Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Will Finance Take Up Municipal Green Fund?

Municipal Green Fund Bill sails through Environment Committee

Needs public support to move ahead

HB6397 is the currently pending Green Fund/Open Space bill which would allow communities to create a local fund for conservation of land, air, water and energy resources. Funds would be raised by imposing a 1% local conveyance fee on buyers of real estate. The bill passed in the Environment Committee by a healthy 21-6 margin, and at this writing is awaiting consideration by the Finance Committee.

Surveys have shown strong support for this bill among members of the State House and Senate. However, if a bill does not come up for a vote, it dies. Public pressure is the key to action.It is important that legislators know you care about getting it raised and voted on.

HB6397 is a priority issue for the Sierra Club, Audubon, the Working Lands Alliance, the CT Land Conservation Coalition, CFE, CF&P, and numerous other environmental organizations.

It is a sleeper bill in that the funding comes in small amounts to those communities that levy the fee. But with a steady stream, the total volume of money for conservation will add up to large amounts of funding for conservation over time. Communities in other states have raised hundreds of millions of dollars in this way over the past decade, in a very popular program used mostly for open space and farmland conservation. In a "buyer's market" for land, the 1% fee is small compared to the amounts buyers are saving by lowered real estate prices. Fees are waived for the first $150,000 in price, to lessen its impact on affordable housing transactions. Your ability to impact your legislator will be at its peak if you call, mail or email this week.

David Bingham, Sierra Green Fund Coordinator dbbingham@sbcglobal.net or 860-859-1247.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Please take time to contact your legislator, ask them to co-sponsor the following bills, raise them in caucus and give them their vote. Reach your legislator by calling:
Senate Democrats: 860/240-8600
Senate Republicans: 860/240-8800
House Democratic Leadership: 860/240-8500
House Democratic Rank and File: 860/240-8585
House Republican Leadership: 860/240-8700
House Republican Rank & File: 860/340-8787

HB5267 An Act Concerning the Use of Small Town Economic Assistance Program Funds to Convert Prime Farmland to Nonagricultural Uses = prohibits STEAP grants from converting prime farmland to any other use.

HB 6097 An Act Concerning Brownfields Development Projects = 1. allows brownfield remediation and redevelopment of historic mills within the floodplain so long as a) new development is within the existing footprint, b) residential units are above the floodplain; 2. establishes a remediation timeframe and 3. allocates $200 million for brownfields cleanup.

HB 6389 An Act Promoting Regionalization = creates two grant programs ($10 million and $40 million) for towns for regional incentives and joint equipment purchasing.

HB6464 An Act Concerning Coordinated Preservation and Development = requires the Responsible Growth Steering Council to screen farmland preservation, open space, historic preservation and brownfield grant-funded projects for compliance with smart growth principles.

HB 6465 An Act Concerning Smart Growth and Transportation Planning = requires the Transportation Strategy Board screen transportation projects for compliance with smart growth principles.

HB 6467 An Act Concerning Smart Growth and Plans of Conservation and Development = 1. defines smart growth, 2. establishes smart growth principles, and requires their full integration in state economic, development, land preservation, and transportation plans and 3. local and 4. regional conservation and development plans.

HB 6585 An Act Concerning Regionalism = allows a portion of the sales tax to be shared on a regional basis so long as the regions meet criteria including adopting a regional comprehensive economic development strategy.

1000 Friends also supports: SB1033 An Act Establishing a Tax Credit for Green Buildings, RB1106 An Act Concerning the Process of Remediation of Releases of Hazardous Waste and Hazardous Substances, HB 6466 An Act Concerning Projects of Regional Significance, HB 6504 An Act Concerning Recommendations of the Face of Connecticut Steering Committee, HB6589 An Act Concerning Land Use Appeals; HB6588 An Act Concerning Training for Local Land Use Commissioners; HB 6586 An Act Concerning Expedited Economic Development Permit Application Teams; HB 6387 An Act Concerning Small Town Economic Assistance Program; HB 5544 An Act Concerning Regional Economic Development Plans.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Spending the Stimulus Report Released

How Connecticut Can Put Thousands Back to Work by Jump-starting a 21st Century Transportation System 

Executive Summary

As families all over America struggle to make ends meet, officials are under pressure to make the best use of the federal stimulus money soon to pour into state capitals. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) is a critical opportunity for state and local officials to help those families by building a stronger economy now and jump-starting the completion of a 21st century transportation system.  The full copy of the report may be found here.

ARRA offers a menu of economically beneficial transportation projects

Connecticut will receive $440 million for surface transportation through ARRA. The citizens of Connecticut want to use this money to stimulate the economy and to advance long-term goals. This summary provides a 10-item menu for how Connecticut can use ARRA stimulus dollars to make the transportation investments that aggressively address the state’s pressing needs. It offers previously unavailable information for citizens and reporters to use in asking whether state officials are choosing the best available ways to invest Connecticut’s transportation stimulus money.

Specifically, the summary is a guide to 10 types of projects that states and cities can fund right now to:

·         Create jobs that advance a quick and lasting economic recovery, and

·         Reduce household transportation costs, traffic congestion, oil dependency, greenhouse emissions, and vulnerability to gas prices.

This summary highlights the tremendous opportunity Connecticut has to fund projects that repair crumbling roadways and bridges, provide low cost transportation choices, retrofit streets for safe walking and biking, advance energy independence, and generally put thousands of Americans to work during today’s crisis and get started on creating a 21st century transportation system.

ARRA transportation funding can be spent on just about any surface transportation project—not just highways

Contrary to widespread misconceptions, no ARRA funding is specifically designated for new highway construction.

Funding under the largest ARRA transportation spending category, the “Surface Transportation Program” (STP), often misnamed the “highway” program, can be used in the many ways as indicated in this report. By sending the bulk of transportation stimulus spending through STP, the ARRA gives Connecticut many job-creating investment options other than building new highways. STP funding can also be used for making long-overdue repairs to roads and unsafe bridges, upgrading and expanding public transit, improving intercity rail, making streets safer, and more.

Smart Growth America, the Tri-State Transportation Campaign and ConnPIRG issued this summary in part because:

·         Taxpayers and city and state leaders need to know what the stimulus money is actually eligible to be spent on.
 

·         While early transportation spending lists from state DOTs around the country show plans for heavy spending on new highways, there are many options available to states that create more jobs, faster, than these choices.

·         At a time when driving is falling, transit ridership is surging, and repair backlogs are large, heavy investment in new highways is unlikely to be the best investment in most places.

The street system is not complete everywhere, and new highways may be good investments in places. But a state decision-making process that excludes everything but highways by misunderstanding or mischaracterizing the law, and/or that leans on new highways before fixing the highways it is already responsible for, almost certainly guarantees that money will be wasted and community needs unmet.

