Showing CARE by seeking wise biz decisions
Updated: Sep 12
• Nonprofit Aims to CARE via Safeguarding Valley's Character
Special to Today Magazine
President Jane Latus answered this Q&A on behalf of C.A.R.E.
Canton Advocates for Responsible Expansion — C.A.R.E.
P.O. Box 196 • Canton
Email — email@example.com
Facebook — @CareCantonCT
Website — www.carecantonct.org
Year Established — 2000
Mission — To encourage responsible economic development in Canton, while protecting its character, identity and quality of life.
C.A.R.E. — it’s your town, too
Most fulfilling aspect of your work?
• That there has been a sea change in public understanding of economic development and land use. Most people now understand that land is finite, so make the most of it.
• That development isn’t always a new building going up, but more often revitalizing what you already have — e.g., the Collins Axe Factory.
• That preserving land as open space is an economic win.
• That sacrificing the characteristics that make your town unique and appealing is an economic loss.
Your biggest obstacle, and how you overcome it?
Suspicion that we were anti-development. We spoke out in favor of development applications that were suitable for Canton. For those applications that we opposed, we explained why they would be costly mistakes. Also, our directors and board members are from all geographic parts of town, so it is clear that the only “backyard” we are concerned with is the greater one, the entire town.
Most satisfying accomplishment?
Successfully educating residents and town leaders about the importance of smart growth measures — that they are economically advantageous AND preserve rather than destroy the things you love about your town. We suggested the town organize a series of community meetings, called charettes, to seek public input from all facets of the community, including residents and business owners.
From that dialogue, the town’s Planning and Zoning Commission adopted form-based codes that are designed to streamline redevelopment and development approvals so they reflect the consensus expressed from the public.
Can we name another? Founding the Collinsville Farmers Market.
Anecdote that illustrates how you fulfill your mission:
Most recently, when we learned of a developer’s plan to blast traprock ridge six days a week over a two-year period in an area where most residents relied on well water, we mobilized to alert residents of three towns affected by this plan.
The developer wanted to export nearly 140,000 cubic yards of traprock from the signature rock at the gateway to Canton. We hired experts to provide science-based testimony, researched what the town’s Zoning Regulations and Plan of Conservation and Development had to say about such plans, and educated citizens from Canton, Simsbury and Avon about the potential impact such a development would have and how they could respectfully express their concerns.
This large traprock ridge is just to the east of, and not to be confused with, the relatively small rock ledge in front of the former La Trattoria restaurant that was destroyed earlier this year — see the accompanying photos for clear visuals.
The smaller rock — although it looks sizable, and got everyone’s attention — was just a “tiny” ledge in comparison. And it was mostly in the DOT (Department of Transportation) right of way, so they made the decision. The new owner of the former La Trattoria restaurant site wanted to be more visible. Well, the site sure is, for better or (definitely) worse.
By the way, the larger traprock ridge isn’t preserved yet, as the developer still owns it, so we’re waiting to see what he does next.
Editor’s Note — In June 2021, Canton’s Planning & Zoning Commission rejected the developer’s original plan for a 20-dispenser gas station, electric vehicle showroom and convenience store on Route 44 next to the West Simsbury-based Hoffman car dealerships and West Simsbury-based Best Buy.
Interesting stats + numbers:
• 60 — Height of a retaining wall (measured in feet) that the Canton Zoning Commission approved in 2008. • 147,000 — Square footage of a big-box home improvement store that would have been located under that wall. • 175,000 — Number of cubic yards of earth that would have been moved to turn the steep hill into a flat building pad. • 85 — How high that pile of earth would be (measured in feet) if it were spread over an NFL football field including both end zones.
Big box retail is, at best, a zero-sum economic deal for towns. Allowing drastic reconfiguration of the land, especially for a loser of a project, is a dangerous precedent. Fortunately, the big box chain backed out due to the cost of building on this unsuitable lot. We hope land use officials will never again make such a mistake.
Editor’s Note — This potential Canton project was for a Lowe's Home Improvement center on a 24-acre site next to the West Simsbury-based Valley Car Wash on Route 44 near the tri-town convergence of Canton, Avon and Simsbury.
Goals for the next 1-5 years?
• Cleanup of the J. Swift Chemical Superfund site.
• Work with elected officials to improve the state regulations regarding quarrying and mining.
• Continuous improvement in the training of land use officials and educating the public about how the local planning and land use decision-making process works in Connecticut.
Volunteers — Our volunteers include attorneys, environmental professionals, scientists, professional planners, social media pros, writers, historians, architects, door-to-door canvassers and more. If you care about your town, you can help.
Besides donations, how is your work funded?
We are completely supported by donations, with the exception of a small state historic preservation grant in 2009.
How closely do you work with other agencies?
We regularly collaborate with many area nonprofits.
What do you appreciate most about the Farmington Valley?
Its one-of-a-kind character! Its people, beauty, the Farmington River, outdoor recreational opportunities, land trusts, historical buildings, rare traprock ridges, farms, locally owned businesses, history, great schools and actively engaged citizens. How can anyone pick just one of those as the best?
What constructive change would you like to see in the Valley?
Greater regional economic development and land use planning, and statewide reforms that reduce reliance on the local property tax.
Number of employees — We are all volunteers.
• Jane Latus • president
• Donna Burkhardt • secretary
• Alan Weiner • treasurer
Board members — 10
How has the COVID pandemic impacted your work?
It hasn’t, other than conducting meetings virtually. +
Today Online and Today Magazine cover the heart of the Farmington Valley — this Noteworthy Nonprofits and Business Beat feature is scheduled to be published in the September edition of Today Magazine, our award-winning monthly publication
We aim to report the underreported upside of the Valley's five core towns — Avon • Canton • Farmington • Granby • Simsbury — Connecticut • USA