Growing Connecticut for the Better [Commentary]

June 22, 2006

Helping to preserve open space in Connecticut is certainly one of my top priorities as State Senator, even though it has been sometimes overlooked here at the State Capitol. However, over the last several years the legislature has made a commitment to keep the rural character of Connecticut intact. As Ranking Senator on the Planning and Development Committee I have had the opportunity to be part of legislation that promotes Smart Growth.

Clearly there is a balance between the right to develop and both protecting our environment and preserving open space. As a state we need to grow our infrastructure in a manner that prohibits sprawl and takes advantage of areas that have already been committed to development. That’s why I continue to advocate on behalf of the concepts of Smart Growth. Smart Growth, or as I prefer to call it Growth Planning, stems from the concept of orderly development that will minimize air and water pollution as well as traffic, and maximize our already existing, enhanced infrastructure. As a result, we build stronger communities as well as preserve the open space and farmland areas of Connecticut that make it such a beautiful state.

One of the major goals of Smart Growth is to improve communication between the state’s regional planning agencies, the state, and local municipalities. It makes logical sense to work together in order to achieve maximum benefits for all parties. The party that benefits the greatest is taxpayers, which is most important.

Development would only occur where infrastructure or appropriate services already exist or where traffic concerns have already been addressed. By placing development in areas already suitable for such growth, taxpayers’ dollars are not being used to create new roads or other infrastructures. In addition, local leaders are in touch with the degree of development that surrounds their community and will have input into that development.

Where we develop is also as important as what we develop in the State of Connecticut. I am certainly in favor of economic growth and the expansion of commerce in Connecticut, but we have to be cautious of where and to what extent we expand. The negative consequences of developing into unprepared areas can far outweigh the benefits. I want to see new development steered towards underused land in already developed areas and leave open space in less developed areas. Connecticut needs to develop those areas close to mass transit accommodations in order to lessen the traffic on our already congested roads and highways.

Smart Growth does not mean overhauling the way Connecticut operates in regards to economic development. Rather, it is just some simple adjustments to existing regulations. My goal is to see that local communities have a stronger say over development in their towns, prohibit sprawl that already has caused congestion on our highways, preserve valuable open space, and promote development in those areas best suited for development.

Recently, I spoke at an event hosted by the 1000 Friends of Connecticut, an organization dedicated to growing a healthy economy and end sprawling development. They recently released an outstanding report entitled “A Leaders Guide to Growing Connecticut Smart.” With groups like these taking the lead, Connecticut will continue to grow intelligently, and with our surrounding environment in mind.

Next week I will look at the historic farmland preservation bill that we were able to pass last year and how it helped Connecticut move forward in its quest to preserve even more open space. In the meantime, if you have any questions or concerns, you can call me at 1(800) 841-1421 or e-mail me at [email protected].