential. Maybe that is what Konover plans to change - eliminate the most economically beneficial buildings for the town (business) and build just the least expensive to build and the lowest net economic benefit generator (Big Box retail).
  • Opposing the PDD means turning Simsbury’s back on the economic and quality of life benefits mixed-use development could bring. A modified River Oaks plan must be presented to no fewer than 5 town and state agencies before it earns approval. SHARE Comment: Opposing this particular PDD is necessary in order to protect the quality of life we have here in Simsbury.  If approved, this PDD could allow all kinds of undesirable and unpredictable, large scale, high density development to all areas of town while minimizing the regulatory and legal authority of our land use boards.
  • Supporting the PDD is supporting quality, mixed-use, economic development for Simsbury. SHARE Comment: We leave that up to you to decide! 

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Thanks for taking the time to read our numerous News Flashes over the recent and coming weeks.  We hope you find them helpful and informative.  As always, please feel free to email us your comments and suggestions.

Sincerely,

Your Devoted SHARE Steering Committee

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EMAIL Cut-n-Paste Solution: Please use the following (2) messages to voice your opposition to the Zoning Commsiions and Board of Selectmen.

 

email to: ABarney@simsbury-ct.gov

Subject: I'm opposed to the Konover PDD zoning text amendment

Dear Chairman Barney,

As a resident and concerned citizen of Simsbury, I am opposed to the form and language in the Konover Development PDD Zoning Text Amendment.  The Konover PDD is inherently flawed and is not the kind of zoning regulation that would best serve the Town or the people of Simsbury.  I/We strongly urge you to vote to deny passage of the Konover PDD Zoning Text Amendment.

Sincerely,

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email to: mglassman@simsbury-ct.gov

Subject: I'm opposed to the Konover PDD zoning text amendment

Dear First Selectman Glassman,

As a resident and concerned citizen of Simsbury, I am opposed to the form and language in the Konover Development PDD Zoning Text Amendment.  The Konover PDD is inherently flawed and is not the kind of zoning regulation that would best serve the Town or the people of Simsbury.  I/We strongly urge the Town of Simsbury Land Use Commissions to vote to deny passage of the Konover PDD Zoning Text Amendment.

Sincerely,

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March 30, 2008

"A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong gives it a superficial appearance of being right" - Thomas Paine

From your SHARE Steering Committee's perspective, the Konover Development PDD Zoning Text Amendment is just plain wrong and there is nothing right about it.

As you know, Konover has submitted a PDD Zoning Text Amendment for the second time in less than a year.  If the Zoning Commission approves the Konover PDD, then Konover will build River Oaks as presented, with two Big Box stores, 1,000,000 sq ft of building, 2,500 parking spaces and double rotaries on Hopmeadow Street at the Southern Gateway to Simsbury.  This decision by the Zoning Commission is one of the most critical and controversial decisions for our town in distant memory!

This is the Biggest Land Use decision for the Town of Simsbury since the Meadowood deal and yet two weeks before the Zoning Commission's public hearing on the Konover application and a week before the Planning Commission and Design Review Board vote on the Konover application, the Board of Selectmen decided not to renew the contract for land use attorney Dwight Merriam, the Special Counsel to the land use boards, who has been advising the boards on the legalities of the Konover River Oaks project for the past year, leaving those boards and commissions high and dry!

We have to ask:  "WHAT ARE THEY THINKING?!!!"

Apparently, the Board of Selectmen has decided to have Town Attorney DeCrescenzo provide the legal advice to the town’s land use boards.  While meaning no disrespect to Attorney DeCrescenzo, he is not an expert in land use law.  Attorney Merriam however, has years of professional experience in land use law and is widely published in a variety of fields on topics that are both pro and anti developer (notice that we said ‘developer’ and not ‘development’ as SHARE is pro-responsible-development).  This is, of course, why the town hired him in the first place.  So that brings us to the question of why at this particular point in time did the BOS choose to discontinue Attorney Merriam's legal services? 

We ask this question in view of the fact that on Thursday, March 20th the town released a legal opinion memo (see attachment) on the Konover PDD application, written by Attorney Merriam, in which he says, the Konover PDD application is extremely flawed and incomplete.  Additionally, on March 20th, at an Economic Development Commission meeting, Attorney Merriam presented a strong argument urging the Town to bring in expert consultants to facilitate a planning charrette for the Northern and Southern Gateways and the Town Center.  His very compelling presentation emphasized that a well done charrette involves all stakeholders, including the landowners, developers and residents, and will result in the most expeditious adoption of mixed-use zoning regulations that encompasses the recommendations of the 2007 Plan of Conservation and Development.

