Letter — The real role of Trumbull’s Planning & Zoning Commission

Tony Silber

Tony Silber

/ Trumbull Democratic Town Committee

To the editor:

Nine decades ago, when Trumbull was still a cluster of three or four country hamlets, when its population was 3,600 not 36,000, the Planning and Zoning Commission wrote the town’s first zoning regulations.

Those regulations became the guardrails that guided our explosive growth to come. Between 1950 and 1970, the town’s population grew by 400%. But thankfully the contours were set. Commercial activity was clustered in what once were small hamlets in Nichols, Long Hill and Trumbull Center. Industrial and corporate parks were located at the municipal borders. All the main roads, with no exceptions, would stay residential. Neighborhoods were subdivided into residential lots no smaller than a half acre, and much of the town had full-acre residential lots.

More technical rules were also important. Structures had to be set back significantly from property lines. Lots had a required minimum street frontage. Natural buffering was universal. Watercourses were protected. Open space was preserved. Trumbull said no to high-density development schemes. It said no to strip development. It said no to tax revenue regardless of the cost, no matter how inappropriate the idea.

The lesson for us in 2019 is that Trumbull retained its character and some of its rural roots even as it transformed from several distinct rural villages to a fully developed, thoroughly suburban town.

Today our responsibility is to preserve that character and pass it down to the next generation. The Planning and Zoning Commission, more than any other municipal body, is at the front lines of that mission.

Yes, modernization is inevitable. We welcome it. It’s true that many younger people prefer newer forms of housing. There are alternatives to the traditional detached single-family house that will enhance our community if developed right. It’s equally true that the economy has changed. Suburban corporate parks are not perceived the same as 40 years ago. Nor are malls—which were such a familiar part of the landscape for a half century. Developers will come to the P&Z with interesting new ideas. We welcome that.

But the Planning and Zoning Commission’s job is not to serve as an economic-development agency. It’s not to court development. Rather, P&Z’s main function is to manage inevitable change in ways that protect our character, establish standards, and preserve economic value. We did it in the 1920s. We should be no less rigorous nearly 100 years later.

Tony Silber (D), vice chairman

Trumbull Planning & Zoning Commission