Regulatory Review

Land Use Regulatory Review
North Branch Park River Watershed Management Plan

Introduction: Municipal land use plans and regulations help shape the development patterns within a watershed and can play a significant role in protecting water quality and other natural resources at the watershed scale. These commonly include municipal plans of conservation and development, zoning regulations, subdivision regulations, inland wetland and watercourses regulations, and stormwater regulations, all of which influence the type and density of development that can occur within a watershed. Local land use regulations often vary by municipality within a watershed, and regulations are periodically revised in response to development pressure, shifts in attitude toward natural resource protection, and political and socioeconomic factors.

A key element in the development of a watershed management plan is to identify potential land use regulatory and planning mechanisms (i.e., new or modified land use regulations and planning approaches) that can be implemented by municipalities and other governmental entities to better protect water quality and other valuable natural resources within the watershed.  This process opens an opportunity for communities to address, for example, the damaging effects of increased impervious cover and uncontrolled stormwater runoff from land development and suburban sprawl.  In more urbanized areas, it also helps to address the mandate to meet State and Federal Phase II stormwater permit requirements under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program.

Because a watershed management plan encompasses multiple municipalities, its regulation review also provides an opportunity for towns to compare their regulatory mechanisms to those of neighboring towns.  By doing so, they can evaluate the relative merits of different approaches, adopt the best models, and not least, improve region-wide consistency in how the common water resource is managed.  This review of land use regulations and land use plans by towns and other entities in the North Branch Park River Watershed is therefore a tool that can be used to achieve several objectives.

The review places most emphasis on Bloomfield, West Hartford, and Hartford, since the major portion of the North Branch Park River watershed lies in these municipalities.  Tabular summaries of the existing regulations, plans, and policies for these three communities are provided in Appendix A (Relevant Regulations) and Appendix B (Relevant Plans and Policies). The watershed also includes small portions of Avon, Simsbury, and Windsor; summaries of regulations in these towns, along with recommendations, are covered in Appendix C.  Narrative summaries, regulations, and recommendations for Avon, Simsbury, and Windsor, as excerpted from the March 2009 Municipal Plan and Regulation Review completed by Robinson & Cole, LLP, for the Farmington River/Salmon Brook Wild & Scenic Study Committee.  Used with permission, including these more rural towns (which overlap the watershed by less than 3%) this review also provides perspective on 20th century urban and suburban planning priorities.

Non-municipal regulatory entities, namely the Metropolitan District Commission and the Greater Hartford Flood Commission, are also included here as they are part of the overall framework for North Branch Park River watershed management.

The regulatory review considered existing regulatory and non-regulatory mechanisms that can affect land use, water quality and other related natural resources including wetlands and watercourses, biodiversity, and drinking water. The review also included regulatory and non-regulatory mechanisms that dictate impervious cover at the municipal, neighborhood, and site scales.

The review is organized in a way that shows how the various commissions, regulations, and planning documents are relevant to watershed-level management and how they complement one another.  By bringing them together in a single document, and evaluating them according to present-day criteria for sound watershed management, the review is able to highlight gaps in watershed protection that might not be apparent otherwise, and point out specific changes that would close those gaps. In addition, this review reveals the emerging relationship of watershed management within the context of urban planning.

In the past, a watershed-level approach was not commonly used as an organizing principle for local planning and regulations.  Transportation and business development has typically been the focus of regional planning. In fact, the nation’s first However, quality of life benefits provided by healthy natural environments (“ecosystem services”) are increasingly recognized as important factors to individual health, neighborhood character, and sustainable, cost effective, municipal vitality. Ensuring clean, healthy tributaries and ponds throughout the North Branch of the Park River can enhance future real estate values, as well as downstream water quality in the Connecticut River and Long Island Sound. 21st century planning can provide successful guidelines for high-density development that includes watershed management design strategies.

The newer plans of conservation and development and many of the regulation updates cited in this document indicate that a shift in attitude about watershed-level planning is already underway.  The intent of this review is to facilitate that shift by piecing together the existing mechanisms for watershed management in each town, evaluating the resulting mosaic, and using it to point the way toward more comprehensive, integrated, and effective water resource protection for the North Branch of the Park River.

Land Use Regulatory Review
Table of Contents

1     Introduction (page 1)
2    Municipal Land Use Governance (page 3)
3    Summaries of Relevant Regulations, Plans, and Policies (page 6)
3.1  Bloomfield (page 6)
3.2  Hartford (page 9)
3.3  West Hartford (page 12)
3.4  Avon, Simsbury, and Windsor (page 15)
3.5  Other Land Use Planning and Regulatory Entities  (page 16)
3.5.1     Metropolitan District Commission
3.5.2    Greater Hartford Flood Commission
3.5.3    Other Land Use Planning Entities

2-1    Municipal Land Use Commissions by Town  (page 3)
2-2    Municipal Land Use Plans and Policies – Year Adopted  (page 4)
2-3    Municipal Land Use Regulations – Year Adopted  (page 4)

Appendices     End of Report
A    Tabular Summaries of Relevant Regulations
– Bloomfield, Hartford, and West Hartford
B    Tabular Summaries of Relevant Plans and Policies
– Bloomfield, Hartford, and West Hartford
C    Land Use Regulatory Review
– Avon, Simsbury, and Windsor

1 Response to Regulatory Review

  1. Edith Folta says:

    I hope that regulatory review will encompass review of building codes, zoning and regulation in regards to greywater usage. This does not even appear to be on the radar on the east coast; the west coast is far ahead of us in this respect. There must be model regulations regarding greywater use in both residential and business areas, and it would be good to make them part of the plan so that where appropriate, municipalities could review for appropriateness and adoption into their own regulations. Would be good to get ahead of the curve on this one, both for new construction and renovation of existing structures.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *