Who’s In Charge of What?
By Barbara Heimlich
Editor Stratford Crier
As you read this break down of what I hope is an informative document that enlightens you there is presently two Change.org petitions asking for putting the brakes on development in Stratford.
Objection to the Center School Redevelopment: Two years after Town residents responded to proposed development at the Center School Site with a resounding “No”, the Town recently approved a developer, Spirit, and their high-density proposal is on the table for the site in the historic Stratford Center. This proposal comes in at an even greater density, proposing 160 units and 300+ parking space;
Objection to a Zoning Change from single-family homes to multi-housing: the developer wants to repeal section 5.3 of the town’s zoning code. The section limits the number of units according to its zoning district. In this case, Broadbridge Avenue. is zoned as RM-1 single-family sized lots, and RS-3 or RS-4, which allow six units per 40,000 square feet of lot area. But Gold Coast is seeking a zone change to a Planned Residential District that would allow up to 35 units per acre along both sides of the road between Barnum Ave. and Emerald Place.
The advocacy group, Save our Stratford Zoning, Change.org petition can be found at:
Editors Note: The following are TOD projects listed by Stratford’s Office of Economic Development that are also presently under development.
382 Ferry Boulevard Approved for 119 residential apartments with retail on first floor
211 Ferry Boulevard Approved for 45 residential apartments with retail on first
There is also a proposal for affordable housing under consideration for Lordship Boulevard.
Land Use Boards in Stratford
In Stratford, we have three separate land use boards: Planning Board, Zoning Board, and Board of Zoning Appeals.
Being on a land use board is great for people who have ever asked questions like:
- “Why did they put this *here*?”
- “Why hasn’t somebody done something with this lot/vacant building/etc.?”
- “Why can’t we have nice things like Milford/Shelton/Trumbull?”
Here is an inside look:
Who Serves On Land Boards?
You don’t need to be a lawyer. Engaged people connected to the community who use Democratic values like fairness, transparency and level playing field when making decisions to guide smart development in town, and the time commitment is just one meeting a month.
Members on each board are elected to one, unpaid, four-year term and can’t succeed themselves. The terms are staggered; in any given year like 2022, there will be openings in different districts on different boards, with some members carrying over for the final two years of their term.
On each board, one member represents Town Council Districts 1+2, 3+4, 5&6, 7&8, 9&10. There are five members on each board; there also are alternates.
What does each board do?
The Planning Commission is basically the Keeper of the 10-year Plan Of Conservation and Development. Each CT municipality has a POCD which is a statement of the town’s goals and policies for land use for a 10 year period. It’s a living document, focusing on everything from transit oriented development to conservation, greenways to coastal resiliency, public spaces to affordable housing; any changes to it are governed by the Planning Commission.
The Planning Commission also approves private subdivisions and municipal improvements of land consistent with the POCD for physical improvements, outreach programs, and standards for development. We view everything in accordance to the letter and spirit of the POCD, and our recommendations to the Zoning Commission and/or Town Council are always made with that lens.
Board members also informally monitor and comment on related issues like airport expansion
The Zoning Commission has the shortest description, but the biggest responsibility: it regulates land uses and enforces the Town’s regulations for the protection of the public health, safety and welfare.
It enforces the town zoning code, preventing, say, a developer from trying to stick a manufacturing facility in a neighborhood zoned residential. It also looks at issues like density.
Board of Zoning Appeals
The Board of Zoning Appeals has the least amount of work to do, but is the most potentially controversial. BZA does two basic things. If someone feels that the Zoning Enforcement Officer (ZEO) made a mistake in their job (an order, requirement, or decision) that has impacted a property owner in a negative way, that person takes up their case in front of BZA to get the ZEO overturned/overruled.
The second reason something would come in front of BZA is if a person thinks that their property deserves a variance – meaning that they think their parcel/project should be granted an exception to an existing zoning regulation or code because it’ll cause a hardship if they have to abide by that regulation/code.
Land Use boards are the mechanisms through which we envision, plan, and regulate the good things that can happen in our town. It can also be the place where we stop bad things from going forward. When we don’t have smart, forward thinking, and good faith actors in these positions, they can be the place where bad things happen to our town…like strip clubs in our main commercial centers, or moratoriums on affordable and accessible housing, or policies and practices that don’t protect our environment or public safety.