The public agrees: 


According to a poll released in January by the National Association of Realtors, an overwhelming 80 percent of Americans believe it is more important that the stimulus funding include efforts to repair existing highways and public transit rather than to build new highways. The poll clearly shows that the vast majority of Americans believe restoring existing roads and bridges and expanding transportation options should take precedence over building new roads.

ARRA can help Connecticut create jobs faster through repair

For decades, state officials have neglected the backlog of highway and bridge repairs. According to the Federal Highway Administration, 33% of the bridges in Connecticut are “structurally deficient” and over 75% of the state’s roadway miles are in “less than good condition”.  Under these circumstances, there’s no excuse for not giving top stimulus-spending priority to dramatically reducing this dangerous repair backlog. It’s simply not possible to build a 21st century transportation system on the foundation of a crumbling mid-20th century infrastructure.

A fix-it-first approach is also the best job-creation policy. A 2009 University of Massachusetts economic study demonstrates that road and bridge repairs creates 16% more jobs per dollar than new highways projects. And in general, most kinds of repair projects are exempt from or otherwise no not need to go through the same reviews process that new construction projects do. Repair projects are, generally, shovel-ready.

ARRA can help Connecticut create more jobs by responding to demand for public transit

At the same time, Connecticut also needs to respond more aggressively to record-breaking transit ridership on Metro-North and Shoreline East.  ARRA funds present a special opportunity for jumpstarting public transportation because such projects are often held back by state and federal rules that require ambitious levels of state matching funds. ARRA funds require no state or local match. The same 2009 University of Massachusetts economic study demonstrates that transit projects create 31% more jobs per dollar than new highway projects.

Five of the ten projects in this summary illustrate ARRA-eligible ways to upgrade and expand the state’s public transit systems. As many as one out of every five of our transit vehicles are now out of service. Expanded and upgraded transit systems and bicycle and pedestrian routes would allow hundreds of thousands more people to get to work in the morning—and would also bring them home safely in time for dinner. The University of Massachusetts study showed that public transit expansion also creates more jobs than new highway construction.

Conclusion

This summary shows how Connecticut can take advantage of the special opportunity offered by ARRA funding not only to upgrade existing roads and bridges to 21st century status, but also to invest in public transit expansion, reduce congestion, and link transportation and community planning. With these projects in mind, Connecticut can seize this opportunity to spend tax dollars on the projects that will address real-time problems of greatest concern to the taxpayers.  

A January 2009 national opinion survey by the National Association of Realtors found that “80 percent believe it’s more important that a stimulus plan include efforts to repair existing highways and build public transit rather than build new highways.” (www.realtor.org/press_room/news_releases/2009/01/smarter_transportation)

The ARRA funding can go a long way toward enabling Connecticut to move beyond its outdated, mid-20th century transportation system, but only if wise spending decisions are made by state and local officials in the coming weeks and months. It’s now up to them to make the transportation investments needed to complete a 21st century system. They can jump-start that process by spending the ARRA transportation funding on the twenty types of projects documented in Spending the Stimulus.

 Connecticut Project Examples:

The following 10 projects exemplify how Connecticut can spend and invest ARRA money wisely, in fix-it-first, transit and bike and pedestrian projects

 Transit Projects:

1.  Statewide—System wide bus replacement:  $40,000,000

  • Replacing or purchasing buses for CT Transit would be a good way to bolster the transit system in Connecticut

 

2.  West HavenWest Haven Railroad Station:  $113,900,000

  • Dedicating funds to the West Haven Railroad Station construction would create jobs, promote rail use, ease road congestion and lift the burden off of neighboring stations already facing parking problems.

 

3.  Hartford—Union Station improvements:  $1,200,000

·         These improvements include elevator and hydraulic system replacement to promote American with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance, replacing the bus berthing area, parking lot improvements for the Spruce Street surface parking lot, replacement of the parking revenue management system at the Spruce Street parking lot and lighting improvements around Union Station.

 

4.  Bridgeport—Weather protection upgrades on main terminal platform and bus shelter      construction:  $5,300,000

  • Construction of additional weather protection upgrades Bridgeport’s main terminal platform and the construction of 50 new bus shelters and replacement of 50 existing shelters will help make transit ridership more attractive.

 

5.  MeridenDowntown Center—Flood Control and Transit Oriented Development:  $15,000,000

  • These improvements will prepare Meriden to take advantage of the proposed New Haven-Springfield commuter rail line.

 

Bicycle and Pedestrian Projects:

1.  Hartford—Citywide Sidewalk Replacement:  $5,000,000

  • Maintaining the existing network will promote investment in Hartford and encourage people to walk as a form of transportation

 

2.  Windsor—Safe Routes to School projects, bike paths and sidewalk replacement:  $4,439,000

  • Investments in bike and pedestrian infrastructure are good for the environment, economy and quality of life.

 

‘Fix-it-First’ Maintenance and Repair Projects:

1.  Statewide—Line striping and pavement markings:  $2,800,000

  • Clearly delineating and repairing existing roadways will make for smoother and safer trips

 

2.  Statewide—Overlay preventative maintenance:  $11,000,000

  • Connecticut’s roads are in dire need of repair and maintenance

 

3.  Wolcott—Town-wide paving:  $2,840,000

  • Connecticut’s roads are in need of maintenance and repair

Summary of Links and Resources

Fix It First

Outlining fix it first needs in your state: www.sierraclub.org/sprawl/fixitfirst/map.asp

Condition of roads and bridges: www.tripnet.org

American Public Works Association: www.apwa.net

Tri-State Transportation Campaign:  www.tstc.org/press/2007/CTspending_2007.pdf

 

Supporting Human-Powered Options

 

   Completing the Streets: www.completestreets.org

   National Center for Safe Routes to School: www.saferoutesinfo.org

   National Center for Bicycling and Walking: www.bikewalk.org/

   Rails-to-Trails Conservancy: www.railtrails.org

   Bikes Belong: www.activetransportation.org

   Thunderhead Alliance: www.ThunderheadAlliance.org

   America Bikes: www.AmericaBikes.org

   Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Clearinghouse: www.bicyclinginfo.org/

   Transportation Enhancements Funding information: http://www.enhancements.org/.

Upgrading and Expanding Public Transit

 

   Local transit coalitions: www.cfte.org/directory/locallinks.asp

   Association for Commuter Transportation: www.actweb.org

   National Association of Rail Passengers (NARP): www.narprail.org

   A Better Way to Go:

www.connpirg.org/uploads/yD/F9/yDF97YTYhnhHNHBp9gaMAQ/A-Better-Way-to-Go-vUSPIRG.pdf

 

Making Commuting a Freight Movement Easier; Safer; More Efficient

 

   Intelligent Transportation Systems of America: www.itsa.org

   The Institute for Traffic Engineers: www.ite.org

   Association of Metropolitan Planning Assocations (AMPO) at www.ampo.org

   Availability of federal congestion management funding: www.ops.fhwa.dot.gov/tolling_pricing/value_pricing

   Intelligent Transportation Association of America: www.itsa.org

 

Strengthening Communities and Enhancing Quality of Life:

 

   Reconnecting America: www.reconnectingamerica.org

   National Association of Clean Air Agencies at www.4cleanair.org

 

 

 

 

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Next Few Days Critical for Smart Growth Bills! Please Take Action!

