Character Of Town Top Priority

According to the 50 people present for a public hearing on updating the town’s plan of Conservation and Development, the number one priority is maintaining the community’s character.{{more}}

When residents arrived at the hearing, which was held at High Plains Community Center last month, they were asked to rank their top priorities. Most residents selected maintaining and enhancing the community’s character.

Residents responded that Orange is a wonderful place to live; they enjoy the concerts, Firemen’s Carnival, and that there is a nice buffer between the residential and commercial areas.

On the downside, some residents said they wish there was more pedestrian access in town.

The second top priority for residents is preserving and acquiring open space. Selectman Mitchell Goldblatt said he believes the town should be proactive and identify potential open space properties to purchase.

The third priority for residents is maintaining community facilities. Residents said the police, fire, library and community pool all give the community a sense of pride. They also said hopefully it will help attract younger families to town.

The fourth highest priority for residents is maintaining the town’s natural resources and the fifth highest priority was business development.

Residents said business was necessary to keep the tax base strong. More than 80 percent of the people in the room said business was most important for the tax base while just one person said business was instrumental for jobs in town.

George Finley said he attended the meeting because he wants to make sure that retail doesn’t expand in the town.

“We have enough,” Finley said.

He said he’d like to see more corporate businesses come to town such as Yale University and the University of New Haven have done.

Michael Wydra said he attended the forum to learn the fate of Peck Place School. Pipes broke in the school causing significant water damage. Students have been staying at the Yale campus recently. Wydra said he was worried the school would be demolished and the students would be dispersed to other schools in town.

Goldblatt said the Board of Selectmen voted recently to allocate $2 million to fix the damage at Peck Place.

Fred Messore, who is a commercial realtor, said the meeting was a great opportunity to offer input on how the town should be developed over the next 10 years. He said he believes there is the opportunity to construct affordable senior housing along Carlson Road and Bull Hill Lane.

Messore said the area makes sense because of it’s close proximity to medical and shopping areas.

Orange Economic Development Corporation Executive Director Paul Grimmer said he attended the hearing to support the Planning and Zoning Board, and listen to what input the public offered.

Grimmer said the town’s commercial base is thriving. Occupancy rates on the Boston Post Road have dwindled to just 3.6 percent after being in excess of 10 percent several years ago, Grimmer said.

“A lot of businesses understand the strength of Route 1, especially in Orange,” Grimmer said. “We have a very stable tax base. Our Planning and Zoning Board is great to work with. They get people in and out.”

Norman Marieb said he attended the hearing because he’s worried about future tax hikes. He said he’s worried about the conditions of the schools including Peck Place and whether it’s prudent to spend money on renovations for an aging structure.

Mike Richetelli, who is a commercial realtor, said the PZB did a great job of encouraging people to attend the forum. He said Orange is very attractive to businesses. Richetelli said he believes there is an opportunity for some office space to be added along Indian River Road, which is currently only zoned for industrial purposes.

Planimetrics representative Glenn Chalder, who led the forum, said the plan of development is very important as it’s a guide to actual development of a community.

“What type of community do you want to live in?” Chalder asked. “The whole purpose of the hearing is to get the public’s input.”

The plan of Development and Conservation is expected to be finalized by the summer of 2015.