Parking focus: Zoners aim to create second-level approval process

The number of required parking spaces at businesses like the Corner Deli, which is set to reopen later this year, is currently being examined by the Planning and Zoning Commission. — Steve Coulter photo
The number of required parking spaces at businesses like the Corner Deli, which is set to reopen later this year, is currently being examined by the Planning and Zoning Commission. — Steve Coulter photo

It’s amazing what can be accomplished with a clear mind and clear thoughts.

That’s what the Planning and Zoning Commission discovered at a special work session in Town Hall Monday night that continued to examine the town’s building height restrictions for commercial properties and its parking regulations for restaurants and gyms.

After two hours of discussion, the planners walked out with a regulation that proposes less restrictive and special permitted building height for developments in the town’s industrial zone — 75 feet to 125 feet — and a plan to implement a second-level approval process for the number of required parking spaces at commercial properties that investors intend to expand.

“We made the decision earlier in the year to stop putting key issues like these at the end of our agenda and to stop talking about them after very long meetings,” said Chairman Fred Garrity. “The commissioners have been nothing but supportive of having these special meetings and I’m encouraged to see the commission working together and creating solutions — it’s a breath of fresh air.”

The goal of the special meetings, which started back on Jan. 28 and will continue after the commission’s next scheduled meeting on Wednesday, March 16, is to create revised language that the planners can put in front of the public before approving and fortifying new town regulations for building height and parking.

Garrity said Town Planner Rob Librandi was in attendance at the second special work session Monday night and that Librandi’s office will work with town attorney Vincent Marino to bring back official language to the commission at its next work session. The chairman didn’t know if this would be the last parking-specific meeting that the commission would need to hold before it receives public input.

“We’re not going to rush through it,” he told The Times Tuesday. “We’re going to make sure that it’s done properly and that we can provide Trumbull with the right tools to attract new businesses and developments.

“We want to meet this town’s needs and preserve its character, while promoting smart economic growth that makes sense for Trumbull,” he added.

Where it makes sense

Garrity and his fellow commissioners believe that by relaxing the current building height regulations and allowing a special permit of up to 125 feet, the town’s several industrial zones, such as Corporate Drive and Lindeman Drive, will flourish.

“This is only for commercial purposes,” he said. “We’re only going to be granting special permits where it makes sense. …

“If it goes through, then we can have 10-story buildings in these corporate parks and developers won’t feel as restricted as they do now,” he added.

Don’t forget about the kitchen

The parking issue is a little bit more complex.

Librandi presented several regulations from neighboring towns, such as Greenwich and Westport, that address lingering parking woes that stem from businesses. In this case, Trumbull’s zoning commission is specifically looking at restaurants and gyms.

The town planner introduced a regulation that forces gyms to create parking spaces based on the number of machines — not on the square footage of the building, as Trumbull’s regulations currently permit.

“One of the other things he found by looking at how other towns have their parking regulations set up is that we have to account for the kitchen and its staff,” Garrity said. “A restaurant’s kitchen area is missed in the current configuration for our required parking spaces — and that can account for as many as five or six additional cars parked at the business based on the size of the staff.”

The next level

While progress has been made on gyms and restaurants and the focus will continue to be placed on them at the next work session, the commissioner said that the discussion going forward needs to include all commercial properties.

“We have been concentrating on those two areas, but it’s more than just gyms and restaurants,” Garrity explained. “We need to modify or increase all of our parking regulations in town if we want to prevent parking on neighborhood streets.”

And that’s why the planners are busy creating a “formula,” according to Garrity, that will serve as an additional layer of inspection for developers and prospective investors.

“Let’s say a developer has three units on a lot and doesn’t know what they’ll be when he first comes into us with a proposal,” the chairman said. “He can come to us first to get the site designs approved but we’ll want him to come back in to describe what is going in there and make sure he’s following our requirements for parkings — that’s the second level of approval that’s been missing here for so long.”