Below is a list of the Smart Growth Bills with a short description and status updates. Most of the bills are moving ahead nicely. A few bills need your intervention today.

Please take the action in red. And let us know what feedback you receive. Thank you!

HB05267
AN ACT CONCERNING THE USE OF SMALL TOWN ECONOMIC ASSISTANCE PROGRAM FUNDS TO CONVERT PRIME FARMLAND TO NONAGRICULTURAL USE.
Would prohibit the use of STEAP grant funds on prime farmland soils.
02-23/Commerce Committee
03-17 - REF. TO JOINT COMM. ON ENV
Ask Environment Committee to vote “yes” before 3-20-09

HB06097
AN ACT CONCERNING BROWNFIELDS DEVELOPMENT PROJECTS.
Allows brownfield remediation and redevelopment of historic mills within the floodplain so long as the new development is within the existing footprint and residential units are above the floodplain. Establishes a timeframe for remediation and appropriates $200 million for brownfield clean up.
02-26/Commerce Committee
03-13 - FILED WITH LCO

HB06108
AN ACT AUTHORIZING BONDS OF THE STATE FOR VARIOUS STATE GRANT PROGRAMS.
Would authorize $52,500,000 for farmland, open spaces, historic preservation, affordable housing, brownfields.
01-27 - REF. TO JOINT COMM. ON ENV

HB06308
AN ACT CONCERNING SMART GROWTH MUNICIPAL AND REGIONAL PROVISIONS IN PLANS OF CONSERVATION AND DEVELOPMENT.
Would require vertical consistency between plans.
01-29 - REF. TO JOINT COMM. ON PD
Ask Members of Planning and Development Committee to vote “yes” before Friday.

HB06387
AN ACT CONCERNING THE SMALL TOWN ECONOMIC ASSISTANCE PROGRAM.
Would allow regional STEAP applications.
02-23/Planning and Development Committee
03-12 - FILED WITH LCO

HB06389
AN ACT PROMOTING REGIONALIZATION.
Creates two grant programs for towns to for regional incentives and to jointly purchase capital equipment
02-23/Planning and Development Committee
03-17 - FILED WITH LCO

HB06463
AN ACT CONCERNING MEMBERSHIP ON REGIONAL PLANNING AGENCIES.
Defines membership of regional planning agencies, must include municipal CEO or designee.
03-02/Planning and Development Committee
03-12 - FILED WITH LCO

HB06464
AN ACT CONCERNING COORDINATED PRESERVATION AND DEVELOPMENT.
Would require the Face of CT Steering Committee to screen projects against smart growth principles.
03-02/Planning and Development Committee
02-26 - PUBLIC HEARING 0302
Ask Members of Planning and Development Committee to vote “yes” before 3-23-09

HB06465
AN ACT CONCERNING SMART GROWTH AND TRANSPORTATION PLANNING.
Would require the Transportation Strategy Board to screen transportation projects against smart growth principles.
03-02/Planning and Development Committee
02-26 - PUBLIC HEARING 0302
Ask Members of Planning and Development Committee to vote “yes” before 3-23-09

HB06466
AN ACT CONCERNING PROJECTS OF REGIONAL SIGNIFICANCE.
Would define projects of regional significance and enable regions to conduct a voluntary regional project review of projects of regional significance.
03-02/Planning and Development Committee
03-17 - FILED WITH LCO

HB06467
AN ACT CONCERNING SMART GROWTH AND PLANS OF CONSERVATION AND DEVELOPMENT.
Defines smart growth and requires smart growth be integrated into the local, state and regional land use plans, the state economic development strategy, and the transportation strategy.
03-02/Planning and Development Committee
02-26 - PUBLIC HEARING 0302
Ask Members of Planning and Development Committee to vote “yes” before 3-23-09

HB06504
AN ACT CONCERNING RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE FACE OF CONNECTICUT STEERING COMMITTEE.
Would authorize $20 million in bonds to be split 5 ways = brownfields, farmland, affordable housing, open space and historic preservation.
02-26/Commerce Committee
03-09 - FAV. CHG. OF REF., SEN. TO COMM. ON ENV
Ask Members of Planning and Development Committee to vote “yes” before 3-23-09

HB06585
AN ACT CONCERNING REGIONALISM.
Allows a portion of the sales tax to be shared on a regional basis so long as the regions meet specific criteria, including adopting a CEDS.
03-02/Planning and Development Committee
03-17 - FILED WITH LCO

HB06586
AN ACT CONCERNING EXPEDITED ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT PERMIT APPLICATION TEAMS.
Requires a quick turn around and specific reporting for economic development projects.
03-06/Planning and Development Committee
03-17 - FILED WITH LCO

HB06588
AN ACT CONCERNING TRAINING FOR LOCAL LAND USE COMMISSIONERS.
Would require CLEAR to develop a curriculum for land use commissioners and report on the curriculum to the General Assembly.
03-02/Planning and Development Committee
03-12 - FILED WITH LCO

HB06589
AN ACT CONCERNING LAND USE APPEALS.
Would create a land use court in each jurisdiction.
03-02/Planning and Development Committee
03-12 - FILED WITH LCO

SB00371
AN ACT CONCERNING INTERMUNICIPAL COOPERATION.
Would encourage regional revenue sharing, regional hotel tax, regional sales tax to regions that meet certain requirements.
03-02/Planning and Development Committee
02-26 - PUBLIC HEARING 0302

SB 379
AN ACT ESTABLISHING A LAND VALUE TAX PILOT PROGRAM
Would create a land value tax pilot in a town defined to apply to New London
Filed with LCO

SB00888
AN ACT CONCERNING REGIONAL ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT.
Creates five economic development districts, would require regional economic development strategies.
02-19/Commerce Committee
03-11 - FILED WITH LCO
RB 1106

RB1106
An Act Concerning the Process of Remediation of Releases of Hazardous Waste and Hazardous Substances
Agency brownfield bill -- 6-year timeframe.
3-16/Environment
Ask Members of Environment to vote “yes” before 3-20-09

SB01033
AN ACT ESTABLISHING A TAX CREDIT FOR GREEN BUILDINGS.
Creates a tax credit for green buildings near transit.
03-06/Planning and Development Committee
03-17 - FILED WITH LCO

HUD and DOT Partner for Sustainable Communities

From: Department of Transportation [mailto:usdot@govdelivery.com] Sent: Wednesday, March 18, 2009 2:15 PM
DOT 32-09 Contact: Jill Zuckman, Tel.: (202) 366-4570 Wednesday, March 18, 2009

HUD and DOT Partnership: Sustainable Communities

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan and U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Ray LaHood today announced a new partnership to help American families gain better access to affordable housing, more transportation options, and lower transportation costs.

