Lilla J. Dean is doing her due diligence.
A member of the Planning & Zoning Commission, Dean spent time this week reviewing a report from Parks & Recreation that the department will present tonight as its final proposal for the town’s Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD).
Dean said previous campaigns for municipal office on both sides had agreed that the town’s POCD, which was last updated in 2004, was not serving Newtown very well because the town had changed so much — a statement with which other town officials agreed.
“We’ve had so many changes,” said George Benson, director of the Land Use Agency. “We purchased . We also have a new Conservation Commission. There’ve been a lot of major changes since the plan of 2004 has passed.”
First Selectman E. Patricia Llodra also pointed out that Newtown still has 25 percent of its land area available for development. “We are not a fully grown out town yet. We have the potential to grow. How do we manage that growth? How do we zone for it? How do we plan?”
Dean said that, from what she had seen, the changes Parks & Recreation Department must confront as the town continues to develop its state-mandated vision for the community are, at least in part, demographic. She said that, as the demographics of the town shift a bit toward what she termed “the older side,” the community may not need to increase its facilities for soccer and sports. Rather, she said, it may need to think about enlarging the or perhaps build a new one.
She noted that the town has included the design of additional space for senior citizens among its upcoming capital improvements.
All officials welcome community input on the plan at the Planning & Zoning Commission meetings. Benson said the town would also schedule public sessions that he said he expected would begin this spring.
Benson said that the POCD, while not a regulatory document, represents a concept of how Newtown wants the town to look in the future. When the commission votes on specific land use proposals, he said, the members ask, is it a part of the overall plan?
He said the town began work on its plan more than two years before the state requires its completion because the municipal land use agency felt it had the expertise in-house — and, with the economy, the time — to save taxpayers the roughly $100,000 that a planning consultant would charge to do the job. As such, Planning & Zoning hopes to complete its draft of the updated POCD by the end of this year.
Town departments submit what Benson termed “wish lists” as work on the POCD proceeds. He termed the wish-lists “a back-up. You want to try to figure out what you’ll be doing in the next five to 10 years.”
Amy Mangold, who heads the Parks & Recreation Department but declined to discuss the specifics of the 27-page memorandum she will present to the commission tonight, said, “If we’re planning something, does it fit within our mission and will it fit with what our department offers the town?”
“You have to plan for anticipated development,” Benson said of the POCD overall, when asked how a town plans during a lackluster economy. “You never know when [development] is going to come. We want to have everything ready. We’re trying to keep everything up to date. Developers don’t wait. We always have to plan for the future and develop when the developers come in.”
Planning & Zoning will continue its public hearing on the update to the Town of Newtown Plan of Conservation and Development “Plan Memorandum #6 Parks and Recreation” tonight at the Newtown Municipal Center at 7:30 p.m.