"STONE WALLS ARE A WESTON SIGNATURE" SAYS CONNECTICUT MAGAZINE:  Weston #2 for towns 10,000-15,000 again - trails Old Saybrook
From Troutbrook Valley (l) to, Leon Lachat's barns (r), reasons why Weston rates high on any list! 
The Saugatuck Reservoir, a major feature in our region - in U.S. Census "TIGER" mapping program.   And at the right, THE NEW TOWN PLAN

Unofficial  D R A F T  by "About Town"  expressing the opinions of this website and no one else!

WESTON TOWN PLAN OF CONSERVATION AND DEVELOPMENT 2010-2020:

In Weston, Connecticut, Planning is a Process. What P & Z did differently this time around...it is seeing beyond land planning and zoning...and here is a link to the P&Z final product.

Table of Contents:  footnoted chapter by chapter to our sources. 


Regional picture; 


Review of past Plans

Next, what has changed since the last Plan?  (As well as some of what has not changed...)

Existing land use in Weston 2008;  individual lot by lot.  See newest data with our own analysis here!

Goals for the new Plan;  does Weston relate to new plan ideas  for the State of Connecticut...or to Paris?

Objectives 2020:  suggested new concept in neighborhood planning;  energy use improvement in Town "superblock.


Implementation

Available maps online;

Data resources;  and more resources;

On-line articlesuse of aerial photography and digital mapping here.

Instruction for doing your own Plan;

Other parts of our process.
--------------

Index:


"SPEAK UP 2010" NOW ONLINE HERE:  P&Z announces Public Hearing timing...
Length:  1 hour 41 minutes 32 seconds


'SPEAK UP 2009' video:  more context for writing this Plan...

Cable/DSL version:
http://www.lwvweston.org/LWVSpeakup2-7-09CableVersion.wmv

Dial-up: 
http://www.lwvweston.org/LWVSpeakup2-7-09ModemVersion.wmv







C H A N G E    O U T S I D E   W E S T O N . . .
What has changed since the June 2000 Plan of Conservation and Development?



Economy:  as the economy in Connecticut changes, will Weston be affected?  And cost of gasoline and heating oil is an unknown negative
influence.  How about the global downturn?

Affordable housing:  Weston must respond to State Plan of C&D requirement that every town address this matter;
Environmental threats:  drought cycle (last in 2002) - how about flooding, too - emergency services response - examples of regional problems
to the fore.

Infrastructure repair and maintenance must continue even as the town is under economic stress.



SOURCES:

Regional Plan of Conservation and Development updated 2006; revision of SWRPA website  in 2009 employs "drop-down" menus for finding work on Environment and Housing Committees and their publications.

Surface water quality in the main branch of the Saugatuck River - is it still as pure as ever?  Link to more information about it here.

"The central government [of Indonesia] is blaming poor urban planning for the disaster, our correspondent says" regarding the following: one Jakarta
resident, Elan Manoppo, told the BBC there was "no integrated development plan" for the capital, adding:
"Most of the city's drainage systems are
not taken care of."


Water quantity;  run off from heavy rains in CT...is this what Dominski-Oakrock's report was all about?

Flood plain management:  a new approach? 

Are we seeing overbuilding or is it global warming, or what?

Check out this story for planner's-eye-view of issue.

Terrorism?

"Smart Growth" in CT as it works its way into over-all planning, 2007...

Planning process far, far away.







C H A N G E    I N S I D E    W E S T O N . . .
In Weston planning activity, what has changed since the June 2000 Plan of Conservation and Development?



Lachat Autumn 2009

Planning is now professionalized;
Capital planning is integrated with other plans on a ten-year cycle;
Schools complex and fields projects are completed;
Full development:  vacant tracts almost all developed or permanently preserved.



SOURCES:

NEMO on-line:  do-it-yourself Town Plan toolkit from CLEAR.

From Assessor's Maps:  please note that these  Internet maps are for informal planning use only.

LAND USE CHANGES IN WESTON, CT:  1986, 1999

For CLEAR data from aerials from NEMO...

NEW - Existing conditions, buildings and structures, at ten town-owned sites, 2008 report.

School and Field construction.

Conservation/Education Center proposal back on the table!
Lachat 2 was purchased by Town Meeting in 1999, completing this most significant acquisition.

Where did Weston first get the idea that environmental planning was a wise thing to do?  Check some resources here.



Watercolor (detail) by Margaret Wirtenberg
The School Road campus was developed since the last Town Plan revision...

GOALS OF THE 2010-2020 Plan :
as suggested by "About Town"  (written in the "About Town" column July 17, 2008)...



Renew:  Weston, a residential community, should renew its compact with nature and dedicate itself to supporting the natural water cycle;
Improve public infrastrucure and its maintenance to minimize run-off waste and effects; 
Maximize output and efficiency of limited natural resources in a time of climate change:  make the centralized school-town complex energy self
sustaining.

Minimize the human foot-print;  reuse land, buildings and resources;  recycle.

NEW GOAL - inspired by P&Z:  Make choices
and set priorities for use of limited resources.

Pooling municipal health benefits is a good start
Alan J. Desmarais, CT MIRROR
May 27, 2010

A new bill passed by the General Assembly and now before Gov. M. Jodi Rell for signature could offer fiscal relief as municipalities all over Connecticut stare down a current budget crisis that will become even more daunting in fiscal year 2011- 2012 and beyond. House Bill 5424 allows towns and boards of education a no-strings-attached option to pool their healthcare benefits-and thereby better control soaring benefit costs. This bill confirms that the previous legislative action, which allowed municipalities to "jointly perform any function that each municipality may perform separately," specifically applies to the financing of employee healthcare benefits. Many towns now understand that this law opens up a necessary cost-control opportunity, and none too soon.

This is not the first time such pooling arrangements have been green-lighted in New England. The Governmental Health Group of Rhode Island was created to 2005 and now includes cities, towns and school districts that have joined together on a voluntary basis. Among the keys to the success of the Rhode Island program-which are also essential to this latest effort in Connecticut-are that member groups define the pool's concepts, organizational structure, and financial framework.

Prior efforts in Connecticut to formalize benefit pooling among different municipalities have failed, in large part because they were not initiated by the municipal members. Prior efforts included benefit standardizations that may have been unattractive and costly to many towns, and did not have the benefit of the clarity of language included in HB 5424 This latest effort has gained approval in part because it is more flexible: It opens the door to pooling without mandating that it be done in one particular way.

So how will Connecticut cities and towns react to this law? Many of them face budget crises that are largely driven by benefit costs, and pooling opens new cost control possibilities beyond the obvious economies of scale and accompanying lower administrative costs. For example, with pools, towns can more readily participate in quality cost-saving wellness programs because they can purchase such services at a group cost. As a larger group, they have access to more analytic horsepower and can more readily share ideas on plan design. They have more clout with hospitals and physicians in contract negotiations. Small towns in particular can benefit from these new avenues, which have traditionally been "large town features."

As is the practice in Rhode Island, the Connecticut law permits each plan to be underwritten and priced according to their respective experience and risk. Every town then has to carry its own weight. So while every town in the pool can benefit from increased negotiating clout, a town is still responsible for the costs associated with a less healthy population. This underwriting methodology is important in attracting the most successful towns into a pool, since these better performing municipalities would be the last to join a pool burdened by adverse selection. (Adverse selection is the desire of those with high claims activity to escape the accompanying high premiums by joining with those who have lower claims activity and premiums.)
While the pooling law does not line up explicitly with health care reform, it encourages a few things in the spirit of the new federal law: An emphasis on prevention. Renewed focus on the analytics of efficiency. A spirit of innovation.

This approach seems well-suited for Connecticut, where a strong independent municipal culture has always prevailed and where inter-municipal organizations are already in place with existing administrative structures that are just beginning to bear fruit. The new law offers that delicate balance: The ability to remain independent while being a member of a group that can help moderate costs. My guess is we'll be seeing widespread interest in pooled benefits, and my hope is that this effort is the first of many that can offer practical, actionable solutions to looming municipal budget crises that are only getting worse.

Alan J. Desmarais is senior health benefits consultant for Milliman Inc. and a former municipal finance director in Connecticut. He lives in West Hartford.


_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________




OBJECTIVES OF THE 2010-2020 PLAN: 



CLICK ABOVE TO GO TO REGIONAL, TOWN AND NEIGHBORHOOD/SUB-NEIGHBORHOOD MAPS
New concept for this new Plan of C&D:  Neighborhood Sub-Plans

 
Chapters of the Plan:  go to each chapter or just scroll down!

NEW CHAPTER
Emergency management and public safety priorities to the fore... watch Police Chief interview here:
Click Here If You Are Using A Dial-Up Modem
Click Here If You Are Using A DSL Or Cable Connection
Natural resources;

Roads;

Community facilities;

Residential development;

Business development;

Open space and Recreation.





NATURAL RESOURCES:  PROTECT THEM.  There is an urgency to protect the natural water cycle while also making use of other natural
processes and energy sources.
Weston is fortunate here in the 21st century, to have natural resources to enjoy and maintain.  We live with the necessity of maintaining the natural
water cycle as Weston is a community devoid of sewers and with public water supply only to the Schools and Town buildings located in the central
area plus @28 homes off Godfrey Road; a few streets are served from the end of Westport's waterlines.  Looking on the bright side, the sun is one
natural resource available where the trees don't get in the way!

Over the years suggestions have been made regarding environmental zoning;  Aquifer protection is something the whole community must care about. 
The recent introduction of special language for an overlay zone around the Aquarion well fields in the south of town, based upon Connecticut mapping,
is something new for us.  Weston followed suggested DEP language in developing this area.

Following upon the Dominski-Oakrock Study (Weston Environmental Resources Manual, 1976) was the Weston Water Resources Guide (1993), which,
while the water testing program was beginning, discovered PCE and TCE down gradient from both the Town bus garage and the private shopping center, reporting these finding to both the Westport-Weston Health District and the CTDEP.  Corrective measures were taken to clear the water supply, and a
regime of groundwater monitoring was put in place.

We note that Stamford is currently starting a well testing program in the northern part of their city.


Saugatuck River Valley Watershed Alliance
Weston has taken the lead on this effort, as it has on the Air Space redesign issue.  It is in our interest to see that water supply stays pure and abundant; 
it is no longer as peaceful and quiet as it used to be - anywhere, in fact.  But one new threat to the long term preservation of the Weston life style is
NOISE.
 







ROADS:  KEEP UP ROAD REPAIR PROGRAM TO AVOID NEED FOR BONDING
NEW Town of Weston culvert policy;

CT DOT ADT data for Weston @2005 here...

"About Town" interview with Weston's DPW Director on the subject of Weston's roads.  Watch it now and find out how public works plans ahead!
Joe Lametta interview DSL Or Cable Connection
Joe Lametta interview Dial-Up Modem version






COMMUNITY FACILITIES:  PROPER MAINTENANCE IS VITAL TO ASSURE FULL LIFETIME FOR CAPITAL INVESTMENT (some noted below).
A NEW CONCEPT EMERGES.

Each year the Board of Finance puts the Board of Education through its paces.  This year is an imposing financial challenge to governments and
individuals.

What can we expect from the School Budget this year, FY 2011-2012?  Coming soon..."About Town" interview with First Selectperson.

For Fiscal 2011, "About Town" interviewed Superintendent of Schools Jerome
Belair and Director of Finance and Operations Dr. Jo-Ann Keating: 

Please  Click Here If You Are Using A Dial-Up Modem
Please  Click Here If You Are Using A DSL Or Cable Connection



From the excellent Board of Education website, a link to their recommended budget, FY2009-2010:  http://www.westonk12-ct.org/

FY2008-2009 was an example of what is done in a more normal situation.  Here is a link to part of that presentation, especially the section
that relates to enrollment projections.

The Weston Budget, although dominated by school expenses operating and capital, has another side--the "Town side."  Read of the budget of the
Board of Selectmen (FY2009-2010): http://www.westonct.gov/media/file/BoardOfSelectmenBudget2009-2010.pdf

Additionally, through its appointed Building Committee and that body's subcommittee on Alternative Energy, plans are just beginning to emerge to
employ what for Weston is a new concept - establishing, perhaps, an Energy Improvement District in the superblock of Town/School activities in the
Central Part of Town!  Other departments and disciplines keep innovating, whether Social Services or Parks and Recreation...


         


Centralized school system includes its own central office building and a tertiary treatment plant.  Watch "About Town" interview with new
Superintendent of Schools Jerome Belair for up to date report of status of the educational system in Weston. 





OUR NEW CONCEPT ACCEPTED FOR NEW TOWN PLAN, WE THINK:  THE SUPERBLOCK


The School Road superblock should combine with Town Hall/Library/Main Fire House facilities for effective energy improvement (note: 
Public Works headquarters building below included). Middle School needs a new roof, and we wonder about a solar panel option there...
Please link to the Town of Weston for the draft Plan of Conservation and Development 2010 - this concept appears to be in the Plan!







Public Works is fully reported on by Mr. Lametta (see "Roads").  DPW headquarters at left, Transfer Station/Recycling Center at right. 
Recycling (Weston Transfer Station and Recycling effort at right above) is a critical issue right now, with markets for secondary materials
picking up...or not!!!



