SOUTHINGTON — Strong opposition from landowners and developers has halted the Planning and Zoning Commission’s efforts to change the open space subdivision regulations.
Owners of Karabin Farms, Rogers Orchards and other large properties said the proposed change would have decreased the value of their land by reducing the number of houses that could be built under open space subdivision rules.
Town officials said they wanted to introduce new rules for open space subdivisions to encourage their use.
Interested developers can opt for a traditional subdivision or utilize regulations for an open space subdivision that allow for clustered housing. The open space development allows more flexibility in exchange for keeping some land undisturbed and turning it over to an association or the town.
Even for those landowners not looking to develop, value can be used to secure loans. The development value of the land is tied to how many houses could be built.
A proposal discussed Tuesday night would have made several changes to the open space subdivision rules but left the traditional subdivision rules unchanged.
Diane Karabin said some of the proposals “frightened” her and would damage the value of her land.
“I don’t see a need for change,” she told commissioners Tuesday.
The proposed changes would have reduced lot size minimums and offered an incentive of one or two additional houses in exchange for the preservation of additional open space.
Landowners and developers, though, said those incentives didn’t compensate for the increased open space requirements, particularly stipulations on what kind of land could be considered open space.
Under the town’s regulations, the open space can be areas that wouldn’t be used for houses, such as retention ponds. The proposal would have required that half of the open space land be free of such impediments.
The commission withdrew the plan. Chairman Michael DelSanto said it’s the second time in the last few years that the PZC has heard “loud and clear” that landowners and developers don’t want changes to existing regulations regarding subdivisions and open space.
“We gave it another shot and it didn’t work out,” he said. “Obviously the large-tract land owners were not happy with our proposals.”
Changes to the open space subdivision rules won’t be considered again under DelSanto’s chairmanship, he said.
Many of those who spoke in opposition during Tuesday’s public hearing also spoke against a previous plan considered by the commission in February.
DelSanto said the commission attempted to encourage open space preservation through the regulation change since it’s a common request from town residents. But he said only those in opposition to the change spoke Tuesday.
“No one wants development, but when it comes time for a public hearing, no one showed up,” DelSanto said. “Zero people came up to support us.”
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