East Lyme zoning officials want input into Flanders facades
East Lyme ― The Zoning Commission wants its regulations to acknowledge the village of Niantic isn’t the only part of town with a special kind of charm.
A proposal going to a public hearing on Thursday would create the Flanders Village Design District as a way to ensure buildings are designed with an eye toward maintaining the “New England character” of the bustling gateway to the shoreline.
The draft amendment to the regulations describes the Flanders village as a unique part of town “with its own character and sense of place.”
The concept was introduced in 2020 when the commission approved the Niantic Village Design District in East Lyme’s village to the south. That’s where developers planning new construction and property owners looking at major renovations must get a design review from the Zoning Commission before making any changes.
For smaller alterations ― such as repainting a house, planting a tree or installing a new roof ― owners must inform the zoning official but do not need to go before the commission for approval.
The proposed amendment to the zoning regulations would simply add Flanders Village to the architectural design review regulations already in place in Niantic’s commercial district.
Zoning official Bill Mulholland said the review is “an added regulatory measure” to give the commission members more of a voice when it comes to what growth should look like in town.
“In my view, it’s a natural progression of what they’re doing in Niantic,” he said.
The review is meant to ensure major changes adhere to architectural guidelines in the zone regulations and allows developers and property owners to explain to the commission how their projects will keep with the “architectural fabric” of the district. Projects can move forward once the commission issues a Certificate of Design Appropriateness.
Included in the regulations are examples of recommended building designs, scales and proportions – with photos – that would apply to both villages. Features like dormers, cupolas, balconies and awnings on natural facades dominate the recommended view of a developing New England landscape.
The Flanders design district would encompass the commercial zone that sprung up along the town’s main thoroughfares: Route 161, Route 1 and multiple Interstate 95 interchanges. The highway and state roads direct much traffic through the well-known Flanders Four Corners intersection.
The proposal does not cover the special zoning district encompassing Gateway Commons, which includes Costco Wholesale and numerous apartments and condominiums. The architectural style in that district is described as “upscale suburban.”
Mulholland said the commission does not see the Flanders village proposal, with its focus on New England-inspired architecture, as a way to impose severe restrictions on development.
“I think what they were looking to do is to ensure we had continued success architecturally in the community with buildings that are more fitting in the areas of the community they’re being built in,” he said.
The Planning Commission last month gave its endorsement when it voted unanimously that the move is in keeping with the Plan of Conservation and Development.
The town’s foundational planning document, updated every 10 years, is built on the idea that any growth should enhance the town and “balance the need for economic development and land use with the preservation of recreational, scenic, historic, cultural, agricultural, and natural resources.
The public hearing will be held at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Town Hall.
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