LITCHFIELD -- Local voters spent three hours on Saturday debating various town issues, including two proposals that could potentially change the character of this small, rural community.
<br /><br />An intimate crowd of about 35 residents attended the town's annual deliberative session to review the recommended $5 million town budget and numerous warrant articles that will be placed on the ballot next month.
<br /><br />Those articles garnering the most discussion included a proposal to establish a multi-family residential overlay district, and a separate proposal to conduct a sewer system study.
<br /><br />According to Mike Croteau, member of the planning board, the state requires that a multi-family overlay district be created in each community, which he says is good for economic development and will enable more housing options for employees of area businesses.
<br /><br />If adopted by voters on Election Day, the multi-family district will be established north of Leach Brook and south of Page Road. Development of the district, according to Croteau, is to maintain the existing character of the neighborhood and also meet state requirements.
<br /><br />He said no more than six units will be permitted in any structure, and the minimum lot size would be two acres.
<br /><br />The district, as proposed, represents about 11 percent of Litchfield's total area, according to Croteau, who estimates there is a potential for 90 structures to be built within the district.
<br /><br />"Many communities statewide have made a legitimate effort to enforce this law," he said, adding compliance seems to be easier than expected, and the impacts on municipalities are less than originally predicted.
<br /><br />Not everyone was sold on the idea of adding a multi-family housing district.
<br /><br />"Don't we already have sufficient multi-family housing?" asked former selectman Ralph Boehm.
<br /><br />His concern was echoed by Chris Pascucci, member of the budget committee, who argued that Litchfield already has affordable housing, which is why people like himself moved into the community years ago.
<br /><br />If the district is not created, Steve Perry of the planning board stressed that developers could ultimately come into Litchfield and construct multi-unit houses anywhere within the town. This proposal, he explained, provides a specific area where these types of units can be built.
<br /><br />Residents were also presented with a separate warrant article seeking $10,000 to conduct a sewer system study.
<br /><br />Selectman Frank Byron stressed that there is no intent for the town to construct its own sewer system, but there is interest in possibly reaching intermunicipal agreements with other communities allowing use of their sewer systems by potential businesses hoping to relocate to Litchfield.
<br /><br />This proposal could help attract future companies into town, according to Byron, who said residents have expressed a sincere desire to have more economic development here.
<br /><br />"What kind of town do you want when you vote on this?" asked Pascucci, arguing he does not understand the premise of the warrant article.
<br /><br />If it is approved, he claims that larger businesses such as a prison or large manufacturing plant could set up shop in town.
<br /><br />"I don't want that," he said, maintaining it could ultimately increase taxes.
<br /><br />Byron emphasized that the town is zoned to include commercial development.
<br /><br />"We can all hope that our town can stay the same ... but that is not realistic," said Byron. "We have to grow as a community, and the best way to do that is to grow in a planned fashion."
<br /><br />Election Day is March 12, with voting from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Campbell High School, 1 Highlander Court.
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