Anti-Sprawl Tactic Mulled
Avon Considers Shifting Development From Edges To The
DANIEL P. JONES
Courant Staff Writer
January 15 2007
Avon could become the first Connecticut town to adopt a novel, anti-sprawl
approach that lets developers acquire rights to build more housing near the
village center in exchange for paying landowners in out-of-the-way sections to
keep their property undeveloped.
The town planning and zoning commission
is considering a change in its zoning rules that would allow for such
"We're really looking at it as: Is this a way to channel smart
growth, rather than just the standard planning regulations, by preserving some
open space and increasing some [multi-family housing] density in areas that can
handle it?" said Duane Starr, commission chairman.
State law allows towns
to adopt transfer of development rights, or TDR, programs but no town has done
so yet, according to Avon's town planner, Steve Kushner.
or regional commissions in several other states, including Massachusetts,
Maryland, New York, New Jersey and Colorado, have been running the programs for
"TDR programs are not for the faint of heart, in that they
require municipalities to make some proactive decisions about conservation and
about development," said Robert Pirani, director of environmental programs at
the Regional Plan Association, a nonprofit planning organization in the
Connecticut, New York and New Jersey metropolitan area.
But for towns
that take on the challenge, he said, there are rewards: money for conservation
and development in the right places.
"I think it's exciting that Avon's
taken the lead in thinking about this," Pirani said. "I think many Connecticut
towns have the planning sophistication and the need to think about conservation
and development in this way."
No one is talking about making a change
that would bring large-scale housing developments to Avon center, the area near
the town green and the intersection of routes 10 and 44.
developments under the voluntary program would still be modest, in keeping with
the scale and character of the center.
By the same token, the acreage
that would be preserved as open space would also be modest, according to
But even small gains in preserving open space would be a
benefit, he said.
At the state level, Connecticut has a program to
purchase development rights to keep farms from being developed. Farm owners
receive money for the value of their land.
Under transfer of development
rights programs, towns can channel growth into suitable areas - where roads,
utilities, sewers and commercial buildings already exist - and can preserve
other areas such as farms, drinking-water aquifers, wetlands, ridges, river
valleys and open space.
Rather than simply adopting rules to control or
restrict development, towns can adopt the transfer rules to encourage open space
preservation and smart growth through economic incentives, advocates
Developers who buy the development rights in an area targeted for
preservation receive a density bonus in another area.
In Avon, the easy
part is deciding where to encourage open space preservation, Starr said. The
planning and zoning commission is considering adopting a program that would
focus on three areas for preservation: two large agricultural properties along
West Avon Road and the area near Avon Old Farms School on Old Farms Road, he
"The more difficult part is, where would we be willing to allow
more density?" Starr said.
So far, the proposal is focusing on the
so-called village area or Avon center.
"We've got some built-in
infrastructure, utilities, bus routes and we might be able to put in smaller
multi-family development in there," he said.
"We don't have the
unanimous decision among the commissioners yet. So it's not going to happen
overnight. It probably would take a year for us to get this
Contact Daniel P. Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright 2007, Hartford Courant