Library roof will need replacement in the next years.



Other municipal government...

  • Town Hall:  the roof replacement and related repairs is now ongoing.
  • Police:  the department, we believe, may seek long range alternatives for new quarters.
  • Fire and ambulance:  the Lyons Plains fire station got the approval of Special Town Meeting, andis now open for business!  Data about fire and property loss (U.S.A.) here.
  • Social services plans ahead for  increased senior and other demands as economy goes through a rough period;  new ideas at work!
  • Emergency Services:  our idea...does it make sense to work regionally on this?  More than we do already?



Semi-public uses:  their role in  providing places and spaces for needed community activity changes.  Norfield Congregational Church, founded
in 1757, is an important part of Weston's history, and of its present and its future.  Watch a very special show commemorating the Church's 250th anniversary!
Watch now!

At LWV of Weston info meeting, P&Z Chair., Vice-Chair. and member in charge of rewrite of Plan report;  cluster development considered.


RESIDENTIAL DEVELOPMENT:  Town presently undergoing reassessment...

REVALUATION OFFICIALLY COMPLETE (APPEALS ONGOING TO B.A.A.) 
Check out your assessment here:
http://data.visionappraisal.com/WestonCT/DEFAULT.asp


-------------------------------

UNIFORM TWO-ACRE ZONING (15% BUILDING COVERAGE)
"About Town" unofficial map of non-conforming lots
above, exclusive to this website (click here for larger version);  consider changes to
residential zone to protect natural water cycle.





At LWV of Weston info meeting, P&Z Chair., Vice-Chair. and member in charge of rewrite of Plan report;  proposals regarding business development for both boosting tax base and providing services considered.


BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT:  WESTON DOES NOT SEEK THE LIMELIGHT.  NOR THE DISRUPTION CONSTRUCTION FOR MAJOR INFRASTRUCTURE SUPPORT FOR COMMERCE WOULD REQUIRE.  READ THE WORDS OF PLANNING AND ZONING IN THEIR DRAFT...
The Lunch Box doubles, the pharmacy is reborn at reduced size, the bank is working as a small town bank again.  Without infrastructure, any more,
larger scale development of a non-residential nature will not prove feasible, and as Georgetown is on the cusp of a rebirth at Gilbert & Bennett,
which is planning, we believe, for a railroad station at their site, the  words of the last Plan are well taken:  "So Weston finds itself somewhat removed
from the greater density and bustling activity of neighboring towns in the region...Concern for development to the north, in particular, is paramount. 
What happens in Georgetown--at the assisted living facility under construction at Gilbert Hill or with the Gilbert and Bennett site--will have a
considerable impact on Weston"



Weston Center through the years.






NEWS:  Bicycle-Pedestrian Committee appointed and on the job!!!
'CLUB WESTON' IDEA MAKES IT INTO DRAFT!!!  At LWV of Weston info meeting, P&Z Chair., Vice-Chair. and member in charge of rewrite of Plan report;  school superblock and specifically street-closing on Sundays in the summer is a big policy for community-building activity!!! 


OPEN SPACE AND RECREATION:    KEEP MAJOR  PUBLIC ACTIVE RECREATION FACILITES TIED TO THE CENTRAL PART OF TOWN
Public and private spaces and places can link together and work to create an even greater protection for the environment and natural creatures who
live with us.   Above, Bisceglie Park (left) and right, Trout Brook Valley.
"About Town" interview with  then Aspetuck Land Trust Executive Director - watch it now:

    Bruce LePage Interview, Cable or DSL Version
    Bruce LePage Interview, Dial-up Modem Version

The Parks & Recreation Commission has some great ideas and original thinkers at work...visit its webpage.
Get the word on how we compare to other towns in the region:  SWRPA Open Space Study




At LWV of Weston info meeting, P&Z Chair., Vice-Chair. and member in charge of rewrite of Plan report;  implementation to be an ongoing, if voluntary, responsibility (taken more seriously).
IMPLEMENTATION OF THE 2020 PLAN:  Always look out for change in Hartford...





Then there is Regional Cooperation...


Pictured above at Norwalk City Hall:  This had to be the most lively SWR Legislative Breakfast yet - Congressman Himes (r) called it  "a partisan food fight" and it was for new Darien  Legislative Rep to put things in focus!
2011 not to be videotaped
2 0 1 0   R E G I O N A L   L E G I S L A T I V E    B R E A K F A S T  
South Western Regional Planning Agency/Metropolitan Planning Organization meet with Legislators at the "Community Room," Norwalk City Hall,  January 26, 2010

http://www.aboutweston.com/SWRPALegMtg1-26-10CableVersion.wmv   (172 megaBytes)
 
http://www.aboutweston.com/SWRPALegMtg1-26-10ModemVersion.wmv   (25 megaBytes)



Pictured above at Norwalk City Hall:  Senator McKinney, First Selectman (Wilton) Brennan, Senator Boucher, Chair. of the MPO, First Selectman Woody Bliss

REGIONAL COOPERATION 2009:  Remember this fracas?  The issue is back...
Another is to take a regional view of shared problems:  please note that First Selectman Bill Brennan of Wilton pointed out areas where SWRPA towns
cooperate voluntarily!  Watch the 2009 SWRPA-MPO Legislative Breakfast here:


Cable version:
http://www.aboutweston.com/SWRPALegMtg1-8-09CableVersion.wmv
Dial-up version: 
http://www.aboutweston.com/SWRPALegMtg1-8-09ModemVersion.wmv




MAPPING AVAILABLE FROM OUR FILES:
Through the reassessment project, the best maps of Weston with lot lines will be available, eventually.  In the meanwhile, Where to beginGet out the
drafting tools...

Some tools of the trade - link to Town of Weston website.


As someone once said to me, "you gotta have a map"...and one that gives you a big pictureOn your mark, get set, search and survey!!!  Mapping in the new Plan here.

SOURCES:

THIS WEBSITE'S original maps of neighborhoods in Weston: an overview of what is "on the ground"...

What does the U.S. CENSUS tell us?

WHAT WE THINK FROM THE OLD TOWN PLAN HAS BEEN ACHIEVED:  "About Town" is of the opinion that Weston is doing very well at
implementing its Plan.  Committees formal and informal are at work on Global Warming, Saugatuck River Valley Initiative, Weston Parks Project,
WestonArts, and others.  The School expansion project is winding down successfully and the Shopping Center has submitted a map and plan for its activities. 

However, since the Weston Plan of Conservation and Development 2000 (PDF unofficial version here) was approved (June 30, 2000), newer Town
Plans in other towns must say more than Weston's does about the affordable housing issue.  The Weston P&Z, when commenting on the new
Regional Plan, expressed interest in creative solutions SWRPA might come up with on the subject of affordable housing:  SWRPA Housing Study.


SWRPA found it "not inconsistent with its Plan"
REMEMBER: THE NEW PLAN MUST BE "NOT INCONSISTENT WITH" SWRPA's (and SWRPA's had to be found "not inconsistent with"
the CT Plan--which it was found to be, as were the addenda for open space and recreation chapter and maps, transportation long-range
plan and the Housing Study of housing opportunities within the region). 





LAND USE PLANNING 101:  BASE MAP AND OUR MAP OF EXISTING LAND USE 2008
A "windshield survey" (in the 21st century, via aerial perspective) requires a functioning road system (and bridges across the Saugatuck).




 What land use color to use for each?  An "existing land use map is two-dimension; it depicts land use category for the acreage but not the structures.
Cobb's Mill Inn (by the waterfall).
Local attorney's office;
Weston has a centralized school system with all buildings on one campus (detail);
Town Hall.
Bisceglie Park.
Weston Library.
Onion Barn.
Weston Shopping Center.
Norfield Church.
St. Francis.

Note: parking and loading requirements not discussed.  But that is an interesting topic to explore:  2001 standards report - how have these changed over time?





DATA RESOURCES 21st CENTURY STYLE:  E-STUDIES & E-SOURCES
Link to "About Town" maps for neighborhoods 

SOURCES: 

Kaestle Boos Report summary

Land Use law -
article about large subdivisions being treated differently from smaller ones

Appendices:  a Zoning/Environmental Chronology;  list of Town Officials
(under construction)

On-line research;

Population articles from the Net...other than government sources;

Urban design and historic preservation in the new Weston Plan?

Macro/micro economics;

Other sources.
Handy map of U.S. Census Block Groups 2000, and courtesy of the South Western Regional Planning Agency, some data for Weston.

Locational map of Weston Historic Districts.

Background on the affordable housing issue;

Where the vacant land identified in the 1969 Town Plan (our first) went;

Dominski-Oakrock recommendations re: zero incremental run-off and others built into subdivision and zoning regulations since 1976 in Weston; 
some of the more advanced concepts recommended but not yet implemented by P&Z from D&O "Weston Environmental Resources Manuel." 
Sample HYDROLOGY section of this 1977 (publishing date) document, indicating "sub-watersheds" via dotted lines - here.

URL for State Data Center, which should provide FREE info:  http://ctsdc.uconn.edu/

U.S. Department of Labor: http://www.stats.bls.gov/

Research Data link, D.E.C.D.: http://www.ct.gov/ecd/cwp/view.asp?a=1106&Q=250610&ecdNav=|

Our labor market area: http://www.ctdol.state.ct.us/lmi/lma_bridgeport_stamford.htm

TAXATION - how government activity in Weston is financed:

Overview of property tax;

Connecticut and Property tax studies;

Smart Growth and Property Tax Commission Final Report;

Metropatterns; and stay tuned for Legislative action this Session.

WATERSHED  RESOURCES:
DEP Grants List (2008):  http://www.ct.gov/dep/cwp/view.asp?a=2719&q=325628&depNav_GID=1654&depNav=|

Center for Watershed Protection: http://www.cwp.org/Calendar/

Saugatuck River Watershed Partnership:http://www.nature.org/wherewework/northamerica/states/connecticut/preserves/art22151.html

Flood plain management new approach.


E-MAPPING
Newest from "CLEAR" ("Son of NEMO") is  Weston map showing changes in land cover between 1985 and 2002, tables.

The CT State Plan:  http://www.opm.state.ct.us/igp/cdplan/cdplan2.htm

The SW Regional Plan:  http://www.swrpa.org/pdf_files/regplan/2006_Regional_Plan_Final_5-18-06.pdf

Run-off matters...and global warming.



MORE SOURCES:  Planning is not a static activity...some of our ideas that didn't make the P&Z's official 2010 Town Plan are coming into  view in 2014!



IN-PROCESS FOR NINE YEARS...
Town-wide Sketch Plan at left;  at right, a blank base map for central Weston planning.  About Town coloring in its own planning map...2005 example here.

About Town columns;

"About Town" recent intervierws with:
Police Chief
Superintendent of Schools
Director of Public Works
Former Executive Director of the Aspetuck Land Trust

Online articles:  announcing the "Workshop" Feb. 26, 2009; on populationfrom the FORUM, on culvert policy;  also from the FORUM - "village district"

Online articles on the economy

Online articles about water supply;  reshaping the state's future;

CT legal decisions

Other.


F R O M    T H E    A B O U T    T O W N    C O L U M N . . .



                       

Making Order Out Of Chaos -
April 20, 2000


Weston has always been a very neat and orderly place.  

Zoning makes order out of what could become chaotic construction, as Plans are "built out" and the future becomes the present before our very eyes.  We are a society of laws, and the Zoning Regulations--not to mention the Inland Wetland laws and the Building Code and more general societal norms--are what keep us civilized.

In the case of the Town of Weston, the map of all our dreams is the Town Plan of Conservation and Development.  A short series of regional workshops this Spring on the subject "Linking Land Use to Water Quality" is being made available by the University of Connecticut.

Interested in land use?  Norwalk City Hall (125 East Avenue, Community Room #128) on May 2 and 24, from 7:30pm to 9pm both evenings, is the place to be! Through the University of Connecticut's NEMO ("non-point education for municipal officials") instructors, protecting against water quality degradation will be front and center. NEMO is against land use "sprawl," and that topic will no doubt be raised.  Showing how other areas have used watersheds as the framework for planning is part of NEMO's mandate.  You can find out more about just who "NEMO" is by visiting this column's WEBsite:  http://members.aol.com/AboutWstn/index.html.

Action on Village District Bill

Remember the "Municipal Village District" idea discussed by "About Town" here a few weeks ago?  "Village Districts" revisions are still alive in the Legislature!  The village district proposal this session is more applicable to Weston's needs than last year's version, which became law.  This year's bill, sHB 5177, is a revision of last session's action.  The new "Act Concerning Village Districts" has now passed the House and is on the Calendar of the Senate.  What is different about the concept this year?

This year the bill works for Weston.  Introduced into this new, improved version is the required tie to the municipal plan of conservation and development.  Although zoning law, village districts would be the kind of zoning only permitted by the Town Plan.  If your "village district" site does not show on the Town Plan of Conservation and Development, it can't exist.  The bill this year has expanded "village districts" from those places within communities distinctive for their historic virtues to just plain "distinctive" locations around Town.  Although the Town of Weston may be exempt from its own zoning law, it must follow the guidelines of its Town Plan!

