The latest list of the best places to live in America, produced annually by Money magazine, places Sharon, MA atop the list, followed by Louisville, CO and Vienna, VA. Three Connecticut towns made the list – Brookfield at #26, Cheshire at #39 and Simsbury at #50.
The annual published list varies from year to year because the criteria are not consistent. A review of recent years indicates little overlap, as four Connecticut communities have made the list twice and eight others were “one and done,” not returning after a single appearance.
Overall, during the past four years, West Hartford has made the magazine’s list twice, in 2012 and 2010, as has Hamden, in 2012 and 2010, Simsbury in 2013 and 2011, and Cheshire in 2013 and 2011. Single appearances were made by Norwalk, Stamford, Portland, Tolland, Greenwich, South Windsor, Fairfield, and most recently, Brookfield.
Carmel, IN, McKinney, TX and Eden Mairie, MN and Newton MA led the list of “America’s best small cities” in 2012, with Connecticut’s Greenwich (#28), Hamden (#53), Fairfield (#64), and West Hartford (#72) earning a place on the list.
A year earlier, in 2011, the top ranked Connecticut community was Tolland at #37, followed directly by South Windsor at #38 and Simsbury at #39. That year, Cheshire was #73 and Portland was #88, and the list was dubbed “Money’s list of America’s best small towns.” In 2011, Louisville, CO was ranked first, followed by Milton, MA and Solon, OH.
In 2010, when Eden Prairie, MN topped the list and Newton, MA ranked third, the leading town in Connecticut among “America’s best small cities” was West Hartford at #55. The town was joined by Stamford at #78, Hamden at #87, and Norwalk at #90.
The highest ranking in recent years for a Connecticut community was Brookfield’s #26 this year, followed by Greenwich’s #28 last year.
The data for the published list is developed by Onboard Informatics, and the criteria and decision-making process is described on the CNNMoney website.
In 2013, the editors explained “we crunched the numbers in order to zero in on America's best small towns for families,” which included U.S. towns with populations of 10,000 to 50,000. The previous year, “we looked at small cities, with populations between 50,000 and 300,000.” In 2011, they investigated small towns, with populations between 8,500 and 50,000. In 2010, the list was culled from a review of 800-plus U.S. cities with populations 50,000 and up.
In addition to the data compiled for the 2013 list, the magazine visited “36 towns and interviewed residents, assessed traffic, parks, and gathering places, and considered intangibles like community spirit,” according to the website. The take-away from the visit to Brookfield, population 16,788?
“Surrounded by the largest lakes in Connecticut, Brookfield is a great spot for water recreation -- not to mention exploring lots of wooded hiking trails and open space. There are few employers right in town, so many residents commute within Fairfield County or to New York City, a 90-minute drive away. While it is pedestrian-friendly, the town lacks a downtown. However, an area with residential and retail developments is under construction and should be completed within five years,” the website explained.