Oddly and coincidentally, the Board of Selectman (BOS) on Monday, March 24th, agreed by consensus to no longer retain Attorney Merrriam.  We have been told, but not had it officially confirmed, that the BOS felt he was possibly conflicted because over the years he has represented large developers and businesses such as Stop & Shop and Ensign Bickford (implying that he was pro-development and pro-developer and yet his recently released legal opinion certainly looks unbiased) and he lives in the south end of town a few miles from the CL&P/River Oaks site.  That reasoning makes no sense to us.  Plus for each pro-development/pro-developer publication or article he has written, there seems to be just as many that he has written that take an opposing position.

We have to ask:  "WHAT ARE THEY THINKING?!!!"

We are extremely concerned that the town does not have the proper legal representation during this very critical and controversial application and troubled by the sequence of events.  We sincerely hope that the First Selectman and the Simsbury Board of Selectman will reconsider their position and take the appropriate steps to ensure proper legal representation for the Town and the volunteers who have been elected and appointed to make these decisions.

Please mark these important dates and come to the meetings.  Take the time to write a brief email to each of the Planning Commission and the Zoning Commission and the Board of Selectman to let them know you are opposed to the Konover PDD zoning text amendment.  We need to let the land use boards know the residents of Simsbury still care!  A critical decision about Konover's River Oaks and Big Box development in Simsbury will happen in the next few weeks!  Your Voice is Your Vote!

Monday, April 7th, 7:00 pm, Eno Hall, Zoning Commission Public Hearing

Tuesday, April 1st, 5:30 pm, Town Hall, Main Meeting Rm, Design Review Board, VOTE ON KONOVER PDD APPLICATION

Tuesday, April 1st, 7:00 pm, Town Hall, Room 103, Planning Commission,

VOTE ON KONOVER PDD APPLICATION

To send an email to just the Planning Commission, Click Here

To send an email to just the Zoning Commission, Click Here

To send an email to just the Board of Selectman, Click Here

Your Devoted SHARE Steering Committee 

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March 23, 2008

SHARE Newsflash: 

THEEEY'RE  BAAAACK!  

SAY 'NO' TO THE NIGHTMARE ON HOPMEADOW STREET!

APRIL 7TH, 7:00 PM, ENO HALL

ZONING COMMISSION PUBLIC HEARING ON KONOVER APPLICATION

 in - san - i - ty [in-san-i-tee]

1. "Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results."  Benjamin Franklin 
2. Konover's PDD text amendment
3. River Oaks

Once again, Konover is back, bigger and uglier than ever!  They have submitted an application to the Zoning Commission for a Planned Development District (PDD) text amendment.  If the Konover PDD zoning text amendment is approved by the six members of the Zoning Commission, then River Oaks will be built to Konover's specifications which will include a 130,000 sq ft big box store, another 60,000 sq ft grocery store plus additional retail, residential and commercial that will result in almost 1,000,000 total sq ft of building, 2,600 parking spaces, and at least 60% lot coverage.

This is it!  If you want to keep Simsbury Big Box free NOW IS THE TIME TO ACT!  

REMEMBER: YOU DO NOT GET TO VOTE ON RIVER OAKS!  

YOUR VOICE IS YOUR VOTE!

 Below is the timeline for the Konover PDD application and suggestions for what you can do to make sure your voice is heard:

·       Tues. March 25th, 7:00 pm Town Hall:  Planning Commission will discuss the Konover PDD application.  NO PUBLIC INPUT WILL BE ALLOWED.  However, written comments will be accepted by the PC. 
Please send all written comments to:  Hiram Peck at 
hpeck@simsbury-ct.gov with copies to Planning Commission Chairman Loomis at jloomis@simsbury-ct.gov and Zoning Commission Chairman Barney atabarney@simsbury-ct.gov

·       Tues. April 1st, 7:00 pm Town Hall:  Planning Commission will vote on the referral of the Konover PDD application and send it to the Zoning Commission. The PC can vote to deny it, approve it as is, or approve it with comments.  The PC vote is only an advisory to the Zoning Commission.

·       Monday April 7th, 7:00 pm Eno Hall:  ZONING COMMISSION WILL HOLD A PUBLIC HEARING ON THE KONOVER PDD APPLICATION.  This is the critical opportunity for youas a resident and taxpayer of Simsbury to stand up in public and tell the Zoning Commission you are opposed to Konover's attempt to bulldoze through a zoning regulation that would forever change the unique character of our town. This will be the last opportunity for residents to voice objections before the final, deciding vote is taken.  If you care about the future of Simsbury, DO NOT MISS THIS MEETING!

We will be sending out another Newsflash in the next day or so with detailed  information about the Konover PDD and our analysis of it's deficencies and flaws for your review and as bullets for you to use in either written or verbal input to the PC and the ZC.  Please do not hesitate to email us if you have any questions. 