For example, the just completed Final School Facility Plan creates a "village district" combining Schools, Town Hall and Weston Library, as illustrated on the Plan map.  The School Plan "Option 4A" map (the option selected by both the Ad Hoc School Facilities Planning Committee and the Board of Education) could become a part of the new Town Plan.  Defining the limits of Weston's "Village District" and establishing these in the Town Plan of Conservation and Development 2000 is an idea whose time has come.

The Town Plan thus is the key protecting Weston against "sprawl," by allowing growth only at the "Village District."         



From 2008...



The Plan


One of the first steps in making a new Town Plan for Weston is creating a map that can be viewed on the Internet.  

What information do we need to start the planning process?  In the early stages of this effort, using a set of maps from the NEMO website will do.  Create a “Community
Resource Inventory Online.”  Start here: http://nemo.uconn.edu/


Is it good planning or just good luck?  As the reassessment rolls on, Vision Appraisals will be updating property maps online, coded to new assessments.  I can envision
the Planning and Zoning Commission being able to piggyback its early planning efforts to determine how much of Weston is yet to be developed, with this other accurate
information being produced for the town.


Is it time to revisit Dominski-Oakrock?  The Weston Environmental Resources Manual of 1976 at least needs updating.  Its basic principles still hold water, no pun intended.  However, has development over the past quarter century eroded river banks?  Is rainfall more intense now, or is it that the increasing percentage of impervious surfaces
townwide makes flooding a more common occurance?


In other communities around the country, information about lot lines, natural features, infrastructure, land use, and links to other information coded to each particular property
are available.   Most famously, Greenwich fights against revealing public infrastructure data, and may be winning this battle at the Freedom of Information Commission.


Some of this appears intrusive, and here in Weston we do not have the ability to cross-index maps and data.  Will any new Plan provide this to the general public? 
Should it?


Perhaps most importantly, should the Planning and Zoning Commission make this new Plan more comprehensive?  By this I mean including a section on Capital Planning.  

Should there be discussions of taxes?  How does land use relate to taxes?

What do you think are other relevant questions to ponder?  Post your thoughts at www.aboutweston.com/aboutwestonforums

---------------

Climate Change

“Climate change” can be hard to envision.  Treading water on Main Street in Westport is one vision.  Having this year’s Presidential Debates run in a non-partisan way,
such as they would be if the national League of Women Voters were to run them, would be another. 


Julie Belaga said it best.  Having recently been asked by the Weston League to speak to the topic "Restoring American Leadership in Global Environmental Affairs,"
she asked “what leadership?” 


This former Environmental Protection Agency Region One (New England) administrator was very frank.  She pointed out that E.P.A. is not an agency in the Cabinet on equal
footing with, for example State, Defense, or Education.   Until the next administration in Washington decides to make Climate Change a focus for all departments, America
will not be able to focus on its own environmental crises, never mind achieving “leadership” status worldwide.


Weston over the years, however, might be closer to leading the pack.  How does Weston come to be so smart and so lucky?  Why is it that we are able to politically unify
over almost any issue that smacks of environmental concern?  If Weston has a motto for municipal government improvements, it is “Less is more.” 


Our Republican First Selectmen is perhaps the most distinguished nature lover I have ever met.  He gets support from our Republican and new Democratic Selectpersons. 
They are thoughtful and dedicated.  The Board of Selectmen has our best interests at heart.  But it isn’t easy to keep a balance among competing community interests.


Can Weston navigate the waters of economic gloom and doom and come out at the other end still the natural, unsullied “rural” community we all know and love?

Will there be an ultimate happy ending to the Lachat saga?  This joint effort by the Town of Weston and the Nature Conservancy to create a “Juliana Lachat Preserve”
entrance to Devil’s Den began with initial purchase of part of the farm in 1997. 


I once met Leon Lachat at the Lunch Box.  He was a modest and kindly gentleman.  Mr. Lachat would have wanted Weston to be at peace as a community.  Let us try to
find a fitting middle ground.  One more time, let us join together to try to find a way to make the Juliana Lachat Preserve the new entrance to the Den, without destroying the neighborhood.


Call it municipal climate change.

----------------------

Town Plan Progress

What’s happening at the Planning and Zoning Commission?  How is work coming along on the Town Plan update?

This Plan will have to pass muster with the Board of Selectmen and possibly a Town Meeting.  So that means that we all must keep up with the planning process.  Read the
most recent Plan here: WestonTownPlan2000.pdf


The Commission would do well to retain a consultant for this summer.  Set up a schedule and locational map for traffic counts.  Gather data from the Police Department and
the State of Connecticut.  The Fire Department is a big player in our community as well.


New water testing has its schedule, too, and should be done during Fall and Spring.  The 1993 Weston Water Study needs updating.  Data gathering from secondary sources
of all kinds is a nice summertime activity.  While school is out is a good time to sit down with the Board of Education and its staff to gather historic information from their files. 
And find out what to plan for in their bailiwick. 


Find out about infrastructure plans including the Kaestle-Boos report.  Capital Planning deserves a whole chapter for itself in Town Plan 2010.  And let us not forget to check in
with the Building Committee and its Alternative Energy Sub-Committee. 


Part of the new Plan’s process should include general “meet the citizens” events beginning this winter, too.  And let’s not forget Global Warming!

------------------------

Regulations Update

Our zoning regulations need to be “tightened up.”

Development can erode the natural environment.  The effects of a “blow out” of soil and erosion protection devices at a construction site can be shocking. 

When there are steep slopes, there is always the opportunity for heavy rainfall to get the earth moving downhill.  And especially if a building lot is being redeveloped.  Bare
land is particularly vulnerable.


How to keep this from happening?  One way that is sure to minimize erosion is to simply not take down trees, bushes and grass.  This natural growth and its roots grabs the
soil and anchors it against all but the most calamitous events.


There are mathematical models to calculate runoff.  Some features to consider are degree of slope; frequency, duration, and severity of rain events; type of soil; and the natural features that are present

But make no mistake, whenever “engineered solutions” to development are employed, you are walking a thin line between “progress” and catastrophe.  In order to make
Weston’s two-acre zoning work for the future there must be changes made to our present zoning regulations.


These changes involve a strict reduction in “coverage” on a building lot.  Presently a two-acre lot may use 15 percent of its 87,000 square feet for the house and other structures.  Planning and Zoning should reduce this percentage immediately.

There must also be provision made in one or more sections of the Town code to provide for proper management of roof runoff, such as via connection to underground drainage structures.  

Lastly, boards and commissions that deal with land use must keep in mind the need to always consider the impacts of their decisions on the ultimate sustainability of the
planet.  Beginning in Weston.


-----------------------

Green plan for Connecticut

What forms our environment?  The answer is we do.  Weston’s next Town Plan should be green.

The terms “carbon footprint” and “sustainability” are very popular now.  Books and scholarly papers come forth almost daily announcing the end of the world as we have
known it. 


One “inconvenient truth” is that globalization of the world’s economies has actually brought us into direct conflict with saving the planet. 

A global economy only works if the costs of cooperating in one big market do not exceed those of the alternative of going it alone.  Could the United States, for example,
get by without importing significantly from abroad?  Has this country ever been able to isolate itself? 


The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island bear silent witness to the fact that the answer to my questions is “not really.”  In simpler times, before much of the industrial era,
maybe. 


Will we have to get used to a different calculus for job creation in the future?  The answer may lie in having a plan.  A green plan.  I have confidence that American businesses
that remain will find a way to redefine the old economic equation. 


Beginning in Weston, a “green plan” means being smart about how much the human footprint mars the natural environment.  No clear-cutting.  No bad chemicals on the
ground.  Keep the natural water cycle going every day! 


--------------------


Simple

Weston could get a complex about being a really small town.  With a limited tax base and unbridled appetite for spending money on education.  But what else is there to
spend tax money on?


No sewers.  No public water, except for the 29 homes near the former landfill off Godfrey Road.  An excellent Police Department, Public Works pros, devoted town hall and town
hall annex employees.  A part-time First Selectman.  Capital funding for needs of the volunteer Fire Department/Emergency Services group.


The little city that is our schools complex mirrors in some ways the rest of the community.  Along its meandering spine or “mile of safety” are speed bumps, stop signs, and
curb cuts.  The Board of Education works with the police to keep all modes of travel safe.


Cleverly designed loop roads help separate the different classes of vehicles.  Bus loading, service deliveries, emergency access, parking for teachers and students and other
staff all are part of the School Road plan. 


Adjoining the more than 100 acres of centralized school system, with no roadway cutting through, are Town Hall, Weston Library, Department of Public Works, and the Onion
Barn.  Have I left anything out?


This, in planning language, is called a “superblock.”  It is Weston’s Central Park.

-----------------------

Infrastructure

What is infrastructure?  Who wants it or needs it?

A quick tour of town just this week showed several types of infrastructure in several places.  There were significant clusters of street lights at the town hall-school complex. 
There are four intersections with traffic lights and one with a “blinker.”  We’ve got bridges, one under repair and one waiting in the wings for its redo. 


So Weston is not what you would call a “bustling metropolis” with a downtown and an “other side of the track” neighborhood.  There are no tracks.  When you have no
infrastructure capable of handling higher densities, developers will go elsewhere. 


One kind of infrastructure that Weston has is a road system.  In fact, as the Town Plan rewrite gets started, one of the first considerations should be how our road system is
working now and its prospects for the future.  Road drainage is a concern.  Run-off in Weston eventually makes its way to Long Island Sound.  So we try to keep catch basins
and storm sewers clear of silt.


There are two north-south State highways.  Major and minor Town roads meander east and west. And then there are private, dead end streets.  Most are paved but some are
not. 


Part of Weston’s charm, I have always thought, was how careful the community has always been at keeping up the fine condition of its roads.  Weston is, if nothing else, neat. 

One kind of infrastructure that Weston does not have is sewers.  That is why Weston maintains a system of large lot development, with effluent disposed of parcel by parcel.  Although we do have a tertiary treatment plant on School Road, it is designed for school use only, and its maintenance and upkeep are in the school budget. 

The original Town Plan of 1969 envisioned town and school activity where they are today.  The Plans of 1987 and 2000 reinforced centralization of municipal activities. 

Infrastructure improvements in this next town plan should include investment in alternative energy within the boundaries of an “energy improvement district.”  Such a district
would encompass the schools campus and town facilities. 


This would be a bold first step. 

-----------------------




Density is destiny.

Weston has 500 people per square mile.  That’s 10,000 persons living on 20 square miles in the woods.  Almost every piece of land is spoken for.  Whether by human
homeowners or by other natural creatures resident in the vast, permanent open spaces in town.


In contrast, human density teems in a place such as Hong Kong.  Over 6,900,000 live in the 425 square miles of that port city.  That comes to more than 16,000 people per
square mile.


The history of Weston during the last few hundred years has been well documented.  Our form of government is the New England Town Meeting.  Hong Kong and its port have played a vital role in China’s relationship with the rest of the world.  Its governance had long been feudal.  Then it became a colony and part of the British Empire.  In 1997 it
became a largely autonomous part of China.


That autonomy was only agreed to last for a minimum of 50 years.  Will Weston still be free in 2047?  Will town meeting government and a two-party system prevail much
longer in our town?  Thinking globally, I would answer my own question with a resounding “yes,” for two reasons. 


The first is that a lack of infrastructure, whether sewers, water lines or train tracks, makes us a non-starter in the larger economic picture.  Our “land capability” is nil.

Reason number two is that we are not foolish.  No matter how much Westonites disagree about small matters and money, we all recognize that this training ground for the
next generation of leaders and contributors to society must be nurtured and protected.


That is why the next Town Plan revision is so important.

Goals 2020

Ironically, the next Plan must cover the years 2010 to 2020.  Calling it a “2020 Vision” for Weston sounds catchy and right!

This is our first Plan written in the 21st century.  It seems an appropriate time for Weston to reexamine its goals.  I am not sure myself about some of them any more! 

For example, as the “basic goals” I would only state four this time.  The first encompasses several of the older Plan’s goals.  It is:  “RENEW:  Weston, a residential
community, should renew its compact with nature and dedicate itself to supporting the natural water cycle.”


The second goal for the new Plan should be:  “IMPROVE public infrastructure and its maintenance to minimize run-off waste and effects.” 

Goal number three links the voice of planning with the work of the Building Committee and the Global Warming Committee.  “MAXIMIZE efficient use of limited natural resources
in a time of climate change:  make the centralized school-town complex energy self-sustaining.”


This is where the Planning and Zoning Commission takes charge.  As part of work towards a new Plan, a study of feasibility for an energy improvement district would fit right in! 
The study could also recommend suitable attendant technology.


Efficiency and economy are ways to MINIMIZE the human footprint.  In the new Plan we must find ways to reuse land and buildings and resources.  And recycle!



--------------------------


Legend

A legend for a land use map follows conventions.  Land use colors for Weston are primarily yellow, green and blue, with just a dash of commercial red at the Center and at
Cobb’s Mill Inn.


And black.  Black is used to represent infrastructure.  In Weston that means roads.  Thicker or thinner, in double strands or even greater, planning maps are careful to place
roads correctly.  Dotted lines are road connections planned for the future.


