Thursday, October 31, 2019

Opinion: Why should I vote yes for an open-space bond?

Submitted by Elisabeth Holder.
Communities with open space are more desirable places to live, have enhanced property values, and reduced municipal expenses.

Open spaces in a city can be put to many uses -- exercise and recreation, encouraging local farming, protecting fragile habitats, preserving water supplies and wetlands for flood control. Middletown has managed to save over 1,000 acres with previous purchases of open-space and development rights, but there are many more lands still at risk.

Our city is truly unique in having both a vibrant downtown, wild forested areas and incredibly rich farmland. From Veteran's Park along the Coginchaug River to the Guida Farm in the South, from Mount Highboy in the Northwest to Maromas in the southeast, Middletown has parks and trails that are used by people who come from out of town, as well those who live locally.  For the last 12 years, we haven't had access to the state matching funds that will enable us to preserve additional areas, which will benefit the city's residents and businesses for decades to come.

A study done for the State of Connecticut found that property values increase in value by 20% or more when they are near a passive-use park. Our city parks are used for hiking, biking, trail riding, cross country skiing, Cub Scout outings, swimming, fishing, and just hanging out. Middletown has more miles of blue-blazed trails than any other town in Connecticut, according to the Connecticut Forest and Park Association. We have a farm with a local CSA located on city-owned land, which sells fresh greens to citizens almost all year long. As the demand for locally-produced crops increases, our city could provide more land for this purpose.

Open-space purchases can reduce municipal costs, while development increases costs. City Planner Bill Warner emphasized that for every $1.00 of tax revenue from residential development, municipalities typically spend $1.30 on services. International studies have show that cities can save an average of 38% on infrastructure – on roads, sewer, and water lines -- and an average of 10% on operational costs – for trash pickup, snow removal, police, ambulance and fire services -- using open-space purchases and smart growth policies.

The costs of suburban sprawl are becoming ever more evident; saving open space is one of many tools that city planners can use to encourage more efficient and more sensible development. Please vote yes on the Open-Space Bond question on November 5th.

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