Letters: Reader questions a future planned by state bureaucracy

To the editor:
I hear that it is important to have vision when planning for the future. I also hear that leadership requires such vision. But whose vision should be represented in such a fashion? Should the vision for your city’s future be determined by the members of the community or a state bureaucracy?
With senate bill 1, “An Act Concerning Tax Fairness and Economic Development”, municipal automobile taxes are replaced by state Senator Martin Looney’s new proposal. It establishes a regional automobile tax with an average mill rate of cities within the regional planning district. In this scenario, residents of municipalities with low mill rates would find their automobile taxes higher in the name of “fairness.” Under the proposal, a portion of your car taxes and the tax revenue generated in Bristol’s downtown redevelopment would go to the regional governments. They would then reinvest or share any increased tax revenue generated with the other 18 member towns in the district. Some state legislators have referred to the measure as the reinstatement of county government.
The state’s Office of Policy and Management has designated Bristol as a regional center. Regional projects are coordinated and proceeded upon by a vote of a board of appointees and elected officials of the Regional Council of Governments.  Some local stakeholders have referred to these Councils of Governments as powerless planning agencies merely tasked with transportation planning. One can clearly see that this board with only one elected official representing your town holds the power of the purse. Yet despite the ominous authority of these regional councils, we have advocates of transit-oriented sustainable development projects declaring their frustration that their centrally-planned walkable downtowns projects are not moving fast enough. Some have recently testified to this in favor of legislation that would replace those regional councils with a de facto government agency, effectively reducing your municipally elected representative to an ad hoc member and almost completely removing local development control once the dotted line is signed. These advocates claim that your local zoning and Plan of Conservation and Development will ultimately provide the representation of the will of the residents of municipalities.
Council of Governments’ planning board members are tasked with meshing municipalities’ Plans of Conservation and Development in compliance with the state’s growth principles. Requirements and priorities measured for consideration for economic development and housing grant monies include the concentration of development around transit sites and along major transportation corridors, promoting a variety of housing options and mixed-use development. Such requirements have numerous pitfalls including a negative impact on the ability for municipalities to attract sufficient private capital for development.
Remarkably, this is what planners are referring to as bottom-up planning. These state priorities can be found in Bristol’s Plan of Conservation and Development, where the Depot Square lot is planned to change from commercial use to mixed-use, and other state initiatives appear in our city’s document in clear contradiction of the commissioned survey results of local residents .
The Planning Commission has scheduled a Public Hearing on the proposed plan for Wednesday, June 3 at 7 p.m. in the City Council Chambers of City Hall.
Shawn Ruest
Bristolletters to the editor