PLEASE FORWARD THIS EMAIL TO 10 OF YOUR FRIENDS IN TOWN!

We will leave you with this poetic inspiration.

Springtime in Simsbury
As spring approaches Simsbury ever so quickly
There too is the specter of a development so sickly.
River Oaks is back and not dead as some thought
Despite the hard work and how much we fought.
A new PDD they've written, including all we despised
With no thought at all to what our residents prized.
So yet again we must rally to fight this Big Box spread
And say NO to Konover until it is once and for all, completely and finally dead!

 Your Devoted SHARE Steering Committee

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March 2, 2008

SHARE Newsflash:  Oh, The Tangled Web They Weave!

There is a lot going on in town these days as pertains to the concerns over critical land use issues in Simsbury.  What is difficult to sort out is the underlying agendas of the two major political parties that are in the position to make important decisions for our town.  There are two big issues right now as we see it: the new Konover application and the First Selectman's proposed charrette initiative.  These are intertwined in many ways and the charrette has definitely become a political football!  We have tried to summarize these two issues for you in this Newsflash.  Please bear with us as this is a lengthy Newsflash.

Konover River Oaks Update:

On February 19th, Konover submitted a zoning text amendment for a PDD (Planned Development District) that would allow the right to build a mixed-use development such as River Oaks (see attachment).  Konover took the Jan. 14, 2008, PDD draft that Hiram Peck wrote without any input from elected officials or the public, and which had not yet been vetted by any of the land use boards, and added two bullets to the section H: Development Standards, which are highlighted below: 

  • "Big Box" structures, (defined as single user free standing buildings, with a single floor, devoid of architectural detail, not calibrated to pedestrian scale, and "warehouse" like in external appearance) shall not be allowed as part of any PDD plan.
  • Street and Block Metrix, For PDD developments on parcels 20 acres or larger development shall be favored in the form of rectangular blocks having a walkable external perimeter which is not greater than 1,600 lineal feet.

The Konover strategy of not alllowing "Big Box" structures is most aptly described as Lipstick on a Pig!   Konover will most likely now publicly say that they have given in to the public's demand of No Big Box with their newest attempt to bulldoze a Big Box store through the land use boards by making it look pretty.  What Konover refuses to acknowledge time and time again is that its not just about what the Big Box store looks like on the outside - its what it brings to the town - traffic, traffic and more traffic, along with no real tax revenue, a strain on the town's infrastructure, police, fire and emergency services, a drain on the small family owned businesses and our town center, excessive lot coverage and impervious surface causing environmental problems and increase of crime.  We are confident that our elected officials on the land use boards are smarter than Konover gives them credit for!  However,  they will still need to hear from all of you that you do not want Konover's River Oaks as currently planned to be built in Simsbury.  Here is what we know as of now about the Konover PDD application process.

  • The Konover PDD zoning text amendment will officially be submitted to the Zoning Commission at their next meeting this Monday, March 3rd.  At that meeting the ZC will set the dates for public hearings, however they will not discuss any aspects of the actual application.  March 3rd is the date that the clock starts on the application process.
  • The ZC will refer it to the Planning Commission for a referral.  The PC will vote on the application to either accept it, accept it with comments, or deny it.  It is unclear at this time if the PC will hold a public hearing on the application.  The PC decision is advisory only, however in the past the referral from the PC has weighed heavily in the zoning decision.
  • The timeline for the application is as follows.  The ZC must set a date for a public hearing within 65 days of the time when they officially receive the application, which is 65 days from March 3rd.  They must close the public hearing within 35 days of the hearing, but they could vote to close the hearing earlier.  Once they close the public hearing the ZC must render a decision on the application within 65 days.  At any time during the process, the ZC may request from the applicant (Konover) an extension of up to 65 days.  It is up to the applicant to either grant that request or not.  Hypothetically, using the longest timeline, the whole process could take six months from now, however we will not know what to expect until we hear when the public hearing is set.  We will keep you informed of important dates and hearings as this progresses.

Finally,  we hope that First Selectman Glassman does not make the same mistake that Tom Vincent made last Sept. when he interfered with the prior Konover PDD application and asked Konover to withdraw it.  Had it continued through the land use process we are confident it would have been denied and then Konover would have had to wait another year to resubmit or better yet would have decided to walk away from the project.  We believe it is time for a decision to be rendered and for Konover to be told by our elected officials on the Zoning Commission that River Oaks is not appropriate for Simsbury and put an end to this two and a half year controversy that has wasted time, energy and money for the town and its residents!

