Groton Planning and Development by Ed Johnson
Recently, we received a multi-page copy of a formal citizen's complaint filed on August 21st with the Groton Town Council by Mr. James C. Furlong of Mystic. The complaint directly addresses the quality of advice being supplied by the Town of Groton Office of Planning and Development Services (OPDS). The material submitted by Mr. Furlong is considerable as to the details of various misleading informational data supplied by that office in order to substantiate a particular opinion and/or agenda. The material also indicates an arrogance of attitude by certain members of the department in dealing with CT State officials.
Specifically, Mr. Furlong takes issue with an OPDS information package which was handed out to planning and zoning commissioners and billed wrongly as a study made by Rutgers University. In reality, the package was a mixture of statistics from Rutgers, plus some arguments for development by a housing industry advocate who...it turned out...had absolutely no part in the Rutgers study. Epitomizing the misleading character of the OPDS presentation, the material even contained a misspelled summary, disguised to look as if it came from Rutgers, but which Rutgers denied writing in no uncertain terms. The OPDS at that time was arguing that certain multi-family housing structures do not necessarily increase the number of school-age children, which would in turn suggest that such developments would therefore not substantially add to our school population and therefore our educational budget. Therefore, in the case of the so-called Rutgers study, the OPDS failed to perform its proper role as a straightforward and trustworthy adviser to the Groton Commission.
Another issue involved a memo written by the Planning Department in an effort to try and discredit a state law involving the environmental protection of Long Island Sound. Yet another issue concerned the Planning Manager himself blaming Connecticut's fiscal problems on land use interventions and state grants for open space. And still another problem involved the Planning Office treating a visiting State Official with rudeness during an informational visit.
Mr. Furlong's report and support material to the Council is almost 40 pages long. It clearly shows a problem with the manner in which current management operates the OPDS. Unfortunately, to some of us, this comes as no surprise. By my own observation, the handling of the Streetscape Phase I project, including the street parking curb "bump out" design, was a major failing. And I will never forget the OPDS role in actively endorsing the proposed new "Super Walmart" store project on the Antonino property off Route 184...which would have resulted in a large parking lot water runoff into a nearby feeder stream.
I'm a Groton taxpayer who doesn't like to pay high property taxes, especially when they are being used to pay Town employees for poor job performance as they pursue their own "agenda" which might not have our best interest as citizens at heart. And we can certainly do without having to consume oil and fuel residue from parking lot runoff into our drinking water because someone was licking their financial chops over a large commercial tax rateable business expanding in Groton.
On August 16th, the Steering Committee and Planning Commission met to begin the process of updating the Conservation and Development Plan, which also includes the Municipal Coastal Program. The State of CT mandates the plan be reviewed every 10 years, as it covers environmental protection, economic development, land use, housing and transportation, plus other areas. Obviously, the existing management of Groton OPDS will be directly involved and playing a significant role in updating the Plan itself. Based on all of the above concerns, as verified in Mr. Furlong's report, there is major doubt that such input from OPDS would be impartial, fair, or accurate.
Mr. Furlong is right. This Planning Office problem needs correction.