The In's and Out's of belonging in Bethany

Is Bethany dividing into two communities, the newcomers and the old-timers? Like many other Connecticut suburbs, the town is experiencing an influx of new residents from the local cities and the towns that border the cities.

Whereas once many of the locals worked in town, farming or running small businesses, Bethany's newer residents are commuters. Weekday mornings, a steady flow of cars course down the main arteries, Rtes. 63 and 69, towards the state's highways and hub cities.

New houses are advertised at $300,000 and up, a much higher figure than the numbers many of the older residents paid twenty and thirty years ago for their smaller, country homes.

Controversy over proposed changes to a zoning regulation addressing the storage of commercial property (Section 4.2) arises from this gap, with local contractors fearful they will be "put out of business" and commuting residents applauding it, because they dislike seeing the commercial vehicles on their streets.

Ironically, passage of the regulation may not create a lot of change. Many residents currently maintaining commercial vehicles on their property will be able to continue their current practices under "grandfathering", in which the prior zoning regulation continue to cover them. Thus, although the proposed law deals with new storage, it does not affect the many dump trucks, front-loaders, and trailers, etc. strewn around yards now. Nor does it restrict vehicles used for farming or horse use.

However, whenever any new idea floats about in town, the words newcomer and old-timer are heard more frequently in the local haunts. Just how long does someone have to live in Bethany before crossing the invisible barrier from outsider to insider? Residents frequenting the Bethany Country Diner and Billy's Ice Cream on a recent Saturday morning voiced their views.

One old timer, who's lived here all his life, thought maybe 10 to 15 years would do it. Then , after thinking it over, he said, "When Monk Woodward (of Clovernook Farm) knows your name." Another thought five years would be enough, especially if everybody knew your name. And a third man said that when people learned to slow down on the hill on Fairwood Road, they were no longer newcomers. Women seemed to think that three to five years was long enough.

"I've been here fifteen years and I'm still a newcomer," one man said. And another who'd been in Bethany all of his life remarked that he would never think of the people who'd moved to town in the last five years as Bethany people.

One local contractor summed it up. "You can live in this town twenty to thirty years and still be a newcomer. It's an attitude. Some people fit right in. What I don't like is that some people build a house, move in for two years and then leave, and we're stuck with the ugly house."

What do all of these people like to see when they look at their windows? Most said "trees" and "woods", with fields, cows, horses and pastures close behind. One was tired of the country view, having lived here all his life, and one respondent, not sleepy on a Saturday morning, said, "I don't want to see deer or horses, anything grazing. Hey, are you doing this because of that new zoning regulation? I like looking at trailers!"