Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
PZC to hold forum to discuss development zones

By Jason Rowe
Journal Inquirer
April 9, 2005

VERNON — A public forum has been scheduled for Monday, April 18 to discuss proposed changes to the town's planned mixed-use development zones.

The forum, which is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. at the Vernon Senior Center on Park Place, will give residents a chance to discuss the potential changes to the zone before a formal public hearing is scheduled.

On Thursday, the Planning and Zoning Commission received a draft of proposed modifications to the zone, which affects land near exits 66 and 67 off Interstate 84 and the Gerber Farms area, west of Route 83.

The draft of the proposed regulations includes several new regulations that the commission discussed during its March 31 meeting.

Among those changes is a requirement that landscaped buffers be placed around industrial and commercial developments and that equipment and storage areas at industrial businesses be screened from abutting properties.

The draft regulations also include changes to the minimum lot sizes for proposed developments.

In discussing the proposed changes with the PZC on Thursday, Bruce Hoben, a planning consultant with Avon-based Planimetrics, said he added language to the regulations that would prohibit developments with adverse impacts on surface water and groundwater resources of the Tankerhoosen River or Hockanum River watershed.

Land uses that would involve the handling or treatment of hazardous materials and the outside storage of chemicals and pesticides that may cause runoff pollution also would be prohibited under the proposed regulations, Hoben said.

"I believe that the above modifications relating to prohibited uses, together with the Aquifer Protection Regulations, offer sufficient groundwater/surface water protections," Hoben wrote in a memo to the commission Tuesday.

In his memo, Hoben outlined a list of questions that needed to be answered including whether full-service restaurants or retail stores should be allowed in the exit 66 area.

The PZC also must determine if it wants to allow residential developments near exits 66 and 67.

Town Planner Thomas J. Joyce Jr. said the April 18 meeting is a good opportunity for residents to discuss the proposed regulations outside the setting of a formal public hearing.

"It may be impossible to base this on a consensus," Joyce said. "It is up to the commission to decide what it feels are the appropriate regulations."

The planned mixed-use development zones are under a development moratorium, which was designed to give the PZC a chance to correct flaws in development guidelines and develop a clear definition for the zone.

The moratorium is set to expire at the beginning of July.

Development in the mixed-use zones became a controversy last year when retail giant Wal-Mart proposed constructing an 186,000-square-foot store near exit 67 off I-84.