Charrette Initiative:

The charrette initiative proposed by the First Selectman has been derailed not only by the Republicans but by the Democrats as well.  We believe the charrette process is the best way to bring consensus to the town on appropriate land use planning along the Rte 10 corridor with the focus on the Town Center, the Northern Gateway and the Southern Gateway.  Any development in those three areas will obviously impact the other two areas.  As a town we need to be proactive in deciding how much development we can handle and how we want our town to look in twenty years.  The benefits of doing a charrette are well summarized in a memo by Dwight Merriam, the Special Counsel, hired by the town for legal advise for the town land use boards (see attached) and in a memo by the Design Review Board (see attached). 

Now for the politics.

Before any of the land use boards had a chance to discuss the charrette initiative that was proposed by Mary Glassman, the three Republican BOS voted it down at their meeting on Mon. Feb. 25th despite the fact that the charrette was supported by all four Chairmen of the land use boards (Zoning Chairman Barney, Planning Chairman Loomis, Design Review Board Chairman Dahlquist, Conservation Chairman Miller) and by Dwight Merriam the Special Counsel hired by the town for his legal expertise.

Moira Wertheimer, Bob Hensley and Rich Hogan apparently don't want to hear what the residents have to say in determining the future of your town!  We are outraged at their arrogance in denying the public's right to be an active participant in this critical land use planning process - they are continuing to shut the public out in order to maintain tight control of all major town decisions.  They are clearly towing the party line set by Tom Rechen the Chair of the Republican party who has said publicly that he thinks River Oaks would be great for the town.  The charrette process could potentially result in a different vision than a River Oaks type project.  It's pretty clear that those opposed to the charrette either want River Oaks to be built or are just so arrogant that they think they know what's better for the town than do the 25,000 Simsbury residents. 

At the Planning Commission meeting the next night, Tues., Feb. 26th, Chip Houlihan (Democrat), Ferg Jansen (Democrat) and Gerry Post (Republican) also voted against the charrette initiative!  John Loomis (Republican), Sue Bednarcyk (Republican) and Julie Meyer (Simsbury Citizens First)  all voted in favor of a charrette initiative.  We guess it's no surprise that Gerry Post voted the Republican party line and Chip Houlihan and Ferg Jansesn have a history of voting against anything that would not favor developers and do not believe in setting guidelines for appropriate development instead believing we should allow the developers to tell us what we want - economic development at any cost!  We continue to ask why these elected officials don't want public input to land use decisions in town - is it arrogance or is there some other hidden agenda?

The only good news from last weeks board meetings was the Design Review Board who voted unanimously, across party lines, to approve the charrette initiative.  The letter of support outlines the benefits of the charrette process and we hope their well thought out opinion will act as a catalyst in moving the charrette initiative forward.

The Zoning Commission will discuss the charrette initiative at their meeting, Monday, March 3, 7:00 pm at Town Hall, main meeting room.  We encourage you to attend and hear their discussion first hand.

The EDC and the BOS will have a special joint meeting this Thursday, March 6, 7:30 am at Town Hall, main meeting room.  There will be an opportunity for public audience and we encourage you to come and express you opinions about the charrette initiative, development issues and land use planning in town.

One last comment.  Over the past two and a half years we have noted many underlying hidden connections to Konover.  Here's the latest in the tangled web they weave.  In the Feb. 28th Hartford Courant article Selectman Bob Hensley is quoted as citing Bill Ethier, a developer who spoke at the Feb. 20, combined boards and commissions meeting on the  charrette initiative saying "I fear that we are perceived, as Mr Ethier said, as, if not the toughest, one of the toughest towns for developers to work with because we are just unable to work with developers..."   What no one seems to think is important to disclose is that Bill Ethier is Executive Vice President of the CT Partnership for Balanced Growth, the lobbying group for Konover Development Corp. and Mike Goman is listed as the President of the CT Partnership for Balanced Growth on their web page http://www.cpbg.org/contact.htm  We believe that fact should have been stated up front so that as the public listened to Mr. Ethier's comments about how tough Simsbury is to developers, the relationship between Mr Ehtier and Konover/Mike Goman is known and the question of his objectivity be asked.  We wonder if Selectman Hensley was aware of that relationship.

We will keep you posted about upcoming meetings as the Konover PDD works its way through the land use process and the charrrette initiative is discussed.

The SHARE Steering Committee

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February 17, 2008

REMINDER: Important Meeting of Town Boards & Commissions This Wednesday February 20th, 7 p.m. at Eno Hall to Discuss Charrette Planning Process

This Wednesday evening, February 20th, at 7 pm at Eno Hall  there will be a combined meeting of town boards and commissions to outline and discuss the public charrette process proposed by First Selectwoman Mary Glassman (see attached memo).

