10-year plan process beginning in Norwich

Norwich - The draft new Plan of Conservation and Development aims to direct future development to several main corridors of the city, while preserving rural Plain Hill, Wawecus Hill and an area near Mohegan Park.

The first step in rewriting the city's 10-year comprehensive plan of conservation and development begins Tuesday, when planners present the draft policy document to the City Council during an informational session at 6 p.m. at City Hall. Once the council receives it, the Commission on the City Plan and the commission's steering committee will start a 65-day public comment period followed by a formal public hearing and adoption of a plan.

The 75-page plan, with numerous maps that focus on specific areas for development, housing, infrastructure upgrades and open space conservation, calls for focusing future development in areas where utilities, roads and public transportation are suitable and where historic development already has taken place. These areas include downtown, Taftville, the Route 97 section of Occum, the Stanley Israelite Norwich Business Park and parts of Yantic, Thamesville along Route 32 and the Route 82 commercial area.

Peter Davis, director of planning and development and a member of the steering committee, said the plan will be a precursor to the more detailed Comprehensive Plan of Conservation and Development to follow. That plan will include updated zoning maps of the entire city and could take another several months to a year to prepare.

The 2003 plan of development update proved controversial, when planners recommended the city expand the business park into the rural farmland along Plain Hill Road. Neighbors objected vehemently and the City Council - which serves as the zoning board in Norwich - rejected the zone change.

The new plan recommends the city investigate expansion of the business park and possibly create an enterprise zone there, in which companies could qualify for certain tax breaks. It also recommends considering changing two small areas near the Yantic River and Interstate 395 from multifamily to business park zone.

The plan, however, relies less on designating zones for specific purposes, such as business park development, and concentrates instead on identifying broad areas for development.

That leaves more flexibility for the city to consider different types of development for specific properties, Davis said.

The plan recommends development be concentrated in core "nodes" where dense development has taken place historically.

Large sections of the city are colored light green on several maps, denoting low-density development, suitable for farming or open space conservation. These areas include reservoirs, Mohegan Park and other land already designated for conservation, and also large swaths of Plain Hill, Wawecus Hill and northern Occum.

Other maps place bright green stars on the city's historic assets, including the waterfront area, downtown, Taftville, the Uncas Leap area of the Yantic River and Chelsea Parade and the Norwichtown Green. The plan urges the city to consider establishing additional local historic districts to the two already established and to encourage restoration of historic properties.

The plan makes one other recommendation that deviates from past planning documents, an implementation plan reviewed every year by a new implementation committee. Davis said the implementation plan could be updated yearly to reflect shifting priorities and changing conditions in the city and region.

"The fact that a topic or issue is not addressed in (the plan) should not prevent it from being considered at some time in the future," the plan states in the introduction.

c.bessette@theday.com

If you go

What: City Council informational meeting
When: 6 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Room 335, City Hall
The draft plan is posted on the city website, www.norwichct.org. Review copies will be placed in the city clerk's office and at Otis Library.

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