Zoning changes proposed on Silver Lane

By Evan Pajer - Staff Writer
East Hartford - posted Thu., Nov. 29, 2012
Town Planner Michael Dayton (left) and Development Director John Choquette explain the proposed zoning changes to the Town Council. Photos by Evan Pajer.
Town Planner Michael Dayton (left) and Development Director John Choquette explain the proposed zoning changes to the Town Council. Photos by Evan Pajer.

East Hartford may soon see several areas on Silver Lane re-zoned to allow for commercial development under proposed changes to the town's Generalized Land Use Plan. Development Director John Choquette and Town Planner Michael Dayton met with the Town Council on Nov. 28 as part of the first stage of changing the plan.

Four properties are up for re-zoning, which include a vacant 29-acre housing complex at 825 Silver Lane and the 11-acre former Showcase Cinemas building at 936 Silver Lane. Two other single-family homes at 889 and 891 Silver Lane, totalling 7 acres, would also be re-zoned. Under the town's current land use plan, which was first submitted in 2003, the Showcase Cinemas site is zoned as high-density residential, while the other three sites are zoned as mixed-density housing.

The town's goal in re-zoning the four properties is to attract commercial developers to the Silver Lane area. "There are a lot of vacant properties that are un-utilized and underinvested," Dayton said. The properties would be combined into a single commercial zone, which Dayton said would be done in order to allow developers to use the land without having to go through multiple zones.

Choquette said the town's original plan was to turn the Showcase site into age-restricted housing by zoning it as high-density residential. The cinema building was allowed there, Choquette said, because it existed before the site was re-zoned. Since then, the town's planning department has taken a different view on the property. "We don't think high-density houses are appropriate for the Showcase Cinemas site," Choquette said. Choquette said that the town's Planning and Zoning Commission "has gotten more bites from commercial use than age-restricted housing."

One major concern during the Town Council hearing was about the effects of potential commercial development on residents in the area. "We're hesitant, but do not want to be obstructive of development in the area," council member Esther Clarke said.

Council Chair Rich Kehoe said he wanted housing to remain as an option for the new zone. "At some point, you will have commercial development abutting residential areas," Kehoe said.

Although the Town Council approved the changes, 9-0, the amendment to the land use plan will have to go through a public hearing as mandated by state law. Zoning changes cannot be made without the plan being amended, and would also require a separate public hearing and approval by the Town Council.

Choquette said after the hearing that he did not believe potential commercial development in the area would affect residents. "They probably won't build close enough to affect them," he said.

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