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