Op-Ed: Thoughtful development needed as city, its downtown continue to grow

Jimmy Tickey

Jimmy Tickey

Contributed photo

Serving as your Planning & Zoning Commissioner, you may have heard I'm not afraid to speak out against massive developments that just don't make sense. I support proposals that create jobs and add to our quality of life. I have been an outspoken advocate for balanced development that benefits our community for generations to come. A city should not piecemeal development, but rather have a vision and be prepared to reject proposals that are not in the best interests of Shelton residents.

Prior to my time on the Planning & Zoning Commission, I served as your vice chair of the Board of Apportionment and Taxation. In that elected role I learned how our city operates, where your tax-dollars flow and what developments hold down the tax-rate. I advocated for a more transparent process and brought department heads to the table. Working across the aisle, I achieved bi-partisan support for a reserve account — shining light on the use of your tax dollars. In my time on the budgeting board we held taxes while increasing services by looking for efficiencies in the budget.

We should be supporting developments that bring good-paying jobs to the region. As we re-emerge from COVID-19, the market demands more light industrial, distribution, and logistics services as more people than ever before shop online. Our region used to be a manufacturing hub, and while manufacturing looks different than the factory floors of the past, we can welcome light industrial with state of the art equipment which creates local jobs that cannot be outsourced. We can approve these developments in economic corridors that are intended for such activity, creating an economic ecosystem which drives job creation and innovation.

Complimenting economic success should be our beautiful trail system, open spaces, and parks that our city's staff and volunteers take care of. They should have all the tools necessary for families to enjoy our passive recreation in town. Shelton's earliest planners made Shelton into village-centers, like the historic Huntington Center and White Hills Plaza and we should continue to nurture those village-centers which create the character of our communities. Working with building owners, we can create hubs of artisan vendors, small businesses and quality shops.

At the heart of every city is its downtown. Our downtown has so much potential. Our downtown can be a vibrant and walkable destination with more parking, eateries and unique shops. The influx of young people and professionals moving into downtown is positive, but it must be balanced by shops and small businesses for residents to enjoy. As with any downtown, it cannot grow lopsided with only apartments.

Time and time again I am told by residents of Shelton how downtown used to be. While times change, we can strive for a bustling downtown where those who live there — and those visiting — can walk well-taken care of sidewalks to visit businesses, cafes and restaurants. A vibrant downtown with parking that achieves a balance of activity, small businesses and quality residences is within reach.

As a resident of downtown myself, I started Celebrate Shelton which for the last seven years has created family-friendly food truck events, summer concerts and other activities highlighting small businesses, music and the arts downtown. I am focused on downtown and will not stop until we achieve its potential, with added parking and mindful of the traffic and infrastructure needs.

On a Commission like Planning & Zoning, there is also a time to vote no. If a proposal is not within regulation, or the zone change is simply not needed I am not afraid to stand up for you and vote no. I know we can hold taxes and achieve balanced growth without approving every wish-list for favored developers.

I grew up in Shelton, deeply involved in our community, and hard-working in the roles you've elected me to - never letting up to get the job done. With so much development underway, and major proposals ahead of us, we are at a point in Shelton's history where we are building for future generations in significant ways. We must get it right.

We only get one shot at developing Shelton: mindful of our history, focused on the future, putting the focus on Shelton residents. Let's build Shelton together in a thoughtful way.

Jimmy Tickey has been a Planning & Zoning Commissioner since 2013. He was on the Board of Apportionment & Taxation from 2011-13.