SHARE says responsible expansion needed

By:Ken Harrison , Staff Writer



The SHARE group was formed by local residents who were concerned that large commercial developments may find their way into Simsbury unless restrictions could be implemented into the town's zoning laws once the plan of conservation and development has been finalized. The group was originally formed in response to plans made by representatives of the Konover Development Corporation, located in West Hartford, who proposed the construction of a 130,000-square-foot retail shopping center on property located in the southern end of Simsbury on the east side of Hopmeadow Street. The residents who were presented with Konover's plans during a series of informal meetings held in the beginning of August decided to form SHARE in the hopes of preventing a large-scale development from being built near their neighborhoods.

"We are not an anti-development group as we support responsible expansion that will benefit everyone in the community and will keep the character of where we live intact," Simsbury resident Duncan Mackay, who represented the SHARE organization at the Planning Commission meeting, said. "We feel that the purpose of the plan of conservation and development is to guide the town and help it preserve its small town character and this will not be possible if a big box type development is built here."

Mackay went on to say that he and the members of SHARE agree with the plan's goal of creating a thriving downtown in Simsbury, one that is pedestrian friendly and filled with small businesses. Their opposition to having a large big box development is due to their belief that it will erode the town's character, increase traffic in the area, diminish property values around the development and cripple the infrastructure of the local economy.

In order to prevent any big box development from coming to Simsbury, SHARE suggested that the plan of conservation and development be revised so that the town's zoning laws will restrict any development in downtown Simsbury from being more than 30,000 square feet.

"We believe that more clarity is needed in the town's zoning laws and that the Planning Commission should create land use policies that will designate large impact developments to certain areas like what has already been done with the Simsbury Commons shopping plaza on Route 44," Mackay said. "All development in the town center should be kept under 30,000 square feet. Establishing a cap like this will send a message to the zoning department that we are committed to preserving the character of Simsbury. "

The Planning Commission's meeting on the 27th was part of a series of meetings that the commission has held with a number of community groups to gather information and ideas about how the plan of conservation and development, which is revised every 10 years, should be drafted.

"We plan to carefully consider all the materials and recommendations that your group and others in the community have presented to us regarding the plan of conservation and development," Planning Commission Chairman John Loomis told Mackay after his presentation was met by a standing ovation from the audience gathered at the high school. "We plan to continue to work with groups like SHARE when we are finalizing the plan and our land use policy map as we want to get all the input we can before a decision is made."

William Voelker, Simsbury's Director of Community Planning and Development, explained that before the plan of conservation and development can be finalized by the Planning Commission, it must be approved by the Capital Region Council of Governments, which has 35 days to review it. When the plan is approved by the Capital Region Council of Governments, it will be subject to public hearings before it receives its final approval from the Board of Selectmen.

For more information about the Simsbury Homeowners Advocating Responsible Expansion, visit its Web site at www.sharesimsbury.com.


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