All you need to look at is a town map of roads and immediately you can tell where you are.  Only Weston looks like Weston from the air!  North of Godfrey Road is forest, the deepest of deep green.  

Yellow is for low density residential properties.  In Town Plan 2000, this equaled 56% of all acreage in town.  Second in area was green, at 23%.  Green space is of different
kinds.  Passive uses, such as Aspetuck Land Trust Property, are one shade of green.  Active uses, such as Morehouse Farm Park, are a different tone of green.


Another 15% of our acreage was either undeveloped or undevelopable.  The aforementioned roads comprised 4%.

Public and semi-public land uses are shades of blue.  In Weston this includes Town Hall, the Fire Department, Library, Transfer Station, Public Works as well as school
property and churches.  These uses comprised the remaining 2% of total acreage.


Some colors not seen on a land use map of Weston are purple and browns.  Purple is the traditional color representing industrially classified property.  An example of industry
might be a factory.  Interestingly, in the 19th Century, Weston had a functioning axe tool factory and a toy factory!


Brown is the color of higher density housing.  Should Weston include this in the new Plan?  Only if we plan to build the necessary infrastructure, sewers and public water supply, and risk changing the character of our town!

----------------------

Afloat

When it rains, it pours.

There is a science behind the weather events we’ve been having, and their effects.  Besides the fashionable explanation of global warming.  In addition to increased run-off
caused by bigger homes and mounting coverage of paved areas.

Who can forget the graphic horror of Hurricane Katrina?  So many families and individuals and animals engulfed in the wet sorrow of that disaster.  But let us stop and think
for just a bit.

What was the real bottom line awful part of Katrina?  For me, it was the knowledge that the very same thing could and probably will happen again.  I had not really understood
that New Orleans was constructed below sea level prior to the storm.

How is this related to Weston?  The flood plains in town are mapped.  Planning and Zoning presides over regulations controlling development in these wet areas.  But like
New Orleans, much of Weston was developed prior to any zoning, subdivision, or Federal Emergency Management Administration (F.E.M.A.) edicts.

In reviewing F.E.M.A. grant programs, one stands out.  It is “pre-disaster mitigation.”  This is a planning program that sets in motion, at all levels of government, the effort to
get endangered structures out of harm’s way.

Funds to elevate houses, pay for hydrologic and hydraulic studies, and pay for storm water management projects come through F.E.M.A.  Qualifying for government funding, however, is not easy.  The available funds don’t go very far, and most projects down our way don’t pass muster.

So it is ever more important to make our flood management regulations as strong as possible, and try to prevent disasters if we can!

--------------------


Building blocks

So cooperation among public and private sectors is the first building block for a happy financial future. 

Attention to detail in budget making is the second building block, in my opinion.  Lastly, wise land use planning is the capstone. 

After all, keeping Weston Weston is the goal.  These three factors should guarantee us a happy future. 

But we always must be prepared to ask tough questions.  Such as explanation of the cost-benefit calculations used to justify expenditures of public funds.  This kind of
question will be front and center at the League of Women Voters of Weston’s “Speak Up” in 2009.  Whatever the results of last Tuesday’s elections, there will be at least one
new voice there to stand and address the questions.

Weston’s budget process may reach a climax at the Board of Finance Public Hearing on March 31, 2009, which is held shortly before the Annual Town Budget Meeting,
scheduled for April 20, 2009.  Westonites who may not be fully up to date on the community’s financial position, and that means most of us, should use this opportunity to
grill the Board of Finance.

What is Weston’s situation?  Is the General Fund surplus as high as it was last year?  Has the latest town-wide revaluation of property shifted the tax burden from large
homes to small ones, or from new ones to older structures?

Is Weston’s Grand List shrinking? 




POPULATION CLOCK


17 July 2008, I-BBC

Manhattan street scene - file image
A district in Manhattan has the highest human development index in the US

US slips down development index
Americans live shorter lives than citizens of almost every other developed nation, according to a report from several US charities.

The report found that the US ranked 42nd in the world for life expectancy despite spending more on health care per person than any other country.

Overall, the American Human Development Report ranked the world's richest country 12th for human development.

The study looked at US government data on health, education and income.

The report was funded by Oxfam America, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Conrad Hilton Foundation.

The report combines measurements of health, education and income into one measurement - the human development index - based on that used by the United Nations.

Health insurance

The report, Measure of America, identifies significant progress in the US in the last 50 years.

Life expectancy - which averages 78 - has risen eight years since 1960.

Japan has the world's highest life expectancy - 82.1 years - according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).


"Some Americans are living anywhere from 30 to 50 years behind others when it comes to issues we all care about: health, education and standard of living"
Sarah Burd-Sharps
Author, Measure of America

The US report identifies obesity and the lack of health insurance for some 47 million Americans as the most significant factors in premature death.

It also provides a snapshot of the inequalities between the richest and the poorest Americans and between different ethnic groups.

"The Measure of America reveals huge gaps among some groups in our country to access opportunity and reach their potential," said the report's author, Sarah Burd-Sharps.

"Some Americans are living anywhere from 30 to 50 years behind others when it comes to issues we all care about: health, education and standard of living.

"For example, the state human development index shows that people in last-ranked Mississippi are living 30 years behind those in first-ranked Connecticut."

Rich north-east

Asian males in the US were found to have the highest human development index score and were expected to live 14 years longer than African-American males, who had the lowest human development index rating.

African-Americans had a shorter lifespan than the average American did in the late 1970s.
US baby - file photo
More US babies die in their first year than in most other rich countries

The report further breaks down its findings into the US's 436 Congressional districts.

The 20th district, around Fresno, California, was ranked last - with people earning one-third as much as residents of the top-ranked US district,- in Manhattan, New York.

The US north-east has the highest overall ranking because people there earn more, are more highly-educated and have the second highest life expectancy.

West Virginia, Louisiana, Arkansas and Alabama are four of the five bottom states on the index. Mississippi is ranked lowest.

Among other findings:

  • Of the world's richest nations, the US has the most children (15%) living in poverty
  • Of the OECD nations, the US has the most people in prison - as a percentage and in absolute numbers
  • 25% of 15-year-old students performed at or below the lowest level in an international maths test - worse than Canada, France, Germany and Japan
  • If the US infant mortality rate were equal to first-ranked Sweden, more than 20,000 babies would survive beyond their first year of life




C.I.A. World Fact Book:
https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/print/us.html

ANOTHER SOURCE:  SIERRA CLUB ACTIVISTS*:
http://www.susps.org/overview/birthrates.html

*SUSPS® is a network of Sierra Club activists who support a comprehensive approach to environmentalism within the Sierra Club. We support Sierra Club policies and principles with the exception of current Sierra Club
U.S. population policy, which we believe is inadequate in addressing U.S. overpopulation. A comprehensive approach to environmentalism must include effective action for population stabilization in the United States.
Currently Sierra Club policies call for stabilizing U.S. population but do not address the combined impacts of mass migration and birth rates on U.S. population growth.



U.S. Birth Rate Hits All-Time Low; Teen birth rate also falls to record low
By Robert Longley, About.com
Found 7/18/08

See More About:u.s. birth rate;  life span of americans;  u.s. population growth

Continuing a 12-year decline, the U.S. birth rate has dropped to the lowest level since national data have been available, according to statistics just released by the Centers for Disease
Control (CDC). The rate of births among teenagers also fell to a new record low, continuing a decline that began in 1991.

The birth rate fell to 13.9 per 1,000 persons in 2002, down from 14.1 per 1,000 in 2001 and down a full 17 percent from the recent peak in 1990 (16.7 per 1,000), according to a new CDC
report, "Births: Preliminary Data for 2002." CDC analysts say the birth rate is dropping as the increasing life span of Americans results in a smaller proportion of women of child childbearing age.

The birth rate among women of peak childbearing age has also been declining. Birth rates for women in their 20s and early 30s were generally down while births to older mothers (35-44)
were still on the rise. Rates were stable for women over 45.

Among teenagers, the birth rate fell to 43 births per 1,000 females 15-19 years of age in 2002, a 5-percent decline from 2001 and a 28-percent decline from 1990. The decline in the birth
rate for younger teens, 15-17 years of age, is even more substantial, dropping 38 percent from 1990 to 2002 compared to a drop of 18 percent for teens 18-19.

"The reduction in teen pregnancy has clearly been one of the most important public health success stories of the past decade," said Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy
Thompson in a CDC press release. "The fact that this decline in teen births is continuing represents a significant accomplishment."

More than one fourth of all children born in 2002 were delivered by cesarean; the total cesarean delivery rate of 26.1 percent was the highest level ever reported in the United States.

Among other significant findings included:

In 2002, there were 4,019,280 births in the United States, down slightly from 2001 (4,025,933).

The percent of low birthweight babies (infants born weighing less than 2,500 grams) increased to 7.8 percent, up from 7.7 percent in 2001 and the highest level in more than 30
years. In addition, the percent of preterm births (infants born at less than 37 weeks of gestation) increased slightly over 2001, from 11.9 percent to 12 percent.


More than one-third of all births were to unmarried women.

The birth rate for unmarried women was down slightly in 2002 to 43.6 per 1,000 unmarried women, reflecting the growing number of unmarried women in the population.

Access to prenatal care continued a slow and steady increase. In 2002, 83.8 percent of women began receiving prenatal care in the first trimester of pregnancy, up from 83.4
percent in 2001 and 75.8 percent in 1990.


Weston selectmen approve new policy on culverts       
Weston FORUM
Written by Brian Gioiele    
Friday, November 21, 2008

The town is required to maintain drainage culverts, not replace them, even in areas where nearby properties endure periodic flooding, according to a newly established policy.
The Board of Selectmen on Thursday, Nov. 6, approved the final wording of the new policy on culvert replacement on town roads, a move stemming from the recent rash of requests from
residents asking the town to examine specific areas of flooding in town.

According to the new policy, the town is “under no obligation, legal or otherwise, to replace existing culverts” — an opinion town leaders received this past summer from Town Counsel Ken Bernhard.

The policy does state that the town will “cooperate with residents in order to determine the nature and location of the drainage problem.” Property owners may work with the town to replace culverts, according to the policy, if the project receives approval from the selectmen and has been properly vetted by the town engineer, public works director, and police chief.

“The purpose of this policy is to establish rules for private property owners,” said Selectman Glenn Major. “It spells out what their expectations about the culverts should be.”

But that was little consolation for one couple at Thursday’s meeting. The Fischers, who live on Deep Wood Road, are among a handful of property owners in that stretch who have
experienced four flooding situations in the past two years.

“It defies any test of fairness,” said Barry Fischer. “It’s hard to come to terms with — that this is a town road but the town won’t take responsibility for it.”

Town Engineer John Conte, also present Thursday, told the selectmen the culvert in that area was built according to town standards and was not damaged. He then offered
recommendations that would help alleviate the flooding, but the work would be at the property owners’ expense.

“We do take responsibility,” responded Mr. Major. “We try to mitigate the situation.”

Mr. Bernhard had informed the selectmen at their August meeting that the town is responsible for repairing leaking culverts or cleaning those filled with leaves. But with respect to designing, planning, or providing new drains, Mr. Bernhard said those decisions are completely discretionary.

The legal opinion prompted the selectmen to move to create a policy for handling requests from residents calling for repair or replacement of aging culverts. And it also cast doubt on whether
the town would cover the costs associated with two such projects presented at the August selectmen’s meeting.

At that August meeting, the selectmen reviewed two plans. The first, and most serious, was the proposed replacement of three concrete culverts with one box culvert on Deep Wood Road
near Davis Hill Road. The second was for installation of a culvert at 4 Kettle Creek Road.

In all, the two separate projects would have cost the town as much as $131,000. The project at Deep Wood Road would help eliminate flooding issues for three of the four surrounding
properties; the work at Kettle Creek Road would help one property owner.

It was these potentially large expenditures that led the board to question whether the town needs to pay for all such work, which has been adding up on the town expense list in recent
months.

When asked why the town authorized expenditures for studies of the Deep Wood Road flooding situation, Mr. Major said he wished the board had sought the legal opinion prior to such
spending.

“Should we have asked on day one? In hindsight, yes, that was an appropriate question to ask,” said Mr. Major. “Unfortunately, we didn’t. The number of requests, coupled with the cost for replacement, was, for me, cause to sit back and take pause.” 



Greenwich Time
NYTIMES
By TOM WOLFE
Published: September 27, 2008 (we only saw it today!)
 
Be aware that your correspondent is merely bringing you the news when he reports how many people have besieged the author of “The Bonfire of the Vanities” over the past week with the question, “Where does this leave the Masters of the Universe now?”

“This” refers to the current credit panic. The Masters of the Universe is a phrase from that book referring to ambitious young men (there were no women) who, starting with the 1980s, began racking up millions every year — millions! — in performance bonuses at investment banks like Salomon Brothers, Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley and
Goldman Sachs. The first three no longer exist. The fourth is about to be absorbed by Bank of America. The last two are being converted into plain-vanilla Our Town banks with A.T.M.’s in the lobby and, instead of Masters of the Universe, marginally adult female cashiers with wages in the mid-three figures per week, stocked with bags of exploding dye to hand the robbers along with the cash. American investment banking, the entire industry, sank without a trace in the last few days.

