Public Hearing Set for 10-Year Plan

The state requires each municipality to undertake a planning process that will lead to the adoption of a 10-year Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD). The plan is advisory and replaces the 2000 plan. The Planning & Zoning Commission will hold a public hearing Thursday, Oct. 3 at 7:30 p.m. at the Town Campus to listen to public comment and reaction to the plan.

A key purpose of a POCD is to guide future development so that it helps accomplish overall objectives and helps meet community needs. The challenge of this plan is to carefully guide and manage development activities so that residents feel that development is preserving Madison's character and protecting the town's important features.

The plan becomes effective upon adoption by the Planning & Zoning Commission. The complete plan is available on the town's website at www.madsionct.org.

Development of the plan included telephone surveys and community workshops in an effort as expansive and inclusive as possible. The question asked was: What kind of community does Madison want to be? Community participation was critical to the plan's outcome, the planners said.

Preserving and enhancing the character and quality of life in Madison is a key focus of the plan. This plan recommends the town "make every possible effort" to retain and protect its character assets "because these assets are important to residents." In general, the plan recommends no major changes in land use patterns.

What does the 2013 POCD include? What are some of its recommendations? Here is a short list.

Things You Already Know:

• Madison tended to attract families (people aged 35 to 55 with children aged 0 to 15) between 2000 and 2010. On the other hand, Madison lost people aged 15 to 30 (college students and young adults) and more people over the age of 55 moved out than moved in, although the numbers are fairly modest.

• Most of the land in Madison (88 percent) is developed or committed to various land uses. The land areas considered to be developed or committed are: Residential, 8,170 acres developed or committed, which is 35 percent of the land in town; Business/Industry has 261 acres developed or committed, which is one percent of the land in town.

• Madison residents are very pleased with the quality of life in the community. In a telephone survey, 98 percent of the households rated the quality of life in Madison as high or very high. Asked about the most important issue facing Madison, 23.9 percent said cost of living and/or taxes, and another 12.6 percent said budgets, spending, and finances.

Plan Recommendations

• Most people who choose to live in Madison are attracted by the unique character and ambience of the community and the quality of life here. There is a strong appreciation for what Madison has and its importance to community well- being. Preserving and enhancing the character and quality of life in Madison is a key focus of the plan. This plan recommends the town make every possible effort to retain and protect its character assets because these assets are important to residents.

Accomplishments

• Character assets to be identified, retained, and protected include scenic resources and coastal resources, historical and archeological resources, and architectural character.

• Consider adopting a property maintenance ("blight") ordinance.

• Continue to preserve open space and seek to interconnect open space areas into a cohesive overall system of "greenbelts" with pedestrian trails.

• Retain undeveloped land such as farms and forests.

• Expand coastal public access opportunities. In the telephone survey conducted as part of this planning process, 56 percent of survey respondents indicated that Madison should try to provide for more access to coastal areas.

• Maintain the character of Madison Center.

• Establish restrooms for public use and address parking.

• If Madison Center is to be a location for growing the tax base and doing it in an appropriate way, improved wastewater disposal should be a key part of that strategy. A logical next step is for the town to undertake a study of Madison Center septic issues and opportunities and suggest alternative solutions. Rather than just look at solving existing problems, the study should look at how to capitalize on some of the opportunities that exist in Madison Center in terms of desired business uses (restaurants, office uses, employers, etc.) that could add to the vitality of the area and the potential for additional residential uses.

• Encourage economic development. Since it might be difficult for Madison to enlarge business zones because the adjacent areas are already developed, the plan recommends that opportunities to expand business zoning be evaluated and that existing zoning regulations be studied so that the community can make the most efficient use of the land that is zoned for business uses.

• Diversify Madison's housing portfolio. In a telephone survey, 81 percent of respondents agreed that Madison should look at ways to address the housing needs of an aging population, and 72 percent agreed that Madison should look at ways to address more affordable housing for residents of any age.

• Enhance North Madison to ensure that residents of North Madison feel they receive adequate community services, have adequate access to community facilities and meeting space, have adequate access to recreation facilities, and are adequately served by business facilities.

• The Water Pollution Control Authority should prepare a town-wide wastewater facilities plan to identify wastewater disposal issues throughout Madison, identify environmentally sensitive areas, and develop long-term recommendations for the design, operation, and repair of individual on-site septic systems in residential areas.

• The Planning & Zoning Commission should consider undertaking a comprehensive reorganization of the zoning regulations and the subdivision regulations in order to make the regulations more user-friendly and continue to implement plan recommendations.

• Enforcement of regulations is an important related issue. It makes little sense to plan for the future of Madison and develop regulations to encourage positive results if a lack of enforcement or implementation means that little progress is made. Special efforts should be made to support enforcement of local regulations and programs.

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