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Ridgefield Hosts Political Meeting To Discuss Regional Priorities

Matthew Knickerbocker, first selectman of Bethel and chairman of the Council of Governments, brought up public transportation as a major  legislative concern.
Matthew Knickerbocker, first selectman of Bethel and chairman of the Council of Governments, brought up public transportation as a major legislative concern. Photo Credit: bethel-ct.gov

RIDGEFIELD, Conn. – For the first time under the banner of the Western Connecticut Council of Governments, area mayors and first selectmen met in Ridgefield earlier this month to outline the region’s top legislative priorities for 2015.

Improving transportation was one major topic.

“It’s important for our leaders to work hand in hand with state legislators to ensure our railways and highways support the quality of life our residents expect as well as enhance regional economic development,” said Matthew Knickerbocker, first selectman of Bethel and chairman of the council.

Two studies sponsored by the state Department of Transportation have recommended upgrades that would allow faster and more frequent service on the Danbury and New Canaan branches of Metro-North Railroad.

Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton noted a growing number of commuters in the city who travel by railroad for work.

An affordable housing appeals procedure used by developers to supersede local zoning regulations drew the rebuke of several first selectmen.

Darien First Selectman Jayme Stevenson said some developers were abusing the appeals procedure known as “8-30g” for its place in state statutes. In its place, she suggested the General Assembly provide incentives to towns supporting affordable housing production.

The mayors and first selectmen also discussed the new stormwater regulations proposed by the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

Danbury Public Works Director Antonio Iadarola suggested the regulations would significantly impact municipalities by requiring them to purchase new equipment and hire additional staff. He noted also that DEEP had exempted the state from complying with these new stormwater regulations.

“There is unanimous agreement that we must be effective stewards of the environment, especially when it comes to clean water,” Knickerbocker said. “But, we must work harder to do no harm. These regulations, as proposed, would impose an enormous new tax burden on local communities, and with no guarantee they are capable of achieving the goal. We can, and must do better.”

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