Branford’s Planning and Zoning Commission passed a new Plan of Conservation and Development Thursday (POCD) night, completing a process that has seen many residents involved for about a year.
Glenn Chalder of Planimetrics was hired to guide the process, who then worked closely with town planner Harry Smith and a steering committee to hold public hearing s and working sessions, moving the process forward.
The process is repeated every ten years, as required by state statute.
The plan sets a series of general priorities for the town, leading with the need to prepare for the impacts of sea level rise and other environmental impacts, and to see development around the I95 interstate exchanges, most notably working to see a full 4-way exchange at exit 53.
Some of the items in the report are well underway, but may still be years, if not decades, away. For example, first selectman Jamie Cosgrove is working with the regional COG (Council of governments) to prepare a plan for a full 4-way exchange at exit 53, but it will require funding and approvals from the state, possibly the federal government, and private property owners, something that will take years.
A town resiliency plan done in 2016, called the Town of Branford Coastal Resiliency Plan, is part of the POCD and presents a plan to identify specific areas that will be most impacted by sea level rise and can be hardest hit in major storms.
While the POCD stops short, by design, of being very specific about implementation and instead creates an overall guideline for down leaders to follow, it also increases areas that can be potential concerns.
One area of concern is in overall population and demographic makeup.
Overall, Branford is losing residents, with census numbers showing total population dropped from 28,683 in 2000 to 28,026 in 2010, a drop of 657, the first decade that saw a drop in population since 1830. If the trends continue, the report sees a major drop in population, seeing it hit just over 22,000 residents by 2040.
Along with a potentially decreasing population is the issue of an aging population.
According to the report, the median age in Branford in 1960 was 31.6. It then topped the age of 40 by the 2000 census, coming in at 41.5.
By the 2010 census, the media age was 46.9, and the projected median age by 2020 is 51.1.
The reports finds that the “changing age composition of Branford may be the most significant demographic consideration for the POCD and the community.”
Ultimately, the Plan will serve as a guide to town officials and Commissions in making decisions moving forward over the next 10 years. The plan passed unanimously.
View the full POCD here.