Take A Stand On Big Box

October 26 2005

SIMSBURY -- Candidates for selectman in Simsbury who have ducked the issue of big-box development on so-called legal and ethical grounds are either being overly cautious or disingenuous.

The politicians say that because the board of selectmen may eventually have to rule on the matter in its role as a final arbiter of Simsbury's plan of conservation and development, offering opinions could preclude their participation or trigger lawsuits accusing them of being biased.

However, the voters' right to know where their present and future elected officials stand on a critical issue, the essence of democracy, should trump any reservations that candidates may have about potential conflicts and lawsuits.

Ironically, the reluctance to speak out stems from an idea for a big-box store at the entrance to town that was floated but has yet to be filed by developer Michael Goman of Konover Associates.

His suggestion galvanized neighbors into forming a civic organization called Simsbury Homeowners Advocating Responsible Expansion. It has asked the planning commission to include a provision in its update of the plan of development that limits retail spaces of more than 30,000 square feet to sites with access to Route 44. That would seem to eliminate Mr. Goman's site.

When Town Attorney Robert M. DeCrescenzo was asked if selectmen could state a position on big-box development, he advised them not to comment on SHARE's specific recommendation, citing court decisions against predetermination of land-use matters.

We respectfully disagree. Taking a stand on a controversial land-use change is no different from opposing a bill to end the death penalty or to raise taxes.

Candidates should not be allowed to hide behind a legal opinion to get off the hook. To remove one of the most serious issues facing Simsbury from the electoral debate is a disservice to voters.

Copyright 2005, Hartford Courant