NVCOG Engineers Take on Transportation Resilience International Conference on Extreme Weather and Climate Change in Washington, D.C.

In November, NVCOG Transportation Engineers Karen Svetz and Kevin Ellis attended the Transportation Resilience International Conference on Extreme Weather and Climate Change Challenges held at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in Washington, D.C.

Attendees learned about emerging best practices and state-of-the-art research results on how to adapt transportation networks to the potential impacts of climate change and extreme weather events that are becoming increasingly prevalent in our country and around the world.

During the conference, presenters from the Federal Highway Administration, other states, as well as other countries, shared how they conduct research, collect data, analyze the data, quantify the risk, and prepare resilience plans. The objective of the planning is to identify resilience needs, develop specific strategies to anticipate, prepare for and mitigate events that put the transportation network at risk of disruption and damage.

Climate-related events can damage roads, bridges, railways, ports, and other transportation assets. These events include river and stream flooding, changes in sea level, drought, excessive rainfall, wildfires, changes in temperature, and the like.

With the likelihood of these events increasing in frequency, it is important to create plans and strategies with the expectation that the damages, deaths, and disruption to the affected communities can be better anticipated and reduced. 

Community Conversations: Cheshire, CT is a Beacon of Proactive Development and Community Engagement

Crafted by NVCOG staff, each installment of the the “Community Conversations” spotlight serves as a community-driven article. In these sessions, staff engage with a specific community to explore various topics of their choosing. 

Written by Heidy Coronel, Communications Associate
Informational poster on Bartlem Park South fence: “What’s up with this? Improvements in the works!”

Cheshire’s Remarkable Journey

Cheshire, Connecticut, nestled in the Naugatuck Valley Planning Region, stands as an extraordinary exemplar of proactive development and community engagement. Our recent exploration alongside Mike Glidden, Cheshire’s Town Planner, offered a firsthand glimpse into the remarkable developments transforming this community.

Cheshire’s success hinges on two pivotal themes: placemaking and relationship building. The Town’s emphasis on creating a vibrant, attractive community, bolstered by excellent amenities and an exceptional school system, lures families and professionals alike. Proactive planning, community-wide investment, and a culture of relationship building has spurred development, bringing positive dividends to the Town.

Growth Story

Cheshire’s evolution over the past few years has been nothing short of remarkable. This includes the addition of 700 apartments, several of which carry deed restrictions, alongside the construction of 500 new single-family homes. Furthermore, a modernization project led to the establishment of two new schools. A standout feature of this growth story is the Bartlem Park South Project, anticipated to be completed in fall 2024, which includes an amphitheater, walking areas, passive recreation spaces, and high-quality fields for both residents and visitors. Innovative signages, equipped with QR codes, reflect Cheshire’s commitment to keeping citizens informed about their community.

What becomes abundantly clear in Cheshire’s development landscape is the high demand across various land use types, spanning industrial, commercial, residential, and municipal sectors. This demand is a testament to the town’s growing allure and potential for prosperous development.

Placemaking and Relationship Building

Cheshire demonstrates a commitment to placemaking, understanding that communities that invest in their image attract interest from various sectors. This commitment entails meticulous consideration of a project’s appearance from the pedestrian perspective and strategies to enhance public interaction with developments.

The remarkable achievements in Cheshire’s development efforts are undeniably a result of a collaborative effort. Mike Glidden, Town Planner, identified key stakeholders, such as a supportive Town Council, dedicated commissioners, engaged community members, Sean Kimball, the Town Manager, Andrew Martelli, the Coordinator of Economic Development & Grant Writing, and committed volunteers. Their synchronized collaboration is a testament to the significance of unity in community-driven development. Effective inter-departmental coordination has been pivotal to Cheshire’s successful initiatives.

Cheshire’s exceptional growth and community-driven development are emblematic of the power of synergy, forward-thinking planning, and active community participation. The experiences and insights derived from Cheshire’s journey are valuable for communities aspiring to mold their future. By the end of the tour, we were reminded that the phrase “It takes a village” holds true, especially in the context of progress-driven planning.

Mike Glidden, Cheshire Town Planner stands in front of the Cheshire Town Hall

Mike Glidden – The Town Planner

Mike Glidden, Cheshire’s Town Planner, is instrumental in the town’s development journey. His commitment to community involvement and relationship building has fostered effective planning and has cultivated an environment where developers want to invest. Mike’s approachability, open-door policy, and resilience are assets in this intricate role.

