Local town planners and economic development officials are generally applauding the Office of Policy Management's efforts to make the state Plan of Conservation and Development a more integrated and "bottom up" process with a new "cross-acceptance" approach.
When the current POCD was approved back in 2005, the General Assembly also passed the "cross-acceptance" drafting process that is now in effect for the 2013-2018 POCD development, said Daniel Morley, Policy Development Coordinator for the Office of Responsible Growth within OPM. Connecticut has drawn from New Jersey's example, which has used cross-acceptance in the past.
"It's a committment by OPM to work with the affected parties to get their input early on and often," said Morley.
The conversation between the state and municipalities has been extended and enriched this year. OPM organized an early outreach process, traveling across the state in early 2011, Morley said. Regional workshops were held and a draft of POCD growth-management principles, as well as a locational map were developed.
The state is now receiving feedback from planners who will bring up discrepancies between the state and municipal POCDs.
These discrepancies could be essential towards promoting local development, since state grants will be distributed with input to the POCD's designated "priority development areas," said OPM Planning Specialist Tyler Kleyklamp.
In order for a proposed project to receive state funding, the project will have to comply with the state POCD development objectives and the locational map, Morley said. However, he emphasized that municipalities will be able to apply for an exception if a project's boundaries does not fit within a state priority development zone.
"At the end of the day, a state-wide map cannot get to the detail of municipal maps," Morley said of the necessity of an exceptions process. In addition, any unresolved zoning discrepancies between the state and local POCDs will be noted when the 2013-2018 plan goes before the General Assembly in 2013 for approval.
Vernon Economic Development Coordinator Shaun Gately said he appreciates the extended cross-acceptance approach, since he said that there may be a potential conflict between the proposed state POCD and Vernon's zoning in the areas of exits 66 and 67 off of I-84.
"It's unclear of how they're categorizing it," Gately said of the area, which he said the town is zoning as a possible area for development.
However, he added that he looks forward to being able to discuss the potential discrepancy with OPM.
Public hearings are being held throughout the state this summer to gather additional feedback, according to the OPM website.
Tolland Town Planner Linda Farmer added that even though Tolland zoning plans have no significant conflicts with the state draft, the opportunity for conversation and negotiation is an improvement on the previous approach.
"I've been pretty pleased with the process," she said. "It's much more inclusive."
Ellington Town Planner Robert Phillips agreed, praising the increased versatility of the state's zones, which are more numerous in this plan than in the past.
"There's more of a gradation," he said. He added that Ellington does not have any major discrepancies with the state map so far.
Planners can also use the state's interactive locational map to study the draft map and to give input on zoning, another first for the state POCD, Kleyklamp said.
For more information on the proposed 2013-2018 POCD, visit the OPM website.