Planners push for parking solution
Planning and Zoning Commission Chairman Fred Garrity called a special meeting Thursday, Jan. 28, to explore possible changes to alleviate Trumbull’s current and future parking issues manifesting under the current zoning regulations and to discuss options for increasing building height restrictions in town to prepare for future business opportunities.
The multi-department meeting was attended by Town Planner Rob LiBrandi, Town Attorney Vincent Marino, Police Chief Michael Lombardo, Police Commission Chairman Roger McGovern, and Department of Public Works engineer William Maurer, as well as all planning commissioners and alternates.
Garrity said he wanted the work session to be well attended so those town departments could give input on their area of expertise.
“I may be the first Democratic chair of the commission in 20 years, but that’s irrelevant,” said Garrity. “What’s really important is that it’s time we used all our resources to work together — this is our Trumbull.
“As the 2016 chairman, I want the commission to concentrate more on the planning part of planning and zoning than has been in the past,” he added. “Serving only a 12-month chairmanship is a very short time to be able to effect positive change. We need leadership by example."
Mary Beth Thornton, the Town Council minority leader, said working with town department heads was a step in the right direction.
“Commercial parking in Trumbull is on everyone’s mind,” Thornton said. “It’s smart strategy that Chairman Garrity is getting all the facts first. It shows his strong leadership style, working with other town department heads, because commercial parking and Trumbull’s quality of life go hand in hand.
“I have every confidence that Trumbull will have a better plan under Fred’s chairmanship,” she added.
With new developments popping up around town and attracting new businesses to Trumbull, the current zoning regulations are being challenged by residents who say they don’t provide enough parking support for a budding or popular enterprise that has a greater need than the standard parking requirements.
Garrity said the requirements are based simply on square footage, rather than commodity.
“We need to do our homework, get both expert and public input,” he said. “This is a complicated situation that needs clarity and forward thinking.”
The special meeting provided some clarity; however, it’s still a widely held misconception that commercial parking on the street is illegal in Trumbull.
Garrity told The Times Friday that that myth was debunked at the meeting by Town Attorney Marino and police Chief Lombardo.
“Many citizens assumed that on-street parking for commercial purposes was completely forbidden in Trumbull,” he said. “Marino and Lombardo confirmed that once a proposed development’s initial on-site parking requirement is met and the development is approved and built, if future parking needs increase due to the popularity of a business, then on-street parking is legal (for any purpose), wherever on-street parking is already legal.”
Going forward, Planning and Zoning will explore and compare other towns’ commercial parking language to assist with strengthening the requirements for restaurants, gyms and other high-volume needs.
Any possible changes will be done publicly with public input to the process, Garrity assured residents.
Increasing building height restrictions
While parking dominated the meeting, the commission also held a preliminary discussion on the benefits of increasing the building height allowance in three of the main industrial zones, from a current possible 75 feet to 100 or 120 feet for commercial purposes only.
Commissioners were in agreement that any changes would not include provisions for residential high-rises.
The commission heard from Fire Marshal Meghan Murphy, along with input from the three fire district chiefs.
While all were in support of exploring the new language, a stated concern was requiring that a minimum water pressure at the top floors be met for fire safety. All present were in agreement for those restrictions to be in any future language.
The next step is for town staff to prepare preliminary language for the Planning and Zoning Commission to review and then bring to the public for input.