Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Talcottville Road parcel could go commercial

By Jason Rowe
Journal Inquirer
July 21, 2006

VERNON - The owners of 36 acres on Talcottville Road are asking the Planning and Zoning Commission to grant their parcel a commercial zone designation.

Faith R. Lyman, who owns most of the property at 243 and 253 Talcottville Road, is asking the commission to change the parcel's zoning from its current designation as a Planned Development Zone. A smaller parcel, owned by Robert and Carol Bardin, is also included in the 36 acres under consideration for the zone change.

The Planning and Zoning Commission began hearing testimony on the potential change Thursday, but continued its deliberations to Aug. 3 to give members from the Hockanum River Linear Park Committee the chance to review the zone-change request.

The Hockanum River runs along the property, which is located on the west side of Talcottville Road across from Allan Drive.

Lyman's property is one of the last remaining undeveloped parcels in the 275-acre Gerber Farms area.

Most of the surrounding parcels have been developed to include multi-family housing, including the Quail Hollow age-restricted housing developments on Dart Hill Road, and some industrial development.

In arguing for the zone change, local lawyer Joseph P. Capossela said the town has always intended that commercial development be allowed along the parts of the property fronting Talcottville Road.

A commercial zone permits a number of uses, including retail stores, professional offices, movie theaters, and medical research laboratories.

No specific proposal is slated for the site, but Capossela said Lyman, 93, is considering selling the land, where she formerly maintained a home.

In 1998, Capossela said the town conducted a study of the area and eventually adopted a Planned Mixed Use Development Zone, which allowed retail sales and other commercial activities on lots fronting a state highway.

In 2005, in response to 2004 controversy over "big box" development in the northeast section of town, the PZC changed the PMUD zones to Planned Development Zones, which had larger yard-size requirements, and required that all proposed uses receive a special permit.

But Capossela said several surrounding properties that front Talcottville Road contain commercial businesses.

"We have a neighborhood here of commercial and changing the zoning does nothing but fit it in with the neighborhood," Capossela said. "I think this change would put us right in the neighborhood as it fits with the longer range plan."

But at least one resident disagreed with Capossela's contention.

By changing the parcel's zoning to commercial, Jack Summers of 51 Lawlor Road said, developers could potentially construct a much larger building.

Summers was a vocal opponent of plans to construct a Wal-Mart Supercenter and Home Depot on two parcels near exit 67 of Interstate 84.

"In that sense, I don't think it's compatible," Summers said. "To make this zone change from PDZ to commercial would throw away a lot of finely crafted work."

For the zone change to be approved, the PZC must find that a new condition that alters the character of the property or declare that a mistake was made when they included the parcel in the PDZ zone, said John D. Pagini, a planning consultant who is working with the town.

When pressed by PZC Chairman Gregory LaChance, Pagini said he couldn't see what changes have occurred since the new zone was adopted.

"Thirteen months is a relatively short period of time," Pagini said. "The regulations are fairly new."

©Journal Inquirer 2006