Friday, May 24, 2024

Candidate Questionnaire: This week’s question

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Do you see a need for change in our land use and zoning regulations? If so, what do you recommend, and why?

Some candidates chose not to respond at all to the final section of the candidate questionnaire, or responded only to subjects that directly concern the office for which they are running.

The Stratford Crier Editorial Staff

 Stratford Land Planning

 Paula Sweeley
Democrat
Zoning Board of Appeals, District 1
(To Fill a Vacancy, two years)

Do you see a need for change in our land use and zoning regulations? If so, what do you recommend, and why?

We must do everything possible to protect what little is left of Stratford’s natural environment. We cannot allow developers whose goal is profit, not adding value to our town, to have free reign to come in, cut down trees and build unsightly apartment buildings and storage units. This is not progress, but is wholesale sacrifice of the nature of Stratford as a healthy, traditional New England town.

What exists in the way of zoning regulations is extensive, and requires consideration of our TOD (Transit Oriented Development), our POCD (Plan of Conservation and Development), Coastal Flood Management Development, and collaboration among the various Commissions involved in land use decisions.

This is an ongoing and extremely challenging task, which it is incumbent upon our town to tackle in the very best way we can. Stratford’s future depends on this.

J F Ewald Joseph
Democrat
Zoning Commission, District II

Do you see a need for change in our land use and zoning regulations? If so, what do you recommend, and why?

I moved to this town 18 years ago because I thought it had a lot to offer. I walk around the town multiple times, visit several neighborhoods, and talk to many residents. Stratford is still a fairly beautiful town, don’t get me wrong, but it will not have a better future if elected officials stop thinking ahead. I will work hard to apply the rules and regulations of land use to make the town safer and more livable.  The flood in Stratford is pandemic. The town does not seem to have an answer to the flood situation. It’s always chaotic when it rains.

Linda Manos
Democrat
Zoning Commission, District I

Do you see a need for change in our land use and zoning regulations?

I am ready to represent you in partnership with all elected officials and Town Hall employees on updating the Zoning Regulations from day one, given my years of experience with the Zoning Commission, as a member and an alternate. I have knowledge of the benefits of being located in our historic town, have owned and operated a successful restaurant in town, and I have developed positive relationships that will future the growth of Stratford.  Ensuring sensible zoning regulations that support economic development and align with our new POCD priorities, while promoting and protecting residential zoning districts. We have a wonderful opportunity to do something special.

Joe Gerics
Democrat
Planning Commission, District l

Do you see a need for change in our land use and zoning regulations? If so, what do you recommend, and why?

I will mention two zoning and land use issues, one short-term and one longer term.

The short term issue is parking regulations for multi-family housing developments. Tenant parking is spilling beyond apartment complex parking lots into surrounding neighborhoods. Our zoning regulations do not reflect the reality of multi-car households, especially in the transit oriented district (TOD). Current zoning regulations permit fewer parking spots in multi-family developments in the TOD because, it is argued, tenants there will ride the train to work. Of course, many if not most tenants in these apartments work locally and require a car. And even if they take a train to work, Stratford is not Manhattan, and tenants still need cars for shopping and entertainment. I also think that parking requirements should be increased for all new apartment developments to reflect the fact that households today typically have many more vehicles than they did decades ago.

The longer term issue is affordable housing. Stratford’s housing stock is currently below the state mandate of 10% affordable housing.  Consequently, developers can force through any plan that includes 30% affordable units. We need an aggressive plan mandating the inclusion of a certain percentage (more than 10%) of affordable units in every market-rate apartment development to move our town closer to the state mandated threshold, so that town residents have a greater voice in shaping the future of their neighborhoods.

Karen Tracy
Democrat
Zoning Board of Appeals, District V

 

Do you see a need for change in our land use and zoning regulations? If so, what do you recommend, and why?

It is a good time for the 10-year Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD) review and first-ever zoning regulation update to coincide and align, given that proper use of our space is vital for Stratford’s future. Land use is key to our growth and sustainability as a town along the coast in Fairfield County. With our industrial past, it is time to fully reckon with where we can and cannot (re)develop.

