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Creating a vision for how Salisbury will grow

SALISBURY — About 70 people gathered in the basement of St. John’s Episcopal Church Thursday, Nov. 10, to discuss the future of Salisbury and the town’s Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD).The state requires all towns to update their POCD every 10 years. It forms the basis of all planning and zoning regulations, and has a major impact on development in towns.The seminar was sponsored by the Planning and Zoning Commission. Its goal was to give town residents a chance to say what they want their town to look like in the coming decade.Planning consultant Glenn Chalder of Planimetrics (based in Avon, Conn.) led the two-hour meeting. He began with participants looking at a series of maps of the town, identifying where they live. They then identified elements they are proud of, things in town they do not like (what Chalder called “the sorries”) and subjects they believe are important to the town’s future.While the results were tallied, Chalder solicited comments about what town residents feel contribute to Salisbury’s unique character. The list included: the ski jumps, the lakes, the Lakeville Hose Company, the two village centers, the new firehouse, and the efforts of preservation groups to preserve open space, town government, the schools, “peaks and trails,” “small town character” and the “quality of the people.”Some of the “sorries” included: the two intersections of routes 41 and 44 (new Selectman Mark Lauretano had specific concerns about traffic at those two spots); crosswalks across Main Street (Route 44); the still-closed White Hart; speeding through town, especially on Route 44; the difficulties faced by young families in finding affordable housing in town; invasive plants; “ugly utility poles”; the need for improvements to utility wiring so power and communications aren’t disrupted during storms; water quality in the lakes; lack of employment opportunities; development around the lakes.Also mentioned: a lack of activities for children and teens; a drug problem among teens; increased truck traffic on Route 44; and disappearing agriculture.The “planning points,” as derived from the data provided by the participants, was topped by “housing needs” with 450 planning points, followed by “community character,” “natural resources,” “open space” and “agriculture” as topics of concern. (The last four all had “planning points” scores ranging from 245 to 275, making housing the clear winner.)“A good plan has three elements,” Chalder said. “Conservation: What’s important to protect or preserve?“Development: How to grow in the future, what do we want to try to accomplish?“And infrastructure: The services and facilities we need to be the community we want.”Charlie Vail said he believes conservation issues “have widespread support,” and Mike Flint said he foresaw an eventual “collision course” between conservation and development.Chalder, moderating, commented that conservation and development needn’t be exclusive, necessarily.“The issue becomes whether, how and where.”George Massey said that Salisbury’s success in preserving open space and the landscape in general has had the unfortunate effect of making it difficult for people who are not affluent to live in town.And Randy Williams added, “Even people who were born here can’t afford to stay.”Vail suggested that older people might want to live in the village centers “rather than in the hinterlands,” and Chalder said, “Think of the sizes of houses that are occupied by one or two people. What do we do about it?”The question of what additional housing might look like came up. Sally Spillane said Salisbury has a “vernacular architecture,” and Flint said the town has a wide variety of styles.Chalder asked if the town should aim for design guidelines, with flexibility.Williams commented that in Nantucket, Mass., where he visits in the summer, “you can’t paint your house without permission. I’d hate to see that imposed here.”Chalder tried to get the audience to choose between two alternatives: a design oversight process of some kind, or a rejection of the same on the grounds it would be too subjective, political and/or intrusive.But the audience didn’t really see it as an either/or question. Selectman Jim Dresser said, “I have faith in common sense and the market; someone’s going to have to buy it,’” meaning a home.In the historic district of Litchfield, he added, newly built affordable homes blend in just fine. “You can’t tell the difference except for the paint.”As the meeting progressed, various points emerged. Flint asked, “Are we going to grow as a town or stay in this notch in time?”Spillane said that agriculture in the Hudson Valley of New York is “booming.”“We’re contiguous, we should be developing that.”And Dresser urged residents to read the report of the Affordable Housing Advisory Committee (available online) to reacquaint themselves with the issues surrounding that topic.Vail said that 40 years ago there was “a robust population of young attorneys and doctors. Now they are old lawyers and doctors. Part of infrastructure is where we seek services.”Spillane added that a lot of entrepreneurs in town run businesses online. “It’s not a storefront world anymore.”Chris Janelli said the town has always had entrepreneurs, but “if you want young people you need jobs.”

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