Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
PZC likely to deny application for commercial zone

By Jason Rowe
Journal Inquirer
November 27, 2006

VERNON - A proposal to grant a commercial zone designation to a Mile Hill Road parcel appears to be headed for defeat.

Galaxy Development Inc., which has an office at 30 Lafayette Square, has asked the Planning and Zoning Commission to change the 8.8-acre parcel's zoning from residential to commercial.

But after hearing concerns from local residents and officials in surrounding towns, PZC members indicated last week that they are inclined to deny the application.

The commission asked the town's planning staff to draft a motion denying the application, which will likely be voted on during the PZC's Dec. 7 meeting.

But the denial will likely be followed up by the an amendment to the town's planned development zone, which would make it somewhat easier to develop the site in a way that's consistent with the town's master plan.

Through its lawyer, Leonard Jacobs, Galaxy Development has argued that the site is not suitable for residential development because it is immediately adjacent to a highway.

And although the town's Plan of Conservation and Development calls for the land - now owned by W.W. Enterprises of Manchester - to be developed with a mix of uses, Jacobs said the town's current zoning regulations would not allow that type of project on the site.

Regulations for the planned development zone - which was created last year to replace the former mixed-use zone - state that a parcel must be at least 40 acres to be considered for that designation.

During the PZC's Nov. 16 meeting, Jacobs suggested that the commission could change the minimum size to 5 acres, which would allow this parcel to be included in the planned development zone.

No specific development proposals have been submitted for the site.

The commission began hearing testimony on the potential zone change on Oct. 5, and on Nov. 2, four residents spoke out against the proposal.

Among the concerns cited were impacts on nearby watersheds and compatibility with the surrounding neighborhoods.

Commercial development in the northeast part of town has been a sore spot for residents in recent years with proposals on nearby land for both a Home Depot and a Wal-Mart Supercenter being met with strong public opposition.

Meanwhile, Tolland officials and representatives from the Capitol Region Council of Government also expressed concern about the plan, notably its potential impact on natural resources and the surrounding area.

This year, this parcel, plus an additional 7 acres in Tolland, was under consideration for a regional YMCA center, but plans for the facility in Vernon were put on hold after the Town Council balked at making the necessary infrastructure improvements to accommodate the new building.