Monday, June 8, 2009

Who needs the city council?

  What’s the role of the local legislature in the creation of land use laws?  The history of the past 100 years has been one of a general accretion of power and authority away from city, town, and county councils, and towards zoning and planning commissions with the expertise and attention to detail necessary to craft land use laws.  Does the legislature still play a significant role in the process?     
Bridgeport    The city of Bridgeport, Conn., appears to have taken these points a bit too far.  According to a recent news report, land use changes in the city were halted because of the city council’s failure last year to approve a new city master plan.  Apparently, some people thought that the city council’s lack of attention to the master plan submitted by the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission meant that it simply went into effect.   The relevant Connecticut law states, somewhat obtusely, that  “[t]he legislative body or board of selectmen, as the case may be, may hold one or more public hearings on the plan and shall endorse or reject such entire plan or part thereof or amendment and may submit comments and recommended changes to the commission.”  Conn. Gen. Stat. § 8-23. 
   Bridgeport, which technically is Connecticut’s largest city (albeit with only a population of 138,000, less than in 1920) has a history of industry, which led to its economic decline for much of the past 50 years.  But, as in New London and other old Connecticut mill towns, there are plans aplenty.  In fact, the city was planning to vote this week on major changes to the zoning regulations.  It’s just that the city council at least has to vote on the master plan first.  But good news:  there’s no indication that the founding Subway restaurant, located in Bridgeport, is imperiled … 

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