NVCOG & UConn Low Impact Development (LID) Tour

The NVCOG and UConn are hosting a Low Impact Development (LID) Tour on July 24 from 10 AM to 12 PM, at UConn Lodewick Visitor’s Center, 115 North Eagleville Rd., Storrs CT 06269. The tour is specifically designed for stakeholders from the Naugatuck Valley Planning Region. Participants will explore various types of low impact development, understand its benefits, and maintenance needed to implement these practices successfully.
Registration is required to attend. Transportation will be provided from the NVCOG Office to UConn Storrs for participants that register by July 3rd.

Sustainability Spotlight: Backyard Farming

This article contains sustainability considerations as municipalities navigate regulation of backyard farms as an accessory residential use. 

Chickens at Pillwillop Therapeutic Farm in Wolcott, CT. Photo credit: Christine O’Neill

Small-scale, backyard farming can provide residents with fresh, healthy food, supplemental income, or an enriching hobby. Connecticut’s Right to Farm Law (CGS § 19a-341) has been in place since the 1980s, protecting farms from certain nuisance-based lawsuits and in some cases preempting local zoning. Municipalities may struggle with striking a balance between allowing small-scale livestock farming on residential properties and neighbor concerns related to odor, noise, and runoff. Below are some sustainability considerations as towns navigate regulation of backyard farms containing animals. 

Space, Acreage, and Setbacks. It is not uncommon for zoning regulations to limit where livestock can be kept by imposing space limitations, such as a minimum lot size or liberal setbacks. While strict limitations make sense for multiacre farms, a one-size-fits-all approach may result in overly restrictive regulations that discourage backyard farming. Carefully crafted regulations for specific animals – like Ansonia’s regulations for fancy pigeons – prevent unintentional pigeonholing of all livestock into the same category. 

Managing Nuisances. Animal husbandry may create nuisances that impact other property owners, such as noise, odors, or runoff. Some of these nuisances are beyond the reach of municipal land use – for instance, per CT’s Inland Wetlands & Watercourses Act (CGS § 22a-40), most farming activities are permitted as-of-right in wetlands (though this does not mean no restrictions apply – see this CT DEEP resource for more details). Municipalities should consider setting reasonable standards for storage of manure (x feet from property lines), provisions for drainage (maximum allowable grade), or requiring that animals be fenced.  

Animal Welfare. Just as zoning provides for the public safety and wellbeing of humans, regulations should also maximize animal welfare. As an example, allowing multiple horses to live on a half-acre property could lead to inhumane conditions. A best practice to ensure adequate enclosure- and lot-sizes is to designate a number of square feet/acres per animal. For instance, Bristol’s regulations for 5.4.13 Keeping of Livestock state, “A minimum lot area of 2 acres shall be required for the first animal being kept and 1/3rd acre for each additional animal.” Plymouth also uses a very unique formula with “bird units” in Section K.1.iii that is worth emulating. 

Farm Stands. Allowing the sale of agricultural products, like eggs or honey, by right on residential properties empowers small-scale farmers to earn income. If municipalities are concerned about the operation becoming too commercial for a residential area, a requirement that only products created on the property are allowed for sale can act as a reasonable limitation. Municipalities may consider providing a one-pager with regulations for farmstands to interested resident.

Outreach & Education. Unfortunately, many residents only find out about zoning restrictions after they have already erected a coop or welcomed animals into their family. Widely publicize your regulations and ordinances related to backyard farming or distribute the information to community groups such as 4H clubs or school districts. 

Small-scale farming on residential lots makes our communities more vibrant and sustainable. We can minimize the negative consequences by crafting thoughtful regulations that fit the needs of each community. 

Further reading: 

Contact Us

The “Sustainability Spotlight” provides readers with ideas on how to incorporate sustainability into your land use regulations. Questions? Contact Christine O’Neill.

Municipal Land Use Best Practice: Shelton’s Community Engagement for Conservation

The City of Shelton effectively maintains its natural spaces and promotes resident participation through various community-driven events. Read on to learn more about their successful model! 

