The Process: Education, Communication, Inclusion

 

Realizing it was vital to address the need for more housing options in Newtown, Llodra reached out to George Benson, the Director of Planning, and they devised a strategy. In 2007, they commissioned a build-out study to measure the open space and capacity to build out. Then, they applied for and received a State Housing For Economic Growth grant to examine equally important demographic trends, lifestyle choices and housing needs. Finally, Llodra and Benson researched locations and sought out guidance about the different kinds of housing stock. They hired Milone & MacBroom to produce an Incentive Housing Zone Study in 2010, as Benson said, “to identify areas that were suitable and could have potential for development.” Then they began conversation with contractors and developers. 

Benson emphasized the significance of compromise. “We talked to attorneys and developers. What type of density worked, financially, for developers to build and what would we like to see in town?” These steps happened incrementally as did the involvement of the public. Llodra stressed the importance of cooperation and collaboration with community leaders, residents and other partners. She knew the community must be involved, educated, and invested in the project for it to successfully develop with a shared, townwide vision. “You need to give people the facts,” Llodra said. They made the information from the studies available and, slowly, offered many meetings and other opportunities to discuss the data and how to best address the needs of the future by attracting millennials and supporting the aging community. “I knew we needed a conversation but I wanted to do it in an incremental way, to make it public and give everyone information, without fear of big changes too soon,” Llodra said.

Llodra brought in contractors and developers as well as bankers and investors to get more expertise, perspective, and information about how to best plan for Newtown’s future. She examined the core values of Newtown and stressed the priority to maintain green spaces; one of her first steps was to create an open-space conservation subdivision. It was an insightful strategy: Llodra began with identifying and protecting one widely appreciated aspect of the town; she took measures to ensure that, regardless of the decisions to come about housing developments, Newtown would largely remain an area with parks, fields, and other open green spaces. At community meetings, people were invited to consider all of the components involved with the housing projects including zoning regulations, schools, neighborhoods, property values and economic activity.

In January of 2015, the planning and zoning commission adopted the Incentive Housing Overlay Zone which set the guidelines and standards for future affordable housing developments in Newtown. According to the Newtown Zoning Regulations, “the intent of this zone is to allow affordable housing in mixed‐use developments at locations with adequate transportation and utility services, in order to provide housing choice and variety for those working in Newtown, single‐ parent households and aging households, among others. It is a further intent of these regulations to protect open spaces and rural areas of the community by encouraging development in smart growth locations.” The project moved forward with the input and support of not only the town officials but the collaborative partners and the residents of Newtown.

A Deeper Look Inside Newtown

Next steps - Learn more about planned housing development in Newtown: