Residents accuse Southington of ‘stealing land,’ town tables new zoning proposals

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SOUTHINGTON--The Southington Planning and Zoning Committee tabled a new proposal Tuesday night that would increase the percentage of land given to the town for open space to 20 percent upon subdivision of land.

Current regulations vary the percentage a landowner must give based on zoning.

Monica Cusano has owned 30 acres of farmland on Welch Road in Southington for 15 years. Under current zoning regulations, if Cusano chooses to subdivide her land, she would have to give the town 3 percent of her acreage for open space. Under the new proposal, that would hike to 20 percent.

"With the 3 percent, I would end up giving the town one acre," explained Cusano. "If I do it with the new regulations, it's six acres."

Southington resident Frank Bumbera, who owns 18 acres, also disapproves of the proposal. "If I'm paying taxes on 18 acres, I should really be able to pretty much do what I want within reason," said Bumbera.

Some residents went so far at Tuesday night's Planning and Zoning meeting to say the town is stealing the land. The committee said that is certainly not its intention, instead arguing that the goal is balance.

"There's been a lot of development in Southington, which is great development, but there may have been an oversight on protecting natural resources and wildlife corridors," said Robert Phillips, Director of Planning and Community Development.

Stephen Giudice, owner of Southington surveying company Harry E. Cole and Son, said open space requirements are very common in every town, generally ranging from 4 to 5 percent up to 20 percent, depending on the community. "Twenty percent is definitely on the higher side," said Giudice.

Giudice suggested conservation easement as a possible solution.

"The property owners will still own the land, but you would just have an area that would be conserved," said Giudice. "Trees wouldn't be cleared or you wouldn't build houses."

The Planning and Zoning Committee thanked residents for their feedback at Tuesday night's meeting. The proposal will again be discussed at their March meeting.