So where does this leave the Masters of the Universe? In Greenwich, Conn., mainly. The hottest, brightest, most ambitious young men began abandoning investment banking in favor of hedge funds six years ago. Your correspondent can describe scenes of raging carotid-aneurytic anger as the young hotshots resigned. Security goons seized them by the elbow and marched them
off the floor at six miles an hour. They couldn’t touch anything in or on their desks — not even the framed picture of Mom and Buddy and Sis, propped upright from behind by little cardboard
wings covered in synthetic velvet — so furious were their superiors. Their biggest producers and future leaders were walking out on them.

Greenwich is the center of the Masters’ hedge-fund world, replacing Wall Street. For five years, the heart of Wall Street, the fabled Floor of the New York Stock Exchange, has been gradually emptying out. A hundred years ago, the Floor was a club for gentlemen oligarchs. Only men with social credentials could have one of the insider “seats” on the Floor. By last year, when your correspondent paid his one and only visit to the Floor, one member came up to another and informed him that he, like so many others recently, was leaving the Exchange for good.

“What will you be doing?”

“I’m joining the Fire Department.”

“The Fire Department? In what capacity?”

“I’ll be a firefighter. The pension plan is awesome.”

Incidentally, there are no seats on the Floor, none that this correspondent ever saw. The Exchange is already an anachronism, like Broadway. Everything is done by computer today.
Hanging out on the Floor of the Exchange is like hanging out at OTB. Broadway and the Exchange are like the first thing you see when you enter Disneyland in California. You find yourself
in a turn-of-the-last-century town with a trolley and an apothecary and a barber shop. That’s Broadway and Wall Street today.

It may dash your hopes for that nice warm feeling called Schadenfreude, but the Masters of the Universe are smarter than the people they left behind at the investment banks. Their hedge
funds have blown up here and there, but unlike the investment banks, they are still very much in business. They have hurriedly pulled themselves into defensive positions inside their shells,
like turtles. Their Armageddon, if any, will not come for two more days, which is to say, Tuesday, Sept. 30.

Most hedge funds open up a crack on Sept. 30, Dec. 31, March 31 and June 30 to give investors the chance to “redeem” their investments, meaning take their money out. These moments
are called gates, like a series of gates in a prison. The gate is the limit, the fixed percentage of your money, that the fund will allow you to take out at one time. Even with these strict caps
on withdrawals, some funds may end up nothing but shells.

Shed no tears for the Masters of the Universe, however, not that your correspondent actually thought you might. Most of the young Masters already have their own personal nut free and clear. “Nut” is the term for the amount of money you need salted away in weather-proof investments in order to generate enough interest to live comfortably in Greenwich on Round Hill Road,
Pecksland Road or Field Point Road in a house built before the First World War in an enchanting European style, preferably made of stone featuring the odd turret, with a minimum of five
acres around it and big enough to be called a manor. Every Master of the Universe knows the number.





Fairfield County still top-earning area in country
Norwalk HOUR
Staff Report
August 12, 2008

REGION -- The U.S. economy may be struggling as a whole, but Fairfield County residents still have money -- and lots of it. In fact, the region is the richest in the country.

It may not be equally distributed among all its residents, but the Bridgeport-Norwalk-Stamford metropolitan area had the highest average total income per resident at $80,192 in 2007 --
up from $74,281 in 2006. The 8 percent increase in per capita personal income also topped the national average increase of 6.2 percent.

The figures are according to data released last week by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Fairfield County retained the top spot, while Naples-Marco Island, Fla., was second, and San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, Calif., was third.

The national per capita personal income (total income divided by number of residents) in 2007 was $38,632, less than half of Fairfield County's. In Connecticut, Hartford ($47,641) was the
second richest county and ranked 17th among the U.S.'s 363 metropolitan areas.

Connecticut was the highest-earning state with an average of $54,117 -- 40 percent above the national average. New Jersey, Massachusetts, New York and Maryland followed Connecticut
as the richest state. Mississippi was the lowest-earning state at $28,845.

In another report disseminated via e-mail Monday by the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, Connecticut taxpayers pay the third-highest state and local taxes in the country,
behind only New York and New Jersey. Citing results of a report from the Tax Foundation, Connecticut residents paid 11.1 percent of their salaries to state and local taxes. New Jersey
residents paid 11.8 percent and New York residents paid 11.7 percent.

Professional services, health care, state and local government, and finance contributed the most to personal income growth in both 2006 and 2007, according to the Bureau. The
construction industry contributed almost nothing in 2007 after contributing heavily to growth in each year from 2004 to 2006, according to the Buruea.

In Fairfield County, the financial sector plays a large role in the inflated per capita personal income figures.


--------------------
Economy is no drag on vacancies
Stamford ADVOCATE
By Peter Healy
Staff Writer
Article Launched: 08/05/2008 02:42:39 AM EDT

As developers work on grandiose plans for projects that might attract the next UBS AG or Royal Bank of Scotland to Stamford, the city's office availability rate has remained virtually flat
this year.
About 16.9 percent of Stamford's 14.5 million square feet of office space was up for lease or sublease as of June 30, compared with 17 percent in this year's first quarter and 16.1 percent
at the middle of last year, according to averages from figures taken from five real estate firms.

A 1 percentage point rise means 145,000 square feet of office space became available for lease or sublease in Stamford. Available office space includes vacant or set-to-become empty
locations.

As of June 30, 2006, 19 percent of Stamford's office space was vacant or about to become so.  One local real estate executive, however, said he expects the market to improve.

"The office market is behaving well, considering all the bad news that you read," said Jim Fagan, senior managing director of the Westchester County, N.Y., and Connecticut operations of Stamford-based Cushman & Wakefield Inc. "There is a slight uptick in employment, which is surprising.

"Tenants have showed continued interest in occupying space in Stamford," he said. While the market has slowed down considerably on smaller deals, there are a lot of big deals that are happening."

Fagan did not disclose the deals because leases have not been signed yet.

Stamford's largest vacancies include the 96,000-square-foot Building One of High Ridge Park, where MeadWestvaco Corp. headquarters had been, and 243,000 square feet at 181 and 208
Harbor Drive at the Harbor Plaza office complex. NatWest, a financial services company that is now part of Royal Bank of Scotland, had leased the Harbor Plaza space but never occupied much of it.
General Reinsurance plans to move its headquarters from 695 E. Main St., also known as the Financial Centre, to 120 Long Ridge Road in Stamford in 2010. That move and expiration of subleases in the building would leave a 575,000-square-foot vacancy in downtown Stamford.

The office market was tighter in Greenwich. About 8.1 percent of the town's 4.8 million square feet of office space was vacant or available as of June 30, compared with 7.9 percent in this
year's first quarter, 11.4 percent in the middle of last year and 14.3 percent in June 2006.

Hedge funds, private equity firms and other financial services companies have fueled the Greenwich office market in recent years.

"Greenwich still remains a tight market despite a general level of uncertainty in the economy," said John Goodkind, managing principal at the Greenwich office of Newmark Knight Frank.

"Demand remains steady, while quality product, which can accommodate today's discerning tenants, remains scarce," he said, referring to financial services companies.

Similar to Stamford and Greenwich, little changed in Norwalk's office availability rate this year. In the second quarter, 13.6 percent of the city's 5.7 million square feet of office space was up
for lease or sublease, compared with 13.5 percent in this year's first quarter, 15 percent a year ago and 16.7 percent in June 2006.

The future of the Norwalk office market is uncertain, according to Fred Brown, chairman of DVB Commercial Realty in Norwalk.

"There doesn't appear to be a lot of prospective tenants looking," he said.

Brown added, however, that one large lease can revive the local office market, and slower times could help tenants negotiate lower rent.

"Landlords are hungry and will be more accommodating," Brown said.


--------------------
Population loss is threat to our state
Stamford ADVOCATE
Staff Reports
Article Launched: 07/12/2008 02:39:30 AM EDT

Get ready for some competitive congressional races in Connecticut soon after the 2020 Census. That's the time officials say the state is likely to lose one of its five remaining U.S. House
seats - we originally had six - and with it one of its seven electoral votes.

The state showed growth over the past year that could charitably be called "anemic." The population rose 0.19 percent in the past year, the equivalent of adding about 6,500 people. In a
state of almost 3.5 million, that's almost like going backward.

A multigenerational trend is emptying out the Northeast and filling up the West, specifically places like Arizona, Colorado and Nevada. Those states stand to pick up the congressional seats,
and the national clout, that Connecticut and its neighbors appear on track to lose.

None of this is a surprise. However, it was only recently that Connecticut had six seats in the House, losing one after the 2000 Census. To drop another one so soon would no doubt increase pessimism about our state's economic viability.

Officials like Gov. M. Jodi Rell and the mayors of Stamford and Norwalk challenged the idea that Connecticut is in a downward spiral, saying the state and its cities are either holding their
own or poised for a comeback. Stamford Mayor Dannel Malloy said an increase in housing stock has his city on a path for population growth. Mayor Richard Moccia, meanwhile, said the
same of Norwalk's redevelopment plans.

But the nationwide mortgage crisis has put a serious crimp in the state's housing market.

The reasons for the statewide lack of growth are legion, but not easy to change. Connecticut is expensive, for people and businesses. There's little to keep young people here. The weather is
nice for a few months, but why settle for that when you can get year-round sun? If we're not careful, the Land of Steady Habits will become the Land of Rich and Old People. Most of the
places in Connecticut where people would like to live - i.e., in close proximity New York City - are far out of reach for most people wishing to buy a home, or even obtain an affordable rental unit.
In much of our region, the housing slump has not caused a significant reduction in average home prices.

The warning signs for Connecticut are there. No one will be able to say we didn't see it coming. But time is running short to take effective action to halt if not reverse these trends. Job retention and creation must be a major focus involving cooperative efforts by state and local officials. That should include a rigorous review of state taxing policies, as well as the state spending that drives them. Affordable housing, a topic that produces a lot of talk but little progress, needs to be confronted too.

Connecticut ignores these concerns at its economic and political peril.


--------------------------

Estimate from State Data Center at UCONN...
Growth stalls in the state
Stamford ADVOCATE
By Kate King, Special Correspondent
Article Launched: 07/11/2008 01:00:00 AM EDT


Fairfield County saw a small increase in population despite a drop statewide, according to census figures released yesterday.

Stamford, Greenwich, New Canaan, Darien and Westport all saw minor increases, according to the data. Norwalk posted a decline of 0.1 percent.  But the statewide picture isn't promising, experts say, pointing to a shrinking work force, loss of jobs, an aging population and a potential reduction in state representation in Washington, D.C.

"This population growth is consistent with our slow growth in the recent past," said Lisa Mercurio, director of the Business Council of Fairfield County. "New England as a whole has been
growing more slowly than the rest of the U.S."

The population in Connecticut rose 0.19 percent over the last year, according to the census data.  Connecticut's population growth is the eighth lowest in the nation, according the report.
Nevada had the highest growth rate since 2006 at 2.9 percent, and Rhode Island had the lowest at minus 0.36 percent.

Within Connecticut, Milford's population grew the most, by 532 people. Bridgeport showed the biggest population decline, losing 252 people over the past year.

Though 35 percent of the state's 169 towns declined in population, Fairfield County's population grew 0.1 percent. Stamford and Darien's population grew by 0.1 percent, and Greenwich
and Westport grew by 0.4 percent. New Canaan's population increased by 0.5 percent.

Local leaders remained optimistic.  Despite the city's losses, Norwalk Mayor Richard Moccia said the city's redevelopment plans put Norwalk on a course toward growth.

"From a statistical point of view, in my mind it's virtually no loss whatsoever, so I'm not worried," he said. "I don't see this as a threat to our economic viability. I think with our new development projects in place, with more affordable housing going in down the road, you might see an increase in population."

Stamford Mayor Dannel Malloy painted an equally bright picture, estimating a 10-year growth rate of 6 percent for the city, coming from an increase in housing stock.  Malloy also suspected
that the census counts miss some of the city's population.

"As much as I think these reports are interesting. . . . I respectfully would argue that it probably undercounts our immigrant population," Malloy said.

The slow statewide growth comes on the heels of a population boom, which lasted from 1995 to 2003, said Orlando Rodriguez, demographer and manager of the Connecticut State Data
Center.  The population growth during those eight years was abnormal, a reaction to the end of a deep economic recession that took place in Connecticut from 1990 to 1995.

The population growth rate that Connecticut has experienced since 2004 is "more normal, looking forward, than what happened between 1995 and 2003," Rodriguez said.  But the return to
normal of Connecticut's population growth rate isn't necessarily a good thing for the state.

"One of the things that's concerning us is that we're seeing a decline in population in urban areas, which is counter to what we had expected," he said.

A declining urban population means a smaller work force to replace the growing elderly population in the state, Rodriguez said.  Connecticut has one of the nation's oldest populations,
meaning a high number of senior citizens.

Before the 2007 census, demographers had projected a job loss of 60,000 workers by the year 2030, he said. However, if urban areas continue to lose population, that worker loss will be
even greater.  Also contributing to the slow growth rate in Connecticut is a net loss of population to other states.

