As Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) members put some finishing touches on their ongoing decennial update of the 2004 Town Plan of Conservation and Development, they note in the draft text of the 2014 town plan that the December 14, 2012, shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School has left the town a changed place whose future will be affected by the tragedy.
A draft text of the 2014 town plan will be reviewed by town agencies in the coming weeks before the P&Z takes final action of the long-range planning document late this year. The 2014 town plan addresses the period extending to 2024.
The state requires towns and cities to update their municipal plans at least once every ten years to provide the municipalities with a consistent, comprehensive planning framework for their land use decisionmaking.
A draft executive summary of the 2014 town plan states that the 12/14 shooting incident resulted in Newtown being transformed from small New England town into a destination for thousands of people.
“Despite being in the spotlight of the world’s attention for many months after this horrific event occurred, Newtown maintained its strong New England character and responded to the event in an exemplary fashion under the pressure of intense grief and massive public and media attention. This tragedy will leave its impact on the future of Newtown,” according to the draft.
Casting the 2014 town plan into a demographic context, the P&Z states that during the past decade, the town’s population growth rate has slowed and the average age of its residents has increased.
The P&Z notes there currently are no applications pending for residential subdivisions with large building lots. It was such development that fueled much of the town’s population growth during previous decades.
In a move to revitalize the town with younger adults, the town government may seek to attract businesses and industries that tend to hire younger adults. Also, the town may encourage the construction of housing that has attractive pricing for younger adults, such as multifamily housing and cluster-style housing, the P&Z adds.
On the educational front, the P&Z notes that student population projections indicate that public school enrollment are expected to continue to slowly decline for the foreseeable future.
The events of 12/14 have resulted in the town deciding to replace the existing Sandy Hook School with a new school at the same location, which would have a Riverside Road street address rather a Dickinson Drive address, the P&Z adds.
The P&Z notes that the town plan contains descriptive information on local wildlife, plants, trees, soils, watersheds, wetlands, watercourses, drinking water production, and surface water quality.
Additionally, the document lists a series of open space acquisitions made by the town during the past decade.
Also, the text describes new commercial/industrial development that occurred during the past decade, including concentrated growth along South Main Street, within the Borough, along Turnberry Lane, and in Sandy Hook Center
Hawleyville holds the prospect for a future growth wave, provided that the proposed extension of an existing sanitary sewer line occurs, thus opening up hundreds of acres to commercial/industrial development, according to the draft.
Additionally, the P&Z suggests that expanding the Sandy Hook Design District (SHDD) zone in Sandy Hook Center and increasing its residential density would strengthen the SHDD zone.
The P&Z lists three top traffic improvement priorities for the town. These include creating:
*A direct road link between Toddy Hill Road and the Exit 11 ramps for Interstate 84 to alleviate congestion during the morning rush period and to address safety issues.
*A conventional four-way intersection of Church Hill Road, Commerce Road, and Edmond Road to alleviate traffic conflicts and to improve traffic flow.
*Left-turn lanes at traffic bottlenecks along South Main Street to alleviate congestion.
The town plan draft lists a broad range of planning goals covering: community character, conservation, natural resources, open space, housing, economic development, community facilities, and transportation, among others.
After the 2014 town plan is approved by the P&Z, the commission would conduct an annual meeting each May to review the progress that town agencies have made in implementing the plan’s many goals.
The P&Z typically cites whether a given development proposal adheres to or conflicts with the tenets of the town plan when, respectively, approving or rejecting construction applications. P&Z members have been updating the town plan for the past several years.