Friday, October 7, 2016

New Zoning Code and Map Under Consideration

The Planning and Zoning Commission is considering a complete re-write of the City's zoning code and zoning map, the first such sweeping revision in at least 50 years.

The Commission is holding extensive public hearings on the proposed changes, in order to receive as much input from the public as possible.  There will be a public hearing at the next meeting, on October 12th (7PM, Council Chambers).

Below is the Planning Department summary of the motivation, the process, and the substance of the proposed changes. More is available through the Planning Department web site:

This is an application to revise the existing Middletown Zoning Code and Zoning Map with a new Middletown Zoning Code and Zoning Map. This effort was initiated on November 18, 2015 after a presentation about development in Middletown, which determined there were a number of challenges facing the City, in particular that the current Zoning Code was either outdated or contained a number 0f errors.

As a result an audit of the Zoning Code was performed and presented at the December 9, 2015 Planning and Zoning Code meeting. A copy of the December 2015 Zoning Code audit is attached. The audit revealed the following issues that would need to be address:
  1. Better organization
  2. Need to use of more tables and graphics
  3. Clearer definitions
  4. Poorly performing and ill-defined zones
  5. Need to clarify review process and timeliness
  6. Include new innovative practices: Form-based code, Parking flexibility, Bicycle parking standards
Zoning regulations may be adopted by a municipality under 8-2 of the Connecticut General Statutes.
Middletown Charter, Chapter VIII, Section 1, created and authorizes the Middletown Planning and
Zoning Commission to exercise powers authorized under 8-2.
 “There shall be a Planning and Zoning Commission which shall exercise all powers and authority  enumerated in Chapter 124, Section 8-2 of the General Statutes, as amended, and shall exercise said powers and authority in accordance with the provisions of Section 8-3 and Section 8-4a of Chapter 124 of the General Statutes, as amended. All existing regulations shall continue in full force and effect until modified, repealed or superseded by action of the Planning and Zoning Commission.”
This new Zoning Code and Zoning Map is an amendment to the current regulations. The Commission
established criteria for considering amendments. Section 71 of the Zoning Code provides the basis for
favoring or dis-favoring proposals to amend the Zoning Code, but not limited to the following:

  • Errors in the existing Code;
  • changes that have taken place in the City in pattern of development and land use;
  • the supply of land and its peculiar suitability for various purposes;
  • the effect of a map change on the surrounding area, the purposes of zoning;
  • the objectives of the Plan of Development;
  • neighborhood acceptance weighed against community needs;
  • and legality; 
  • and, whether some other method or procedure under the Zoning Regulations is available and more appropriate than the amendment proposed.

Plan of Conservation and Development
In 2010, the Planning and Zoning Commission adopted an amendment to the exist Plan of Conservation and Development and determined that the proposed new Zoning Code and Zoning Map meets many of the objectives contained in the 2010 document. The following is a summary of concerns or proposals from that update that have been addressed in the proposed new zoning code or zoning map:

• Chapter 6- Managing Future Residential Growth
  • The Commission must not authorize any zone changes outside of the downtown core, which increases the density beyond what is currently allowed and promotes sprawl.
  • The Commission must not allow the expansion of the currently mandated Department of Environmental Protection sewer service area.
• Chapter 7- Protecting Natural Resources and Preserving Rural Character
  • A healthy percentage of the City is permanently preserved.
  • Should be made to encourage more trees to be planted along Middletown streets.
• Chapter 8- Addressing the Urban Opportunities
  • Dramatic changes and significant investment are necessary. The Village District [is a] proactive zoning that creased an area limited to single and two-family homes and very strong architectural standards. These actions created stability in the area that fostered a willingness to invest.
  • Failure to move forward with a plan to stabilize these neighborhoods will result in more and more investment from absentee landlords, a decline in the rate of homeownership and more neglect and less maintenance of the rental properties.
• Chapter 9- Promoting Commercial and Industrial Growth
  • Across Connecticut one of the biggest impediments to economic development is a cumbersome and lengthy permit approval process.
  • The Interstate Mixed-Use (IM) zone is very restrictive and should be modified to encourage more realistic development scenarios.
  • Uses appropriate for Industrial Redevelopment Area (IRA) along North Main Street include artisan workshops, craft studios, customized consumer product manufacturing (e.g., furniture restoration or reproduction), environmental services and related small businesses and manufacturing.
  • Existing Retail/Commercial Areas … Regulations, which allow for more urban type development, multiple stories, parking in the rear and maximum setbacks from the street would add value, the ability to develop parcels more intensely and curb appeal.
  • The design of the buildings is also critical. The Commission should formalize the currently informal process of referring all commercial development to the Design Review and Preservation Board for an advisory opinion.
  • The Commission should also carefully consider and promote the creation of programs to encourage the conversion of upper story Main Street buildings to residential.
  • The [General Business (B-2)] zone is very permissive and the commission should tighten up these regulations for this area.
  • The Newfield Planned Commercial regulations are very permissive. The zoning allows uses ranging from office to retail, to manufacturing to warehousing. The Commission needs to review the NPC regulations and ensure that new development is in keeping with the already overburdened Newfield Street (CT Route 3).
• Chapter 10- Maromas, Middletown’s Last Frontier
  • Maromas includes an expansive Open Space Corridor. This corridor includes the Cockoponsett State Forest, the Spiderweed Nature Conservancy land, the watershed land owned by the State of Connecticut Department of Mental Health and addiction Services, and very significant land holdings owned by CL&P and its affiliates. The Commission recommends that the City step up its efforts to permanently protect this land as open space and ensure full public access.
  • Understanding the need to balance conservation and development, the Commission recognizes that the I-3 zone is Middletown’s largest industrial zone.  After reviewing the natural characteristics and the areas with development potential in Maromas, the Commission concludes that a balance between industrial development and natural resources can and should be achieved with careful planning and regulation.

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