THE IMPORTANCE OF ELECTING PRO-OPEN SPACE CANDIDATES!
In recent years the majority on Coventry's Town Council had repeatedly acted and voted in favor of developers at a cost to Coventry's present and future residents. The Council had appointed and re-appointed people to the Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) who were extremely pro-development. Many of us did not fully appreciate the impact of these appointments until the summer of 2007 when P&Z considered overturning one of Coventry's open space development regulations, and ultimately did so despite the protest of hundreds of citizens at public hearings.
The State of Connecticut requires towns to revise their Plans of Conservation and Development (Plan of C&D) every 10 years. Coventry's Plan of C&D will be revised over the next two years and it's vital that these revisions show a protective concern for the town's rural character. For that to happen, we must have committed leadership in town government, starting with the Town Council. It's the Council that appoints members to serve on P&Z. SOS-Coventry endorsed the candidates we named because of their demonstrated support for open space in the town's land use decisions.
OPEN SPACE SUBDIVISIONS
Coventry was the one of the first towns in Connecticut to require developers of subdivisions over 15 acres to submit an open space plan as well as a conventional subdivision plan for construction of homes and other buildings. An open space subdivision requires a developer to protect at least 40% of the buildable land as open space in return for building the same number of homes on smaller lots than permitted in conventional subdivisions. The homes in this kind of arrangement are usually worth considerably more because they abut open space. If it were unduly hard for a developer to build an open space subdivision because the land had special characteristics or was not beneficial to the town, the developer would then be allowed to build a conventional subdivision plan and pay a fee-in-lieu of open space. That fee would be added to Coventry's Open Space Fund to help the town acquire more desirable land.
HOW P&Z CHANGED THE REGULATION
Three public hearings were held in the summer of 2007 at Coventry High School so people could voice their opinions about the proposed subdivision regulation change. Attendance was high. There were 70 people at the first one, 110 at the second and 55 at the third. Three people (including Town Council member Thomas Pope and an attorney representing a developer) testified in favor of the change. One person spoke on the issue but took no position, and everyone else was passionately against changing the regulation. Three hundred citizens signed a petition opposing the change and numerous letters were sent to the Coventry Land Use Office also opposing the change. Nevertheless, the Planning and Zoning Commission voted 4-1 in favor of making the change. As a result of this action, the developer could choose to build an open space subdivision, or not. The control of how Coventry land is developed was in the hands of the developers!