Windsor Conservation Commission
Implementing an Open Space Strategy
 
Can More Than 5% of Windsor Remain as Open Space?
 

 
 

According to the 2004 Plan of Conservation and Development, there are currently 2,215 acres of dedicated or managed open space in Windsor, accounting for 5% of Windsor's land area.  It is important to keep in mind that there is no accepted standard for how much open space land a community needs.  Every community is different in terms of physical features and residents' concepts of what would be appropriate.

Acquire More Meaningful Dedicated Open Space

Rather than acquire open space land because it is available for purchase or unquestioningly accept open space throught the subdivision process, Windsor should strive towards creating a meaningful system of open spaces.  While not precluding the acquistion of isolated parcels that may have individual merit, the Town should carefully analyze how each parcel relates ot the overall open space strategy for Windsor.

Several ways to enhance existing open space include:

  • purchasing adjacent land where expansion of an existing open space would afford additional recreational or open space opportunities, prevent fragmentation of significant wildlife habitat or achieve some other open space goal;

  • seeking dedicated public ownership and/or use whenever practical; and

  • converting managed open space (such as golf courses or utility company lands) to dedicated open speace through outright purchase or conservation easements.


  • Work to Establish a Greenway System

     
    An isolated parcel of open space may preserve an important natural resource or maintain the appearance of undeveloped land, but it may not contribute to a meaningful open space system.  If that same parcel of open space can be interconnected into a cohesive system, its value to residents and impact on the community grows significantly.  Such open spaces can be connected by trails, providing increased accessibility, significant functional wildlife corridors, more opportunities for active or passive recreation, and enhanced quality of life for residents.

    A greenway is a corridor or open space that:

    • may protect natural resources, preserave scenic landscapes and historical resources or offer opportunities for recreation or non-motorized transportation,
    • may connect existing protected areas and provide access to the outdoors,
    • may be located along a defining natural feature, such as a waterway, along a man-made corridor, including an unused right-of-way, traditional trail routes or historic barge canals, or
    • may be a green space along a highway or around a village.


    Acquiring Additional Open Space

     
    There are a number of ways in which Windsor can acquire additional open space:

    Open Space Set-Aside Regulations

    The TPZ recently amended the Subdivision Regulations to require that each residential subdivision set aside 15 percent of the development for open space purposes with the Commission retaining the ability to determine the location of open space. Such open space should be deeded to the Town whenever possible to ensure maximum control and accessibility.


    Windsor currently allows for the off-site dedication of open space as part of a subdivision. The Commission can accept land in another part of Widnsor if they believe that land to be more desirable in terms of achieving open space objectives such as adding to existing open space or implementing the greenway system.

    Fees-In-Lieu-Of Open Space

    Another effective means of assuring quality open space is to accept a fee-in-lieu of open space.  When dedicated open space in a subdivision is too small to be meaningful or does not fulfill a desired open space goal, a fee-in-lieu of open space allows the Town to purchase open space in more appropriate locations.  The fee or combination of land and fee cannot exceed 10 percent of the fair market value of the undeveloped land.  The donation of a fee is at the discretion of the owner/developer and receipt of a fee-in-lieu of open space remains at the discretion of the Commission.  The TPZ has recently adopted a fee-in-lieu of open space preovision for residential subdivisions and should use it to make the most effective use of its new set-aside requirement.

    Create an Effective Open Space Fund

    The Conservation Commission was successful in working with the Town Council to establish an Open Space Fund to set aside funds for the purchase of open space.  This fund can be enhanced by annual contributions through the Town budget or Capital Improvement Program;  a one-time bond issue; or through receipt of fees-in-lieu-of open space from the Town Planning and Zoning Commission (TPZ).

     

    Citizens can also make direct, tax-deductible, contributions to the Open Space Fund.  Send a check or money order payable to Town of Windsor Open Space Fund to:

    Windsor Open Space Fund

    Attention:  Finance Department
    275 Broad Street
    Windsor, CT 06095

     

    Open Space Grants

    To utilize an Open Space Fund more effectively, Windsor can use it limited funds to leverage additional funds through various grant programs. The State of Connecticut currently operates an open space grant program where they provide 50 percent matching funds for qualifying open space purchases. While there is significant competition among municipalities and other open space organizations, the State has managed to assist in the protection of a significant amount of open space.

    Encourage Philanthropy

    Many property owners have an emotional attachment to their land and given a choice, would prefer to see their property preserved in a way that enhances the community rather than developed. The active solicitation of land or development right donations or easements is an increasingly popular and successful open space implementation device that should be promoted in Windsor.

    Photos courtesy of Town of Windsor website taken by Windsor’s own Dr. Leonard Hellerman and Wayne Dombkowski.

     

     

     

     


     


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