Congratulations to the citizens of Sherman, Connecticut, who had the courage and foresight to pass Referendum #4 at their June 9th Town meeting authorizing a bond to conserve open space. The Town now has a $3.5 million line of credit to apply as matching funds for state and federal grants and leverage more resources for conserving the lands most critical to maintaining the rural character of the last rural community in Fairfield County.
Sherman did its homework, conducting a feasibility study for its bond campaign and a detailed survey of local values and attitudes towards conservation. Among the findings of the survey:
Over 94% of respondents consider the Town’s rural character i.e. low population, small commercial center and little or no industry to be desirable or very desirable.
Over 60% of respondents think the town is growing too fast compared to 29% who think it is growing at about the right pace.
80% of respondents believe that preserving additional open space in Sherman should be a high priority, will contribute to a positive quality of life and will help maintain Sherman’s rural character.
More than 80% of respondents think it is critical or important to preserve more undeveloped land in Sherman, while only 6% thinks this is not important.
Two-thirds of respondents are in favor of the Town buying open space even if it means raising taxes to do so.
Of the 781 respondents registering an opinion, 66% of respondents are willing to pay more than $100 in additional property tax per year to preserve open space and farmland in Sherman and Over 31% are willing to pay more than $200 per year.
That final statistic is the best indicator that Sherman was ready to bond for open space. Those are very strong numbers and demonstrate a willingness to raise taxes for what is clearly a community priority at a time when small towns are struggling with many challenges. They join a select few towns in Northwest Connecticut that have taken this step and it puts them in excellent position to achieve the conservation of their most significant places and landscapes. $3.5 million may not sound like much, but town open space funds this this have exponential value in leveraging other sources of public and private support. One hopes that more towns in the Litchfield Hills will be inspired to follow Sherman's lead.