While we have heard from many residents that they will be unable to attend as it is school vacation week we encourage all those who are here to make every effort to get to the meeting and hear first hand about this exciting proposal.

The SHARE Steering Committee strongly endorses the charrette process and this effort which was first presented to the town last May 2007 by the planning consultants from Dover Kohl.  The charrette process, which emphasizes public participation, is a critical precursor to the writing of new form based zoning regulations that would enable appropriate mixed-use development in three areas of town; the Town Center, the Northern Gateway and the Southern Gateway.  There will be a significant cost associated with this process but we believe the end result will outweigh the initial cost by allowing the town to be pro-active in recruiting responsible development that will provide the town with the greatest net economic benefit for years to come.  We will continue to follow Mrs.Glassman's proposal closely and report back to you about our impressions of this initial meeting. 

Sincerely,

Your Devoted SHARE Steering Committee

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February 7, 2008

SHARE News Flash

The “We Hope They’re Listening” Edition

This News Flash will outline concerns about the town's newest draft of a Planned Development District (PDD) zoning regulation which would legislate the zoning context for what is called a mixed-use zone, such as the proposed Simsbury River Oaks development.

Once again, your SHARE Steering Committee must shake its head in disbelief at the process and work product that emanated from Simsbury Town Hall.  Hiram Peck, Director of Planning and Development, drafted the PDD regulation with only assistance from the town's advisory attorney Dwight Merriam of Robinson & Cole.

The various elected and appointed land use commissions and boards had NO INPUT into this draft document and it was released to the public by Mr. Peck without being circulated to the land use officials. 

A read of the PDD draft produced by Mr. Peck (and attached to this email) reveals that the document is one of the most poorly crafted, poorly worded, and poorly conceived documents we could imagine.

While it is abundantly clear that Mr. Peck took into account little, if any, of the feedback and vision provided by Simsbury citizens and ignored the excellent guidance provided by the brand new Simsbury Plan of Conservation & Development (POCD), it is curious that there are certain components of the PDD draft that seem very favorable to Konover Development for their potential River Oaks development.

In fact, in a recent discussion with several SHARE members, it was reported by the SHARE members in attendance that TJ Donohue, attorney and consultant for Konover Development, said that Konover Development was willing to scale the project back to 60% lot coverage if they could build their buildings higher.  And lo and behold, a short time later, the PDD draft made the maximum lot coverage 60% with a maximum building height of 4 floors.  This is the first time we have seen in writing  a vision for buildings of four floors and the POCD clearly does not allow for four floor buildings.  So where did this four floor item come from?  How did Mr. Peck put this language in the document?  We can only wonder.

Another brand new aspect of this PDD draft is a section which would allow the developer to use pre-existing land uses that are within a 1/8th of a mile of the proposed project to satisfy the "mixed-use" requirement. That would mean that on the CL&P property Konover Development could build just a shopping mall since public space, residential and business uses are all within a 1/8th of a mile.  Since this basically eliminates the requirement for a developer to build "mixed-use" we have to wonder; what's the point of writing this PDD zoning regulation except to provide a shovel ready site for a Big Box mall?

In this News Flash we have included our letter to the Zoning Commission which will provide you with our read of the attached PDD draft document and outline some of our concerns.  As you will see, our concerns are very significant and quite numerous.

Lastly, we are encouraged to see that Mary Glassman remembered her campaign promise to convene a town wide charrette to allow Simsbury citizens, officials, property owners, and potential developers to express their opinions and vision for the growth of Simsbury along Route 10 from the Southern Gateway, through the Simsbury Town Center, to the Northern Gateway.  The First Selectwoman has also requested an updated Route 10 corridor study to determine the maximum traffic capacity while maintaining Route 10 as a two lane road. We look forward to this process and we very strongly want to encourage all SHARE members to be sure that they get involved in the charrette and be sure that your general and specific views are made known.  Here is another opportunity for you to say “No Big Box” and insist that the town listens to you!

The first step to getting approval for a charrette will be a public meeting on Wednesday, February 20th for all the land use boards, Board of Selectman, Board of Finance and Economic Development Commission.  There will be discussion regarding the charrette process, the use of consultants to assist with the process and the question of how to pay for this.  We urge you to attend this meeting to show your support of this critically important process.  We will send out a reminder about the meeting with the time and place once we get that information.

In addition, we encourage you all to renew your calling, letter writing, and emailing to our elected officials to let them know your views and desires.  They were elected to serve you and you should expect nothing less. Be sure to remind them of the election promises they made and be sure that they feel obligated to deliver on their promises.

Lastly, as a result of the work of SHARE members to force the town to conduct its business in a more open fashion, all Simsbury elected officials have been provided town email addresses and are no longer to use their personal email addresses for town business.  You can find these new town email addresses on the SHARE website at www.sharesimsbury.com (click on the Contact Town Officials button) or www.townofsimsbury.com. Please make note of these email addresses and use them rather than the old ones.

