Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
PZC continues hearing on Talcottville Road zone change

By Jason Rowe
Journal Inquirer
August 4, 2006

VERNON - As a number of residents have expressed concerns, the PZC has deferred deliberations on the possible zone change on Talcottville Road until later this month.

The PZC decided Thursday that it will take up the rezoning application from Faith Lyman at its Aug. 24 meeting.

Lyman, 93, 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" to commercial.

The commercial zone permits of number of uses, including retail stores, professional offices, move theaters, and research laboratories.

The 36-acre parcel under consideration includes a smaller property belonging to Robert and Carol Bardin.

During Thursday's meeting, the PZC heard from two representatives of the Friends of the Hockanum River Linear Park, who expressed concerns about the zone change's potential impact to the stream, which flows along the property, located on the west side of Talcottville Road, across from Allan Drive.

Anne M. Letendre, who heads the Friends group, said the PZC should stick with the planned development zone because it gives the town more power to protect the river's watershed area.

"Given the scrutiny that you are allowed in the planned development zone, we feel you would be able to protect the environmental attributes," Letendre said.

Because the commercial zone would allow retail stores at higher densities than the planned development zone, Lyman's application has stirred memories of a 2004 controversy over "big box" development in the northeast section of town.

Last year, in response to the controversy, the PZC created the planned development zone, which required larger setbacks and required special permits for all proposed uses.

Given that commercial projects can be built in the PDZ zone with a special permit, local lawyer Amy Blaymore Paterson said it doesn't make sense to make the change.

"To change the zone for no reason other than it would make it easier for a land owner to develop commercial uses would be arbitrary and unreasonable," said Paterson, who represents the Friends group. "They still have that right, it's just specially permitted."

But Lyman's lawyer, Joseph Capossela, said zoning the land commercial makes sense because the town has always had the intention of developing commercial projects on land with frontage on a state road.

Talcottville Road is also known as state Route 83.

Lyman's property is one of the last remaining undeveloped parcels in the 275-acre Gerber Farms area, which now includes been developed into the Quail Hollow age-restricted housing development on Dart Hill Road, the Mansions apartment complex, and other industrial uses.

Capossela also added that any large-scale proposal would still require a PZC-issued special permit.

In other business, the PZC also continued testimony on a proposal from local developer Kenneth J. Boynton to develop a 30-acre site at 214 West St. into a 28-lot residential subdivision.

Boynton had earlier proposed 59 units of age-restricted housing on the site, but the PZC rejected that plan in January.

The PZC began hearing testimony from the developer's representatives, but elected to continue the public hearing at its Aug. 24 meeting.

Access to the new housing would be provided by two proposed cul-de-sacs off of West Street, but the town might require Boynton to connect one of the new roads to another newly created road accessing a previously approved 13-lot subdivision off of Tracy Drive.

Boynton's development plans for the area are the subject of several pending appeals in Superior Court involving the town and Tracy Drive residents Frederick and Barbara Goff.

©Journal Inquirer 2006