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To study two complex zoning topics, which the Planning & Zoning Commission (P&Z) has grappled with for years, the P&Z has formed two committees whose members will research the issues stemming from South Main Village Design District (SMVDD) zoning and from drive-through window service for businesses.
P&Z Chairman Don Mitchell on February 1 appointed himself and Vice Chairman Jim Swift to study the SMVDD topic. Mr Mitchell named P&Z members Corinne Cox and Barbara Manville to study the drive-through issue.
The SMVDD zoning process allows applicants to propose customized zoning regulations that are tailored to an individual property’s development or redevelopment. The P&Z created the SMVDD zoning regulations in 2007 to foster economic development that is in harmony with New England architecture.
Mr Mitchell told P&Z members that SMVDD zoning needs review. The South Main Village Design District does not have design standards, he noted.
SMVDD zoning is overlay zoning, which allows a “floating SMVDD zone” to be superimposed over another conventional zone, typically a Business zone or a Residential zone, somewhere along the four-mile-long South Main Corridor, which lies between Borough Lane on the north and the Monroe town line on the south.
Other “design districts” in town such as the Sandy Hook Design District (SHDD) in Sandy Hook Center, and the Hawleyville Center Design District (HCDD) in Hawleyville Center have sets of design standards to guide applicants and the P&Z in proposing and reviewing development proposals, respectively. The SHDD and HCDD zones, however, are stationary zones located in relatively compact areas.
Mr Mitchell told P&Z members that the SMVDD zoning process needs to have a set of standards created in terms of its allowed land uses and allowed design features.
Such standards would “tighten it up” to inform property owners of what is allowed through the SMVDD zoning process, he said. “It’s sharpening it up,” he added.
So far, four projects have been created under the terms of SMVDD zoning — Walgreens Pharmacy at 49 South Main Street; LMT Communications, Inc at 84 South Main Street; Highland Plaza at 123 South Main Street; and Tractor Supply at 116 South Main Street.
In January, the P&Z granted SMVDD zoning status to The Summit at Newtown at 146 South Main Street. The site holds a deteriorating partially built, two-story, 18,740-square-foot commercial building owned by a bank, which has never been occupied. The P&Z granted the property SMVDD status to stimulate the property’s potential sale to some developer, who would ostensibly use the liberalized rules to complete the building for residential and/or commercial use.
Also, on February 1, a property at 94 South Main Street gained SMVDD zoning status as a step in a development process through which a real estate firm is seeking P&Z approval to create a veterinary hospital, a boarding facility for small animals, and a pet store. (See related story.)
Although banks, and later pharmacies, have been allowed to have drive-through window service, restaurants have not been allowed to have such facilities. The Botsford Drive-In, an eatery at 282 South Main Street, has drive-through window service because that use had existed there before local zoning took effect in 1958.
Whether to allow drive-through window service at food-based businesses has long been a thorny issue for the P&Z.
It was not until November 2015 that the P&Z approved regulations covering a limited geographical area that would allow a planned eatery to have drive-through window service in that limited area.
After lengthy discussion in 2015, P&Z members unanimously approved zoning regulations that created the Exit 10 Commercial Design District (CDD) overlay zone along sections of Church Hill Road, Edmond Road, and Commerce Road, near the Exit 10 interchange of Interstate 84.
Among other land uses, those zoning regulations allow an applicant to seek P&Z approval for a restaurant that has drive-through window service, provided that the commercial project’s design meets a range of requirements specified by the CDD zoning regulations. The affected area has underlying B-2 (Business) and M-4 (Industrial) zoning. The area is currently undergoing extensive site development. A retail center with a coffee shop that has drive-through service is planned for the property near the intersection of Church Hill Road and Edmond Road.
Allowing drive-through window service for eateries has long been a sensitive topic among local land use agencies, with the prospect of littering and traffic congestion resulting from drive-through service being the major objections.