The average working American family spends nearly 60 percent of its budget on housing and transportation costs, making these two areas the largest expenses for American families. Donovan and LaHood want to seek ways to cut these costs by focusing their efforts on creating affordable, sustainable communities.

The Secretaries discussed their plans for sustainable communities today at a U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation and Housing hearing titled, “Livable Communities, Transit Oriented Development, and incorporating Green Building Practices into Federal Housing and Transportation.”

“One of my highest priorities is to help promote more livable communities through sustainable surface transportation programs,” said Secretary LaHood.

“This partnership will help expand every American family’s choices for affordable housing and transportation,” said Secretary Donovan. “HUD’s central mission – ensuring that every American has access to decent, affordable housing – can be achieved only in context of the housing, transportation, and energy costs and choices that American families experience each day.”

DOT and HUD have created a high-level interagency task force to better coordinate federal transportation and housing investments and identify strategies to give American families: • More choices for affordable housing near employment opportunities;
• More transportation options, to lower transportation costs, shorten travel times, and improve the environment;
• Mhe ability to combine several errands into one trip through better coordination of transportation and land uses; and
• Safe, livable, healthy communities.

The HUD/DOT task force will:
• Enhance integrated regional housing, transportation, and land use planning and investment.

The task force will set a goal to have every major metropolitan area in the country conduct integrated housing, transportation, and land use planning and investment in the next four years. To facilitate integrated planning, HUD and DOT propose, through HUD’s proposed Sustainable Communities Initiative which it will administer in consultation with DOT, to make planning grants available to metropolitan areas, and create mechanisms to ensure those plans are carried through to localities. DOT will encourage MPOs to conduct this integrated planning as a part of their next long range transportation plan update and will provide technical assistance on scenario planning, a tool for assessing future growth alternatives that better coordinate land use and transportation planning.

o This effort will help metropolitan areas set a vision for growth and apply federal transportation, housing and other investments in an integrated approach to support that vision. HUD currently requires states, cities, and counties to prepare a five-year Consolidated Plan estimating housing status and needs. Concurrently, DOT requires States and metropolitan areas to develop Long Range Transportation Plans and four-year Transportation Improvement Programs. Coordinating these federally mandated planning efforts, including planning cycles, processes and geographic coverage, will make more effective use of Federal housing and transportation dollars.

• Redefine affordability and make it transparent. The task force will develop Federal housing affordability measures that include housing, and transportation costs and other costs that affect location choices. Although transportation costs now approach or exceed housing costs for many working families, Federal definitions of housing affordability don’t recognize the strain of soaring transportation costs on homeowners and renters who live in areas isolated from work opportunities and transportation choices.

• The task force will redefine affordability to reflect those interdependent costs. The task force will also continue to ensure that the costs of living in certain geographic areas are transparent– using an online tool that calculates the combined housing and transportation costs families face when choosing a new home.

• Develop livability measures. The task force will research, evaluate and recommend measures that indicate the livability of communities, neighborhoods and metropolitan areas. These measures could be adopted in subsequent integrated planning efforts to benchmark existing conditions and identify progress toward achieving community visions. The task force will develop incentives to encourage communities to implement, use and publicize the measures.

• Harmonize HUD and DOT programs. HUD and DOT will work together to identify opportunities to better coordinate their programs and encourage location efficiency in housing and transportation choices. HUD and DOT will also share information and review processes to facilitate better-informed decisions and coordinate investments.

• Undertake joint research, data collection and outreach. HUD and DOT will engage in joint research, data collection, and outreach efforts with stakeholders, to develop information platforms and analytic tools to track housing and transportation options and expenditures, establish standardized and efficient performance measures, and identify best practices. An interagency working group, led by DOT, is currently developing performance metrics, research and data needs to support an integrated regional planning framework.

The working group was established in June 2008 to identify opportunities to better align federal programs and resources to reduce traffic congestion, increase transportation mobility, improve air quality and realize other related environmental benefits.
###

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

EPA Smart Growth Program Welcomes New Director

EPA has named John W. Frece to direct the Development, Community, and Environment Division (DCED), home of the Agency’s multi-disciplinary Smart Growth program, effective Monday, March 16. Frece will supervise the research, policy analysis, and technical assistance that this program provides to states and communities across the country.

Frece brings to the position a wealth of experience and expertise in smart growth and a passion for helping communities. He is knowledgeable about the pressures, frictions, and nuances of legislative processes, local challenges, and the politics of growth issues, which he chronicled and analyzed in his Sprawl and Politics: The Inside Story of Smart Growth in Maryland (SUNY Press, 2008). Frece also knows communities need greater educational, technical, and financial assistance to plan long-term land use, development, and sustainability and will help provide these in his new position.

John comes to EPA from the University of Maryland at College Park, where he was the Associate Director of the National Center for Smart Growth Research and Education. Before moving to the university in 2003, he served for seven years on the staff of former Maryland Governor Parris N. Glendening, six of them as the principal spokesman for Maryland’s Smart Growth Initiative. Prior to his state service, John enjoyed a long career in journalism, working first for the weekly Reston Times newspaper in Reston, Va., then for the wire service United Press International in both Richmond, Va., and Annapolis, Md., and for 11 years as the Maryland State House bureau chief for The Baltimore Sun.

Special thanks to DCED staff members who stepped in to run the office as acting director for the past several months. First Tim Torma, and then Lynn Richards, did an outstanding job keeping the program not just on track, but moving full steam ahead. Their efforts are truly appreciated.

CT Not Sustainable says Ken Camarro

Dear Heidi:

Warning: Connecticut is not Sustainable!

I don't think the talking points are strong enough.

A lot of the key raw material you need were presented at the Lyceum forums.

Declining fertility rate
Increasing number of dependent children and seniors supported by each worker
Doubling of senior population by 2030
Decline and emigration of 25-34 age group which removes the state's vitality -- no place to live or work
Decline of student population by 100,000 by 2030
Need to reurbanize and resuburbanize our more high populated towns and cites along and around each of the transportation arteries, greater densities near Xportation
Need to plan for a population requiring fewer auto miles per day
Decline of manufacturing jobs and sketchy plans for the replacement of historic economic engines
Actuality that 100 SG/SC building examples built around the state will show the way and create new job types and industries such as new types of materials, constuction methods, and deliver lower costs to operate, also smarter density, better sustainability -- those are the measures
The new england states rank in the last decile for new housing permits. There is such incredible prejudice toward a balanced housing plant
Rhode Island is in dire distress
Our TP&Z commissions and key local government leaders are in denial and provide pandership not leadership, and are avoiding our systemic problems -- I invented a new word -- pandership
See also this weeks Time magzine for article on repurposing suburban malls and the forecast for the coming surplus of 4 bedroom colonials
Your points on the leverage of housing and transportaion are good but we need to scare everyone with the "Warning."