There is no question it is time to update our zoning regulations as the world, and Stratford, are in different places with different land needs than when they were written almost a century ago. If elected, it will be an interesting time to have a close view of the transition to the new regulations. I believe elected officials can help make the process as smooth as possible for residents and town officials. This process presents a great opportunity to review requested variances over the years to make sure new regulations are inclusive to the needs of property owners, and also keeps in mind the vision of the POCD.

Christopher Silhavey
Republican
Zoning Board of Appeals District IV

Do you see a need for change in our land use and zoning regulations? If so, what do you recommend, and why?

There is an effort now to update our Zoning regulations. As a Zoning alternate, I attended the initial meetings with the consultant, as well as the public open house held in September. The regulations will need to be updated for compliance to state statutes, and to ensure that they are organized properly for ease of use by town residents and new businesses hoping to come to Stratford.

Editor’s Note:  No responses were received from: Ed Kingston, Republican, Planning Commission District 1; Ed Scinto, Republican, Planning Commission, District II; Maxwell Dulin, Planning Commission, District II; Richard Fredette, Republican, Zoning Commission, District I; Casimir Mizers, Republican, Zoning Commission, District II;  Michael Carroll, Republican, Zoning Board of Appeals, District V; Shawn Kelemen, Republican, Zoning Board of Appeals, District 1 (To Fill a Vacancy, two years).

Stratford Town Council Candidates

Rachel Rusnak
Democrat
Town Council District 1

Do you see a need for change in our land use and zoning regulations? If so, what do you recommend, and why?

I have heard overwhelmingly that overdevelopment and congestion are problems here in Town, and I would agree. Stratford needs a thoughtful and strategic development plan to accommodate smart economic growth, while preserving our open spaces and natural resources.

The current model is not in keeping with the character of the town, or the desires of the residents.  The consequences of many approved high-density developments are yet to be seen. Additionally, developments that don’t include affordable units are bringing us further away from state-mandated affordable minimums, which takes the decision-making power away from the town.

We need a more thoughtful approach to zoning, and we need to understand the impact of all the projects currently underway before approving more.

Chris Green
Democrat
Town Council District 2

Do you see a need for change in our land use and zoning regulations? If so, what do you recommend, and why?

Our Zoning Rules haven’t been substantially re-written in fifty years. I applaud the current effort to modernize and better organize our regulations in alignment with our most recent goals and vision for the town, as expressed in our new Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD).  We need to incentivize growth and development that accounts for climate change and sea level rise, and encourages healthy and equitable communities. We need to ensure there is enough quality affordable housing in our community, especially for our seniors.

As a member of our Complete Streets and Greenway Committee, I am glad the POCD recognizes the need to increase pedestrian and cyclist accessibility and safety in our community. I am also excited for the opportunities posed by the eventual completion of remediation at the Army Engine Plant and the rebuilding of Shakespeare Park. These opportunities should be integrated into broader planning to make Stratford a destination that mixes beautiful waterfront open spaces with history, the arts, entertainment and commerce to create a vibrant, environmentally friendly and prosperous community with a more robust grand list, making things more affordable for everyone.

Our ability to implement a coherent vision for development is hampered by the four-year term limits of the land board positions. While term limits are a useful check on the concentration of power gained by politicians who spend decades in office, the current excessive restrictions in Stratford do more harm than good. Land board members not being allowed to run for re-election even once, means they have no accountability to voters once elected. It also means they have limited time to learn the complexities of the regulations that they are elected to implement, let alone to work meaningfully on the timelines required to see through any consistent or comprehensive plans.

Gavin Forrester III
Republican
Town Council District 2

Do you see a need for change in our land use and zoning regulations? If so, what do you recommend, and why?

Stratford is currently undergoing and developing a streamlined and easy-to-use zoning ordinance revision. Town of Stratford Office of Planning and Zoning is collaborating with the Zoning Commission and Town Departments and Staff to simplify the Town’s zoning regulations, incorporate contemporary planning and zoning practices, and align the zoning code with recommendations in Plan Stratford, the Town’s Complete Streets Policy, as well as Housing, Coastal Resilience, and Waterfront Plans. As Chairman of the Board of Zoning appeals, I fully support this process and believe that Stratford should be reviewing our ordinances on a regular basis for improvement.

Rene Gibson
Democrat
Town Council District 4

Do you see a need for change in our land use and zoning regulations?

