Sunday, December 9, 2012

From 1987: Middletown Groups Want Tougher Subdivision Law

The following article is from 25 years ago today, published in the Hartford Courant on December 8th, 1987. It was written by Mark Cheater.

One of the groups mentioned in the article is still active, Westfield Residents for Rational Development of Middletown is now called the Westfield Residents Association. Bob Fusari has built many large developments, most notably Riverbend.

Our current zoning code includes a provision under which developers can apply for a "Cluster design to produce open space subdivisions purpose," section 44.08.35. The minimum lot size is 10 acres, and it generally allows developers to build a few more houses in exchange for putting them closer together and leaving larger tracts of open space.

Neighborhood groups are seeking changes in a proposed amendment to city subdivision regulations that would establish more options for cluster housing, a leader of one of the groups said Monday.

The groups want to fine-tune the amendment to prevent overdevelopment of the clustered "designer environmental subdivisions" and lessen their effect on surrounding neighborhoods, said Shirley Harris, co-chairwoman of Zone Watch.

"I like the idea of clustering. In many ways it could have less impact on the land," Harris said. "But I think there's too many dangers of it being misused."

But developers say that if the regulation is too restrictive, it may discourage them from choosing the designer subdivision option.

"It has to have incentives to encourage a developer to use it," said Robert Fusari, president of Real Estate Service of Connecticut, who helped to draft the designer subdivision regulations. "You want to make sure you don't create something that nobody uses."

The amendment is scheduled for a public hearing Wednesday by the planning and zoning commission.

The five-page amendment is part of an effort to re-establish a hierarchy of residential zones that was declared void by a Superior Court judge in July. The judge ruled that the planning commission failed to follow proper procedures in adopting a citywide rezoning in 1985.

The clustered housing category is intended to encourage developers to abandon the cookie-cutter approach to subdivisions, city Plan Director George Reif said.

It allows developers with tracts of at least 25 acres to subdivide the property into lots that are smaller than the zone allows in order to cluster homes. Developers who choose this option must hire a landscape architect to help design the subdivision and leave at least 25 percent of the tract as open space.

The proposed amendment would also establish a complicated formula to determine the maximum number of building lots allowable in the designer subdivision.

Zone Watch and three other groups--Westfield Residents for Rational Development of Middletown [this group is still active, as the Westfield Residents Association], the South Middletown Association and Your Neighborhood Friends--are worried the formula may be "too lax," Harris said.

The groups want the formula revised so that hte nubmer of building lots is kept to levels comparable to those allowed under standard subdivsion regulations, Harris said.

"We don't want [the developers] to get an extraordinary bonus by getting more lots than are normally allowed under standard zoning."

The groups also want to require 10-foot, landscaped buffer strips between the designer subdivisions and surrounding areas "to try to stop any destabilizing factor in any neighborhood," Harris said.

A local developer said the adoption of such requirements may discourage use of the designer subdivision option.

No comments: