On Wednesday night, 40 New Haven community members came together to offer initial comment on the city’s new comprehensive planning process.
The City Plan Commission held a community workshop last night to talk with area residents about their Comprehensive Plan of Development, a long-term land use policy required by state and city statutes. Sitting among the voting machines in the hearing room of the New Haven Hall of Records, the audience first listened to a basic explanation of the plan and then met in small groups around tables to discuss individual aspects of the plan and write their comments directly on maps of the city.
The last comprehensive plan was developed in 1957.
This workshop was designed to address residents’ concern before a public hearing, which Mike Piscitelli of the New Haven City Plan Department said would be held during the summer. Piscitelli said the plan focuses on “not just the needs but also the true core strengths of the city.”
The commission has three summary directives: the quality standard, the regional standard and the sense of place. The quality standard directive calls for a higher developmental review standard with design considerations, better stewardship of property including code enforcement, and bringing environmental concerns closer to the center of the discussion.
The regional standard recognizes the “weight of responsibility” New Haven has as a regional center in south central Connecticut. It calls for the development of more transportation options and the preparation of more large sites for businesses. It also seeks the creation of more greenways and trails, including the Farmington Canal.
Piscitelli said New Haven risks becoming an incubator for companies rather than a place for long-term growth. He cited CuraGen Corporation, which moved to Branford, as an example.
The sense of place standard focuses on the city’s neighborhoods, the waterfront and downtown, including cultural activities in the waterfront area.
After Piscitelli’s initial comments, the meeting broke down into small groups to discuss the plan in greater detail. Community members’ primary concerns included blighted houses and protection of wetlands. Jeannette Thomas of Newhallville praised some developments, such as the Trader Joe’s store, but also expressed concern.
“I’m very skeptical about this,” Thomas said. “I want to see things completed.”
Many community members came to the meeting to see more specific concerns addressed. Jimmy Epps questioned Yale’s plan for expansion, specifically to the sites of the Prince School and the Welch Annex School. He called for a 10-year moratorium on building by Yale on Science Hill.
“Is downtown going to be gated at College and Elm?” Epps asked.
Vincent Giroud, the curator of modern books at Beinecke Library, and Elaine Lewinnek GRD ’05 attended the meeting to promote bike lanes in the city. Lewinnek said bike lanes are important parts of many college towns, helping the environment and increasing business in the city by making it easier for residents to move from place to place.
“New Haven is the perfect city for biking around,” Lewinnek said.
Giroud and Lewinnek said a lane will open in August from East Rock to the Green and they are hoping for lanes to the train station and the hospital in the future.