Lack of vetting on Lower Main Street zone change

To the Editor:

Most people in town are not familiar with the new zoning regulation affecting the Lower Main Street South of the Merritt Parkway area.

Unfortunately, this new regulation can lead developers in other Professional Office Overlay Zones on White Plains Road and Church Hill Road to rightly ask “Why not us too?” and propose their own zoning changes. We hope that that won’t happen to residents in those neighborhoods as it did in ours—but we all know how snowballs get larger.

The sad thing is, misinformation has been spreading from those on the P&Z Commission who voted for the regulation about how the zoning regulation was researched, discussed, and vetted.

For example, Planning and Zoning Chair Fred Garrity said in an August 6 CT Post article “that this development has been vetted in every way for the last two to three years.” He also said, in the August 18 Trumbull Times article, that “the town’s professional staff at Planning and Zoning, town attorneys, commissioners, and town consultants have been deeply involved with research, communication and guidance.”

Just because it was discussed in many public meetings, and “the vote came after many years of study” (as Commissioner Silber said in an August 5 Trumbull Times article)—it doesn’t mean that it has been properly vetted or approved by anyone except the three Commissioners that supported it.

For example, the regulation was not approved by the town’s Land Use Planners (the prior Planner and the current Planner), who both denounced the 2014 proposal and June’s proposal at the public meetings.

The town’s Fire, Police, Town Engineer, or EMS departments were not asked to weigh in on the regulation (even though Chair Garrity had them weigh in on another unrelated proposal at the January 28, 2016 meeting to increase height restrictions in industrial areas).

The Board of Education was not asked to comment. This is especially important considering the regulation change will negatively impact bus routes, bus stops and student safety along Main Street and the side roads.

Lastly, the regulation outright contradicts the recommendation from BFJ Planning, the independent consultant that the P&Z hired to provide a Lower Main Street Design Study. Their recommendation was to remove the professional office overlay zone altogether and create a planned district development for medium density residential development (ex. townhouses) in the area.

So it seems that the only “vetting” that was needed to pass this regulation was by three elected P&Z commissioners (Garrity, Silber, Helfrich) who wanted to approve it—and not by the Town’s experts or independent consultants.

We guess ignoring the experts is how our town gets developed, even when it is to the detriment of the residents. Unfortunately, a precedent has been set and it could be your neighborhood next.
 John and Dianna Pappas
Botsford Place
Robert and Lynn Madar
Ochsner Place
Wesley and Patricia Galloway
Bonnie View Drive
Cecily Ranger
Ochsner Place
Gabriel Martinez
Botsford Place