Notes from the Old Noank Jail
Zoning Commission rules on Moratorium
by Ed Johnson
On Wednesday, Sept. 18, following a one-hour public meeting, the Noank Zoning Commission (ZC) discussed and then ruled in favor of a proposal to adopt a six month moratorium on any zoning applications that would require an architectural design review (ADR) process. There were some additional amendments included as a result of the public meeting input.
Carl Reichard, ZC Chair, began the public meeting at around 7 p.m. and provided a brief summary of reasons why the proposal was being made. The primary objective was to institute a stronger control of land use, especially in the village area, where there is concern for new residential construction that might not conform to the existing size, bulk, character and scale of nearby existing structures.
There need to be additional controls to help support existing regulations. Mr. Reichard reminded everyone that there will always be the sentiment of some residents regarding land use: "this is my property, and I'll do what I want with it." He stated that the ZC needs time to develop a plan for zoning modifications without being interrupted by new ADR activity and meetings, which can be very time consuming.
There were 28 individual public speakers, including 1 architect, with 4 speakers who spoke twice, and one letter from a resident who could not be present at the meeting. The basic residential vote was 11 in favor of the basic proposal, 11 not in favor as proposed, primarily because of the "inconvenience" factor, and 6 (including the architect) in favor with modifications.
One speaker asked if projects already in the ADR process would be affected by this moratorium. The answer was that any existing applications would not be affected or delayed. The overall majority of public sentiment leaned in favor of a moratorium that would not "hurt" smaller projects that probably needed to proceed within six months, such as smaller modifications, additions, emergency repairs and house sales where no ADR would be needed.
Reference was also made to zoning proposals that had been initiated back in 2003 - 2005 that related to using sliding scales on house versus property size. To this concept, structure "bulk" now needed to be considered, regardless of lot size.
There was a "communication" comment that there had been previous building projects where construction had actually commenced but that neighbors within 200 feet of the property had never been notified. It was also noted that the present zoning regulations did not actually reflect many of the existing Noank residential structures.
Mr. Reichard closed the public meeting at 8:83 PM for a short recess, after which the five member ZC reconvened to discuss and vote on the basic proposal and any amendments. The public was allowed to stay and listen to this discussion and, with two exceptions whispering in the back row, remained quiet during this portion of the meeting.
Virtually all of the above mentioned items were reviewed, also including the existing disparity of house sizes, the possibility of hiring an outside consultant and what areas of Noank would be most affected by the moratorium. An attorney was also present to answer any legal questions and to help guide the ZC, along with the Noank Zoning Enforcement Officer (ZEO).
The ZC finally voted fully in favor of the 6 month moratorium proposal, with the following exceptions and amendments:
(a) the moratorium only applies to the Village RV district;
(b) the ZEO will deal with any "minor" or emergency project needs as defined in Noank Zoning Ordinance (NZO) 220.127.116.11;
(c) the ZEO will deal with any building addition needs as defined in NZO 18.104.22.168 with a maximum limitation of 320 square feet on a building at large as 2000 square feet.
After the vote was passed, the ZC continued on with other business and most of the public disbursed. The ZC will be making official notice of their decision, at which time the 6 month moratorium will take effect. That formal announcement will take precedence over any of the above items that I have listed in the final vote.
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