Mike also expressed deep respect and admiration for the town’s former Town Planner, Bill Voelker, AICP, who laid the groundwork for many of the master plans currently coming to fruition. Bill’s philosophy, “It’s their town; I’m just visiting,” reflects the fundamental principle of community-driven development and engagement.

Approachability and Community Knowledge

Mike emphasizes the essential qualities of approachability and judicious decision-making. Mike actively engages in comprehending individuals’ property goals, expertly navigating the delicate balance between personal desires and community regulations. While the best solutions create developments that meet the community’s and developer’s needs, Mike acknowledges that a planner’s role includes knowing when to say “no”, a practice that saves valuable time for all stakeholders involved. Deep familiarity with the community and a commitment to treating all individuals equally are at the core of effective planning.

Cheshire is distinguished by its proactive approach to planning, evident in their initiative to update the Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD) prior to their 2026 requirement.  Mike recognized the present development interests across sectors and the dynamic needs of the Town as the driving force behind the early plan update. He emphasized that this approach was made achievable through the collaborative support of the Town Council, and the Planning and Zoning Commission, illustrating how the Town’s joint efforts contribute to enhanced planning.  

A notable success story in Cheshire is the West Main Street project, marked by extensive community engagement. Over 100 individuals attended a community meeting, underscoring the community’s active participation in the development process. The town utilized a range of communication channels, including mailers, a dedicated website, and strategic use of social media.

Mike Glidden engages in conversation with Savannah-Nicole Villalba, AICP, AZT, Community Planning Director at NVCOG.

Cheshire’s Unique Essence

Cheshire, CT offers an insightful example of what can be achieved through proactive development, community engagement, and effective planning. This picturesque town is living proof that, through collaboration and unity, communities can reach new heights while preserving their unique charm. Cheshire’s remarkable journey serves as an inspiration for municipalities far and wide.

Stay Connected

Contact the Cheshire Planning and Development Department located at 84 South Main Street Cheshire, CT 06410. Telephone: 203 271-6670 Fax: 203 271-6688

Sean Kimball, Town Manager townmanager@cheshirect.org

Mike Glidden, Town Planner mglidden@cheshirect.org

Andrew Martelli, Coordinator of Economic Development & Grant Writing andrew.martelli@cheshirect.org

Learn more about Cheshire’s municipal initiatives on the town’s official website.

Explore a range of valuable resources and NVCOG projects on the Cheshire NVCOG web page.

Municipal Land Use Best Practice: Woodbury’s Variance Guide

The quarterly “Municipal Land Use Best Practice” spotlight, curated by the NVCOG Community Planning staff, is dedicated to showcasing municipal best practices. Designed to serve as a valuable resource for Town Planners, Commissioners, and land use staff, each edition features an exemplary initiative from a municipality in the Naugatuck Valley region.

Written by Emely Ricci, Community Planner

William Agresta, AICP, MLA, the Town Planner in Woodbury, CT, shared how Woodbury’s Land Use Department facilitates education and informed decision making for variance applications. Will created a comprehensive document outlining the variance process: what is and what isn’t a hardship, the threshold a variance must meet, and the elements a Zoning Board of Appeals considers when making their decision.  

The purpose for creating the guide centered around two focal reasons. One, for applicants to have a foundational understanding of what a variance is to be able to participate in the process; and two, for commission members to continue making informed decisions in alignment with the community’s regulatory policies. The guide is provided and discussed with all applicants before an application for a variance is submitted. 

Woodbury Town Hall (Source: Town of Woodbury)

Will works to connect with and educate his community members when it comes to variances. In doing so, he helps an applicant to look at alternatives that are in harmony with a municipality’s regulations avoiding a variance, while still meeting the needs of the applicant, saving them both time and cost. 

The guide is attached to each staff report for a variance application.  The intention is to remind Commissioners of their purview when deliberating an application. The guide is also readily available on the Town’s website for residents to access as applicants or informed community members. 

Will’s approach towards the variance process is an example of how municipalities can facilitate consistent and accessible dissemination of information for members of the community.  

Stay Connected

Contact the Woodbury Land Use Department located at 281 Main St South Woodbury, CT. 06798. Telephone: 203-263-3467

William Agresta, AICP, MLA, Town Planner wagresta@woodburyct.org

Learn more about Woodbury on the town’s official website.

