Groton zoning panel completes major rewrite of rules, cuts Old Mystic change

Groton — The Zoning Commission completed on Wednesday a major rewrite of the town's zoning regulations and map, making some changes to the draft proposal that include removing a Mixed-Use Village Center in Old Mystic.

The town's zoning rewrite, the first comprehensive update in more than 30 years, calls for the creation of a new Mixed-Use Town Center zone for downtown and a Mixed-Use Village Center zone for the Poquonnock Bridge area, adds new Green Recreation and Green Conservation zones, and is intended to make the regulations clearer and ensure they conform to current standards, according to a presentation at the June 19 public hearing by the Horsley Witten Group, the project consultant.

After deliberating last week, the commission voted this Wednesday to unanimously approve the comprehensive update to the regulations and map, with some modifications to the draft documents.

The commission will keep the area of Old Mystic, which was proposed in the draft zoning map to be a Mixed-Use Village Center, as a rural residential zone. Planning & Development Director Jon Reiner had announced at the June 27 continued public hearing that town staff recommended keeping the zoning in Old Mystic as is. The only exception is the property, which houses the plaza with the Somewhere in Time Cafe, will become a Commercial, Neighborhood zone, which is equivalent to its current commercial CB-15 zone, Reiner had said.

The majority of people speaking about the proposed Old Mystic change at the hearings voiced opposition to the proposal and said they felt it would negatively impact the character of the residential village described as quaint and historical. A petition, signed by 53 people, was read aloud at the June 27 meeting and referenced that the rezoning would "negatively affect the preservation and enhancement of Groton’s cultural and historic resources."

Two speakers, who were in the minority speaking in favor of the change, said it would enable people to not need to drive to get to things and would improve the neighborhood's historical character.  

In addition to keeping the Old Mystic zoning in place, the commission also made some other changes to the draft zoning map.

An area south of the railroad tracks that was proposed to become part of Poquonnock Bridge's Mixed-Use Village Center will remain industrial, Reiner said. Six properties at the east end of Welles Road and Route 184 will revert from a proposed CN zone to the Rural Residential zone, while Avalonia Land Conservancy's Rocheleau Azalea Preserve will be zoned as a Green, Conservation zone, according to the zoning documents.

The commission also made some changes to the draft regulations to clarify the language and modify some sections, for example, changing the maximum building coverage from 5 percent to 3 percent in a Green, Recreation zone, and from 3 percent to 1,000 square feet in a Green, Conservation zone. 

The commission said Wednesday that the rewrite of the regulations is consistent with recommendations and goals of the town's Plan of Conservation and Development that include protecting water, natural resources and coastal resources; establishing green districts for conservation and recreation; supporting agricultural uses; supporting redevelopment in a historic village area; reinforcing established patterns in older neighborhoods; promoting sustainable development patterns for commercial, industrial and mixed-use development; and creating a Mixed-Use Town Center district for the future establishment of a pedestrian-friendly town center with design guidelines for development.

The commission also said the rewrite, effective Oct. 1., was responsive to public comment and consistent with the town's Plan of Conservation and Development and comprehensive plan.  

Wednesday's meeting was the last Zoning Commission meeting and the combined Planning and Zoning Commission will hold its first meeting on Aug. 13, Reiner said. A market analysis and regulatory audit had recommended the town rewrite its zoning regulations, as well as research and study combining boards and commissions in town, specifically the Planning and Zoning commissions.

k.drelich@theday.com

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