I am in the process of writing a white paper that I will distribute to the committee.

I read your talking points and they do not show how dire is our process for land use in CT because of the use of obsolete local zoning and building regulations. The commissions that use these are obsolete. They are not producing sustainable outcomes.

You have to declare functional obsolescence of these regulations and force them to defend them. Then you go for the throat --- all the bummer projects.

Based on my attendance at the one Lyceum meeting, and review of the two sets of presentations the 6th and the 10th, the weight of the evidence shows that CT is in systemic decline and that a multi-disciplined land use approach must be employed across the state.

You have to deal with fear of loss on a local basis.

We need to reurbanize and resuburbanize via a new mix of buildings by type, and surrounding infrastructure by location. We have to evangelize the fault lines that run with Euclidian zoning and show why sustainability, as an encompassing goal in SG/SC, is the solution. It does not take away property rights, it modernizes them.

Believe me, the trajedy is not loss of farmland, which is hard to stop in the rural areas, it's the lack of Sustainable Design Requirements in the front end of each town's Plan of Conservation and Development which is the enabler for SG/SC. This is what they did first in Hamden and in Mansfield Center.

This is very elegantly presented in the Mansfield Neighborhood Partnership documentation.

Storrs Center Design Guidelines for a Sustainable Community

A 45-page vision statement, set of inspirations, and architectural planning toolbox

http://www.storrscenter.com/pdf/news/2346106710832181.pdf
This is part of what the Legislature has to enact so that the towns move in a cooridanted direction.
More to come.
Ken Camarro

All policy is metropolitan

Ryan Avent links a very good study from the Brooking's institution that points out to the geographic sources of economic growth in the United States. One of their examples is California:

California, it is often noted, accounts for more than a tenth of the national economy. That’s true—but somewhat misleading. The “California economy” is not evenly spread across the state, but rather it is driven by a few metropolitan areas. The Los Angeles and San Francisco metropolitan areas are responsible for more than half the state’s economic clout. Along with San Diego and San Jose, they together contribute 72 percent of the state’s GDP. True, if California were its own country it would have the eighth largest GDP in the world, but if these four metros alone were a separate nation, they would outpace India, Mexico, South Korea, and Australia.

Two other economically powerful states, Illinois and New York, are even more dependent on their metro powerhouses, with Chicago and New York each constituting more than three-quarters of their state’s GDP. (The New York metro actually powers two states: the portions of the metropolitan area in New York account for 75.7 percent of that state’s GDP, and the chunk of the metropolitan area across the river in New Jersey accounts for 77 percent of Jersey’s GDP). Texas and Florida likewise each get 80 percent of their economic heft from the handful of major metros within their borders.
Connecticut is blessed/cursed of being part of a metro area (NYC) that is in another state. This is a problem as the rich core can and will put projects that link both areas at a lower priority more often than not. It does avoid, however, the problem that NYC often faces when crucial infrastructure and transportation investments get divested at Albany to the upstate area. We can focus our efforts to what makes sense to the state, avoiding the problem of being left out by the byzantine politics of New York state.

The problem, however, is what we can do in Connecticut to get bogged down in politics that prioritize investments in slow growth, mostly empty areas and leave aside the extremely dense corridors that make sense economically. As usual, it ends up boiling down to incentives, and how we make building up the urban, metropolitan cores that drive growth all over the country extremely expensive, via underinvestment and a regressive, inefficient property tax system.

This does not mean that we could turn New Haven into Austin or San Francisco; it might be not a good short term plan. What it does mean, however, is that Connecticut could use its proximity and links with the most powerful economic engine in the planet to become a creative, lower cost, high-quality of life extension of the NYC metro area that focuses on growing smart. Small city and town charm, connected to the global economy.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Action Alert

It’s time to take action.

1. Contact members of the Planning and Development Committee today. Help them understand that we must make smart growth the policy of the State of Connecticut as proposed in House Bill 6465 & 6467.

You can find a list of committee members by cutting and pasting this address into your browser window. http://cga.ct.gov/asp/menu/MemberList.asp?comm_code=PD&doc_type=

See below for talking points on pending smart growth legislation.

2. Plan to attend the budget forum nearest you. The Smart Growth message on the state budget is that strategic investments will speed our economic recovery and investments require revenue.
Please share any feedback you receive with 1000 Friends. Thank you. Forums will be:
· March 16th from 7 to 8:30 PM at Norwalk City Hall
· March 18th from 6 to 8 PM at The Student Center at Western CT State University, Danbury
· March 23rd from 6 to 8 PM at Burroughs Community Center, Bridgeport
· March 26th from 6 to 7:30 at New Britain City Hall
· March 26th from 6 to 8 PM at Bristol City Hall
· March 28th from 10 to 11:30AM Aldermanic Chambers, New Haven City Hall
· March 30th from 6 to 8 PM at Trumbull Public Library
· March 31st from 6 to 7:30 PM at Whittemore Library, Naugatuck
· March 31st from 6:30 to 8 PM at Library Fireside Commons, Manchester Community College
· March 31st from 7 to 9 PM at Memorial Town Hall, Madison
· April 2nd from 7 to 9 PM at Nathaniel Greene Community Center, Guilford
· April 7th from 7 to 9 PM Branford Community House

Talking Points
Smart Growth programs and investments are good for the economy now and into the future.
· Every dollar spent on a brownfield project generates a $1.50 to $1.70 return in the long term plus the immediate benefit resulting from the creation of remediation and construction jobs.
· For every million dollars spent on smart growth road projects – restoration, resurfacing, rehabilitation and construction, 95.2 person years of full-time work is created.
· Every new unit of affordable housing creates 1.257 jobs.
· Every new household in Connecticut pays $1,960 to $11,554 in property taxes annually.
· Every dollar invested in transit results in a $5 savings in wait times and driving costs alone (additional economic benefits result from particulate matter and green house gas emission reductions).
· Residential property and land values increase 2 to 18 percent if they’re near transit. Commercial property values increase 9 to 167 percent with proximity to transit.

Connecticut faces an historic budget deficit, though the Governor and democrats do not now agree on the exact level of the hole in our next biennial budget, there is no debate that the state fiscal outlook is bleak. We cannot afford poorly considered investments. Screening all state investments through a smart growth filter would ensure projects that meet growth and development priorities are funded ahead of pet projects and pork.

