Council should eliminate zoning exemption from town projects

To the Editor:

The Planning and Zoning Commission this month voted on a bipartisan 4-1 basis to ask the Town Council to repeal the municipal ordinance exempting the town from the zoning regulations.

I urge the Town Council, whose Legislation & Administration Committee meets tonight to consider the matter, to vote in favor of lifting the exemption. There are strong reasons.

An unknown Town Council, for unknown reasons, voted in the Sixties to exempt the town from zoning regulations. But the circumstances of today are totally different from 50-plus years ago. New circumstances require new approaches. With Trumbull mostly developed, municipal projects will have major impact on any neighborhood where they’re proposed.

It’s necessary in Trumbull to have a specific, detailed, non-partisan regulatory framework in place to govern town projects and their impact. The zoning regulations are the obvious source.

The rules will dictate what's allowable, even before anyone even votes, and partisanship and political pressure will be reduced.

Residents will receive ample notification and have an effective voice in decisions regarding town projects in their neighborhoods. The current rules provided under Section 8-24 of the state statutes are inadequate. People have a right to know about what's happening on their streets, and with enough time to organize if need be.

Many municipalities across the state already require Planning and Zoning Commission review of municipal projects. It’s the norm. Trumbull is the exception. In fact, the majority of towns in Fairfield County provide P&Z oversight of town projects.

Trumbull already requires Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Commission approval for municipal projects. The precedent already exists.

First Selectman Tim Herbst is on the record supporting P&Z oversight of municipal projects. He offered P&Z site plan approval for the community center project during remarks at the August 1st Town Council meeting.

Some will say that it’s better to have 21 people vote on a town project rather than give that power to as few as three members of the Planning and Zoning Commission. That misses the point. All projects should be subject to the land-use regulations equally. The Town Council would retain its power to evaluate projects based on their merits and vote to proceed or not. Others will say that many town projects have been built in the last 50 years and most of them have turned out well. That also missed the point. We know as an absolute fact that the zoning regulations establish the standards that help keep Trumbull the appealing place it is.

There’s no downside in asking the town to meet the same standards we ask of private development.