I do see a need for there to be some change in our land use and zoning regulations.  I look forward to seeing changes to come, it has been over 80 years since there has been any significant changes. We are in the 21st century; it makes sense that land and zoning regulations must change to keep up with modern times.

Rafael Irizarry
Republican
Town Council, District 5

Do you see a need for change in our land use and zoning regulations? If so, what do you recommend, and why?

We need change land used.

Phil Young
Democrat
Town Council District 6

Do you see a need for change in our land use and zoning regulations? If so, what do you recommend, and why?

I know that the town of Stratford needs more affordable housing and that there are always going to be differences in regulations, but it is not an area that I have a lot of knowledge about. I am willing to listen to those who do know more than me.

Kaitlyn Shake
Democrat
Town Council District 7

Do you see a need for change in our land use and zoning regulations? If so, what do you recommend, and why?

Over the past three years, more people are moving to Connecticut. Whether you are a new family in Stratford or have deep roots, our zoning code must be able to grow with this community that is more affordable. We ought to be taking advantage of the commercial benefits other cities have capitalized on. We have a great growing business community, and must ensure they have what they need to continue to call Stratford home, while protecting the environment.

Jean Marie Sutton
Republican
Town Council District 7

Do you see a need for change in our land use and zoning regulations? If so, what do you recommend, and why?

Electing the right people for the job is key to having a voice in land use and zoning. I will also continue to fight at the State level for the repeal or modification of the Affordable Housing Law (830-G), which ties the hands of local zoning boards when it comes to some of these large residential developments proposed throughout the town.

Carl Glad
Republican
Town Council District 8

Do you see a need for change in our land use and zoning regulations? If so, what do you recommend, and why?

Stratford has been proactively reviewing our land use and zoning regulations. Over the last eighteen plus months, the Planning Commission held numerous forums, meetings, workshops, and hosted an online survey with the goal of guiding future development in our community. Over 1,500 members of our community participated and provided input in this process. The result is the 2023-2033 Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD). The current draft is available for review at www.planstratford.com.  I participated by completing the online survey, and in my capacity as Chair of the Commission on Aging I participated in a workshop and hosted a meeting for the POCD team to hear from seniors. Additionally, Stratford is currently reviewing its zoning regulations. On September 20, 2023, the Zoning Commission and their consultant hosted a public forum to hear from community members. The public input provided through both processes is invaluable and will make for a better community.  I look forward to the approval of the POCD and reviewing the Zoning Commission’s proposals.

Mark Juliano
Democrat
Town Council District 9

Do you see a need for change in our land use and zoning regulations? If so, what do you recommend, and why?

So the Plan Of Conservation & Development [POCD] is a good place to start. Everybody should look through it, it has good suggestions for land use throughout the town. It is a colorful outlook. The document goes into everything needed to be done for Stratford, from the Complete Streets Project, Transit Oriented Districts [TOD] and much more. I would support this and the new one coming out. These are ten-year outlooks.

You ask about change. I can only see what Town Council, Zoning and other boards would be able to tweak. What about Zoning Restrictions? Finally, we are getting a rewrite after fifty or more years of these regulations. They will be brought up to date with State Regulations, put in alphabetical order made easier to look up.

Kathleen Callahan
Democrat
Town Council District 10

Do you see a need for change in our land use and zoning regulations? If so, what do you recommend, and why?

I was thrilled when I first heard about the upcoming zoning regulation updates, and even more so when I learned that this is the first full rewrite ever. The current regulations are based on views of land use that have limited our growth and overall well-being. Aligning them with our 10-year Plan of Conservation and Development Plan helps me envision the details of a sustainable, affordable, integrated and diverse future.

Regarding commercial development, I am no expert – not even a novice – but I know the continued disappointment for residents and raised hopes… stalled again. Perhaps an honest account of our manufacturing history and where we can and cannot develop may help us accelerate progress. I believe the concepts of adaptive reuse – repurposing older buildings – should be explored to limit the amount of toxins unearthed, the space used, and leverage rooftops for gardens and solar panels (this applies to housing development as well).

Historically, we had been a bedroom community, centered around a very good school system, but things have changed. The priority goals are to return the schools to excellence, and to not only have housing options for current Stratford

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