I attended the Planning Commissions presentation on Thursday, February 2nd along with many other vocally concerned Norwich taxpayers. I did not have an opportunity to speak due to limited time and the number of speakers.
It is my opinion that the rezoning plan is much too aggressive for our town. The "carrot" that is being waved in front of the voters is "affordable/workforce" housing and the cost is mixed use development which is NOT needed in Norwich. It is "the tail wagging the dog" so to speak.
Many issues and opinions were expressed by the townspeople attending the meeting here are a few of my own:
1. Residents of Hopson Road and Hopson Lane have a vested interest in protecting their neighborhood from rezoning which would allow large mixed use development in their backyards.
2. Permanent loss of agricultural land and wildlife habitat and corridors.
3. Increased pressure/costs on police, fire and town maintenance facilities. This could include plowing, calls to Norwich volunteer fire department and police department.
4. Increased use of water and sewage and ongoing maintenance of same.
5. Traffic congestion, traffic control (stop lights etc), sidewalks and maintenance of same.
That said, part of the land in question is appraised at $189,000 and for sale by Southeby's for $1,500,000 by the estate of Rose Z. Dyke. Interesting disparity between appraised cost and selling price isn't it? Any deep pocket investor or consortium of investors would, of course, want to maximize their ROI which would mean building as many units as possible as inexpensively as possible.
I would also like to point out that the Planning Commissions attempt to paint a positive picture of their proposal makes some assumptions, and they are assumptions, that may not be quite accurate. For example page 26 of their proposal indicated, and this is "affordable" housing, that a home costing $180,000 with a down payment of 10% ($18,000) is possible. I beg to differ on this assumption. Most contemporary mortgages require a minimum of 20% down ($36,000). Of course interest rates fluctuate too. I personally do not consider this affordable.
Also to be considered is the potential rapid increase in the population of Norwich. It could very well increase the population by 10%. This brings up the question of taxes. If the rezoning is approved by the voters and families move into these homes/condos there is no guarantee that they will be families with children that will attend Marion Cross School. And, if they do have school age children the argument that taxes will decrease is a fallacy that is being promoted. I have NEVER seen a decrease in my taxes in my lifetime......have you?
The planning Commission states that only 1.2 % of land (350 acres) would be affected by this rezoning alleviating sprawl in the rest of the town. Again, this is not going to prevent people acquiring parcels of land in Norwich and building their homes. It is happening right now!
In ending I would like to state that this rezoning scheme is much too large and aggressive for such a small town to even contemplate much less approve.
John M Farrell