So please read on for our analysis of the very poorly crafted January 14, 2008 PDD draft released by Hiram Peck, Simsbury Director of Planning & Development.

Sincerely,

Your Devoted SHARE Steering Committee

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From a letter to Zoning Commission Chairman Dunny Barney dated February 3, 2008:

Dear Chairman Barney:

We, the SHARE Steering Committee have reviewed the recently released town draft PDD zoning regulation, dated January 14, 2008.  We understand it was written solely by Hiram Peck, Director of Planning and reviewed by Special Counsel, Dwight Merriam for submittal to the Zoning Commission for discussion, public hearing and action.  While we realize this is a preliminary draft written without input from your commission and submitted to you for your consideration, we have numerous concerns regarding both the process and the content.

We strongly urge your commission as well as the other land use boards, the Board of Selectman and the Board of Finance to authorize a charrette to study the following three areas, the Town Center, Northern Gateway and the Southern Gateway, as recommended by Dover Kohl during their presentation in May 2007.  We also request that Dover Kohl assist the Zoning Commission in drafting form based zoning regulations specific to those three areas in order to ensure the best future land use of those three pivotal sites.  The charrette process would allow and encourage the public's participation in envisioning and defining how the town should grow, a serious omission in the process of the drafting of the recently released town draft PDD.

We respectfully offer our specific concerns about, and objections to, the draft PDD for your consideration. 

·        This PDD is a floating overlay zone that suggests a one size fits all PDD which, if adopted, could then be applied to any parcel anywhere in town.  Section F: PDD Locational Criteria identifies five predetermined PDD areas however it also provides for a PDD to "be proposed for other locations" thereby opening any parcel anywhere in town to the possibility of mixed-use development without regard to the 2007 Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD).

·        There is no written requirement for the PDD, once it "lands" on a parcel, to align with or comply with the goals and objectives of the 2007 POCD.

·        There are no requirements for percentages of mixed-use which is contrary to form based planning principles.  In fact this PDD does not require a new development to actually include a mix of uses at all.   

Section I: Design Criteria and Guidelines:  2. Mixed Land Use: "Where appropriate land uses are mixed on-site or are mixed in combination with adjacent uses which are either existing or planned." and continued more specifically in 2b: "The proposal is designed in such a way that it is well integrated with adjacent land uses. "Integrated" means that the uses are within walking distance (1/8 mile) and are connected with sidewalks or crosswalks." 

Theoretically then, since the CL&P property abuts Avon Meadow office park (which would satisfy the office/business use component) and is across the street from a large apartment/condo complex (which would satisfy the residential use component) and abuts Nod Brook State Park (which would satisfy the public use component) the possible end result under this PDD is that the developer would have fulfilled the mixed-use requirement even if they only built a shopping mall on the CL&P parcel by virtue of the fact that all other required uses are within 1/8th of a mile to the site.

·        There are no specific metrics in regard to building sizes except for a maximum building height of four stories, Section H. Development Standards, 1.  Four stories are greater than what is recommended in the 2007 POCD and inconsistent with current zoning requirements for Town Center (no higher than Eno Hall).  One of the frequently heard criticisms during the development of the 2007 POCD was that specific metrics and standards belong in the zoning regulations. That the only specific metric in this PDD is in terms of building height is a serious deficiency.  After so much controversy on the concept of metrics during the drafting of the POCD, it is clearly appropriate for the Zoning Commission to utilize specific metrics during the implementation of the POCD in the zoning regulations including the language of the PDD.

·        The Conservation Commission is not part of the approval process for the PDD.  The Conservation Commission has the expertise and legal standing to judge the advantages/disadvantages of a proposed development with regard to environmental impact of all forms.  This is a serious and unacceptable omission in this PDD draft.

·        The Master Site Plan, which initially requires a public hearing and review and recommendation by the Design Review Board prior to approval by the Zoning Commission as outlined in Section B: 2 PDD Process, Step 2, can then later be modified by the Zoning Commission without either a public hearing or review by the Design Review Board for apparently any reason as outlined in Section K: Amendments: a. "Any Master Site Plan approval may only be modified by the Commission."

·        Although various studies are required under Section J: PDD Application, there is no stated correlation between the results of the studies and the approval of the PDD.  Do we just infer from the request of the studies that if a large mixed-use development will result in greater traffic then the Zoning Commission will deny the PDD application?  How are the results of the studies used in determining either the approval or denial of a proposed PDD?

