2016 Public Private Partnership Award
Awardees: Town of Farmington and Metro Realty
For several years, there has been a substantial development along Farmington’s Route 4 corridor in the vicinity of the UCONN Health Center. This includes Jackson Laboratory, a new patient tower at the health center and five new medical office complexes totaling nearly 300,000 SF. Much of this growth occurred in the absence of an overall plan—mainly through parcel-by-parcel rezoning. The State’s investments were actually exempt from local zoning.
Recognizing that through the state’s bioscience initiative this growth would continue, a public/private partnership was created to examine the limitations of the town’s existing land use regulations and explore options that would keep pace with development while considering nearby residential neighborhoods.
The town worked closely with the largest developer and owner of medical offices in the corridor, to study 120-acres of developed residentially zoned land. As part of this effort, surrounding residents were engaged through four public workshops which enabled residents to express their likes, dislikes and fears.
The planning initiative resulted in the preparation of the Southern Health Center and Neighborhood Planning Study. Subsequently, two nights of public hearings led to the adoption of a unique Floating Zone designed to permit and encourage variety and flexibility in uses, while retaining the Zoning Commission’s legislative authority to guide and ensure proper development in accordance with the Plan of Conservation and Development.
The Town of Farmington and Metro Realty are recipients of the 2016 Public-Private Partnership Award for acknowledging the need to address growth, for embracing a collaborative approach, and for finding common ground in the Southern Health Center neighborhood. The award is noteworthy for the use of a public-private partnership to educate residents and public officials about the need for planning and the value of the Plan of Conservation and Development.
2016 Citizen Planning Award
Awardee: Portland Complete Streets Group
Citizens know their communities well and often make the best planners. In Portland, a grass-roots effort to improve pedestrian and bicycle safety grew into a Complete Streets initiative as residents became knowledgeable and vocal about fixing dilapidated and segmented sidewalks.
The resident-directed Complete Streets Group emerged unofficially from Portland’s Air Line Trail Steering Committee – a committee convened for the main purpose of planning a multi-use trail linkage to neighboring East Hampton. As interest in Complete Streets expanded under the tutelage of Chairperson, Kathy Herron, the Group began collaborating with the town’s planning department and forged new partnerships, including the local non-profit (Jonah Center for Earth and Art) known for advocating for bike and multi-use trails. CGS also hosted several well attended workshops to engage and educate the general public. A Facebook page was soon underway to facilitate communications.
These achievements did not go unnoticed. Portland’s Board of Selectmen granted special appropriation allowing the CSG to pursue consultant services to help create a formal Complete Streets Policy. After six months and multiple meetings a formal policy including vision and goal statements, development standards, jurisdictional guidance, and performance measurements, was adopted.
While the policy was being developed, the CSG had an opportunity to push for tangible Complete Streets improvements after learning that the Connecticut Department of Transportation planned to repave Portland’s Main Street – CT Route 17A. The CSG immediately engaged local and state officials and suggested that the repaving project include bike and pedestrian improvements. Suggestions were favorably received and Main Street was repaved with striping for bike lanes, where feasible, and pedestrian-friendly improvements at no additional cost.
The hard work and commitment of the citizen planners of the Portland Complete Street Group is recognized by CCAPA as a prime example of what can be accomplished when grassroots efforts utilize the planning process.
2016 Public Program Award
Awardee: Eastern Highlands Health District Plan4Health
In rural and small towns, creating healthier communities can be a challenge. Reliance on cars is greater, creating linkages between destinations such as schools present safety challenges, and attracting grocers who provide healthy food options is a struggle. The 2016 Public Program Award is presented to the Eastern Highlands Health District for its efforts to increase physical activity and access to healthy foods in the region’s towns by helping them link their planning and public health programs with a focus on healthier communities.
The Eastern Highlands Health District serves the rural communities of Andover, Ashford, Bolton, Chaplin, Columbia, Coventry, Mansfield, Scotland, Tolland and Willington. The District launched a Community Health Action Response Team (CHART) comprised of local public health, healthcare, public education, local planning, human services, and other community organizations. EHHD and CHART, supported by a national PLAN4Health grant, created the online Healthy Communities Toolkit primarily to benefit local planning and zoning commissioners in creating opportunities for physical activity and increasing access to healthy foods.
The CHART coalition was successful in engaging 8 of the 10 local PZC within the Eastern Highlands Health District and asked them what would and would not work. The coalition applied three methods to collect this information: (1) conducted key informant interviews, (2) hosted focus groups, and (3) administered a survey instrument. The data collected was used by the coalition to inform decisions on the format, framework, and content of the toolkit.
