Subdivision law brings heated feelings to Hartford

B y Jaime Thomas

Consider the following scenario: Two separate parcels of undeveloped land across from your home are up for sale, and you buy them in order to keep your view. Two years later, you decide to sell one of the plots because you no longer need it.

Current Hartford law requires you to get permission from the town planning board before you can do so.

Last year’s redefinition of the terms ‘parcel’ and ‘subdivision’ led to planning board involvement in action relating to any contiguous area of land owned by the same person. However, if the parcels of land are not touching, a property owner does not need to come before the planning board.

The issue became a heated discussion at a Hartford town board meeting Tuesday night.

“It’s a detriment to your individual property rights. Why should you have to go to your governing body, jump through hoops and pay fees to sell a piece of property you have the deed for,” Haff said on Wednesday.

He suggested the town board amend the definition, but John Holmes, former town judge and current planning board member, opposed.

“It’s a very easy process to come before the planning board. I’m simply asking tonight to wait on a decision until the planning board has a chance to discuss this,” Holmes said.

However, individuals who want to sell an independent plot now need to meet with a surveyor, create a mylar, submit 10 copies of their plan to the planning board 15 days before its meeting and pay various fees upward of $75.

“It’s expensive, and it’s all for no reason if you’re not subdividing,” Haff said.

Councilman Robert Dillon told Holmes he thought the law was ridiculous.

“There’s no advantage here, whatsoever. You put a restriction on my property ownership right,” Dillon said. Though Holmes made it clear he was presenting his case as an individual separate from the planning board, he stood by his request.

“My belief is that the planning board should have an input in what the final decision is,” he said. Dillon did not agree.

“That’s the tail wagging the dog — this is the legislative body. Why would we wait for them to discuss this when we’ve already decided it’s a mistake, and we want to fix it,” he asked.

Haff said the board rewrote the subdivision law last year to keep with the town’s agriculture plan, which essentially protects property and land use in Hartford. He said he didn’t realize the consequences of the law at the time and now wants to change it.

“The current definition of parcel is really un-American if you ask me. Don’t you think it’s too ‘big brother?’ Two wrongs don’t make a right and we need to fix it,” Haff said.

At the end of the discussion the board unanimously agreed to set a public hearing for changing the law for May 14.

Holmes, who said he was disappointed with the board’s denial of his request, expects the planning board to discuss the issue at its April 23 meeting.

“Some attitudes were expressed, some were implied, but in Hartford we’ve always been able to communicate with each other and come to a decision,” he said.

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