Cornwall’s leaders review POCD progress

CORNWALL — The town’s 10-year Town Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD) that began in 2020 has entered its fourth year.

At a special meeting of the Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) Tuesday, Jan. 23, representatives from Cornwall’s volunteer departments and committees provided an update on what their groups have done to achieve goals laid out in the town plan.

First Selectman Gordon Ridgway presented first on behalf of the Board of Selectmen (BOS), which welcomed two new members in November 2023.

The new board created a list of goals for the coming term, most of which fall into one of four categories that align with the POCD: economic development, housing, resources, and community culture and youth.

On economic development, Ridgway cited progress on the West Cornwall wastewater project and the beginning of redeveloping former industrial areas through the sale of two delinquent properties.

For housing, he noted the creating of an Affordable Housing Commission, approved at a town meeting in December 2023. He said the newly formed commission is “trying to get some projects launched to make a dent in the housing issue” in Cornwall.

When discussing resources, Ridgway explained how 2023 was a “year of extreme weather,” referencing heavy rain that washed out roads, embankments, and even caused a landslide on Essex Hill Road. He also noted the town is working toward adding composting services to the transfer station and looking to expand solar energy production in Cornwall.

On community culture and youth, Ridgway pointed to the full calendar of events put on by the Park and Recreation team.

Park and Rec Chair Michelle Shipp reviewed the myriad of community events held last year, including an April Fools extravaganza, July Fest, Taste of Cornwall, Halloween at the Green, and Pasta Dinner with Santa. Park and Rec also hosted regular community lunches and outings for senior with the Goshen/Cornwall bus. Flu and COVID-19 vaccine clinics were also arranged by Park and Rec, and more than 250 people were vaccinated as a result.

Ginni Block provided an update from the Cornwall Housing Corporation, which has a goal of increasing the number of affordable housing units in town by 25 before 2030.

“We haven’t added any this year, but we have made some progress,” said Block, citing three potential construction projects in the works. “We just approved the hiring of a contractor to do the pre-development work.”

The new homes will eventually cost approximately $250,000 and be intended for individuals making 80% of the current median income.

Heidi Cunnick reported on behalf of the Conservation Commission and gave updates on how the group monitors, educates, and takes action on land preservation.

Bart Jones from the Cornwall Conservation Trust added to this topic by providing details on the extent of preserved land in town.

“The Conservation Trust now conserves 2,300 acres approximately. That’s about 8% of the land mass in Cornwall,” said Jones. “Over 55% of the owned properties were donated.”

In 2024, Jones noted the Conservation Trust will work to promote the 16 hiking trails it maintains on conserved land.

“This year we’re going to make it the year of the trails and get people out hiking,” said Jones.

To conclude, Anna Timell provided an update on behalf of P&Z. In 2023, the commission completed a reformatting of the town’s planning and zoning regulations. Several recently amended regulations have already been taken advantage of by residents.

“Three new home-based businesses came to Cornwall as a result of our zoning amendment in 2021,” said Timell. “We also just approved our first application under the amended agricultural regulations,” she added, in reference to the Ridgway cidery that was approved in January 2024.

Timell also thanked all of the volunteers who contribute to the success and survival of Cornwall.

“I consider all the volunteers heroes,” she said. “Those people are worth a million bucks to this town.”

“They’re priceless,” added Selectman Jen Markow.

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