"We send more people to other states than we get from other states," Rodriguez said. "You've got a lot of elderly people, not a lot of children being born, and folks leaving - it's lucky
Connecticut has any population growth at all."

The only reason Connecticut has not dipped into negative population growth is the 15,000 foreign immigrants who have been coming to the state yearly since 2004.  In addition to contributing
to a decline in the work force, slow population growth could cut Connecticut's representation in Congress.

"By 2020 we will lose a congressional seat," Rodriguez said. "For 2010, we'll probably be OK unless the bottom really falls out and Connecticut goes into major population loss."

Although Connecticut will most likely remain a five-district state for the next 12 years, uneven population growth within the districts will probably force a redrawing of the districts before then,
he said.




Uncomfortable Answers to Questions on the Economy
NYTIMES 
By PETER S. GOODMAN
Published: July 19, 2008

You have heard that Fannie and Freddie, their gentle names notwithstanding, may cripple the financial system without a large infusion of taxpayer money. You have gleaned that jobs are disappearing, housing prices are plummeting, and paychecks are effectively shrinking as food and energy prices soar. You have noted the disturbing talk of crisis hovering over Wall Street.

Something has clearly gone wrong with the economy. But how bad are things, really? And how bad might they get before better days return? Even to many economists who recently thought
the gloom was overblown, the situation looks grim. The economy is in the midst of a very rough patch. The worst is probably still ahead.

Job losses will probably accelerate through this year and into 2009, and the job market will probably stay weak even longer. Home prices will probably keep falling, shrinking household wealth
and eroding spending power.

“The open question is whether we’re in for a bad couple of years, or a bad decade,” said Kenneth S. Rogoff, a former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund, now a professor at Harvard.

Is this a recession?

Officially, no. The economy is not in recession until a panel at a private institution called the National Bureau of Economic Research says so. Unofficially, many economists think a recession started six or seven months ago, even as the economy has continued to expand — albeit at a tepid pace.

Many assume that if the economy expands at all, then it isn’t a recession, but that’s not true. The bureau defines a recession as “a significant decline in economic activity spread across the economy, lasting more than a few months.” If enough people lose their jobs, factories stop making things, stores stop selling things, and less money lands in people’s pockets, it is probably
a recession.

Whatever it is called, it is a painful time for tens of millions of people. Indeed, this may turn out to be the most wrenching downturn since the two recessions in the early 1980s; almost surely worse than the recession that ended the technology bubble at the beginning of this decade; perhaps worse than the downturn of the early 1990s that followed the last dip in real estate prices.

But, despite what some doomsayers now proclaim, this is not the Great Depression, when unemployment spiked to 25 percent and millions of previously working people woke up in
shantytowns. Not by any measure, even as your neighbors make cryptic remarks above dusting off lessons passed down from grandparents about how to turn a can of beans into a family meal.

How bad is housing?

Bad in many markets, awful in some, and still O.K. in a few.

The downturn has its roots in the real estate frenzy that turned lonely Nevada ranches into suburban ranch homes and swampland in Florida into condominiums. Speculators drove home
prices beyond any historical connection to incomes. Gravity did the rest. After roughly doubling in value from 2000 to 2005, home prices have fallen about 17 percent — and more like 25
percent in inflation-adjusted terms — according to the widely watched Case-Shiller index.

Even so, most economists think house prices must fall an additional 10 to 15 percent to get back to reality. One useful measure is the relationship between the costs of buying and renting a home. From 1985 to 2002, the average American home sold for about 14 times the annual rent for a similar home, according to Moody’s Economy.com. By early 2006, home prices ballooned
to 25 times rental prices. Since then, the ratio has dipped back to about 20 — still far above the historical norm.

With mortgages now hard to obtain and speculation no longer attractive, arithmetic has replaced momentum as the guiding force for housing prices. The fundamental equation points down:
Even as construction grinds down, there are still many more houses on the market than there are people to buy them, and more on the way as more homeowners slip into foreclosure.

By the reckoning of Economy.com, enough houses are on the market to satisfy demand for the next two-and-a-half years without building a single new one.

The time it takes to sell a newly completed house has expanded from an average of four months in 2005 to about nine months, according to analysis by Dean Baker, co-director of the Center
for Economic and Policy Research.

And many sales are falling through — more than 30 percent in some parts of California and Florida — as buyers fail to secure financing, exacerbating the glut of homes, Mr. Baker said.

No wonder that in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Phoenix and Las Vegas, house prices have in recent months declined at annual rates of more than 33 percent.

When will banks revive?

So far, they have written off more than $300 billion in loans. Many experts now predict the toll will rise to $1 trillion or more — a staggering sum that could cripple many institutions for years.

Back when home prices were multiplying, banks poured oceans of borrowed money into real estate loans. Unlike the dot-com companies at the heart of the last speculative investment
bubble, the new gold rush was centered on something that seemed unimpeachably solid — the American home.

But the whole thing worked only as long as housing prices rose. Falling prices landed like a bomb. Homeowners fell behind on their loans and could not qualify for new ones: There was no
value left in their house to borrow against. As millions of people defaulted, the banks confronted enormous losses in a bloody period of reckoning.

In March, the Federal Reserve helped engineer a deal for JPMorgan Chase to buy troubled investment bank Bear Stearns. Many assumed the worst was over. But, this month, the open
distress of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — two huge, government sponsored institutions that together own or guarantee nearly half of the nation’s $12 trillion in outstanding mortgages —
sent a signal that more ugly surprises may lie in wait.

To calm markets, the government last weekend hurriedly put together a rescue package for Fannie and Freddie that, if used, could cost as much as $300 billion. The urgent need for a
rescue — together with another round of billion-dollar write-offs on Wall Street — has unnerved economists and investors.

“I was a relative optimist, but I’ve certainly become more pessimistic,” said Alan S. Blinder, an economist at Princeton, and a former vice chairman of the board of governors at the Federal Reserve. “The financial system looks substantially worse now than it did a month ago. If the Freddie and Fannie bailout were to fail, it could get a hell of a lot worse. If we get more bank
failures, we have the possibility of seeing more of these pictures of people standing in line to pull their money out. That could really scare consumers.”

In one respect, Mr. Blinder added, this is like the Great Depression. “We haven’t seen this kind of travail in the financial markets since the 1930s,” he said.

More than two years ago, Nouriel Roubini, an economist at the Stern School of Business at New York University, said that the housing bubble would give way to a financial crisis and a
recession. He was widely dismissed as an attention-seeking Chicken Little. Now, Mr. Roubini says the worst is yet to come, because the account-squaring has so far been confined mostly
to bad mortgages, leaving other areas remaining — credit cards, auto loans, corporate and municipal debt.

Mr. Roubini says the cost of the financial system’s losses could reach $2 trillion. Even if it’s closer to $1 trillion, he adds, “we’re not even a third of the way there.”

Where will the banks raise the huge sums needed to replenish the capital they have apparently lost? And what will happen if they cannot?

The answers to these questions are unknown, an unsettling void that holds much of the economy at a standstill.

“We’re in a dangerous spot,” said Andrew Tilton, an economist at Goldman Sachs. “The big threat is more capital losses.”

Banks are a crucial piece of the economy’s arterial system, steering capital where it is needed to fuel spending and power growth. Now, they are holding tight to their dollars, starving
businesses of loans they might use to expand, and depriving families of money they might use to buy houses and fill them with furniture and appliances.

From last June to this June, commercial bank lending declined more than 9 percent, according to an analysis of Federal Reserve data by Goldman Sachs.

“You have another wave of anxiety, another tightening of credit,” said Robert Barbera, chief economist at the research and trading firm ITG. “The idea that we’ll have a second half of the
year recovery has gone by the boards.”

Is my job safe?

Economic slowdowns always mean job losses. Unemployment already has risen, and almost certainly will increase more.

The first signs of distress emerged in housing. Construction companies, real estate agencies, mortgage brokers and banks began laying people off. Next, jobs started being cut at factories making products linked to housing, from carpets and furniture to lighting and flooring.

But as the real estate bust spilled over into the broader economy, depleting household wealth, the impacts rippled out to retailers, beauty parlors, law offices and trucking companies,
inflicting cutbacks throughout the economy, save for health care, farming and energy. Over the last six months, the economy has shed 485,000 private sector jobs, according to the
Labor Department. Many people have seen hours reduced.

The unemployment rate still remains low by historical standards, at 5.5 percent. And so far, the job losses — about 65,000 a month this year — do not approach the magnitude of those
seen in past downturns, particularly the twin recessions at the beginning of the 1980s, when the economy shed upward of 140,000 jobs a month and the unemployment rate exceeded
10 percent.

But Goldman Sachs assumes unemployment will reach 6.5 percent by the end of 2009, which translates into several hundred thousand more Americans out of work.

These losses are landing on top of what was, for most Americans, a remarkably weak period of expansion. From 1992 to 2000 — as the technology boom catalyzed spending and hiring —
the economy added more than 22 million private sector jobs. Over the last eight years, only 5 million new jobs have been added.

The loss of work is hitting Americans along with an assortment of troubles — gasoline prices in excess of $4 a gallon, over all inflation of about 5 percent, and declining wages.

“In every dimension, people are worse off than they were,” said Mr. Roubini, the New York University economist.

Are consumers done?

That is a major worry.

The fate of the economy now rests on the shoulders of the American consumer, whose spending amounts to 70 percent of all economic activity.

When people go to the mall and buy televisions and eat out, their money circulates through the economy. When they tighten their belts, austerity ripples out and chokes growth.

Through the years of the housing boom, many Americans came to treat their homes like automated teller machines that never required a deposit. They harvested cash through sales,
second mortgages and home equity lines of credit — an artery of finance that reached $840 billion a year from 2004 to 2006, according to work by the economists James Kennedy
and Alan Greenspan, the former Federal Reserve chairman. That allowed Americans to live far in excess of what they brought home from work.

But by the first three months of this year, that flow had constricted to an annual rate of about $200 billion.

Average household debt has swelled to 120 percent of annual income, up from 60 percent in 1984, according to the Federal Reserve.

And now the banks are turning off the credit taps.

“Credit is going to remain tight for a time potentially measured in years,” said Mr. Tilton, the Goldman Sachs economist.

This is the landscape that has so many economists convinced that consumer spending must dip, putting the squeeze on the economy for several years.

“The question is, will it get as bad as the 1970s?” asked Mr. Rogoff, recalling an era of spiking gas prices and double-digit inflation.

Long term, Americans may have no choice but to spend less, save more and reduce debts — in short, to live within their means.

“We’re getting a lot of the adjustment and it hurts,” said Kristin Forbes, a former member of the Council of Economic Advisers under President George W. Bush, and now a scholar at
M.I.T.’s Sloan School of Management. “But it’s an adjustment we’re going to have to make.”

Who’s to blame?

There is plenty to go around.

In the estimation of many economists, it starts with the Federal Reserve. The central bank lowered interest rates following the calamitous end of the technology bubble in 2000, lowered
them more after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and then kept them low, even as speculators began to trade homes like dot-com stocks.

Meanwhile, the Fed sat back and watched as Wall Street’s financial wizards engineered diabolically complicated investments linked to mortgages, generating huge amounts of speculative
capital that turned real estate into a conflagration.

“At the end of this movie, it’s clear that the Fed will have to care about excesses,” Mr. Barbera said.

Prices multiplied as many homeowners took on more property than they could afford, lured by low introductory interest rates that eventually reset higher, sending many people into
foreclosure.

Mortgage brokers netted commissions as they lent almost indiscriminately, offering exotically lenient terms — no money down, no income or job required. Wall Street banks earned
billions selling risky mortgage-linked securities around the world, aided by ratings agencies that branded them solid.

Through it all, a lot of ordinary Americans borrowed a lot more money then they could afford to pay back, running up enormous credit card bills and borrowing against the value of their
homes. Now comes the day of reckoning.


Region boasts highest GDP
Greenwich TIME
By Elizabeth Kim, Staff Writer
Article Launched: 07/20/2008 02:31:14 AM EDT

Call it a triumph of brains over brawn.

The region consisting of Stamford, Bridgeport and Norwalk has the highest average gross domestic product per capita in the country, according to a new economic study from the Federal
Reserve Bank of New York.

In their report, "Human Capital and Economic Activity in Urban America," economists Jaison Abel and Todd Gabe cited the 20 highest average gross domestic product per capita of
metropolitan areas from 2001 to 2005. They based their list on data provided by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.

The Stamford, Bridgeport and Norwalk area, considered a contiguous employment zone, had an average GDP per capita of $74,261. In second place was the San Jose, Calif., area with
$66,708. The greater New York area, which includes northern New Jersey, came in 15th, with an average of $51,440.

More than the rankings themselves, Abel and Gabe were interested in explaining the variations. They focused on their examination on "human capital," what Gabe refers to as "the knowledge
and skills embodied in people."

"Our study confirmed that human capital is a very important determinant of economic activity," he said.

Moreover, Gabe observed that Stamford specializes in the industries - administration and management, economics and accounting, technology - that require high levels of human capital
and generate high levels of output.

"You could say it's the recipe for success in the region," he said.

Those familiar with the region said the GDP findings were positive but not especially surprising.