·        The PDD recommends minimizing amount of land used for surface parking as outlined in Section I. Design Criteria and Guidelines: 6. Parking and Land Use Efficiency, which is a principle of smart growth.  However that is followed by 6f. which would allow a developer to increase retail space with "a floor area bonus for every story of structured parking".  This would clearly result in an increase in vehicular traffic in direct contrast to smart growth principles.  Retail sales are often measured by sales per square foot which is clearly highly correlated with customer volume – more customers yields more traffic.

·        Section D: General Requirements "may not all be applicable in all cases...however, the proposed PDD meets a significant number of the following items" sets no objective standard and describes ideals of a development in language that is purely subjective and non-measurable and could potentially open the Town and the Zoning Commission to litigation.

·        Six of the eight Section I: Design Criteria and Guidelines include the option for the developer to "propose an equally good or superior method of achieving the above criteria" which negates the Zoning Commission's ability to require the developer to meet pre-determined standards and instead allows the developer to control the standards of the design criteria and guidelines.

·        Bonding and phasing for complete build out of a mixed-use project is not specifically outlined or required in this PDD.  This was clearly articulated as a desired feature by the citizens during several previous public meetings as well as by the zoning commissioners during their questioning and discussions at those meetings.

·        This PDD draft is vague and ambiguous, omitting objective standards and lacking clarity.  For the majority of people reading this it would be difficult to comprehend and would require a more detailed study.  The vagaries in the PDD draft language might allow an interpreter to argue nearly any desired scenario which renders this PDD regulation impossible to interpret and implement for either the user of the regulation or by the Zoning Commission as a regulatory and enforcement body.  

It is our opinion that this PDD would allow mixed-use development of inappropriate size and/or scale in virtually any area of town without regard to the long term vision of growth and development for Simsbury as outlined in the recently approved 2007 POCD.  We also believe that overall, this draft PDD is not of the quality as a work product that we know your Zoning Commission aspires to create on behalf of the citizens of Simsbury.

We respectfully ask you to vote to deny this PDD language as a zoning regulation for the Town of Simsbury and to instead initiate a public discussion and drafting of a rigorous and professional quality PDD regulation through the charrette process with the assistance of the independent consulting firm Dover Kohl.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

SHARE Steering Committee

cc:  First Selectwoman Glassman, H. Peck, D. Merriam, Zoning Commission, Planning Commission, Conservation Commission, Design Review Board, Board of Selectman, Board of Finance

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February 3, 2008

In the past couple of weeks, Hiram Peck, the town planner, presented a draft of new zoning regulations for the large mixed-use development projects which might be built on the CL&P property, and other properties around town.  There were many problems with the proposed regulations, which would allow big-box stores.  An article by Loretta Waldman of the Courant outlines the problems.  Fortunately, on Friday, Mary Glassman reacted to the controversy that these new zoning regulations instigated, by calling for a townwide charette to get resident input.  Details of Mrs. Glassman's actions are also outlined in another Loretta Waldman article. 

These articles are contained below. 

Your devoted SHARE Steering Committee

http://www.courant.com/news/local/fv/hc-simpdd0201.artfeb01,0,6074265.story

Revised Zoning Amendment Panned

By LORETTA WALDMAN

Courant Staff Writer

February 1, 2008

SIMSBURY

A controversial mixed-use zoning regulation, proposed then withdrawn in September by the developer of Simsbury River Oaks, has been revised by the town and is ready for reconsideration. 

The latest draft of the so-called planned development district regulation — written by Town Planner Hiram Peck, in consultation with Dwight Merriam, the town's special land-use counsel — will be presented to the zoning commission Monday for approval. 

But the proposed amendment is already being panned by the homeowners group leading the opposition to Simsbury River Oaks because it lacks any reference to size restrictions listed in the town's plan of conservation and development. 

Those restrictions are intended to prevent big-box development, such as the Target store Simsbury River Oaks developer Konover Development Corp. is planning there. 

"I'm frankly flabbergasted by this new PDD regulation," William Miller, president of Simsbury Homeowners Advocating for Responsible Expansion, told selectmen Monday. "After input from several hundred people over several years, the town plan contains metrics which limit the size of retail stores to two stories and 40,000 square feet. Mr. Peck's proposed regulations should be even more specific than the town's plan, but they aren't." 

Miller also criticized Peck for not heeding the advice of Victor Dover — a noted land-use expert brought to town last year who recommended against incorporating big-box retail into a mixed-use development — and the results of the last election. Big-box development emerged as the single biggest issue in the race and spawned a third party, Simsbury Citizens First, whose members won seats on both the planning and zoning commissions. 

Rather than listen to town residents, Miller said, Peck's proposed regulation appeared to be patterned on what Konover would like. 

