Noank Zoning Review Activity

notes from the old Noank Jail

Noank Zoning Review Activity

Posted on January 27, 2013 at 8:32 pm

Previously, on September 18, 2012, following a one hour public meeting, the Noank Zoning Commission (ZC) had ruled in favor of a six month moratorium on any zoning applications that would require an Architectural Design Review (ADR) process. The primary objective was to institute a stronger control of land use in the village area for new residential construction that might not conform to the existing size, bulk, character and scale of nearby existing structures. There needed to be additional controls to help support existing regulations. The ZC wanted time to develop a plan without being interrupted by new ADR activity.

Zoning proposals initiated in 2003 – 2005 related to using sliding scales on house versus property size. Structure “bulk” was now to be considered relative to lot size and the current zoning regulations did not reflect many existing Noank residential structures. As a result, The ZC voted in favor of the 6 month moratorium, with amendments that limited the moratorium to the Village RV district and still allowed the Zoning Enforcement Officer to deal with minor or emergency projects.

Since that time, the ZC has held numerous discussion meetings that included input from several knowledgeable local residents, as well as an architect, on the type of graduated scale formula to use. At a recent Special ZC meeting on January 24th, five members of the Commission held a discussion in public to finalize the issues of lot size versus house bulk size. These relate to the character of the neighborhood in a village area that is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. New folks moving into the area might have a tendency to tear down existing older, historic houses and replace them with larger bulk structures to maximize water views and thus increase their property values.

Several graphs and photographs were presented by various sources, the most popular ones showing graduated curve scales which had more generous allowances for smaller properties versus larger ones. As example, a house on a smaller lot might have a primary footprint of 30% of lot size, with one on a large lot being allowed a footprint of only 20%. In addition, exterior porches were a factor as well as outbuildings and garages. A two-page letter and petition, actively signed by 24 Noank residents representing a majority of Noank property owners not present, called for restrictions of 20% lot coverage by new primary structures, including covered porches, primary footprints of 1,715 square feet, and accessory buildings/garages of 750 square feet.

The ZC was still debating the merits of the various graphs and agreed to review all the material with a view towards finalizing an actual change in the regulations at another meeting this week. Following the 1/24/13 meeting, there were conversations among citizens in the audience that expressed concern with what might happen if any members of the Zoning Board of Appeals or ZC happened to own large properties themselves. They might have future plans to tear down and develop their houses to the maximum size possible in order to increase the total property value. Could this compromise their objectivity on the ZC or ZBA? And later, there were several E-mails back and forth between residents and ZC members to clarify the residential comparisons and formula interpretations, some of which were confusing.

In short, zoning can be a "heated" topic in many geographic areas. But as one person stated at the meeting, property owners should attend the local zoning meetings regularly so as to be informed of any changes that could affect their property values or lifestyles. There is no substitute for direct knowledge on the subject.