The current system of land use planning and project funding has resulted in crippling urban disinvestment and a staggering loss of open space and farmland. Business as usual isn’t economically or environmentally sustainable. There is broad based grass roots support for a better, smarter policy process and investment criteria.

Integrating smart growth principles into local, regional and state land use, economic development, land preservation and transportation plans will result in strategic state spending.

Support HB 6467 which defines smart growth and requires smart growth principles in local, regional and state plans.

Support HB 6465 which requires the Transportation Strategy Board to prioritize transportation projects applying smart growth criteria.

The Arguments
Critics say: If the state applies a smart growth filter, it prohibits individual property owners from using their land as they see fit.
We say: Property owners may continue to do with their land whatever is allowed by local regulations. The State has no obligation to fund any project. State government represents the interests of us all, and must therefore invest in what is beneficial to the greatest number of citizens. Especially in this fiscal climate, that means our tax dollars must be invested in projects that generate the best long-term result for current citizens, the natural environment and future generations.

Critics say: Our programs already undergo a lengthy and cumbersome review. Applying a smart growth filter would add another bureaucratic layer and slow the process even further.
We say: The projects approved using current review processes have resulted in increasing urban disinvestment, a loss of open land that is seven times greater than the rate of population growth and is in the top ten nationally, stifling traffic congestion, unhealthy air quality, significant water supply and quality concerns, and a loss of 7,000 to 9,000 acres of farmland a year. It’s time we apply a filter that delivers sustainable outcomes!

Critics say: Cities and towns could lose out on essential property tax revenue from new developments the market demands.
We say: If there is truly market demand for these projects and local residents and leaders want them, the cities and towns can subsidize what the market won’t provide. Especially now, the State should not be in the practice of subsidizing what benefits an individual community’s grand list in the short-run and costs us all in opportunities for smart growth projects lost now and in the future.
We are very sympathetic to municipalities’ need to generate property tax revenue. The State should increase revenues from other sources and reduce our reliance on the property tax.

Critics say: Filtering projects will mean that we have to hire more state employee reviewers. Our state budget is too out-of-whack and state staff is too stretched already.
We say: The costs for state agencies to screen for smart growth will be more than recouped by the savings that will result foregoing investment in projects that aren’t smart and by the economic multiplier resulting from smart growth projects.

Critics say: If the state requires local and regional plans to incorporate smart growth principles, it is autocratic and counter to Connecticut’s home rule culture.
We say: Only state government represents the interests of all our citizens. It is the responsibility of state government to protect the more than three million current residents of Connecticut and the present and future inhabitants of its natural environment from the negative externalities that may result from the plans or decisions of a few people currently elected to serve in any one our 169 towns. Anything else is anti-democratic and unfair.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Saving Connecticut farms


Dairy farmers in Connecticut are in trouble. It is not something new, it is not something that should surprise anyone, and yes, it is time for the legislature to step up and make some changes. The situation is getting desperate, and some representatives are working hard to try to turn the tide.

The numbers are staggering. In 2007, 50 dairy farms closed in the state; there are only 157 left. Of course, we need all the help we can get; visit Save Daisy here, and join their Facebook group. Start calling legislators. This is an urgent problem.

Why is this important? Above all, it is part of a smart growth development strategy. When we talk about smart growth we are not only referring to helping the cities, increasing density, creating transit oriented development or building more and more railway lines. Smart growth is, above all, developing the state in a way that uses our resources rationally and efficiently, and this means going beyond where we build or where we do businesses. It is also about where we do not build, and how we ensure that that our incredibly rich soil is preserved when it makes sense so we can grow our dairy and produce close by.

For a change, however, most of the blame of the dairy industry current situation lays in the Federal government. Connecticut could help farmers in many ways, starting by a rationalization of the broken property tax system that tends to put pressure on development over open land or agriculture use. Head to the Connecticut Farm Bureau for more information.

Monday, March 9, 2009

3 -11 Hearing on Bike, Ped and Transit

The Transportation Committee will hold a Public Hearing on Wednesday, March 11th at 10:00 AM, in Room 1E of the Legislative Office Building, Capitol Avenue, Hartford. Bike, ped and transit bills are on the docket.

RB 1093 - AA Providing for Funds for Municipal Matching Grants for Demand Responsive Transportation for Elderly Persons and Persons with Disabilities - This bill provides funding for the municipal matching grant Dial-A-Ride Program.

SB 735 AA Improving Bicycle and Pedestrian Access - This bill enhances non-motorized transportation alternatives that promote healthy lifestyles, encourage smart growth and reduce congestion. This bill will aid access to transit for walkers and bicyclists.

HB 5640 - AAC The Improvement of Public Access to Transit Stops - This bill would provide funding for pedestrian access to transit stops.

In addition, HB 5895 provides funding to establish a bus route between the north and suthwest areas of Hartford.

Please plan to attend Wednesday's public hearing and let committee members know where you stand on the bills. The committee requests 65 copies of written testimony be submitted to one hour before the hearing in Room 1E. Sign up for speaking begins at 8:30 a.m. also in Room 1E. Speaking order will be determined by lottery.

If you're unable to attend, take time to give a call or shoot an email to Committee members with your comments. http://www.cga.ct.gov/asp/menu/MemberList.asp?comm_code=TRA&doc_type=

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Smart Growth Legislative Package -- Take a few minutes to give your feedback.

Public testimony received on the package of smart growth bills has been posted. The Planning and Development Committee will make decisions on the bills heard on March 2nd based on this testimony and comments they receive from constituents. Read through the testimony and let committee members know what you have to say. Your input is critically important.

http://cga.ct.gov/asp/menu/CommDocTmy.asp?comm_code=PD&date=03/03/2009

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Road congestion and diminishing returns

Carol Coletta from CEOs for Cities (and our keynote speaker in the last annual conference) links a fascinating study on road congestion and car usage in the US. It turns out that traffic congestion in America's cities declined 30% in 2008, a truly amazing figure in a single year. The reason behind the suddenly unclogged, agreeable roads was a 3% decline in total miles traveled by drivers during the year.

How come such a small drop of driving produced such a gigantic drop in congestion? Basically, road and highway capacity has a tipping point: a certain stretch of asphalt carries more and more cars up to a point where the average speed drops bellow a certain threshold (40 mph in highways) and traffic slows down dramatically, creating a traffic jam. A road can take only a certain amount of cars before it becomes useless, and sometimes a tiny drop in the number of drivers can make a drive much more pleasant by moving the the volume under the level where capacity is maxed out.

As Carol says, we have two ways then to lower congestion. One is expensive, and favored by DOTs everywhere: add more lanes, cut bottlenecks, and basically throw concrete at the problem. For a massive amount of money we will have a road that can take more cars before being clogged, but that will end up getting congested sooner or later, as drivers have free access to it anyway. The second option is fairly cheap: raise the price for road use, aka congestion pricing.

