Happy Friday North Stonington,
Another busy week comes to a close here in town.
This week the Highway crew sanded roads from the ice storm. Sand was hauled in to replenish the bulk pile. Trucks were washed and maintained in preparation for the 2 day storm. Truck 17’s blinker was replaced, truck 12’s hydraulic leak was fixed, truck 8’s plow got a new hydraulic casing, truck 2’s plow springs were adjusted, and the heavy equipment trailer was stripped down and replaced with new boards. Trees were trimmed on Hewitt Road. Dumped furniture was cleaned up on Milltown Road. If anyone has information on this illegal dumping please contact the troopers.
Next week the highway crew will continue to cut trees and clear water ways. Salt will be mixed with sand once delivered. Some potholes and guard posts will be repaired throughout town.
Our Registrars’ hours will be changed temporarily to accommodate use of 298 Norwich Westerly Road as our students and staff prepare for a full return to school. The school will be using the Media Center and Cafeteria in the old building to help with distancing requirements due to COVID-19. We are excited to see everyone back in school every day except Wednesdays now. Great work to the staff and teachers for their continued perseverance during these unprecedented times. Feel free to visit the Registrars 1:30 pm - 4:00pm Tuesday and Thursday OR Monday and Wednesday 2:00pm - 5:00pm. Here’s a link to their website in case you have any other questions about the registrars: https://www.northstoningtonct.gov/registrar-voters.
Governor Lamont announced a mass vaccination clinic happening at Mohegan Sun. If you are in one of the groups now eligible to receive the vaccine please consider registering and getting it at this site if you are unable to get it somewhere closer or more convenient. Here is the information https://www.northstoningtonct.gov/home/news/2182021-press-release-governor-lamont-mohegan-tribe-and-yale-new-haven-health-announce.
We would like to highlight some budget areas over the next few weeks as we go through the budget planning process. This week’s feature is our Land Use department….
Despite all that has happened in the world and the economy over the past few years, North Stonington has really met the moment. It has taken a great deal of creativity, flexibility, and thoughtful planning and action to address the challenges caused first by the Great Recession and now by the Pandemic.
With input from elected officials, volunteers and professionals hired to evaluate our regulations, ordinances, permit approval process, and government structure, we made significant changes that have improved the Town’s image and helped facilitate new investment. The bold changes to the Zoning Regulations were designed to remove barriers to economic development and provide more flexibility (uses) and predictability (approval process). Changes included consolidating the commercial zones, generalizing and expanding permitted uses, removing excessive restrictions, eliminating most Special Permits, and adding new zoning districts. These actions have helped increase developer confidence and eased the process of doing business in town, as evidenced by the upsurge in new development, re-development, and large property transactions.
Additionally, the 2017 consolidation of the Building and Land Use Departments has resulted in much improved customer service and staff support. The budget format was changed to better reflect the physical and fiscal connections between the various Departments and Commissions that make up the Land Use Department as a whole.
All these efforts have resulted in new investment, leaner budgets, and have brought us deserving recognition such as the CEDAS Award for Best Practices in Land Use and Economic Development and a consistent spot at the top of the CT Town Economic Index, which measures the Town’s overall economic health. We have also been recognized for our efforts to increase Sustainability and Affordable Housing.
Small towns have always had to do more with less, and North Stonington is no exception. With this in mind, the following is a snapshot of the remarkable accomplishments achieved with such a small investment.
As an example, in FY 2019-2020, of the $214,372 that was approved for the Land Use Department and EDC budgets combined, we spent only $167,146. $47,226 was returned to the General Fund to be used in the future, and Land Use and Building fees collected totaled $78,275.58.
So effectively, only $41,645 was spent to accomplish and/or facilitate the following actions/activities utilizing 2 F/T and 2 P/T staff – one of whom serves as the assistant Town Clerk as well:
- Accepted, processed and reviewed 359 Building and 91 Zoning Applications that resulted in the approval of approximately 150,000sf of New Construction worth ~ $9,000,000 and netting ~ $185,000 in new tax revenue (NOT including Personal Property or Motor Vehicle tax revenue).
- 2 Blighted properties were demolished; 21 enforcement cases resolved; and 14 open cases actively pursued. Numerous site inspections for enforcement and permit approval process conducted.
- 7 new building lots created; 9 homes + 3 accessory apartments approved; and 7 previously approved houses completed, inspected and issued C.O.’s.
- New Text Amendment and associated regulations drafted to create a New Village Commercial Zone to allow 2 existing businesses to expand.Two other existing businesses also expanded through the resolution of a long-standing enforcement issue.
- $24,500 in grant funding secured for projects to be completed in FY 20-21.
- Staff completed a draft of the new Housing Plan for review.
- Progress on water/sewer expansion – Partial plan completed by consultant and staff.
- 9 LU/EDC Commissions supported and/or fully staffed; Assisted with implementation of current plans and initiatives (Buy-Local Campaign, Kayak trail, Gallup House Re-use, Village Improvement, COVID Relief Regulations, etc.). Other non-Land Use Boards and Commissions supported as necessary.
- 2019 Strategic Plan drafted; Bronze Level in Sustainable CT earned; Awarded CEDAS Best Practices Award.
- Staff representation for North Stonington at regional Planning and Economic Development Organization Meetings/Events (seCTer, AdvanceCT, WUCC, RPA) provided.
…and of course land use staff has assisted countless current and prospective residents, business owners and developers with property research, applications, conceptual plan review, funding referrals, problem resolution, etc. etc.
Our efforts are clearly paying off, and the Land Use Department which as stated now includes the Building Department is on very solid ground. New tax revenue is being generated, vacant buildings are being repurposed and improved, and existing businesses are expanding.
Maybe most importantly, we are doing all of these things while maintaining the character of the town we have all learned to love so much. There is an active balance of creating development and maintaining our charm and we have been able to strike that balance.
During the budgeting process which is ongoing, the Land Use Department has included more support for zoning enforcement so we make sure we are staying on top of issues that need to be addressed. This will allow us to focus more energy on continued development and growth initiatives as outlined in our recently completed strategic plan. The current land use budget being discussed represents around a $3,000.00 increase.
As we move into 2021, the planning process for a new 10-yr plan will begin offering opportunities for community input and engagement to create new goals and a shared vision. If we reaffirm the current POCD themes of Livability, Sustainability, Progress and Community, we must agree on a definition of success. What does “Sustainable, Economic and Community Vitality” look like? What are the key metrics we can use to determine whether we achieved our goals related to conservation and development? In the coming months you may be asked to participate in surveys or brainstorming sessions around these ideas. It is important we have strong participation from a diverse community so we continue to build a town we can all be proud to call home.
That’s it for today. Have a great week!