The existence of Uber does not mean everything is transit-oriented development!

It turns out that our Planning & Zoning Commission doesn’t understand the basics of smart growth and transit-oriented development. At a public hearing last week, two members implied that everywhere in town fits the definition because we have a senior shuttle.

Numerous residents (in letters and in person) spent most of two public hearing sessions regarding 64 South Elm Street describing the smart growth plans and goals laid out in the Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD). In particular, the POCD calls for increasing density in the “bookends” of Windsor Locks, near downtown and near the airport. The idea here is not new or unusual. Planners all over the country have realized that the type of motor-vehicle centric development of previous decades is problematic for a number of reasons. People are now looking for village-like settings where the commerce, transit, and housing is all walkable. This is not merely a matter of preference for seniors, as eventually many will lose the ability to drive. The flip side of focusing dense development near transit nodes is that towns are able to preserve their trees and open spaces in other areas.

Merrigan’s lawyer, Paul Smith, brought up the idea that we have multiple senior shuttles in town and thus all of the smart growth language in the POCD didn’t really matter for this development. Alan Gannuscio and Peggy Sayers agreed in their comments. In Paul Smith’s defense, he was just advocating for his client, who has based his career on opportunistic growth. There really isn’t any excuse, however, for two members of a Planning & Zoning Commission to not understand that a senior shuttle is not the same as smart growth. These members are clearly unqualified.