Last year we saw something similar to congestion pricing in the form of very high gas prices. The added cost moved a very small percentage of drivers to carpool or look for alternatives, pushing congestion down in a dramatic fashion. A more rational, less indiscriminate way of doing the same is coming up with a system (let's call it "not-a-toll") that makes driving more expensive when roads are busier (higher "demand", thus higher prices) and much cheaper when they are not full of conmuters. That is, congestion pricing.

The basic idea to have in mind is that driving in Connecticut right now is not free. When I get on my car and drive to work, I am spending time. When I-91 is not cooperating, I am spending a lot of time that could be used in other more profitable endeavours (sleeping). The big problem with me sitting in I-91 in traffic is that the price of my conmute is not only being paid by me in lack of rest, but by all the other drivers as well stuck in traffic. If only 3% of us (wild estimate) decided to work from home or take the train (if it was there), the other 97% will enjoy a road with 30% less congestion, being able to add a good 20 minutes sleep every day.

As ConnDOT is not able to have direct control of our work hours, what they can do is make this pain I am inflicting other explicit: if I am going to be lazy and not walk 10 minutes to the station for the convenience of using my car and annoying everyone else on the road, I will have to pay X dollars. Some conmuters will be lazy and eat the cost, but if a number big enough cheapens out and teleconmutes, works 10 am to 6 pm to avoid the charge or takes the train, driving will be much faster for very little cost. If well done, transportation costs on aggregate can be much lower, as the cost of congestion is reduced dramatically.

Is this an endorsement of tolls? Not necessarily; depends on many factors. Congestion is not distributed evenly, after all; and the lack of alternatives could just turn this into a tax. What it means, however, is that congestion charges could make a lot of sense in many cases.

DOT Commissioner will Chair National Public Transportation Committee

Department of Transportation
2009

CONNECTICUT DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION
NEWS RELEASE
 
2800 BERLIN TURNPIKE P.O. BOX 317546
NEWINGTON CONNECTICUT, 06131-7456
FOR RELEASE: March 2, 2009
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION:
OFFICE OF COMMUNICATIONS
TELEPHONE: (860) 594-3062
FAX: (860) 594-3065
WEB SITE: www.ct.gov/dot 

Commissioner Marie Named Chair of Key AASHTO Committee
 
 

          Connecticut Department of Transportation Commissioner Joseph F. Marie has been named chairman of the Standing Committee on Public Transportation, one of the key committees under the umbrella of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO).

 

          The appointment was announced jointly by AASHTO Executive Director John Horsley and President Allen D. Biehler, who is also Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

 

          “This appointment is especially timely as federal stimulus funds make their way to the states, as Congress gears up for debate on the federal transportation reauthorization bill and as Connecticut sharpens its focus on regional public transportation solutions,” Commissioner Marie said, noting the purchase of new rail cars for the Connecticut-New York commuter corridor and the planned Hartford-New Haven-Springfield commuter rail line.

 

          “The Standing Committee on Public Transportation at AASHTO develops all major standards and recommends policies for public transportation programs, urban and rural mass transit, commuter rail, intercity bus, ridesharing, paratransit and specialized transit facilities for the elderly and handicapped,” Horsley said.

 

          Governor M. Jodi Rell, who has championed public transportation as the best way to reduce congestion on Connecticut highways, congratulated Commissioner Marie on the appointment.

 

          “In his brief tenure here, Commissioner Marie has proven himself to be an innovative, solution-oriented administrator and I am confident his leadership in Connecticut will translate seamlessly to the national level through AASHTO,” the Governor said.

 

          Joe Marie was appointed commissioner of the Connecticut DOT last April by Governor Rell.

 

          AASHTO, based in Washington, is composed of the directors of the various state Departments of Transportation and is a key voice in Washington in shaping state and federal transportation issues.

 