The specific content originated from a comprehensive inventory of potential resources that selected based on relevance, applicability, and benefit to the participating towns. A consensus of the coalition made the final decision on toolkit format, framework and content.
The website offers a custom community audit that allows for an independent evaluation of a town’s strengths and weaknesses in terms of physical activity and access to health foods. The site also boasts a full complement of useful resources, in the form of hyperlinks that access model ordinances, guidelines, funding and partnership opportunities. The site was designed as an open source to allow new resources to be added by the public.
CCAPA is proud to recognize the Eastern Highlands Health District’s as its 2016 Public Program Award recipient for its unique and innovative approach to promoting healthy living in rural communities.
2016 Transformational Planning Award
Awardee: City of Hartford’s Form-based Code
Working over a two-year period and involving more than 100 community and stakeholder meetings and a wide range of city departments and commissions, the City of Hartford has successfully tackled its first comprehensive zoning revision in 50 years. This effort is award- worthy not entirely because of the end result—though the form-based code is a remarkable and effective tool—but for boundless thought, innovation, and a willingness to take a brave step forward. The adoption of the new code represents the first time the Planning & Zoning Commission has assumed a pro-active leadership position since charter revision redirected zoning power from City Council to the Commission in 2002.
The City has openly recognized that the Code will continue to evolve, and there is hope that as Hartford continues on its path of reinventing itself, new development projects will help to massage and tweak portions that remain unclear.
Four elements distinguish Hartford’s code from what we see in conventional codes: Economic Growth, Environmental Sustainability, Access and Mobility, and Food Security. These represent a dramatic and innovative shift, and should inspire us as planners to challenge traditional thinking. Within these four elements, a framework unfolds that intentionally guides the ultimate transformation in developing and preserving Hartford.
One of the boldest provisions in the Code pertains to parking. Parking requirements in the downtown core are completely eliminated and reduced or eliminated in other areas—a decision based on close collaboration with the city’s Parking Authority and only after considering the results of a comprehensive inventory of public and private parking spaces that estimated about 9,000 downtown spaces go unused on a daily basis.
Another notable inclusion is urban agriculture. With nearly one-quarter of Hartford residents living in a “food “desert”, without access to healthy food options, the code explicitly authorizes urban agriculture except in downtown and high-density corridors. Beekeeping is allowed everywhere under certain specification as are hen houses. And with input from the Hartford’s Food Policy Advisory Commission, the Code stipulates that 20% of the net floor area of any convenience store be devoted to selling fresh food or canned/dried foods without additives.
- Creation of a Craftsman-Industrial use category to allow maker space in every non- residential zone
- Treatment of special uses by establishing overlays for TOD, corporate and college campuses, college housing and a special mixed use zone called the Connecticut River Overlay
- New classifications of streets and design guidelines reflective of Complete Streets principles
- Cutting-edge inclusion of green energy incentives
- Protection and enhancement of the City’s tree canopy
- Banning synthetic turf (one of the first codes to do so)
Many people, professionals and citizens, tirelessly devoted themselves to this remarkable venture. The Chair of the Planning & Zoning Commission, Sara Bronin, deserves a shout- out for her insatiable can-do attitude, particularly her willingness to personally and endlessly meet with each neighborhood, city departments, and organizations. Her professional knowledge as a land use attorney was certainly a benefit and as a professor at UCONN Law, Sara engaged her students enrolled in a zoning practicum to analyze and develop realistic modifications. The students were given the opportunity to present their ideas to the Commission for consideration.
Two developments have already been the beneficiary of the Code: allowance of a tap room inside the Hog River Brewing Company and the redevelopment of the 410-unit Chester Bowles Park public housing complex.
The Chapter is recognizing the City and its new zoning code for what we are calling the Transformational Planning Award but it could have easily been called the Planning Pioneer Award.
2016 Special Chapter Award
Town of Newtown
This year, CCAPA presents its Special Chapter Award not in celebration of planning but for reliance upon it. This year it is about recognizing the critical role of planning in the face of unfathomable tragedy. The events at Sandy Hook School on December 14, 2012 changed our world.
The village of Sandy Hook and the small town of Newtown reeled, but somehow steadied itself in the face of adversity. In the hours and days after the tragedy, the Town grappled with media relations, spontaneous memorials, traffic, additional security, communications, accommodations, memorial observances and funerals along with logistics for President Obama’s attendance at a televised vigil.
There was a dire need for grief counselors, as the impact to first responders set in. The Town’s reference librarian became inundated with requests for maps and town photos. The tax assessor was attempting to manage donations. A temporary post office was set up to sort through incoming mail and in what is believed to be the first time ever, postal workers from neighboring towns donated their time to help the cause.