"This is a characteristic that we have always understood nonempirically. Our region has grown as a knowledge-based economy that competes globally," said Lisa Mercurio, a director at
the Business Council of Fairfield County.

Stamford, in particular, has paved the way toward becoming a 21st-century economy.

"For the last 10 to 15 years, the Stamford area has had rapid growth in the financial services industry," said Nick Perna, an economic adviser to Webster Financial Corp. who teaches at
Yale University. "These are all jobs that require a high level of education and which provide on the job training skills."

But there is a dark flip side to growth. Edward Deak, an economics professor at Fairfield University, said high incomes typically push up the cost of homes, which in turn, makes life tougher
for poorer, unskilled laborers.

"It becomes a story of two economies," he said. "You have many people who are doing well, and you have others who are falling by the wayside."

And ultimately, the city's specialization means the fortunes of all the residents may rest on one group in particular.

"Let's hope the financial sector doesn't get too far in the doldrums," Deak said.

This is not the first time the region has gotten attention for having a brainy work force.

In February, Forbes.com named the Bridgeport, Stamford, Norwalk metropolitan area the 15th "smartest city" in the country. According to the article, 39 percent of residents aged 25 and
older have bachelor degrees, while 84 percent have graduated high school.


Report: Westport Commercial Real Estate Takes Hit
WestportNow
July 11, 2008

Reflecting tough economic times, the Westport office vacancy rate stayed at around 7.5 percent for the third period in a row but availability rates went up to 12.5 percent as of July 1, a
long-time Westport commercial real estate broker said today.

Ted Hampe: office market showing “disturbing trend.” Dave Matlow/WN file photo

Ted Hampe, chairman of HK Group, said his company tracks some 172 office buildings, with square footage totaling about 2,620,000 square feet, of which 191,300 was vacant on July 1.

However, Hampe said an additional 131,000 square feet was being offered for sub-lease or future direct lease, reflecting planned tenant moves. Therefore, the office availability rate was 12.5 percent on July 1, he said.

“The Westport office market is showing a disturbing trend with relatively few leases in the first half of 2008, predictive of higher vacancy rates in future periods,” Hampe said.

On the retail front where a stable 5 percent vacancy rate was reported in January, several sublets are now being offered on Main Street and along the Post Road, he said.

“While we have not yet compiled the actual figures, we feel that the availability rate is about 10 percent,” Hampe said.

For comparison purposes, HK Group issued the following figures for office vacancies:

July 2007 = 7.4 percent vacant, 10 percent available

January 2008 = 7.6 percent, 8.9 percent

July 2008 = 7.3 percent, 12.3 percent


---------------------

Towns can’t be stricter with big subdivisions;  Windsor ‘Lord’s Woods’ case sets statewide precedent
By Alex Wood, Manchester Journal Inquirer
Published: Friday, September 5, 2008 11:36 PM EDT

In a Windsor case with statewide significance, the state Supreme Court ruled this week that local planning and zoning commissions can’t impose stricter standards on large subdivisions
than they do on small ones.

The decision overturns certain conditions that Windsor’s Town Planning and Zoning Commission had placed on a 60-lot subdivision to be built on what is now a wooded tract between
Prospect Hill Road and Pierce Boulevard.  The developers of the planned “Lord’s Woods” subdivision are Lord Family of Windsor LLC and Suffield developer Robert A. Daddario.

Daddario is the son-in-law of N. Philip Lord of 245 Prospect Hill Road, the manager of the family development company and a former member of the TPZC and the town’s Inland Wetlands
and Watercourses Commission.

In a separate decision this week, the Supreme Court agreed with the state Appellate Court that the wetlands commission overstepped its bounds when it rejected a revised plan for the
subdivision that reduced the number of points of access to surrounding roads from three to two.

That decision sends the proposal back to the wetlands commission for further action. Richard A. Vassalo, the local lawyer representing the town in the cases, explained that the court
sent the case back — rather than simply ordering the wetlands commission to issue the permit — because wetlands regulations change over time.

Lord said Friday that the disagreements with the town have caused the developers to miss “the top of the bubble” in the housing market.

But he added, “It’s going to be a really fine development.” He said the site is one of the nicest in town.

“They’re not going to build shacks in a nice neighborhood,” Vassalo agreed. “He would be wasting his land.”

Windsor zoning regulations require a “special use permit” to subdivide property into more than 30 lots. Using that authority, the TPZC imposed 28 conditions on its April 2005 approval of
Lord’s Woods, six of which the developers appealed to court.

Hartford Superior Court Judge Lois Tanzer overturned three of the conditions in 2006 but upheld the other three. The developers appealed the latter part of the decision, and the Supreme
Court took the case without having the Appellate Court decide it first.

The Supreme Court decided that imposing extra conditions on a subdivision of more than 30 lots violates a state law governing zoning. The law requires that zoning regulations be uniform for
each “use of land” throughout each zoning district in a town.

Justice Richard N. Palmer, who wrote the Supreme Court decision, considered what would have happened if the property at issue had consisted of two parcels, under different ownership,
with a 30-lot subdivision proposed on each.

If the proposals met requirements set in the regulations for the AA residential zone, the TPZC “would be required to approve them with no further inquiry into the effects of the subdivision on
roads, utilities, or municipal services,” Palmer wrote.

“It is clear, therefore, that the application of the regulation is predicated on the character of the land’s ownership, not on its proposed use,” he continued. “It is well established that the
zoning power can be exercised only to regulate land use and is not concerned with ownership.”

Vassalo said the issue of whether special use permits can be required for large subdivisions is important for developers across the state.

In explaining the rationale for such regulations, he said, “Just because they buy land in our town, they can’t dump a huge subdivision on us.”

The wetlands commission’s concern about the revision of the subdivision plan to reduce the number of points of road access was that it would require access via an old wood road during construction. That road passes over a narrow culvert over a brook between two ponds. The commission was concerned about pollution of the brook as heavy construction vehicles drove
over the culvert.

But the Appellate Court concluded last year that it was mere speculation that the culvert might be compromised by construction vehicles. The Appellate Court reversed the local
commission’s decision, and the Supreme Court agreed this week.


------------------------------



Discussion of affordable housing and Selectmens' vision at March 12, 2009 Town Plan work session...review of workshop.

Weston's Plan of Development: What is the town's vision?       
Weston Forum
Written by Patricia Gay    
Wednesday, February 18, 2009 

School expansion, adequate municipal septic facilities, and the need for active recreational areas.

When the town of Weston put together its Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD) 10 years ago, those were three major public concerns.

But are they the same concerns people in town have today?

That’s what land use experts are hoping to find out at a special planning workshop being held Thursday, Feb. 26, at the Weston High School cafeteria. The purpose is to gather public
input on land use issues for development of the new plan.

The workshop will be moderated by Glenn Chalder of Planimetrics, an Avon-based planning and consulting firm. “Ultimately, the new plan of development should reflect the town’s vision,
and you need to know what that vision is,” Mr. Chalder told members of the Planning and Zoning Commission at a recent meeting.

The commission hired Planimetrics to conduct the workshop to gather information during the scoping phase of the plan’s development. The commissioners are also interviewing local officials
and elected officials to get their thoughts.

After the scoping phase, the commission will begin to write a new plan for the town.

Based on state legislation, every town in Connecticut must come up with an updated Plan of Conservation and Development every 10 years. Weston’s most recent plan was prepared in
2000, so the town has until 2010 to adopt a new one.

The POCD will include a review of the town’s demographic data, land use policies, transportation needs, open space and recreation needs, housing needs, and special study area
activities.

It establishes a guide for the town on how to make decisions concerning its development policies.

Weigh in

At the upcoming workshop, the public may weigh in on such topics as expansion of commercial development, fence and pool house regulations, cemeteries, public swimming pools,
affordable housing initiatives, sewers and public water mains, and Lachat and the use of town properties.

Another topic may be the town’s home occupation zoning regulations, which have recently come under scrutiny in connection with questions raised by the Planning and Zoning Commission about the number of employees working at a local pediatrician’s office.

Stephan Grozinger, chairman of the Planning and Zoning Commission, said he hopes a lot of Westonites will attend the workshop and express their opinions about home occupations
or other zoning restrictions. “P&Z is dedicated to making the POCD a reflection of the entire town’s vision of the future and to make the plan a valuable and dynamic document,” he said.

Low density

Weston is one of the lowest density residential communities in the greater New York metropolitan region.

According to the town’s 2000 POCD, some of the factors that keep Weston primarily a “bedroom community” are its absence of public sewage disposal systems, zoning regulations that
require a minimum two-acre lot for each residence, absence of commercial and industrial development, and more than 3,400 acres of land set aside for parks, open space, conservation,
or watershed protection.

Under current zoning laws, most of Weston is zoned for use as single-family, detached residences at a density of not more than one house per two acres.

However, there are a number of other uses allowed in the residential zone by special permit approval of the Planning and Zoning Commission. Those uses include schools, churches and
places of worship, town use and municipal recreational facilities, firehouses and police stations, public library, not-for-profit museums and art galleries, private schools, nursery schools
or day camps, private nonprofit recreational clubs, riding stables and academies, farming, nursery gardening and truck gardening, watershed facility or water supply, public utilities, parks, conservation and nature uses, and drainage or water control facilities.

The town is also zoned for a Neighborhood Shopping District, which allows commercial businesses. That district is small and covers the Weston Shopping Center, and no other properties
in town.

At the planning workshop, Westonites may discuss if there should be more commercial business in town or if they would like to see the Neighborhood Shopping District expanded.

P&Z commissioners said they have heard from some residents that it would be good to have more services and businesses in the community, while others have asked the commission
to keep the town as it is, with little commercial activity.

The planning workshop will be held next Thursday, Feb. 26, at 7:30 p.m. in the Weston High School cafeteria at 115 School Road. In case of inclement weather, check local Channel 79.

 -------------------------

Public nixes idea of expanded village district in Weston
Weston FORUM
Written by Patricia Gay
Thursday, 23 July 2009 00:00

A large majority of residents attending a town plan workshop were against the concept of forming a village district in the center of Weston.

Harold Halpin, a 16-year resident of Weston and member of the Weston Village District Coalition, appeared before the Planning and Zoning Commission Monday night, July 20, to discuss a multi-zoned, village district plan that would allow for a mix of residential, municipal, religious, and business uses in the town center.

The town is currently zoned residential, with one exception — the Neighborhood Shopping District, which houses Weston Center.

Mr. Halpin asked P&Z to consider incorporating a village district into the town’s 10-year Plan of Conservation and Development, which the commission is in the midst of reviewing and updating.

He said the district would be a good thing for Weston and give the town flexibility to add things like medical offices, sidewalks and cafes.

“The idea is not to turn the center into a commercial district, but to protect the distinct character of the town while adding some more services,” Mr. Halpin said.

Another benefit he said was that land values within the district would increase — if and when residents decided to sell.

P&Z member Don Saltzman did not care for the idea. “It’s too broad a concept. It’s difficult to encumber people’s houses and I don’t understand why churches are included,” he said.

Several residents with homes within the proposed contours of the district said they did not want to risk someone next to them putting up a commercial structure.

Others who spoke against the idea said it was unfair that houses within the district could benefit and profit by selling their homes for commercial development.

And several other others said they wanted Weston to stay as it was, without more development.

Workshop

Mr. Halpin explained that business and commercial development was a major topic of discussion by the public at a planning workshop in February.  At that workshop, approximately two-thirds of the 100 participants said they would like to see more goods and services in town.

Christine Lomuscio, who attended the February workshop and spoke in favor of more businesses, had a change of heart Monday night. “I know I said I was in favor of more services back then, but that was at budget time and when the economy was really bad,” she said.

Mr. Saltzman polled the audience to find out how many favored the proposal. There were seven votes in favor, and approximately 35 against.

P&Z member Katie Gregory said to keep in mind that the village district was only a concept and there was no application pending for it. “What you are bringing to us is an idea,” she said.

“Yes, this is a just tool for Planning and Zoning to consider as they review the town plan,” Mr. Halpin said.






Read it now!
Expert: World's water crisis will grow worse if action not taken 

DAY
By Judy Benson 
Published on 4/4/2009

New London - Friday's intermittent rain and dense fog suited the occasion: the first of two days of a conference featuring scholarly talks about water.
The conference, “Water Scarcity & Conflict,” focused on a commodity many Americans take for granted and often waste, but one that is increasingly the source of tensions and supply
problems across the world.

”I think there is a water crisis, and it's getting worse, not better,” said Peter Gleick, a leading expert on the sustainable use of water, who gave the opening address. Gleick is co-founder
and president of The Pacific Institute, a nonpartisan policy research group focusing on environment and development issues. He is also a member of the National Academy of Science
and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Gleick noted there is good news about water - Americans consume less than 20 years ago, for example, thanks largely to water-conserving toilets and a shift away from industries
that use large amounts.

It's not inevitable that water problems will get worse, if action is taken, said Gleick. There is ample water to fill human needs, he said, and the technology and wealth exist to solve
sanitation, water-quality and distribution problems. But actually doing so requires directed political and social will that has too often been lacking, he said.

