Open Space Strategies
According to the 2015 Plan of Conservation and Development, there are currently over 2,500 acres of dedicated or managed open space in Windsor, accounting for 12% of Windsor’s land area. It is important to keep in mind that there is no accepted standard for how much open space land a community needs. Every community is different in terms of physical features and residents’ concepts of what would be appropriate.
Prioritizing Open Space Acquisitions
Rather than acquire open space land because it is available for purchase or unquestioningly accept open space through the subdivision process, Windsor strives towards creating a meaningful system of open spaces. While not precluding the acquisition of isolated parcels that may have individual merit, the Town carefully analyzes how each parcel relates to the overall open space strategy for Windsor.
Strategies for Acquiring More Meaningful Dedicated Open Space
- Encourage open space preservation that contributes to a meaningful overall open space system.
- Establish a greenway/trail network in Windsor that interconnects open space areas together.
- Prepare more detailed plans for the main spine of the greenway/trail along the Connecticut and Farmington Rivers.
- Work with major property owners to obtain reasonable public access to their properties and integrate into an overall trail network.
- Prioritize open space acquisitions according to established criteria in order to make the most of limited resources available for acquisition
- Ensure that the ownership of open space matches the intended use.
- Partner with the Windsor Land Trust as an alternative to public ownership, where appropriate.
Work to Establish a Greenway System
An isolated parcel of open space may preserve an important natural resource or maintain the appearance of undeveloped land, but it may not contribute to a meaningful open space system. If that same parcel of open space can be interconnected into a cohesive system, its value to residents and impact on the community grows significantly. Such open spaces can be connected by trails, providing increased accessibility, significant functional wildlife corridors, more opportunities for active or passive recreation, and enhanced quality of life for residents.
A greenway is a corridor or open space that:
- May protect natural resources, preserve scenic landscapes and historical resources or offer opportunities for recreation or non-motorized transportation,
- May connect existing protected areas and provide access to the outdoors,
- May be located along a defining natural feature, such as a waterway, along a man-made corridor, including an unused right-of-way, traditional trail routes or historic barge canals, or
- May be a green space along a highway or around a village.
Acquiring Open Space
There are a number of ways in which Windsor can acquire additional open space:
Open Space Set-Aside Regulations
The TPZ through regulations require that each residential subdivision set aside 15 percent of the development for open space purposes with the Commission retaining the ability to determine the location of open space. Such open space should be deeded to the Town whenever possible to ensure maximum control and accessibility.
Windsor currently allows for the off-site dedication of open space as part of a subdivision. The Commission can accept land in another part of Windsor if they believe that land to be more desirable in terms of achieving open space objectives such as adding to existing open space or implementing the greenway system.
Fees-In-Lieu-Of Open Space
Another effective means of assuring quality open space is to accept a fee-in-lieu of open space. When dedicated open space in a subdivision is too small to be meaningful or does not fulfill a desired open space goal, a fee-in-lieu of open space allows the Town to purchase open space in more appropriate locations. The fee or combination of land and fee cannot exceed 10 percent of the fair market value of the undeveloped land. The donation of a fee is at the discretion of the owner/developer and receipt of a fee-in-lieu of open space remains at the discretion of the Commission. In other words, the Commission cannot require a fee in-lieu of open space but may insist on acquiring actual open space despite an offer of a fee in-lieu thereof. These funds have been used to acquire more meaningful open space elsewhere in town. The Commission has used this technique to raise $115,000 to date for the Town’s open space acquisition fund, with another $137,000 pending the sale of building lots.
Open Space Fund
The Conservation Commission in working with the Town Council helped establish an Open Space Fund to set aside funds for the purchase of open space. This fund can be enhanced by annual contributions through the Town budget; by one-time bond issue or through other infusion of money
Citizens can also make direct, tax-deductible, contributions to the Open Space Fund. Send a check or money order payable to Town of Windsor Open Space Fund to:
Windsor Open Space Fund
Attention: Finance Department
275 Broad Street
Windsor, CT 06095
Open Space Grants
To make the most of limited open space funds, Windsor should use these funds to leverage additional funds through various grant programs. The State of Connecticut currently operates an open space grant program where they provide 60 percent matching funds for qualifying open space purchases.
Many property owners have an emotional attachment to their land and if given a choice, would prefer to see their property preserved in a way that enhances the community rather than see it developed. The active solicitation of land or development right donations or easements is an increasingly popular and successful open space implementation device that should be promoted in Windsor. There are several possible tax benefits of such donations as well. The Windsor Land Trust is an ideal entity to both educate residents about the benefits of land donation and to receive donations of land that do not warrant public ownership.