As proof, Miller cited remarks made by Konover lawyer T.J. Donohue at a public hearing in December that Konover "could live" with 60 percent lot coverage, instead of 80 percent in the previous draft, by building structures with more stories. 

"Lo and behold, the new PDD shows 60 percent lot coverage, but now, for the first time, it allows for a four-story building," Miller said. "And when Konover proposed that synthetic grass parking lots were to be counted as open space, sure enough the next draft of the regulations included a discussion of synthetic parking that allowed for this to be counted as open space." 

Existing town zoning regulations do not allow for mixed-use development such as Simsbury River Oaks, a proposed 60-acre, $200 million mix of residential, office and retail space including the Target store. Leaders of the town's land-use boards had been drafting a PDD amendment, but suspended their effort when Konover submitted its own version in June. 

When Konover withdrew its proposed planned development district in September, land-use leaders had been expected to resume work on a town draft of those new rules.

Asked why he and not that group had done the work, Peck cited concerns about the group's violating state Freedom of Information regulations, though he could not say who raised the concerns or what regulation the working group might have violated. 

Asked about Miller's remarks Thursday, zoning commission Chairman Austin Barney II said he had not been at Monday's meeting and could not comment. He said that he had only received Peck's revised draft about the same time Miller did and that other zoning commission members have yet to see it. 

Barney said the commission will probably have one or more workshops to discuss and edit Peck's draft planned development district, after which it will go to public hearing. It must also be referred to the planning commission. Feedback from the design review board and conservation commission would probably be sought, even though it's not required, he said. 

He urged residents to take a look at the draft, copies of which are available at the planning and land-use office at town hall, and to phone or send any comments to Peck. 

"That's how we can build up a pile of information and get a better sense of what the public is interested in," Barney said. "We want whatever input they have." 

Monday's meeting of the zoning commission is scheduled for 7 p.m. in the main meeting room at town hall, 933 Hopmeadow St. To telephone the planning department, call 860-658-3245. 

Contact Loretta Waldman at lwaldman@courant.com.

http://www.courant.com/news/local/fv/hc-simcharette0202_.artfeb02,0,7863444.story

Glassman Seeks Route 10 Brainstorm

By LORETTA WALDMAN

Courant Staff Writer

February 2, 2008

SIMSBURY — First Selectman Mary Glassman is calling for a townwide "charrette" — a problem-solving exercise — to sharpen the town's vision for the Route 10 corridor from an economic, development, historic, and environmental standpoint. 

"In light of recent events and increased public interest I strongly believe it is both timely and critical that there is wide agreement within Simsbury on a vision of what the community wants going forward," Glassman wrote in a letter sent Friday to the members of eight boards and commissions, including the board of selectmen and planning and zoning commissions. "That vision should be centered on basic policy consistent with the 2007 Plan of Conservation and Development and should become more widely understood with as much richness in detail as possible obtained through ongoing community dialogue and a dynamic planning process." 

The term "charrette" evolved from a pre-1900 exercise in France in which architectural students were given a design problem to solve within an allotted time. Today it refers to a creative process akin to visual brainstorming, used by design professionals to develop solutions to a design problem within a limited time. 

The charrette proposed by Glassman would be the second in Simsbury in the past decade. The first, held in 1998, focused on the town center. 

The latest one was suggested by Victor Dover, a noted Florida-based planning expert brought to town in May to evaluate the Simsbury River Oaks project, a 60-acre, $200 million mixed-use project proposed for the southern end of Route 10 in the town. 

Former Republican Selectman John Romano proposed a six-month moratorium on development in June during which the charrette would be held, but the proposal was poorly timed and met with no support. Glassman's proposal comes as the zoning commission begins considering an amendment to zoning regulations drafted by Town Planner Hiram Peck that would allow for the development of projects such as Simsbury River Oaks, a mix of residential, office and retail space that includes a Target store. 

Traffic on Route 10, which is two lanes through most of Simsbury, has not been studied in 10 years. And the three sections of town with the most development potential — the town center and northern and southern gateways — are all along Route 10. 

According to Glassman's letter, the information gathered through the planning process will include more than a compilation of data and forecasts. It will lead to statements of intent, detailed plans, illustrated documents and tools to guide development based on a shared vision, she said. 

"What we're trying to do is be proactive in planning for the town's future development," Glassman said Friday. "This will allow for a public process to decide how much and what development we want to allow in the Route 10 corridor. It's a proactive process intended to be inclusive of the community." 

Glassman said she expects the process to take about six months. To begin it, she has scheduled a combined meeting of boards and commissions at 7 p.m. Feb. 20 at Eno Memorial Hall.

Grants would be pursued to help subsidize any costs associated with the undertaking, she said, but commitments of staff time and public resources also would be significant. 

Contact Loretta Waldman at lwaldman@courant.com


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