Residents fear new town center zoning will encroach on neighbors

By Steve Smith - Staff Writer
Glastonbury - posted Thu., Dec. 5, 2013
Resident Bill Irving said he was concerned about traffic in the town center becoming increased. Photos by Steve Smith.
Resident Bill Irving said he was concerned about traffic in the town center becoming increased. Photos by Steve Smith.

The Glastonbury Town Council moved closer to creating a Town Center Zone at its meeting and public hearing on Dec. 3, but not until another round of concerns were presented from area residents, which may add to the regulations within the new code. Glastonbury Community Development Director Ken Leslie explained that the new zoning would essentially combine two current zones – the central district zone, and the planned business and development zone.

“Both of them have been with us for quite some time,” Leslie said, adding that they were enacted in 1970 and 1973, respectively. The purpose and intent of the new zoning incorporate both the town’s Plan of Conservation and Development and the Glastonbury Center 2020 Shared Vision Plan. The new zoning would change the provisions for which new proposals get approved. The new mixed-zone would have a minimum lot size of 40,000 square feet, but one of the key components is that lots could be combined, which would minimize curb cuts and utilize parking and building space more efficiently.

Residents living in and near the town center had previously expressed concern over what changes might be in store for their properties. Resident John Murphy asked if there were provisions included in the new zoning plan to regulate noise pollution. 

Murphy, who lives on School Street, said he has been disturbed by loud music late at night, coming from establishments with outdoor patios in the town center, including Rooftop 120. “As we expand the use of the town center for more commercial purposes,” Murphy said, “I don’t know if there is something we can do as a town. I was actually hoping there would be something in this new zoning that would cover noise between businesses and between businesses and the residential area [nearby]. I’m trying to get a 7-year-old and a 12-year-old to bed.”

Murphy added that he has since had conversations with the owners of Rooftop 120, and a better understanding now exists between him and the owners, but town officials said there is currently no noise ordinance in town.

“What recourse do the citizens have?” asked Councilwoman Karen Boisvert.

Planning and Zoning Chair Sharon Purtill said that when proposals come to the commission that present challenges with noise, caveats are put into that approval. “When we think it’s an issue in our site plan approval, we will often put in something restricting noise,” Purtill said.

Residents still had other concerns, mostly related to the area potentially becoming “overgrown.”

Sean Hogan, who lives on the corner of Melrose and House streets, also spoke at the previous public hearing on Oct. 22. He said he was concerned that his neighborhood, which is zoned residential, serves as parking for the commercial establishments nearby, and that a large parcel on House Street would be developed into a large retail store.

“If you go and take lots here of 65,000 [square feet],” Hogan said, “that’s a nightmare for traffic and a nightmare for everyone on the street.”

Bill Irving, a Clinton Street resident, said he is concerned about traffic as well as the House Street property. “I was under the assumption that House Street was going to be redesigned to come out right by Sycamore Street, and we’d have a traffic light there,” Irving said.

Some council members agreed that the residents concerns merited more thought and consideration.

“I believe there are still things we need to look at,” said Councilman Larry Byar. “We need to look at impacts on the residential zones –where they are and where they need to be.”

“These [residential neighborhoods] are enrichments to Glastonbury, not an obstacle,” said Councilman William Finn. “These are viable communities that fit in the town center.”

Council Chair Chip Beckett said the public hearing would be continued to Jan. 14, to make sure all concerned parties have time to process the information and for another opportunity to be heard.

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