Within a week of the tragedy, the Town was collaborating with its neighbor, the town of Monroe and with assistance from the state, began the process of retrofitting Monroe’s former Chalk Hill School so that the children’s’ education could continue. In January 2013, public conversations began about what to do with the existing school. By February the Sandy Hook Elementary School Advisory Committee was formed and thanks to volunteer architects and construction professionals the existing school was assessed for renovation and 40 alternative sites were evaluated for a new school.
After the decision was made to demolish the existing school, and construct a new building immediately next to it, the Town worked with the State to obtain construction funding and began planning and design. A town referendum was held that carried the proposal to demolish. Demolition was completed in November 2013. Planning & Zoning approvals were obtained in August 2014 and construction began in March 2015.
There was on-going demand for managing mental health issues and the still-steady stream of condolences. The Town worked with federal partners to secure approximately $6 M in grants for recovery and mental health services. Protocols were established and decisions were made about what to do with the 500,000 cards and letters, paper snowflakes, teddy bears, votives and other things that were part of the spontaneous memorial. A Permanent Memorial Commission was formed to lead the community through an outreach and decision-making process to honor the memory of those who were lost.
During all of this, and despite the overwhelming demands on personnel and resources, the Town also continued on with the day-to-day responsibilities of town management. The Town, with the help of volunteers, continued the in-house updates of the Plan and Conservation and Development and updated The Fairfield Hills Master Plan. Also the Newtown Ambulance Garage was constructed and planning continued for a new Hook and Ladder Fire House and a Newtown Community Center.
As Newtown continued to adjust to the “new normal”, other ways of looking to the future have emerged. A resident contributed $200,000 toward the construction a long-planned sidewalk loop now known as the Children’s Memorial Walkway. The main benefactor considers the walkway a physical manifestation of the unity and recovery exhibited by the community after the tragedy. The first leg was opened in September 2014 and ultimately, this walkway will unify Sandy Hook with Newtown’s town center.
The Sandy Hook Permanent Memorial Commission had to endure a few setbacks in choosing a site for the town’s memorial, but a few months ago it began due diligence on a site that appears to have many of the attributes being sought to aptly honor the lives that have been lost.
The new Sandy Hook Elementary School opened in August. Its design balances openness with security. The exterior and interior reflect natural attributes in an effort to provide a calming secure environment. In a series of KidsBuild! workshops organized by the architects, students created some of the design elements, including a series of patterns and flags, which are positioned near the entryway.
With the help of the Connecticut Main Street Center, a branding consultant was retained to assist with building a positive community identity and sustain the viability of the local businesses. The end result, a fitting new tag line: A place within us all.
The entire Chapter is honored to recognize the Town of Newtown and its citizens, “For Compassionate Planning Efforts in Response to Unfathomable Loss”.
2016 Bruce Hoben Award
Glenn Chalder, AICP
This award is given in memory of Bruce Hoben, whose selfless involvement with and longtime leadership in the Chapter along with his many contributions to the practice of planning in Connecticut, truly exemplify the spirit of distinguished service. This year the Chapter recognized Glenn Chalder, in abstentia, for his contributions to planning in Connecticut and the Chapter.
Bruce and Glenn were longtime partners who founded Planimetrics in 2009, a firm that remains a standard-bearer in land use and comprehensive planning in Connecticut. In his nomination, Jason Vincent, former Chapter President and former member of the team at Planimetrics, noted that Glenn’s primary interests are working for communities in order to help make them better places for future generations. However, Glenn credits understanding the land use process “from both sides” as helping him provide meaningful guidance to clients. Glenn allows the planning process to unfold and for consensus to emerge. He has a distinct ability to weave insights and his incredible acumen into a conversation without talking past anyone. You will hear feed- back from Commission members about this and how much this approach is noticed and appreciated. It’s not just the Happy Plan (as he might say) but also the Happy Planner.
His well-balanced experience — as a developer, practicing planner, and a consultant — probably helped shaped his ability to work with professionals and citizens (not to mention developers, politicians, and the many others touched by our profession). Glenn’s values, his honesty, dedication, intellect and wisdom, overlap with our professional standards of ethical conduct and dedicated practice.
Glenn has served the Chapter in various capacities, including a stint on the Executive Committee from 1990-1994. He has also won a couple of special awards in the past. This time, due to the special relationship between Glenn and his friend and partner, and due to his continued leadership and mentorship to so many of us, the Awards Committee felt it was very important (to the point of imperative) that Glenn is honored specifically for his distinguished service to the Chapter, in the spirit and memory of Bruce Hoben.