Canton Advocates for Responsible Expansion

PLans for Collinsville axe factory redevelopment - 4/26/24

2024 CRCOG corridor study of Route 44 / Route 565 Canton, ct

The Capitol Region Council of Governments (CRCOG), in coordination with Town of Canton and CT DOT, has initiated a transportation corridor study of Route 44 and Dowd Avenue (SR-565) area in Canton, CT. 


"The Study supports the Town of Canton's efforts to provide streets that are safe and accessible for all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, and transit users of all ages and abilities. The Study goals include evaluating the US-44 and Dowd Avenue corridors to improve mobility for motorists and freight through the area under its future build-out as a high-density, mixed-use village."

Map of Route 44 Corridor Study in Canton, CT

Affordable Housing Informational Forum

As pressure to develop apartments continues in Canton, Canton Advocates for Responsible Expansion (C.A.R.E.) and the Canton Public Library hosted an informational forum on affordable housing and state law. Two experts (Land use lawyer, Mike Zizka and David Fink, housing consultant) explained the state’s affordable housing law, known as 8-30g, the difference between affordable housing and low-income housing, and what authority town land use boards have and don’t have. 

Canton Planning and Zoning Commission is considering modifying the zoning regulations related to apartments and affordable housing, in response to residents' overwhelming displeasure with the recent construction of large apartment complexes. The Commission held a public hearing on Sept. 20 on its proposal to require that 15% of units in multi-family developments be affordable. The Commission is also expected in the near future to propose changes to the Form-Based Code that regulates height and density.

View the VIDEO of the Affordable Housing Informational Forum (recorded 9/11/23)

C.A.R.E. NEWS UPDATE (August 2023)

On September 20, 2023, the Planning and Zoning Commission will hold a public hearing on its proposal to require that a portion of multi-family developments be affordable. There is no requirement that a certain number of housing units be affordable, but state law encourages that at least 10% be so. Otherwise, developers may take a town to court for denying an affordable housing application, and the town will have no say over the resulting project's design and size.

Canton's Plan of Conservation and Development also calls for broadening the diversity of types of housing, for the sake of affordability, town character and choice. Currently 8.3% of Canton’s housing units are affordable, and that percentage is dropping with the addition of new market rate developments.

Citing both a desire to be exempt from the state law (and thereby having greater say over multi-family applications) and to conform with the POCD, the commission is proposing that 15% of units in new multi-family developments be income-restricted, and that of these, at least 50% meet the 60% affordable income threshold. [read more in the Hartford Courant article]

C.A.R.E. supports this proposal, with the expectation that it may be finessed (as commissioners have discussed) to prevent dissuading the development of small multi-family housing projects, for example by setting a threshold where the regulation takes effect.

"Affordable" may not mean what you think it does: it isn't for the very poor, and it isn't very cheap. Many professional salaries (like teachers, police officers and nonprofit professionals) are within the affordable guidelines.

The state defines affordable housing as units that are deed-restricted to households earning 80% or 60% of the State Median Income or Area Median Income, whichever is lower. Connecticut’s median income is $119,500 according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

For a family of 3, an income of $85,200 is at the 80% threshold. Even at the 60% income level, affordable rent for a 3-bedroom apartment is $1,500 a month. Though not as low as you might expect, it's a far cry from market rate rents. The apartments under construction at 401 Albany Tpke. (at Daynard Drive) are being advertised for $2,400 and $2,600 – for 2-bedroom units. See Canton housing data at Partnership for Strong Communities.

C.A.R.E. is hopeful that the Planning and Zoning Commission will also soon address another aspect of multi-family housing: density and size. The 4-story apartment complexes at 5 Cherry Brook Rd. and (especially) 401 Albany Tpke., followed by a developer's conceptual presentation of two such buildings next to CVS, have residents concerned. C.A.R.E. believes this city-size type of housing is unsuitable in Canton. We were (and remain) advocates of Canton's Form Based Codes, which regulate development by physical size and design instead of the traditional focus on use. After a few years in effect, the need for some tweeks has become apparent. Stay tuned.

