Know Your Town: What Does Planning and Zoning Do?

by Jay Habansky, AICP
Planning and Zoning Administrator
Stratford Office of Planning and Zoning

Q: What does the Office of Planning & Zoning do?

The Office of Planning and Zoning oversees land-use for the Town of Stratford. In
addition to the development and implementation of long-range town planning initiatives, the Office ensures zoning code compliance, administers the receipt of applications for zoning/building permits and various land-use boards and commissions. Our staff conducts site plan reviews, conducts inspections ensuring compliance with the Zoning Regulations, staffs and facilitates land use public hearings for the Architectural Review Board, Zoning Board of Appeals, Planning Commission and Zoning Commission (and other subcommittees), and guides people through the development process. The Office of Planning and Zoning is committed to the preservation of health, safety, quality of life and general welfare for the residents of Stratford.

Q: What is Planning and Zoning?

Generally speaking, zoning is the division of town, city or county by legislative
regulations into areas, or zones, which specify allowable uses for real property and size
restrictions for buildings within these areas. For example, Stratford is comprised of a
mix of zones that are residential, multi-family residential, commercial, industrial and
special overlay zones. When an application is submitted to our office, we ensure the
proposed use is allowed and that the project complies with the parking, landscaping and other requirements. To put it simply, zoning tells you what uses can go in what
neighborhoods, where structures can be located on a property and at what level of
intensity a property can be developed.

City/Town planning is a process, procedure or method for setting goals, identifying and assessing options and developing strategies for achieving desired outcomes. The goal of planning is to maximize the health, safety, and economic well-being of residents in ways that reflect the unique needs, desires, and culture of those who live and work within the community. The primary function of the Office of Planning & Zoning is the drafting, adoption and implementation of the Town’s Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD). Additionally, Planning staff develop and implement planning
strategies that support goals identified in the POCD, such as developing a Complete
Streets/Greenway Network, Coastal Resiliency Plan, Housing Plans, Parking Inventory
Studies, Placemaking projects and much more. Planning programs overlap into nearly
every municipal department, from public policy, to transportation infrastructure, to open space preservation, and health and wellness initiatives. Simply put, planning allows residents and businesses to have choices. Do you want to live in a single family home, apartment or condominium? Do you drive, walk, bicycle or take a bus or train? Are there any parks or open spaces near you? Are there any restaurants or coffee shops near you? As planners, we help to provide a diverse mix of choices when it comes to offering a balanced urban/suburban life, such as living accommodations, mobility or
entertainment nearby.

Q: Do you have experienced staff?

The Office Planning & Zoning has four full-time staff members. Both the Town Planner, Susmitha Attota, and myself are licensed urban planners through the American
Planning Association’s (APA): American Institute for Certified Planners (AICP). The APA considers “AICP” as shorthand for education, experience, breadth of knowledge, ethical practice, and commitment to the planning profession. To maintain AICP membership, rigorous testing and extensive continued education must be reported every two years related to changes in land use law, ethical planning practice, community outreach and other innovative best practice planning methods. AICP accreditation is not required to be a practicing planner, although it is highly desired by employers. The AICP certification is the only nationwide, independent verification of a planners’ qualifications.

Both the Town Planner and I are highly trained facilitators and have extensive
experience in conducting meaningful public outreach and communicating often complex issues in a clear and concise manner. With nearly 30 years of planning experience between us, Susmitha and I are regularly asked to speak at planning and policy seminars as panelists and we hold leadership roles with outside agencies such as the Governor’s Task Force on Affordable Housing, Regional Transportation Technical
Advisory Committee, Connecticut Institute for Resilience & Climate Adaptation and more. We are both proud advocates and representatives for Stratford. I have also been fortunate to have had opportunities as a private consultant, working on climate
adaptation planning, transportation planning and urban design projects domestically and in several countries in South America. The Town of Stratford has wisely invested in its future-oriented decision making ability by having two highly experienced AICP planners on staff.

Additionally, the office’s Administrative Clerk, Eva “Tiny” Jowers and Zoning Enforcement Officer, John Rusatsky, share an incredible 68 years of municipal zoning experience between them, specializing in permitting, code compliance, land use law and requirements governed by the Connecticut General Statutes. Both Tiny and John have incredible historical knowledge of Stratford and are indispensable members of the Planning & Zoning team. Friendly and compassionate customer service is a priority of all staff members. If you have a question, let us know how we can help you!

Q: What do you like best about being the head of the Office of Planning & Zoning?

The best part of what we do is helping people. Growing up in neighboring Bridgeport, I
was raised to value the importance of community service and investment in our
communities. Being able to improve the quality of life of residents and business owners
by solving small or large problems everyday is a large part of why I pursued municipal
planning as opposed to the more lucrative private sector. While it’s not always easy to resolve every problem or make everyone happy, it’s this challenge that makes our line of work so interesting.

I also enjoy the variety that land use planning offers on a daily basis. In the morning we could be collaborating with US State Senators in Washington DC for grant funding in Stratford, in the afternoon we are working on regional infrastructure projects with CTDOT and at the end of the day we are fielding complaints about roosters and chickens. Every day presents new and interesting challenges and I love that variety. This job always keeps you on your toes!