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Written Testimony

1000 Friends of Connecticut
Testimony to the Planning and Development Committee
March 2, 2009

Senator Coleman, Representative Sharkey, and members of the Planning and Development Committee, thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today. For the record, my name is Heidi Green. I am the President of 1000 Friends of Connecticut, a statewide smart growth education and advocacy organization. Our mission reflects the vision of thousands of individuals and organizations statewide to promote and shape growth throughout Connecticut’s cities and downtowns -- ensuring a prosperous economy, healthy natural environment, and distinctive, integrated and walkable communities, while protecting our valuable natural and cultural resources. In advancement of that mission, it was my pleasure to serve as one of three co-chairs of the Economic Development Subgroup of the Smart Growth Working Group.
Catalyzing smart, sustainable growth in Connecticut requires significant policy changes at the state, regional and local levels to: 1) reduce the state’s reliance on the regressive property tax; 2) increase regional cooperation for economic development and land use; 3) modernize the state’s zoning codes; and 4) encourage investments that will deliver immediate and long-term benefits to Connecticut’s cities and metropolitan regions -- investments in transit, transit oriented development, brownfield remediation and reuse, affordable housing and preservation of lands and water resources, critical wildlife habitats, and prime soils that sustain our agricultural economy.
On today’s agenda are a number of proposed bills that would significantly advance smart growth. I thank the Committee for its boldness and comprehensiveness in raising these bills. I urge you to not just favorably consider them, but to champion HB 6463 An Act Concerning Membership on Regional Planning Agencies, HB 6464 An Act Concerning Coordinated Preservation and Development, HB 6465 An Act Concerning Smart Growth and Transportation Planning, HB 6466 An Act Concerning Projects of Regional Significance, HB 6467 An Act Concerning Smart Growth and Plans of Conservation and Development, HB 6469 An Act Concerning Smart Growth and State Planning, HB 6585 An Act Concerning Regionalism, HB 6589 An Act Concerning Land Use Appeals, and to combine the thinking on regionalism reflected in HB6585, SB 371, HB 5544, HB 6387, and HB 6389 to create an omnibus regionalism bill.
In the following paragraphs, please find specific comments and suggestions on the individual bills for which 1000 Friends seeks your support and asks you to strenuously advocate for among your caucuses and leadership. Please, make 2009 the Smart Growth Session!
6467 An Act Concerning Smart Growth and Plans of Conservation and Development defines smart growth as “economic, social and environmental development that (1)uses land and resources to enhance the long-term quality of life for current and future generations in the state and promotes (A)integrated planning that coordinates tax, transportation, housing, environmental and economic development policies at the state and local level, (B) the reduction of reliance on the property tax by municipalities by creating efficiencies and coordination of services on the regional level while reducing interlocal competition for grand list growth, (C) the redevelopment of existing infrastructure and resources, including brownfields and historic places, instead of new construction in undeveloped places, (D) transportation choices that provide alternatives to automobiles, including rail, bikeways and walking, while reducing energy consumption, (E) affordable and available housing for mixed income households in close proximity to transportation and employment centers, (F) concentrated, mixed use development around transportation nodes and civic and cultural centers, and (G) the conservation and protection of natural resources by preserving open space, farmland and historic properties and furthering energy efficiency, and (2) is accomplished by a collaborative approach to planning, decision-making and evaluation between and among all levels of government to promote economic competitiveness in the state while preserving natural resources.”
The bill would declare it the policy of the state to address the high financial, social and environmental cost of sprawl through effective smart growth. It would require the state’s economic development strategy, and conservation and development policies plan, as well as regional and local land use plans to incorporate smart growth.
1000 Friends of Connecticut recommends strengthening the bill’s scope by requiring smart growth criteria be integral to the state’s Master Transportation Plan, Housing Plan, Green Plan, and guide the actions of the State Properties Review Board, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Public Health.
Finally, this legislation would require the Office of Policy and Management to develop model zoning regulations providing for smart growth available for adoption by local zoning commissions. This would allow cities and towns that choose to modernize their zoning codes to avoid paying for boiler plate zoning regulations and allow them to focus their resources on inclusive customization of the code to their individual street grid and context.
If the General Assembly were to do nothing more than pass, and the Administration nothing more than implement, this bill this year, Connecticut would be well on the road to a smart sustainable future!
6464 An Act Concerning Coordinated Preservation and Development would require the Face of Connecticut Steering Committee screen grant applications for open space and watershed land acquisition, purchase of development rights for farmland, grants for historic preservation and funds for brownfield remediation for compliance with smart growth principles. It would require the steering committee to notify state agencies if the applications before them were found inconsistent. Applications that fail to meet smart growth criteria would be ineligible. Our state resources are limited and must be deployed strategically to meet the state’s desired smart growth outcome. With looming budget deficits, high bond obligations, and a contracting statewide economy, we clearly can’t afford to fund pet projects and pork. 1000 Friends of Connecticut unequivocally supports applying a smart growth filter to the ranking process of all state investments and for a decisive preference given to investments that will enhance smart growth. We recommend strengthening this bill by collapsing it with a strengthened version of 6465 and adding language to include a smart growth screen to economic development investments including grants for industrial parks. We recommend the state adopt a capital investment plan for all its investments to detail the cost, timeline, and source & status of funds for each investment.
6465 An Act Concerning Smart Growth and Transportation Planning would require the Transportation Strategy Board to maintain a capital plan for transportation investment that incorporates smart growth principles. The TSB would also be required to screen transportation projects using a smart growth filter.
This bill is a good compliment to a heartier 6464. Though the Transportation Strategy Board currently prepares a list of transportation projects, that list is not screened for compliance with smart growth principles, listed projects are unranked and the specific resources, status and timeline of projects is not detailed. Now, more than ever, we need transparency to be sure our limited resources advance immediate goals and long-range outcomes.
6466 An Act Concerning Projects of Regional Significance defines regional planning organizations. It defines projects of regional significance. And it would enable regional planning organizations to establish a process for combined state, regional and local agencies to conduct pre-application reviews of projects of regional significance.
Large-scale smart growth projects generally require approvals of myriad offices and agencies, from the local historic commission, to the local zoning commission, to the Department of Environmental Protection, to the State Traffic Commission, to the Connecticut Development Authority. A pre-application review at the regional level would meet a number of goals. First, it would let developers know what timelines and submission requirements to expect and would let agencies know what they have in queue so applications can be filed more completely, problems identified early on in the process, approvals expedited, and when necessary for sanctions to be applied in a more timely fashion. It would also strengthen the communication and relationships between staff and decision makers at all levels of government so contradictory practices or policies can be identified early on and more readily negotiated. This is the kind of good governance the people of Connecticut deserve.
6463 An Act Concerning Membership on Regional Planning Agencies would require the chief elected official of a city or town hold a membership seat on the regional planning agency. There is wide support for increasing the degree to which services are delivered and authority granted to regional entities. We believe this is long past due. Connecticut can no longer afford the inefficiency of fractured and fragmented local government. Cities and towns need to work better together to coordinate the services they deliver, focus economic development to maximize public investments already made, and increase sustainability and competitiveness. Regional agencies are a logical nexus for economic development, housing, transportation plans, and natural resource and land use planning. We believe should regional agencies take on wider government responsibilities they must be directly accountable to the electorate. Requiring mayors and first selectmen be among the membership of regional agencies is a necessary first-step for more accountable governance. This requirement should be encapsulated into HB 6565.
6585 An Act Concerning Regionalism would give municipalities engaged in regional agreements, meeting criteria for regional taxation, economic development, education and land use a share of the sales tax. This is a dramatic step toward reducing municipal reliance on the property tax and the damaging and unsustainable land use practices it spawns. We believe this would lead regions to consider the best and most sustainable site for new development that will reward current citizens and future human generations, flora and fauna. We also believe it would increase the efficiency of government by reducing wasteful and duplicative programming and purchases.
The bill would also restore the planning grant that supports the efforts of regional planning organizations to develop and facilitate regional agreements. Support for staff to change how we govern is critically important, especially in these times when our state is retracting its support to cities and towns, and municipal coffers are reeling from the impact of the decline in real estate values.
1000 Friends recommends the Committee merge into this bill the grants proposed by Governor M. Jodi Rell in HB 6389 for regional service sharing and for the purchase of capital equipment to be shared regionally.
6589 An Act Concerning Land Use Appeals would establish a land use court in each judicial district. 1000 Friends supports conveniently located courts customized to hear land use cases. We believe an expedited appeals process would provide citizens greater certainty and help reduce developer costs. We also believe a change in the judicial process would provide a strong incentive for citizen engagement at the local level. Strong plans, developed by involved citizens and backed-up by clear zoning and design guidelines lead to much better outcomes than lengthy and costly legal wrangling.
With Connecticut’s fields and forests rapidly turning into housing subdivisions and commuter traffic clogging country roads, the state finds itself at a crossroads. It can continue on its current path and jeopardize the quality of life for its residents or choose a smart growth approach and protect the state’s character.

1000 Friends of Connecticut chooses the latter and with the policy changes spelled out in the aforementioned bills, the Planning and Development Committee will reinforce the goals spelled out by Governor Rell when she established Executive Order 15. You will revitalize our cities, preserve the unique charm of our state, and build livable, economically strong communities while protecting our natural resources for the enjoyment of future generations.

You will alleviate significant challenges in Connecticut’s land use patterns, the lack of coordination for environmental preservation and economic development at the state and local level, and our over-reliance on the property tax. Thank you and the members of the Responsible Growth Task Force and the Smart Growth Working Group for your efforts thus far and your continued advocacy!