Explore a range of valuable resources and NVCOG projects on the Woodbury NVCOG web page.

PRESS RELEASE: NVCOG Implements EcoInteractive to Revolutionize Transportation Planning Workflow

For Immediate Release: November 29, 2023 

Richard Donovan   
Naugatuck Valley Council of Governments   

(Waterbury, CT) –  The Naugatuck Valley Council of Governments (NVCOG) proudly announces the integration of EcoInteractive, a cutting-edge planning software, to streamline the workflow of the Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) and Local Transportation Capital Improvement Program  (LOTCIP). By integrating this innovative technology, NVCOG aims to ensure effective collaboration and achieve sustainable transportation planning goals. 

The Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) is a critical planning tool that guides the allocation of federal funds for transportation projects in our region. Metropolitan Planning Organizations maintain a TIP to manage federal transportation spending, ensuring that projects work to enhance safety, capacity, and reliability of the region’s transportation network. By applying EcoInteractive’s advanced capabilities, NVCOG aims to significantly improve the efficiency and accuracy of the TIP process, ultimately leading to more effective project selection and implementation.  

EcoInteractive offers NVCOG a centralized platform that allows for improved coordination and communication between the COG’s staff, municipalities, and CTDOT. As MPOs must approve all federal spending before projects can begin, streamlining this process will reduce delays and errors in the process while also providing additional visibility into projects and plans to the public. Similarly, the LOTCIP program, which uses state funds managed by the COG to support municipal transportation projects, will be centralized within the system to ensure that the public remains informed of project progress while also ensuring a simple and effective means of communication between the COG and municipal project sponsors.

A key feature of the new system, the public facing website, will not only allow the public to see proposed changes before they are adopted but will provide more project information, regular status updates, and the opportunity for the public to ask questions or provide comment on projects and changes.   

“We are thrilled to integrate EcoInteractive into our planning workflow for the Transportation Improvement Program,” said Rick Dunne, Executive Director of NVCOG. “We are taking a significant step towards increasing our efficiency and transparency. This partnership will strengthen our ability to better serve our communities.” 

Southbury Will Use Planning Consultant for Now

Original Press Release

Posted on March 8, 2021

The Board of Selectmen approved a restructuring of its land-use department in an effort to stabilize planning, which, town officials say has been in transition since the retirement of longtime land-use official DeLoris Curtis two years ago.

First Selectman Jeffery A. Manville said the town will rely on a consultant from the Naugatuck Valley Council of Governments to assist with planning issues on a month-tomonth basis at $2,100 per month.

Curtis, who died four months after her retirement, ran both the administrative and planning sides of the department in her job as land use administrator. Manville said replacing Curtis has been a challenge and the position has not been filled in more than a year.

The town recently named Jessica Townsend the interim land use administrator, but she will not have her planning certification for another four years. For now, Manville said, her role will mainly be administrative.

Keith Rosenfeld, a longtime planner from COG for towns like Naugatuck, Southington and Waterbury, will devote two days a week to Southbury, working on various development plans.

Manville said the town has attempted to hire a new town planner, but no qualified candidates could both administrative and planning work.

The first selectman said the town is moving toward online permitting, which should alleviate the workload in the landuse office, particularly on the building department side. Selectman Emily Harrison was concerned that the level of planning might fall off with an outside consultant to replace “such an important role,” especially with regard to the Plan of Conservation and Development.

Manville said additional assistance could be called in if needed for certain applications.

Manville said the savings to the town would be about $10,000 a year, a figure Selectman Mike Rosen wondered might not be worth it, considering all that could be lost.

But Manville said the move was just a better plan overall and not about saving money.

“We are trying to have continuity of planning over time, institutional knowledge,” Manville said. “This gives us a way to stabilize the planning side of our needs.”

Rosen said he is generally in favor of promoting from within, but is concerned about the length of time before Townsend could become involved in planning. He suggested implementing the new plan while searching for a fulltime planner.

Manville said he does not see the benefit in going back out for applicants, adding that his goal is to stabilize the planning side of the department.

Manville said COG provides all these services now to other towns, including Beacon Falls and Seymour, and having a variety of planning specialists and a relationship with COG for collaboration and assistance on other issues even after Townsend gets her certification is important.