Shelton Lakes Recreation Path near Lane Street. Photo Credit: Teresa Gallagher, Shelton Conservation Commission

Teresa Gallagher, Natural Resources Manager for the City of Shelton, shared how the drive for conservation, volunteerism, municipal support, and collaboration encourages members of the community to enrich Shelton’s natural landscape. 

As the Natural Resources Manager, Teresa enhances Shelton’s open space program by supporting the Conservation Commission, Trails Committee, Community Garden Committee, and Anti-Litter Committee. On behalf of these committees, she coordinates a variety of activities, social media relations, committee updates, and annual events to engage the community in conservation work. 

Some of these events include the annual Trails Hiking Challenge that encourages people to explore Shelton’s 26.2-miles of recreational trails. The Shelton Clean Sweep, hosted by the Anti-Litter Committee, spurs people to go out and pick up trash from public lands and road systems to raise awareness of littering and to encourage keeping the environment clean for everyone’s enjoyment. The Community Garden Committee gives residents the opportunity to grow their own vegetables in a community garden and to become part of a group of gardeners who maintain the garden’s plot.  

Teresa noted that a vast network of municipal staff, committee and community members, and organizations, like the Shelton Land Trust and the Connecticut Forest and Park Association, all work together to create a space of collaboration and communication. She explained that in order to create a committed group of volunteers, it is important to foster, model, and support the volunteer spirit. This facilitates meaningful engagement with the public and shows appreciation for their hard work.  Much of her day is hands-on field work on the trails and gardens, addressing gaps and issues that are beyond the scope of volunteers or that must be addressed urgently. 

Shelton’s highly collaborative conservation approach, including the Natural Resources Manager role and committed commission and committees, supports a strong sense of ownership and value in the community. In this way, community members have many opportunities to enjoy conservation-oriented outdoor activities, events, and amenities in their municipality.  

Stay Connected

Contact the City of Shelton, located at 54 Hill St, Shelton, CT 06484. Telephone:  (203) 924-1555 

Teresa Gallagher, Natural Resource Manager, City of Shelton (Email)

Learn more about Shelton’s Conversation Commission. 

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

Contact Us

The “Municipal Land Use Best Practice” spotlight features an exemplary initiative from a municipality in the region. Do you have a tool or practice that you would like to share that works for your municipality? Contact Emely Ricci.

Waste Reduction and Savings for Municipalities Hosted by NVCOG and SCRCOG

The Naugatuck Valley Council of Governments (NVCOG) and the South Central Regional Council of Governments (SCRCOG) are hosting two forums that will inform municipal staff and elected officials on the implementation and successes of Organics Diversion & Unit Based Pricing (UBP).  

The two-part forum will include one event for municipalities with transfer stations, and another event focused on implementing organics diversion and UBP with curbside pickup programs.   

The Forums will include an informational presentation, along with a panel of waste reduction personnel that will share their experiences on how they have operated and implemented Organics Diversion and UBP in their communities.  

The transfer station event hosted by NVCOG is scheduled for Wednesday, January 10th at 10am via Zoom. You can register for this webinar at https://tinyurl.com/TransferStationForum. 

The curbside collection event hosted by SCRCOG is scheduled for Wednesday, January 17th at 10am.  You may register for this webinar at https://tinyurl.com/CurbsideCollectionForum. 

These forums follow the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s (CT DEEP) efforts to address the state’s shrinking waste capacity by reducing waste. Organics Diversion and education on UBP are being piloted in 15 Connecticut towns through grant funds from the Sustainable Materials Management (SMM) Grant program provided by DEEP. 

 It is essential that municipalities find a sustainable solution for waste disposal, because according to CT DEEP disposal costs are rising as over 800,000 tons are currently being shipped to out-of-state landfills and landfill capacity in New England is expected to drop to zero as early as 2041 Governor Lamont Announces 2023 Legislative Proposal: Addressing the Future of Materials and Waste Management (ct.gov).  We look forward to having a valuable discussion on how to practice sustainable waste management in your community! Feel free to reply to this email with any questions. 

