Petitioners Want To Restrict Growth

Courant Staff Writer

March 8 2007

SOUTHINGTON -- The planning and zoning commission has received a petition signed by 1,528 people demanding changes to the town's zoning regulations.

What changes the petitioners want are not spelled out in the document, which was presented to commission members Tuesday night. But organizers have made clear in recent comments that they want to restrict development.

The commission accepted the petition but took no action on it. In addition to demanding new regulations, the petition requests a public hearing on development. But the zoning panel did not schedule a hearing.

"It was frustrating," petition organizer Sandra Feld said about the commission's reaction. "It felt like they were ignoring the people who signed the petition."

The commission has already started what its chairman says will be a complete overhaul of its regulations, a process Town Planner Mary Savage said will be lengthy and complicated. The petition asks that new regulations be in place by July 1, but Savage says meeting that deadline would be very difficult at best.

Feld said she and others who organized the petition may look at other ideas for promoting smart development and preserving open space in town. One of those is reviving the Southington Land Trust, which Feld said has been inactive in recent years.

Many residents have complained recently about what they say is town officials' failure to rein in out-of-control development. When a builder clear-cut trees to build houses off West Street, there was an outcry. And hearings by the planning and inland wetlands commissions about a plan for eight houses on Woodruff Street have been packed with residents who oppose the plan.

Overhauling the zoning regulations was recommended in a plan of development the commission approved last year. That plan noted that there is little open space left in town, something that may be slowing the rate of home construction even without any changes in the zoning regulations.

According to the plan, an average of 207 house permits have been issued annually since 1997, with a peak of 265 issued in 1999. The number of permits since then has dropped steadily, a trend the report attributes to a decrease in the number of developable sites.

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Copyright 2007, Hartford Courant