Lastly, I am proud to be able to use my education and experiences to help places like
Stratford continue to be a wonderful place to live, work and play. I consider myself
fortunate to work for Mayor Hoydick and the residents of Stratford, and I am excited for the years ahead.

Contact Information: 

Jay Habansky, AICP
Planning & Zoning Administrator
Office of Planning & Zoning
(203) 385-4017

Passages Back

The Unique Nature of Stratford’s Suffrage History

By David Wright,
Editor of The Cupheag Corner

As we enter a year of remembrance celebrating the passage of the 19th Amendment on August 18, 1920, a look at how women’s suffrage originated, and evolved, in Stratford seems most noteworthy. Secretary of State, Denise Merrill, has established a Connecticut Suffrage Centennial website which you may view at Many towns are marking the centennial with special events and observances which are, or will be, posted to this website. In order to celebrate the centennial in Stratford, it’s important to recognize just how differently Stratford experienced the suffrage movement.

Unlike many other towns in the state and the nation, there is no sign of visible opposition to the suffrage movement in Stratford. There was no organized “anti” suffrage movement in town. The most prominent, powerful, politically connected, and wealthy women in Stratford all affiliated with the Stratford suffrage movement. It’s very possible, in the face of such powerful women suffrage supporters, that anti-suffrage women, if they existed, found it impossible to challenge the Stratford suffrage leaders.

Stratford’s suffrage movement also appears to have been supported by, or, at a minimum, not opposed by, the powerful men of the town. Businessmen, doctors, lawyers, political leaders, and land owners all had wives, sisters, and/or daughters active in Stratford’s suffrage movement.

Stratford’s first suffrage organizational meeting was held in Red Men’s Hall on October 16th , 1912. The Red Men’s Club (or tribe) was comprised of the most influential, powerful, and wealthy men in Stratford. The “Red Men’s” organization in America has a long history as a post-Revolutionary War successor to the original Sons of Liberty. Stratford’s Red Men’s club was founded in 1889. Red Men’s Hall was located on Church Street, behind the Congregational Church, and sat, basically, where I-95 crosses Church Street.

The first suffrage conference of Fairfield County was also held at Red Men’s Hall in
June 1916. (Red Men’s Hall played a pivotal role in suffrage activities in Stratford. As a side note of interest, Red Men’s Hall became the Polka Dot Playhouse in 1954). Stratford suffrage leaders were well-known throughout the county, state, and nation which would have been one compelling reason for the Fairfield County suffrage association to conduct its first meeting in Stratford.

It seems ironic that the suffrage movement in Stratford would have been drawn to a meeting location so infused with “maleness” and, ordinarily, opposed to suffrage activities. In order for the suffragettes to feel comfortable at Red Men’s Hall, it would have required the tacit, if not implicit, support of the leading men of Stratford. The Stratford women frequently invited Stratford men to their monthly suffrage meetings as speakers and as participants.

Lastly, once women obtained the vote in 1920 in Stratford, they stood fairly united in voting to change Stratford’s form of government (in 1921) to a Manager-Council form. Without the support of the Stratford women, the vote to change government forms would have failed.

Stratford’s suffrage movement was indeed unique. Through the coming months, we’ll periodically revisit this topic by spotlighting Stratford suffrage leaders. In their stories resides the explanation as to why Stratford’s suffrage experience defied state and national trends. Once again, Stratford’s history proves to be a Connecticut standout.

Stratford Library Open for Business

By Sheri Szymanski
Director, Stratford Library

While the world paused to get its bearings, the Stratford Library did the same. As we all shift back to our autumn “normal,” we thought it would be helpful to update you all on some of the goings on at the Library that you may (or may not!) already know about, including:

● The entire Library is open for browsing, borrowing!

● Computers for Adults and Teens can be reserved in advance for a one hour time slot. Call: 203 385-4164 for an appointment.

● Express computers are available for printing and quick computing needs, no appointment necessary for a 15 minute session, once a day.

● You will enter the building through the back (parking lot) entrance and will be greeted by a staff member who will screen you prior to entry.

● Masks must be worn by everyone (age 2 and up) while in the library.

● The Library will begin assessing overdue fees on September 28th (no fees will be charged from March 13 through September 26). However, if you still find yourself wary of venturing out, please call 203-385-4160 and we’ll work with you to try to extend loan periods. It may not always be possible, especially if items have holds on them, but we will work with you!  All items may be returned 24/7 in the Book Drops located at the front and rear of the Library.

● Items returned to the Stratford Library are quarantined for 3-5 days, so they are not immediately removed from your account (no overdue fees are charged for quarantine days).  If you see returned materials still on your account six days after returning them, call 203-385-4160

● Use your Stratford Library card to access free, downloadable books, videos, audiobooks, music and magazines.

● Photocopiers and scanners are available, no appointment necessary.

● The microfilm reader/printer is available by appointment.  Call 203-385-4161.

● Our Adult, Teen, & Children’s Departments are working harder than ever to bring you a variety of wonderful virtual programs Grab ‘n’ Go kits. Check out our Events Calendar or sign-up for library eNewsletters for the latest news on our programs & services.

● If you still prefer contact free Take-Out Service, call to make arrangements (Teen 203-385-4167; Adult 203-385-4164).