Regional planning groups pushing for consolidation

Old Saybrook - If the state decides to consolidate regional planning groups, two of the agencies centrally located along the Connecticut River are hoping they'll get to join forces.

The Connecticut River Valley Council of Elected Officials, made up of leaders of the 17 towns that make up the two agencies - Connecticut River Estuary Regional Planning Agency and the Midstate Regional Planning Agency - sent the state Office of Policy and Management a letter on June 1 affirming an interest in merging.

"We believe that our towns share a common character which creates a distinctive regional identity," the letter states. "The natural beauty and cultural history of the valley is highly valued and is a source of attraction for residents and visitors alike. It is the goal of the CRVCEO to maintain and enhance their distinct identity, rather than to evolve in a suburban sprawl pattern outward from existing larger urban areas."

OPM has been tasked with reassessing the boundaries of the state's 15 regional planning groups by 2012. Many believe the end result will be a mandated consolidation of the groups, similar to the consolidation of the state's 117 probate courts down to 54.

Old Saybrook First Selectman Michael Pace, who is chairman of the Lower Connecticut Valley Selectmen's Association, said the 17 towns were being proactive in suggesting the consolidation of the two agencies.

"We'd like to design what protocols we want for our future," Pace said.

The two agencies would prefer to remain separate but understand that the state is pushing for more regionalization of services, said Linda Krause, CRERPA's executive director.

"The argument is that the bigger you are, the more efficient you are," Krause said. "I think in lots of places, that's not necessarily the case. Sometimes you're just bigger."

Connecticut has five regional planning agencies, three councils of elected officials and seven councils of governments, according to the Connecticut Association of Regional Planning Organizations' May 13 report, "The Geographic Scope of Connecticut's Regional Planning."

The report was issued to, in part, suggest criteria for evaluation of the planning groups' boundaries, Krause said.

Members of the CRVCEO felt their two agencies should stick together because the 17 towns have more in common with each other than they do with the surrounding cities of New Haven, New London and Hartford, Krause said.

"We call it the space between the places," Krause said. "It's really its own place. And that's the impetus behind it. They think that if they are glued onto any other region, they'll kind of get lost."

The letter to OPM was "basically a weigh-in from this area that says, 'Look, when you're looking at boundaries, consider these things,'" Krause said.

Regional planning agencies:

• Connecticut River Estuary Regional Planning Agency (Chester, Clinton, Deep River, Essex, Killingworth, Lyme, Old Lyme, Old Saybrook, Westbrook)

• Midstate Regional Planning Agency (Cromwell, Durham, East Haddam, East Hampton, Haddam, Middlefield, Middletown, Portland)

• Central Connecticut Regional Planning Agency

• Greater Bridgeport Regional Planning Agency

• South Western Regional Planning Agency

Councils of elected officials

• Council of Governments of the Central Naugatuck Valley

• Housatonic Valley Council of Elected Officials

• Litchfield Hills Council of Elected Officials

Councils of governments

• Capitol Region Council of Governments

• Northeastern Connecticut Council of Governments

• Northwestern Connecticut Council of Governments

• South Central Regional Council of Governments

• Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments

• Valley Council of Governments

• Windham Region Council of Governments

Source: "The Geographic Scope of Connecticut's Regional Planning," by the Connecticut Association of Regional Planning Organizations, May 13, 2010

TO SEE THE FULL REPORT:
To see the Connecticut Association of Regional Planning Organizations' full report, visit www.hvceo.org/carpo.php.

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