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Minutes of Zoning Commission, 04/27/2022

AGENDA: Zoning Commission

RECEIVED 05/02/2022 3:19pm
Michele R. Grande – Redding Town Clerk

Redding Zoning Commission
Regular Meeting Minutes
April 27, 2022 – 7:30 p.m.
Town Hall Hearing Room – 100 Hill Road
Redding, Connecticut

Present: Matt Lecher, Chairman; Amy Atamian, Secretary; Commissioner Bill Whitehead; Alternate Gary Miyashiro

Also Present: Aimee Pardee, Zoning Officer; Applicants.

The Chairman called the meeting to order at 7:28 p.m., seating Mr. Miyashiro for Commissioner William Miller.

REGULAR MEETING:

1. Approval of Public Hearing and Regular Hearing Meeting Minutes of March 9, 2022 and April 13, 2022.
On the motion of Ms. Atamian and the second of Mr. Miyashiro, the commission voted unanimously to approve the minutes of the March 9, 2022 and April 13, 2022 meetings as written.
In the same vote, they also added the minutes of the Site Walk of April 19, 2022 and approved them.

2. Application #22-04Z – 296 Ethan Allen Highway (Assessor’s Map and Lot #35-92): Ridgefield Motor Inn. Alex Patel (Owner): Request for Site Plan Approval to demolish existing structures and redevelop property with new “Home2 Suites by Hilton”.

Mr. Lecher introduced Application #22-04Z; the applicant was not present. Ms. Pardee contextualized the circumstance by presenting an email received from the applicant stating that (applicant) is on “day 64 since receipt of that application, so we are up against our 65-day deadline to open a public hearing,” as such they granted an extension to the Commission to open a hearing on May 25, 2022. They also wrote that they would have a response shortly to a review done by the commission’s engineer Todd Ritchie, P.E.

Mr. Whitehead motioned to set the public hearing on the requested date. Ms. Atamian seconded the motion and it was carried unanimously.

3. Application #22-08Z – 12 Marchant Road (Assessor’s Map and Lot #19-78), Owner: 12 Marchant Farm, LLC – Agent: Paul Szymanski, P.E. Request for approval of Land Management Plan to keep horses in excess of those allowed by Section 5.14.2 (b) of the Redding Zoning Regulations.

Mr. Lecher introduced Application #22-08Z; the applicant was not present. Ms. Pardee described the site walk during which the commission was shown areas of intended installation on the property, areas such as the riding ring and lunge areas, wherein a considerable amount of earth would have to be moved. The commission has explained to the project site engineer, Mr. Syzmanski, that he would have to request a special use permit for earth moving. Mr. Syzmanski said he would be ready to present materials for the permit by end of week. Ms. Pardee therefore recommended a public hearing date re: special use permit for May 25, 2022.

Ms. Atamian motioned to set the public hearing on the requested date. Mr. Whitehead seconded the motion and it was carried unanimously.

4. Discussion:
• 180 Cross Highway – Christ Church Parish. Agent: Sam Crocker. Request for a discussion of possible allowed uses for parish facilities.

Mr. Lecher introduced applicants Mr. Crocker and Mr. Eubanks, both members of the Christ Church Parish, who were present.

Mr. Crocker explained that the parish is already authorized to use the parish facilities for homeschooling purposes, as there are both offices and a hall that had previously been used as a nursery school, which is therefore a similar use case to a homeschooling office, and that he had already discussed so with Ms. Pardee. Mr. Crocker also suggested that he believed the use of the offices for AA meetings would be acceptable, given that it is a part of the parish’s outreach mission and is a part of a number of surrounding churches. The commission agreed that the authorization made sense given the circumstances.

Mr. Crocker went on to describe the vacant office spaces in question as non-worship, non-administrative. There were two vacant offices, and one larger room the size of two office spaces (if split in half); the parish would like to find a way(s) to generate revenue from these spaces if possible. One idea, which Mr. Crocker postulated to the commission, was to rent the office spaces out to people in need of alternatives to “home office” spaces. I.e., locations to be rented out for personal use, as there is a demand for such spaces in Redding at this time. Mr. Crocker also brought up the fact that the church raises money for nonprofit organizations in the greater Danbury area; that there may be a situation wherein one of these nonprofits needs workspace for rent, and in such a scenario (i.e., nonprofit working with nonprofit) there should be office space available for rent to a non-commercial operation. Mr. Crocker followed up that outreach is a large part of what the church does, working closely with nonprofits, in both financial and social service aspects at no charge, and therefore he would like to make a pay for use of the vacant office spaces available to some of these groups. Mr. Crocker reiterated his understanding of the residential area boundaries but does think there are ways to use the space, such as the mentioned, that align with their mission and not overtly as a business.

