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October 5, 2012 Litchfield Planning and Zoning Commission 80 Doyle Road Bantam, CT 06750 Re: Proposed Amendment to Limit Retail Building Square Footage Dear Planning and Zoning Commission, PLAN Litchfield hereby withdraws its application to change the zoning code to li mit the square footage of new retail buildings in the B202 zone to 12,000 square feet. The Commission’s requirement of a deposit of $9,080 to fund consultants’ rev iews of the application, while intended to treat all applicants equally, effecti vely favors large corporations while imposing an undue hardship on a local citiz ens’ groups. Our attorney has advised us that consultant services of the nature a nd extent contemplated by the P&Z are not needed, are excessive, and are not app ropriate for an application filed by citizens. A $9,080 fee is inconsistent wit h the legislative nature of an amendment and it confuses a request for an amendm ent with an application for a private license such as the town might receive fro m a developer. PLAN Litchfield was not asking the town to grant a privilege (e. g., to develop a shopping center or a condominium project), nor was it asking th e town to review pages of technical and complex site plans, engineering plans, w atercourse plans, parking lot plans, etc. Instead, we asked the P&Z to exercise its legislative power to make a change consistent with the town’s POCAD. As noted at the October 1st P&Z meeting, the Commission has already limited the size of retail stores. That change was enacted in 1998 without a legal or engin eering review, but was reviewed solely by Tom McGowan, the Commission’s planner. Our request was simply to change the number of square feet in a regulation that is already in place. We fail to see the need for review in excess of the review of the original regulation. In speaking to our neighbors and friends in Litchfield about the big box proposa l that recently came before the Commission, the opposition was overwhelming–across the political and economic spectrum. Virtually no one (aside from those seekin g to develop such properties) believes that a 39,000 sq ft store, or a 52,000 sq ft store, in the middle of Litchfield, is a good idea. Almost 1,000 people hav e signed our paper and online petitions and signatures and checks from the publi c continue to arrive daily. Our group is concerned that this type of developmen t would be an irreversible blow to Litchfield—even one big box store would be deva stating to the town: corrosive to the town’s historic character, destructive of it s status as a prime tourist destination and fatal to many of our small local bus inesses. It would erode residential property values; increase traffic, noise, w ater and air pollution; threaten the water supply and adjoining wetlands; and co mpromise walkability and public safety. Our neighbors were shocked that such a project might be permitted in present day Litchfield and they urged us to go further than just opposing one project. The y asked us to do something that would definitively preclude such projects in the future. People thought our town was protected and they were distressed and ang ry to learn that it wasn’t. They would like to see restrictions in place that pro tect the town from future big box-type development. Since no one wants to fight this fight over and over again, developers need to know that these projects sim ply are not allowed in Litchfield.
Our proposal of a 12,000 sq ft limit on retail buildings was intended to address this problem. While our proposed amendment was quantitative and did not addres s every concern or solve every problem, it had the benefit of being clear, conci se, direct and consistent with the recommendations of the town’s own adopted POCAD . It entailed changing only one word and one number in the regulations. As we withdraw our application, we urge the Commission to expeditiously put chan ges in place, whether or not they’re linked to Character, or Aesthetics, or Villag e Districts. We appreciate that the Planning & Zoning Commission is pursuing ot her approaches to change and applaud your efforts on behalf of our town to addre ss a problem that is real and urgent. Very truly yours,
Michele Crow for PLAN – Protect Litchfield Action Network – email@example.com www.planlitchfield.wordpress.com Litchfield, CT 06759