The Economic Development Commission (EDC) has endorsed a zoning rule proposal that would allow the creation of rental apartments located above commercial uses at future development projects at the town-owned Fairfield Hills core campus.
Following discussion at a June 10 session, EDC members endorsed a proposed zoning rule that would allow residential uses at Fairfield Hills under certain conditions, and provided that the applicants met the terms of the Planning and Zoning Commission’s (P&Z) special permit review process.
The EDC voted 4-to-1 to endorse the proposal, with one abstention, according to EDC records.
Although the town zoning regulations which were in effect in the past had allowed various residential uses at Fairfield Hills, the P&Z revamped its rules about a decade ago, eliminating such residential uses from the Fairfield Hills Adaptive Reuse (FHAR) zoning regulations.
Proposals to allow residential uses at Fairfield Hills have been a controversial topic during the past several years, with opponents arguing that the 185-acre property should not contain dwellings.
In the spring of 2011, residents attending P&Z public hearings largely opposed a regulatory proposal from the P&Z that would have allowed the multistory 188,000-square-foot Cochran House on Mile Hill Road South at Fairfield Hills to be converted for use as an apartment building.
The P&Z had conducted those public hearings in view of an unspecified New York City firm’s interest in creating multifamily housing in Cochran House. The developer had proposed a 160-unit apartment complex, but had never submitted an application for the project because the zoning regulations did not allow such a use.
The P&Z later withdrew its proposal to allow multifamily housing as a permitted use at Cochran House.
In November 2013, the P&Z approved an update to the Fairfield Hills Master Plan, which now allows local officials to “consider” and thus discuss the possibility of allowing housing at Fairfield Hills.
The revised master plan’s wording on housing concerns the consideration of rental apartments functioning as a secondary land use located above commercial space in construction designs in which the apartments are not the primary use of the development. The wording of the revised master plan does not have the regulatory weight of specific zoning regulations.
On June 10, EDC members decided to make an application to the P&Z for its review of a proposed zoning regulation on housing at Fairfield Hills.
Such housing would be subject to review and approval by the Fairfield Hills Authority and the Board of Selectmen.
The proposed housing regulation reads, in part, that rental apartments would be allowed through the P&Z special permit process, whether those dwellings are renovations of existing structures or are part of the construction of a new building.
In the proposed regulation, rental apartments would be allowed within commercial buildings and above any permitted commercial use.
The maximum proportion of apartments in a commercial building would be 50 percent of the gross floor area of the building, excluding the basement. Individual rental apartments would have a maximum size of 1,200 square feet.
In a regulatory parallel, the P&Z earlier this month approved revised zoning regulations which, in effect, would greatly increase the amount of residential apartment space that could be included as a second-story use in new commercial buildings that include uses such as stores and offices on the first story in B-1 and B-2 (Business) zones.
Pertinent zoning rules, which have been in effect for years, have allowed a developer to include one dwelling per one-half acre of land at a commercial site, based upon certain calculation rules.
The revised zoning rules state that the overall square footage of the second-story dwellings in a commercial building shall not exceed 50 percent of the gross floor area of the building, excluding the basement. Any such individual apartment located in a commercial building must be at least 800 square feet in area, but no larger than 1,200 square feet in area.
George Benson, town director of planning and land use, said this week that the P&Z may hold a meeting in August on the EDC application for zoning rule changes to allow housing in the FHAR zone at Fairfield Hills.
The proposed zoning regulation change would be subject to a public hearing before any P&Z action occurs.