Mr. Eubanks took the opportunity to explain that in the day-to-day running of the church there were already several administrative offices on premise in use, so that renting out the vacant office spaces would be in keeping with what happens as things stand today at the church.

Mr. Lecher responded by saying that the commission is likely open to whatever is in their bounds but would like to err on the side of caution. He recommended the parish go through the application process to amend their special permit on a case-by-case basis to limit the chances of crossover into other “classes of business” i.e., commerce.

Ms. Atamian said there would probably need to be a public hearing regarding any propositions, and that in similar circumstances with other churches in the past all have benefited from such hearings. She also highlighted how, for instance, the church could not rent out the space for politically driven operations, which the applicants acknowledged and agreed with.

There was continued discussion between the applicants and the commission regarding the residential zone aspects of the location, the possibilities of associated violations depending on the nature of any potential future operations associated with the application, and additional considerations with regard to scenarios such as a non-commercial operation gradually morphing into a more formal commercial operation without notifying either the church or the zoning commission, or other similar fallouts.

The applicants acknowledged the latter concerns and affirmed that they would bring any proposed scenarios to the commission on a case-by-case basis for individual consideration and scrutiny. The applicants also pointed out that they have been reaching out to other diocese to find out what is done within the permit framework and should, going forward, be able to provide further context to the commission. The commission agreed that that would be the way to go about it, with the blessing of the process, and insofar as the decisions are within the framework of what the permit says, then objectives will be achieved.

Upon agreeing with the proposed framework, the applicants reiterated and asked for confirmation that the commission is on the same page with them regarding authorization for proposed homeschooling and AA meeting initiatives. The commission acknowledged that all were in agreement.

Further discussion was tabled until the church came forward again with individually proposed use cases for the vacant spaces.

5. Future Agenda Item:
Application #22-09Z – In accordance with PA 21-29, for consideration of opting out of limits on Accessory Dwelling Unit requirements. Public Hearing date May 25, 2022

Mr. Lecher opened the agenda for Application #22-09Z. Ms. Pardee said they would be going to public hearing for the application on May 25, 2022.

6. Communication

Ms. Atamian brought up the fact that there is debris from Metro North (railway parts rusting for over a year) along the wastewater treatment plant and adjacent driveways. Ms. Pardee explained how the area was owned by Metro North, and therefore out of the commission’s jurisdiction. Mr. Lecher brought up the the steel cables also left on Simpaug Turnpike, which were also out of jurisdiction.

Ms. Pardee brought up the draft of the Affordable Housing Plan – Redding Annex, and contextualized the circumstance: The State of Connecticut directed Redding years ago that the town needed affordable housing and that the town would be responsible for creating a plan. The Planning Commission has been working closely with Western Connecticut Council of Governments, who provided statistics and information on how to do so, and the commission provided an annex with history of how they have tried to achieve affordable housing in the past. The main strategy will be looking at Georgetown for development. Other strategies might be changing apartment laws, promoting certain federal low-income loans, etc., all out of the town’s Plan of Development, which was approved in 2019. No controversy.

Ms. Atamian brought up the zoning overlays. The commission discussed that the land on Route 7 is state owned, whereas in Georgetown it is all privately owned. If Redding got the state-owned land, the town would create a housing authority, and either a) do it themselves with grant money; or b) try and partner with a developer, which has been done in towns like Old Saybrook. Ms. Pardee has met with town officials and developers in Old Saybrook and other CT towns, who have created higher numbers of affordable housing units due to good partnerships between towns and builders. However, the state continues to hang onto Route 7 in Redding, as it is rented, and therefore an income stream for the state.

7. Adjournment

On the motion of Mr. Lecher and the second of Ms. Atamian, the commission voted unanimously to adjourn their meeting at 7:59pm.

Submitted by:
Conor Carman

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