One billion of the world's people don't have access to safe drinking water, and 2.5 billion are without adequate sanitation, leading to the spread of water-borne diseases like cholera
and chronic diarrhea that result in thousands of deaths each year.

”All of them are preventable, and most of the victims are under age five,” Gleick said.

The overuse and misuse of water also impacts ecosystems, causing wildlife declines and extinctions and the loss of natural system functions that benefit humans but are often unseen,
Gleick said.

Another recent troubling trend, he said, is that pharmaceutical and chemical residues are increasingly being found in public water supplies as well as natural lakes, rivers, estuaries and groundwater.

”Water quality is deteriorating with industrial waste and pharmaceuticals in mixes we don't expect, and with consequences we don't understand,” he said.

Climate change is also affecting water supplies, he said. As the planet warms, hydrological cycles change, and with them, rainfall and storm patterns are disrupted. That could have direct impacts on agricuture and drinking water systems.

Population growth is also stressing water supplies, he said, noting that populations are growing fastest in the parts of the world with the biggest water problems. The present world
population is estimated at 6.7 billion. In some areas, aquifers are being pumped faster than they can recharge.

Cutting wasteful water use with higher water and sewer rates is one way, he said. The rate structure, he added, should be tiered with lower rates for low-income households. He said he
strongly believes that access to clean water is a basic human right, but that doesn't mean it should be free.

”Everything we do with water we can do with less water,” Gleick said.

Investment in aging water-supply, distribution and water-treatment systems is also needed to increase efficiency and remove more contaminants. To increase supply, he advocated more harvesting of rainwater and reusing wastewater for watering lawns, golf courses and industry to increase supply.

”Where we're heading is where we don't want to go,” he said. “But the good news is that there is a path to a sustainable system.”

The conference, held at Connecticut College, was organized by the college's Goodwin-Niering Center for Conservation Biology and Environmental Studies. 


At Forum In Hartford, Planners Talk About Reshaping State's Future
The Hartford Courant
By DON STACOM
June 1, 2009

Clustering new housing around Connecticut's job centers, transit lines and existing commercial hubs would significantly cut greenhouse gas emissions and reduce the cost of infrastructure in the decades ahead, regional planners said at a forum in Hartford.

Starting from that basic premise, the group Friday exploring possible approaches to the state's future that ranged from the innocuous, such as tax incentives for building apartment towers near Union Station, to the semi-revolutionary — creating a streetcar route from downtown to the University of Connecticut Medical Center via Farmington Avenue.

"It's about giving people freedom to choose, and preserving long-term value for our communities," said David Kooris, Connecticut director of the Regional Plan Association.

Planners throughout the country have debated urban development for decades, but the conversations have taken on a new urgency in the midst of the ferocious financial downturn, erratic fuel prices, deepening concern about global warming and widening dissatisfaction with relentless suburban sprawl.

Changes in streetscapes, building design and municipal zoning are necessary, but they don't need to be as jarring as some traditional New England suburbanites might think, according to speakers at the conference.

Too often, towns impose development rules that discourage efficient growth and create miles of isolated cul-de-sacs and inaccessible neighborhoods, creating ever-worsening traffic congestion as people relocate farther and farther from job centers, downtown commercial zones, medical offices and mass transit routes, said Patrick Condon, a professor of landscape architecture at the University of British Columbia.

He recommended encouraging interconnected streets with good bike and pedestrian lanes, allowing apartments and multifamily homes and one-family houses on the same streets, and conserving land by rewarding higher-density development.

Connecticut has relied too long and too hard on sprawling subdivisions of big-acreage tracts in remote suburbs and semi-rural towns, creating isolated pockets of low-density development that mass transit can't reach efficiently, according to several speakers.

Kooris said that with Connecticut's population shifting from predominantly young and middle-aged families to more elderly, young couples, single people and one-parent families, the housing market is undergoing a long-term shift.

"We bet the bank on one-family, detached houses with big yards. The demographics tell us we need to make our portfolio more robust — the Connecticut of five or 10 years from now will be demanding a different product," Kooris said. "But we're not talking about doing away with established one-family-home neighborhoods, not at all. We're talking about what we build, where we build, we're talking about tweaking underperforming strip malls and dead or dying malls, brownfields, dying corridors."

Copyright © 2009, The Hartford Courant


Paris Journal: A Paris Plan, Less Grand Than Gritty
NYTIMES
By STEVEN ERLANGER

June 11, 2009


PARIS — Every president of France’s Fifth Republic has had his Pharaonic project, by which he believes he will leave his mark on the capital and French culture.

François Mitterrand, a fierce Socialist known as the Sphinx, left the new French national library and, to continue the Ozymandias theme, the controversial glass pyramid in the Louvre. Jacques Chirac left the Musée du Quai Branly, an anthropological museum, with an argumentative design by the French architect Jean Nouvel.

President Nicolas Sarkozy, no slouch, wants nothing more than to leave behind “Le Grand Paris.” In more than a year of discussions, there have been some spectacular ideas and drawings by 10 teams of famous architects, drawn by the president’s invitation to reimagine Paris as a city integrated with its suburbs and responsible in its environmental footprint.

Antoine Grumbach imagines Paris stretching along the Seine to Le Havre and the sea. Roland Castro, whose team included a sociologist and a philosopher, proposed a 250-acre park circled by skyscrapers in La Courneuve, one of the grimmest of the poor Paris suburbs. Richard Rogers plans rooftop gardens and parks built above railway lines. Yves Lion sees Paris sprouting with fields and forests, with citizens able to cultivate their own vegetable patches, an unfortunate similarity to the necessities of Soviet cities.

The architects have provided the ribbons and the balloons, but few if any of the plans are likely to be carried out. Pressed by politics and financing, Mr. Sarkozy has concluded that he will reach for reduced goals that are grittier and essentially practical. The ambition remains the same: to try to bring about a significant improvement in the city’s transportation and housing stock, stimulate economic development and break the stranglehold of an artificial “wall” around a relatively small city. The wall is represented by a roughly 22-mile circular highway that separates Paris from a “crown” of suburbs — legally separate cities — where many Parisian workers live.

Mr. Sarkozy has even given up on an effort to reorganize the government and incorporate some of these smaller towns into what really would have been a Grand Paris. A plan for local government reorganization he commissioned from former Prime Minister Édouard Balladur proved so unpopular with the mayors and local councils of the rest of Île-de-France, the administrative region that includes Paris and its suburbs, that the agile and realistic Mr. Sarkozy simply shelved it.

But that left Mr. Sarkozy with a problem. What would be so grand about his Grand Paris?

His answer was, simply, infrastructure. In a speech at the end of April, Mr. Sarkozy said he would leave the dreams of reform to another generation. He said that the state would provide around $50 billion for what he said were complementary proposals for extended subway service that would allow people in the suburbs to travel between them without having to enter Paris, improve existing and saturated subway and train lines, tie some of Paris’s most marginalized and poor neighborhoods into the grid and finally connect all three Paris airports to efficient public transportation.

But construction is not expected to start until at least 2012, and it would take at least 10 years.

The regional council had already drawn up ideas for a circular subway line called the Arc Express, with an estimated cost of $8.4 billion, to connect the inner “crown” of suburbs.

But Mr. Sarkozy’s idea is for a more extravagant automated subway line known as the Grand 8, because it both goes around Paris in a wider circle and also cuts through it, looking like a figure 8 on its side. Some joke that the Grand Infinity might be a better name for it, given the length, some 80 miles, the difficulty of acquiring the land and the cost, around $25 billion, including needed improvements and extensions to three existing lines.

While Mr. Sarkozy has concentrated on transportation, housing is another crucial component of the plan. Paris is already badly overcrowded, with its poorest minorities largely placed in big public housing projects in the outer rings or suburbs of the city. Still, with only 41 square miles in land (just 1.7 times the size of Manhattan) and a strict height restriction of 121 feet for buildings, there is a severe housing shortage.

To meet demand, the government and private industry are supposed to be building 70,000 housing units a year inside Paris, but in fact have been building only 35,000. Mr. Sarkozy has now backed the 70,000 annual goal as part of his plan, including 19,000 more public housing units. Officials have been talking about a public-private partnership to create new poles, or magnets, for development and housing, made possible by easy transportation and intelligent investment.

Skyscrapers are an inevitable part of the answer, despite extraordinary aesthetic and cultural opposition to them from many French, who like them in New York, Tokyo or Shanghai but detest the few that have been built in Paris. One reason is the architectural nightmare of the Tour Montparnasse, which is generally regarded now as a mistake.

The Socialist mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoë, already has courageously begun the debate over building skyscrapers on the edges of Paris and finally won the support of Mr. Sarkozy, who said he was not against building tall “so long as it’s beautiful.”

The economic crisis has created all sorts of difficulties in every big city in terms of financing, investment and empty office space. But the state is the dominant player in France, and the president is practically royal. The secretary of state for development of the capital region, Christian Blanc, said that the crisis “simply obliges us to think differently,” adding that even in the private sector, “money for good projects, that exists.”

As for the vision thing, Mr. Blanc said that “grand architectural gestures” would be an important “signature of the Grand Paris project.” But he gave no specifics, saying that “they will be studied with local elected officials in the framework of existing projects.”

There is another aspect to the plan. Mr. Sarkozy, who made a name for himself with some tough talk during the suburban riots of 2005, when he was the interior minister, is also moving to create a “Grand Paris of police.” He is ordering up a super prefecture to coordinate all the police in Paris and the “small crown” of innermost suburbs — Hauts-de-Seine, Seine-St.-Denis and Val-de-Marne — that he failed to incorporate politically into Paris.

“Only 45 percent of delinquents live in the interior of the capital,” he said. “Delinquents don’t have borders, particularly those belonging to gangs.”

It may be a long way from visions of rooftop gardens and urban forests, but it is good politics.


Page last updated at 08:44 GMT, Wednesday, 14 October 2009 09:44 UK

US city to start giant 'mapathon'
By Maggie Shiels, Technology reporter, BBC News, Silicon Valley

Image courtesy of Creative Commons
Atlanta is the 33rd largest city in the US

Atlanta, the capital of the US state of Georgia will soon be the world's most digitally mapped city, according to organisers of a massive "mapathon".

OpenStreetMap, or OSM, is behind the effort to produce a map more accurate than anything else on the market.

In addition, all the data will be given away free for others to use.

"We aim to map everything from bike paths to emergency phones and police precincts," said Frank Howell from the Office of Research and Policy Analysis.

The office is part of an umbrella group of Georgia's universities.

"In the Atlanta area, we have new buildings and streets being built all the time and this notion of sneakers on the ground going around mapping everything means you get up-to-date data.

"And what is neat about it is this information is free. It will be owned by the community - not by Google or other mapping services like Tele Atlas. These two things together really captured my imagination," Mr Howell explained, when asked why Atlanta wanted to get involved in the project.

Mapping details

The Atlanta mapathon will take place this weekend, with around 200 volunteers armed with global positioning devices mapping the city.

"The way to think about it is as a really big mapping party," said OSM founder Steve Coast.

Boston open street map downtown
OSM map showing Boston Common

"We will have about 15-20 mapping stations throughout Atlanta and start by noting all the freeways and motorways, then the main roads, smaller roads and eventually go right down to the footpaths, bars and restaurants."

Mr Coast said the success of the project was down to the passion and enthusiasm of the volunteers, who carry on working on the map once the weekend mapathon is completed.

"We have over 160,000 people around the world constantly updating the maps. In Germany, the people there have done so much work that they are mapping trees and overhead wires."

OSM is described as the "Wikipedia of maps".

"Unlike Wikipedia we don't have the same problems of providing this passive neutral point of view," Mr Coast told the BBC.

"With OpenStreetMap it is not a case of whether Jesus did or did not exist. The fact is there are either 25 exits off Highway 101 or there aren't."

Benefits

One of the big attractions for Atlanta getting involved is the fact the data gathered for OpenStreetMap is free and open for users to edit and mash up any way they like.

Boston Google map
A Google map showing Boston Common

"If you are an iPhone developer and you want to make a map of pizza joints in San Francisco or Atlanta, you basically have two choices," said Mr Coast.

"You can use Google maps but there are restrictions on what you can do with the data or you can pay tens of thousands of dollars to license the data from other organisations.

"With OpenStreetMap, it's basically plug and play. We want you to take that data for free and use it how you see fit," added Mr Coast.

For Atlanta, Mr Howell said that approach opened up all sorts of possibilities for the city that is home to global brands from Coca-Cola to CNN and AT&T.

"When you have a lot of bright minds like we have here, give them a new toy like OpenStreetMap and they will come up with new applications and winning innovations around that information," said Mr Howell.

In San Francisco and Oakland, OSM data is used to draw up crime maps. The White House leverages the information to show where stimulus money is being spent.

The former professor of geographic information systems said he thought Atlanta would be able to lay claim to the title of the most digitally mapped city by the new year.

"We understand the symbolism of achieving that aim and the currency it gives us as we try to persuade companies to set up here," Mr Howell said.

"We also think it will encourage other cities to follow our lead and improve that spirit of community as we all play a part to really put Atlanta on the map."


         
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Earlier research process by this website.
Even earlier article of interest.
Town of Greenwich Plan of Conservation & Development DRAFT