It has been a very busy week with the election. I want to commend the people of Easton for one of the highest turnouts ever for a municipal election. We continue to see increasing levels of participation by the people of Easton, as in previous referendums. This is undoubtedly good for our town. As you know there will be recounts next week for a Board of Finance seat and for one seat on the Board of Selectmen. The Board of Selectmen meeting scheduled for November 4 was cancelled because it was unclear who should be seated at the meeting. Once everything is finalized, I look forward to returning the town’s focus to the business at hand.
On the Covid front, we stayed at five cases a week and under five per 100,000. This is great work by each and every citizen to work together to keep all of us safe. Westport just dropped their indoor mask mandate and are catching up to us. This is an example of how while we are all in the health district together, the district supports our independent decisions when they are appropriate. Information on getting vaccinated including boosters and children 5-11 can be found at www.vaccines.gov.
The so called “one lane bridge” on South Park Avenue is due to be paved in the next few days, and then we are only waiting on guard rails which should be up before Thanksgiving, allowing us to open the bridge. Thanks to all for their patience. We are happy to have this opened as promised before winter. The repaving of Morehouse Road south of Beers Road should be finished next week.
For our seniors, as winter approaches we are happy to be reinstating the pen pal program between Helen Keller Middle School students and our seniors. This has been a very rewarding experience for both our middle schoolers and our seniors in the past.
In town hall we are moving ahead with a new document management system which will first be used to help us in the new permitting process and storage of maps, etc. We hope to get most of the town records and maps available in this cloud-based system. Many of our neighboring towns have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in programs like this, but working through the regional council of governments, (Metrocog) and our neighboring town, we have developed software with the vendor and built the applications with grant money so that the initial cost and licenses for the first several years will be free. This should provide convenience and efficiency for those who are doing work on their properties or looking for other relevant information.
We were recently informed that Easton was nominated to receive the 2021 Pathfinder Working Lands Alliance Outstanding Group Leader Award. Elisabeth Moore from CT Farmland Trust nominated Easton for the town’s efforts to permanently protect Lakeview Orchard this past June in collaboration with CT Department of Agriculture, USDA- Natural Resource Conservation Services, and CT Farmland Trust. We should be proud of this recognition. As we have noted before, the protection of farm land is a major part of the effort to preserve space and prevent development in Easton. It is nice to have our efforts recognized.
In the near future the Board of Selectmen will have to approve funding for a consultant to prepare an affordable housing plan for Easton. Planning and Zoning will set up a committee of townspeople to assist in the preparation. There has been a lot of confusion about this and about Public Act 21-29. One way to learn more is to listen to the last meeting of Planning and Zoning. Of course, another is to read the actual act available at https://www.cga.ct.gov/2021/act/pa/pdf/2021PA-00029-R00HB-06107-PA.pdf
Finally, you can listen to the forum that Senator Tony Hwang held in March including myself and P and Z chair Ray Martin where we were all in agreement about the importance of towns being allowed to make their own decisions. This is available on Sen. Hwang’s website. However, it is a state mandate that the town prepare a plan for affordable housing for June 30, 2022. This is not something that we are allowed to “opt out of”.
There is a lot of complexity to preparing the plan because there are many aspects of our town that would make it difficult to consider any form of affordable housing. We have no public transportation, and it would never be profitable for the number of people that would travel on any route through Easton. Also, we have no ability to accommodate multiple dwelling units because of our need to protect the watershed and the lack of public sewers.
Accessory apartments are allowed in our zoning regulations and those qualify as affordable. This must all be considered and we want to comply as this allows us to maintain control over all options. There will be more to come about this in the near future.
If you did not get a chance to go (seemed like the whole town was there!), Trunk or Treat for Halloween and the bonfire were huge successes and a great event for much of the town to come together. Thanks to all who contributed to putting the event together and those who set up their trunks so beautifully. We are already looking forward to next year.
Enjoy your weekend and don’t forget to set your clocks back an hour tomorrow night.