The Mansfield Tomorrow plan aims to unite the town’s conservation efforts with the economic development necessary for future prosperity, said Director of Planning and Development Linda Painter at a Town Council meeting on Monday.
This will be the fifth conservation and development plan Mansfield has had since 1971 and is built on both the 2006 edition of the plan and resident feedback.
“One of the big things we did through this process was ask residents for their visions,” Painter said. “Out of those visions several themes came up. The most significant one was preserving the area’s character.”
She said locals take this to mean maintaining Mansfield’s scenic farms and rivers, strengthening the agriculture industry and limiting the impact of UConn’s expansion.
“All that feeds into maintaining the high quality community services that our residents want and expect,” Painter said.
One of the main concerns addressed at the meeting was the effect of student oriented housing on the cost of rent in the town as a whole. Brian Coleman, a Mansfield resident who addressed the council, said that since the last tax reassessment he has noticed single family houses going down in value while the worth of multifamily homes have increased.
“I think it’s going in the wrong direction with affordability,” Coleman said. “That probably will put pressure on the multifamily housing, as I see it, and probably increase the price.”
Coleman said he thinks the expense of apartments like those in Storrs Center, which start at $1069 per month, is pushing UConn students into more affordable homes in the community.
Painter also said that students moving off campus are contributing to an increase in the cost of living by causing landlords to think in terms of how many beds they can fit in an apartment rather than how many units they have to rent.
“In a lot of cases that makes it tough for families to stay in the neighborhood,” Painter said.
Painter said that while it’s difficult to directly address rental rates, the Mansfield Planning and Zoning Commission has discussed implementing inclusionary zoning. This would require developers to provide affordable housing in 10 percent of all future units or to pay a fee to the town’s Affordable Housing Trust, which would build the units.
Though Mansfield seeks to maintain its rural atmosphere, Painter said residents remain open to economic and sustainability options that align with this goal. She said they were particularly interested in expanding the existing bus system to cut down on traffic congestion and maintain the area’s characteristically narrow roads.
“Change happens,” Painter said. “We’re not the same town that we were 20 years ago and we don’t expect to be the same town in 20 years.”
While everything in the Mansfield Tomorrow plan is still a work in progress, councilwoman Antonia Moran said she expects it to have a wide-reaching impact on the area.
“This isn’t just a plan of conservation and development, it’s a strategic plan for the town as a whole,” she said.
Residents and council members can voice their opinions on the Mansfield Tomorrow plan at a public hearing on March 2 at 7 p.m.