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PRESS RELEASE: Trash Reduction Pilot “Green Storytime” Scheduled for Thursday, December 28th in Middlebury

Tom Dougherty
Environmental Planner
Naugatuck Valley Council of Governments
(203) 725-3096

Trash Reduction Pilot “Green Storytime”  Scheduled for Thursday, December 28th in Middlebury 

(Middlebury, CT) – The Middlebury Public Library, with support from the Naugatuck Valley Council of Governments (NVCOG), will host a Green Storytime for children ages 4 and up. This Storytime aims to bring awareness about recycling and sustainable waste habits to the community. This event will be held at the Middlebury Public Library located at 30 Crest Rd, Middlebury, CT 06762 from 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. on Tuesday, December 28, 2023. Children will learn about reducing, reusing, and recycling waste, and have the opportunity to play a recycling game and do a craft. Registration is required. To register call 203-758-2634 or sign up in person at the library. 

This event continues NVCOG’s efforts to promote Middlebury’s Trash Reduction Pilot, which began on July 1st for Transfer Station users and aims to reduce trash and divert organics.  The pilot is funded by the Sustainable Materials Management Grants Program from the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. To learn more about NVCOG’s role in this program, visit https://nvcogct.gov/project/current-projects/smm-trash-reduction-pilot-program/ 

Middlebury’s pilot involves the distribution of free trash bags (orange) and food scrap bags (green) to Transfer Station users. Residents are asked to dispose of green food scrap bags in a “food waste” container located at the Transfer Station and dispose of their orange trash bags in the usual dumpster.  

The initial year’s supply of bags will be available at the Middlebury Transfer Station if you have not already received yours. A broad base of support for these programs among community organizations across the state shows promise for solving CT’s waste crisis.   

Sustainability Spotlight: Blight and Native Landscaping

Dive into the ‘Sustainability Spotlight’ by the Naugatuck Valley Council of Governments, a municipal guide to blending sustainability with land use regulations. Uncover creative ideas and hands-on approaches to foster a greener, more sustainable future. 
Written by Christine O’Neill, Environmental Planner II

Many Connecticut municipalities have adopted blight ordinances to regulate unsightly properties that lower surrounding home values or create public health and safety issues. Such ordinances may be enforced by zoning officials, the police department, or a combination of the two. While these regulations serve an important role, they may unwittingly outlaw native landscaping from your community. 

Native landscaping uses plants that have historically grown in a given area to achieve ecological benefits. Native plants provide food for pollinators and wildlife, require less watering and maintenance than ornamental counterparts, and launch deeper root systems that prevent erosion and exchange nutrients with the soil. Another component of native landscaping is maintaining or emulating the natural processes of the ecosystem, such as not raking leaves in the fall or cutting back dormant plants. Two movements associated with native landscaping are “No Mow May” (allowing insects to emerge from overwintering while providing food sources for early pollinators) and “Leave the Leaves” (intentionally leaving layers of leaf-litter and duff, which are valuable for soil health, insect and amphibian habitat, and wildlife cover).   

Compared to the highly manicured gardening we often see, a native garden may look unruly – even falling into the definition of blight. Several municipalities in our region consider the following to be elements of blight: overgrown vegetation, leaf litter, grasses over a given number of inches, and “weeds.1”  

Consider amending your definition of blight to exclude native landscaping as described above. The Town of Cheshire in our region already excludes “areas maintained in their original naturally wooded state, or a natural field state” from its definition, while the City of Stamford carves out an exemption for “managed natural meadow landscapes.” Confer with your municipal counsel to ensure your proposed language is legally sound and enforceable.  

[1] Note: “Weeds” does not refer to any particular group of plants – it is a descriptive term used to characterize any plants that are undesirable in a given environment. One neighbor’s weed is another neighbor’s wildflower.

Please send any questions or suggestions to Christine O’Neill, Environmental Planner II at coneill@nvcogct.gov