Town Center residents concerned about zoning changes

By Steve Smith - Staff Writer
Glastonbury - posted Mon., Oct. 28, 2013
Resident Sean Hogan was concerned about his home's re-sale value being affected by more commercial property nearby. Photos by Steve Smith.
Resident Sean Hogan was concerned about his home's re-sale value being affected by more commercial property nearby. Photos by Steve Smith.

After hearing from the residents of Glastonbury, the Town Council wanted to be sure it had all of the bases covered before ratifying new zoning changes for the town's center, and continued the public hearing until its meeting on Dec. 3.

The Town Center Zone would essentially create guidelines for new businesses within a defined area, which are currently commercially zoned. Within that area are “pockets” – areas along Melrose, Monroe, Linden, Clinton, and Washington Streets that are, and have always been, residentially zoned, and are not subject to changing to the new zone.

But some residents of those areas feel like they are already being “squeezed out” of their neighborhoods, and concerned that new zoning encouraging more commercial development will further their woes. Some residents were also concerned because the proposed zone has no maximum lot size and does not prohibit the number of lots that could be combined, and that could potentially lead to larger commercial properties in the town center.

Sean Hogan, who lives on the corner of Melrose and House Streets, said that his neighborhood is already congested with development and the streets have a large amount of traffic and parked cars. “What's happened here over the past 20 years that we've been here, has really become horrendous,” Hogan said.

His hope is that he can convert his property to commercial or mixed use and add a doctor's or lawyer's office to his property, to increase its value. “I'm not going to want to stay there forever,” Hogan said. “I'm stuck here in a nightmare zone at this point. No one's going to buy my house as a residence.”

House Street resident Stephen Schillinger was also concerned about the increased commercial development and how the new zoning will affect his property taxes. “This is Glastonbury, people,” he said. “This used to be tobacco land. This is not Hartford. This is not New Haven. This is not Bridgeport. It seems to me like everyone wants to push all the residential people out.”

Town officials said that while they could not give information about specific property assessments, residents are able to petition the Town Planning and Zoning Commission, either individually or collectively, to change their zoning to commercial if they so choose. “They could petition for a zone change for their property,” said Community Development Director Ken Leslie.

Councilwoman Lorraine Marchetti said that after hearing the residents' comments, she is looking at the zoning proposal in “a different light.”

“If this is indeed the direction we're moving in for long-term planning, I can see how some residents are concerned,” she said. “I think we're doing a disservice to the people who live there right now.”

TPZ Chair Sharon Purtill said the residential zones provide a mixed use to the area, and other residents in the past have asked for the zone to remain residential, but if the consensus has changed, that would be a different story.

“That was our thinking – that this was a viable residential neighborhood [of] affordable housing, and [we should] keep it,” Purtill said. “If  you've got most of the neighbors coming in and saying its no longer viable residential, because all of this commercial is kind of pushing us out, then that's something we would consider looking at.”

Purtill added that the commission would not consider zoning changes that they thought would de-value property. “We think that these ideas will create a more-vibrant town center,” she said, adding that the proposal would add more residential use to the area, because it adds mixed-use to already-commercial properties.

Town officials also said that while the proposal contains a minimum lot size, there was no language defining a maximum size, but that other town regulations limit a retail establishment to 65,000 square feet.

“Our focus was really on your desire to make smaller lots,” Purtill said. “I can't tell you that we discussed what would happen with a 10-acre lot. Something we could certainly do is [establish] a limit.”

The council moved to continue the public hearing on Dec. 3, in order to consider whether the  maximum lot size should change, and gather other comments before making a decision.

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