Public input important to Town Plan revision


CORNWALL - Public interest in four committees looking at major issues for a revision of the Town Plan of Conservation and Development has brought both moral support and some problems to the process.

The Planning and Zoning Commission is taking a year to write a new plan, one that will be a usable document that goes beyond the broad "protecting the character of the town.

The town plan is a document required by the state. It is revised every 10 years, and forms the basis of a town's planning and zoning regulations. In it, town residents are expected to state what they like best about their town and would like to preserve; and what they would like to see change or evolve. The town plan is particularly powerful in stating how citizens feel about economic development, increased housing options and open-space conservation.

The process in Cornwall began last June with about 70 residents at a public forum working hard to pinpoint issues that needed attention. In September, the Planning and Zoning Commission seated four committees: housing, natural resources, economic development and cultural and community resources. Each is led by P&Z commissioners, with the remainder of members drawn from the community.

While the zoning commission has demonstrated its desire to include as many residents as possible in the process, it has been difficult initially to organize meetings of the four committees, as well as meetings with expert presenters, while satisfying the publics desire for knowledge and input.

"The meetings have always been open to the public, but it's been a little difficult for committees charged with producing documents within their committee to do that while the public is asking questions," said Land Use Administrator Karen Griswold Nelson. "P&Z wanted to make the meetings more workable with the public, but also allow the committee to keep its focus."

The answer was to make the committee meetings a bit more formal, with an agenda that includes public comment periods at the beginning and end.

"The committees can and often do open up the entire meeting to public participation," Nelson said. "It was an issue when they had a presentation or maps or whatever they were working on. This will establish some guidelines."

As a scheduled June 2008 look at a final plan draws closer, P&Z plans to offer events that will offer more information and interaction with the public.

The committees meet on the fourth Tuesday of each month at the Town Hall, town offices and sometimes the Cornwall Library. Agendas are posted at Town Hall and at the town Web site,

The Web site is also a source of a selection of documents written by local residents with expertise in planning and economics. A summary report of the June 2007 Planning Forum is also available. At the site's homepage, click on "Planning Cornwall's Future."

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