Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Vernon zoning regulations being ‘streamlined,’ lawyer says

By Suzanne Carlson
Journal Inquirer
Published: Friday, September 30, 2011 1:07 PM EDT

VERNON — Mayor Jason L. McCoy has moved forward with plans to revise the town’s zoning regulations, but has not yet updated the Planning and Zoning Commission despite saying it would receive a draft of the revisions by Sept. 15.

“We’ve been engaged by the town to do a review of their zoning regulations, we are in the process of doing that,” lawyer Justin R. Clark, of the Manchester law firm Blackwell, Davis, and Spadaccini, said today.

PZC Chairman Chester “Chet” Morgan said he is waiting for communication from the mayor, as the commission has received nothing since Aug. 18 when it first was notified of the revisions.

“I know he has a short time left in office and he wants to be involved in some of the things involved in the zoning regulations and we’re more than happy to listen to the mayor,” Morgan said.

McCoy is not running for re-election.

Clark confirmed that his law firm has signed an engagement letter with the town, but declined to provide specifics of the agreement and referred questions to McCoy.

McCoy said that declaring the zoning regulations are being rewritten “makes an incorrect assumption” and “the Planning and Zoning Commission rewrites and adopts the regulations.”

He declined further comment.

It is unclear how much the town is paying to have the revisions made. But the town planner’s budget contains $20,000 to update zoning codes and regulations. Any expenditure over $10,000 requires a sealed bidding process unless the Town Council authorizes a bid waiver, according to the town charter.

Clark said McCoy could better speak to the scope of the revisions, but that he did not anticipate the changes to take a lot of time or money.

“The idea is to streamline a lot of the zoning requirements, so to take some things that require special exceptions for instance, and maybe make them a permitted use. I mean it’s really not that grand a change,” Clark said.

When McCoy said in August he was planning revisions, many PZC members expressed confusion, because it had been widely understood that they would finish updating the 10-year plan of conservation and development before tackling the regulations.

Town Planner Leonard K. Tundermann said at the August meeting that McCoy expected a first draft to town staff by Aug. 24, a second draft to the commission by Sept. 15, and a final version on Oct. 20.

But Morgan said today he hasn’t received anything regarding the regulations and Clark said the timeline was established before he was assigned to the project.

Morgan said everyone agrees the outdated, confusing, and sometimes contradictory regulations should be revised, but McCoy’s action caught the PZC by surprise.

“We have never gotten anything which we could act on,” Morgan said, adding that, “there will be a process” through which the revisions will be vetted by the commission and brought up for public review before any changes are approved.

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