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Designating a road as scenic helps recognize, preserve and enhance its scenic nature. More...

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- by E. A. Zimmerman and J. Pillo

The Quiet Corner of Northeastern Connecticut is distinguished by miles of winding roads lined with mature trees and stone walls. These byways offer vistas of country meadows, wetlands, streams and forests. They make traveling in and through the area more appealing and peaceful. Formally designating a road as scenic helps recognize, preserve and enhance that scenic nature.

Scenic Barber Road in Woodstock, CT.  Photo by Bet Zimmerman
A scenic road in Northeastern CT

Twenty years ago, the Town of Woodstock enacted an Ordinance Concerning the Designation of Scenic Roads.  Since the, thirteen roads have achieved scenic status: Barber Road, Bull Hill, Camp Road, Center Cemetery Road, Corbin Road, Dividend Road, Marcy Road, Phelps Road, Pulpit Rock Road, Sherman Road (dirt portion only), Smith Road and Quarry Road. Bradford Corner Road was just added to the list in 2006.

In order to be designated as scenic, the town owned road can not have intensive commercial development or vehicular traffic, and has to meet at least one of the criteria listed in the Ordinance, which include roads that offer scenic views, are bordered by mature trees or stone walls, parallel or cross over water bodies, are unpaved, or are not over 20 feet wide.

To designate a road as scenic, landowners who own a majority of the frontage along the road  have to agree that they want this designation by signing a special form available in the Building Office.  The Planning and Zoning Commission then schedules a public hearing after notifying all those who own land that abuts the road, as well as the Highway Foreman and the Selectmen.  The hearing gives the public a chance to participate and comment on the proposed designation.  After the hearing, the Planning and Zoning Commission votes whether to accept or reject the request for the special designation. Scenic road status can be rescinded following the same procedures and with the agreement of the landowners who own a majority of the frontage along the road.  

By requesting scenic road status, the abutters are basically voluntarily asking that the qualities that make the road scenic be protected.  It is important to note that the restrictions apply only to the Right of Way for each road. The Right of Way includes the road itself, and some width on either side, depending on when the road was built and the regulations that were in effect when it was built.  It might require an A-2 survey to determine this area, but the rule of thumb the Highway Department uses is “from stone wall to stone wall.”  

Designation as a scenic road does not prohibit new development, or regulate the style or color of any structures.  If a large parcel of land fronting a scenic road is being considered for subdivision, the town’s current subdivision regulations do take into account the impact of the development on the scenic road.  The Planning & Zoning Commission may require that the site design be modified to protect the scenic nature of the road way.

Once a road is designated a town scenic road, the road and the Right of Way can not be altered or improved except for good cause.  An example of “good cause” might be removing a dead tree that poses a safety hazard.  A scenic road will still be maintained, but, for example, it can not be widened, paved, and stone walls and mature trees can not be removed unless approved after a public hearing.  A special permit is required for activities in the right of way, including restructuring a stone wall, certain types of landscaping and even paving an unpaved driveway. Proposed activities will undergo the same public hearing procedures.

People who have questions about scenic road status and what it means, or who wish to pursue designation of their road, should contact Delia Fey, Woodstock Town Planner at (860) 963-2128 ext. 332.

Originally published in The Woodstock Villager on 11/10/06

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