Jane Latus, C.A.R.E. President

The Valley Press • May 20, 2022

Op-Ed: We Should Not Develop Ridgelines

Thank you, Canton, for rejecting a developer's plan to blast the iconic trap rock ridge north of Route 44 at the border of Canton and Simsbury. Protecting the Canton Gateway was the right decision: we should not be blasting and developing our ridgelines.  Unfortunately, this outcome did not come easily and required significant tax-payer moneys to be spent on legal advice and external consultants. A lot of time was spent  questioning the merits of the proposal, gathering expert testimony, listening to the community, and reviewing the Plan of Conservation and Development.

 

Together, the groups behind this letter include thousands of citizens who care deeply about our local communities and their future. We are especially grateful to the Town of Canton staff and to the Canton Planning and Zoning Commission for their long hours and responsible stewardship of the public trust. An additional huge "thank you" is in order to all the citizens and organizations that donated time, money and expertise over many months of long hearings and meetings.

 

Incredibly, when the initial application was submitted in Simsbury more than a year-and-a-half ago, it

received local approval from two town commissions (Design Review and Zoning) in the course of just one evening. Looking back, Simsbury had already changed the zoning to a less restrictive business zone (B-3) at the developer's request. Unfortunately, Simsbury's quick approval was then used as evidence to suggest that the community wanted the ridge blasted and developed, which was simply not true. We didn't, and we don't.

 

According to our own Council on Environmental Quality, Connecticut continues to fall short on its open space preservation and environmental quality targets. It is citizen groups like ours that have been instrumental in protecting the quality of the environment that benefits everyone. Despite over 50 years of Federal legislation protecting Air and Water, lands like mountains and ridgelines lack specific protection despite their importance for watersheds, habitat, wildlife corridors and more – including our sense of place. In this case, the frontage on Route 44 could be developed responsibly. But granting special permits to blast a mountain is hardly responsible.

 

Unfortunately, our existing rules and regulations do not reflect the latest science and do not sufficiently prioritize ecology and a lifeline of clean water and nature. While the state allows for special protections for traprock ridges, it is up to local zoning commissions to create and enforce them. Had this project been approved, the worst part in the short term would have been listening to and watching the ridge blasted and disassembled, truckload by truckload, and knowing that our children were also watching. The immediate destruction would have led to long-term damage to water flow and water quality, habitat loss, increased light pollution (already an epidemic), and a permanent loss of a sense of place.

 

While we all support truly responsible development, we need to be wise stewards of the landscapes we call home. As Connecticut braces for the ongoing impacts of climate change, open space networks and protected lands protect our water supply, keep our local climate cool in the hot summer months, and provide vital recreational opportunities to improve our health and well-being.  

Responsible redevelopment of the frontage on Route 44 requires a project that fits the location consistent with the Plan of Conservation and Development. It does not destroy the landscape by blasting a defining geological feature of Connecticut. We encourage everyone to download and review: "Bulletin No. 41: Trap Rock Ridges of Connecticut: Natural History and Land Use." And we hope you will borrow from your local library the book "The Traprock Landscapes of New England," which C.A.R.E. has donated to Canton Public Library.

At the same time, we urgently need better policies that protect and benefit everyone. This rejected proposal should serve as an alert to the residents of Avon, Canton, Simsbury and beyond to call for protection of our iconic ridgelines. We definitely need the public to continue to pay attention and reinforce the protection of these special places.

Jane Latus, Canton Advocates for Responsible Expansion • Hayley Kolding, Connecticut Botanical Society • Aimee Petras, Farmington River Watershed Association • Michael Jastremski, Housatonic Valley Association • Susan Masino, Keep the Woods • Alicea Charamut, Rivers Alliance of Connecticut • Barbara Friedland, Simsbury Grange

Canton Planning and Zoning Commission DENIES 9-15 Albany Turnpike application 

The same development team (Mark Greenberg / Kevin Solli) has already run afoul of town regulations by ignoring the stipulations of a previous approval. In 2021, the developer received the okay from the state DOT and the Town of Canton to reduce a rock at the corner of Route 44 and Brass Lantern Road (the road where the former La Trattoria Restaurant was located) in order to improve the sight line.

In early Feb. 2022, town staff discovered that the developer had begun the work without following the stipulations of the approval issued by Canton’s Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Agency. 

According to Town Planner Neil Pade, the contractor has since implemented the required erosion control measures. Following the rules only after being caught ignoring them does not inspire confidence.

Staff Memo 02-03-22.pdf

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