P&Z’s Proposed Zoning Regulation Changes Initiative is Commendable

Sherman, Conn. (Citizen News) – For the residents who attended the public hearing on June 4th at the Mallory Town Hall, the vast majority expressed to Planning and Zoning (P&Z) their overall appreciation for what the commissioners are trying to accomplish. However, as with any public hearing, many attendees still had questions and concerns they wanted to share with the P&Z Commission. As one resident and proponent, Marge Josephson, best put it… “I like most of it, but not all of it.”

Moderating this public hearing was Planning and Zoning Chair, Jeannene Burruano. There were four consecutive public hearings on the table and open for public comment / feedback. This latest round of proposed new regulations and amendments to the Zoning Regulations of the Town of Sherman, Connecticut document concerns Accessory Dwellings, Accessory Apartments, Residential Fencing, and Stone Walls & Historic Features.

PUBLIC HEARINGS 1 & 2: ACCESSORY DWELLINGS & ACCESSORY APARTMENTS

It’s NOT Affordable Housing

Barbara Ackerman, former Planning and Zoning Chair, congratulated and thanked the P&Z Commission. She said that she wanted to make it very clear to the public that what the P&Z Commission is proposing “is not Affordable Housing” and “these structures that would be the accessory dwellings, would have no provision for that.”

Housing Commission Chair, Art Von Plachecki, said he also wanted to clarify and put on to the record how the Housing Commission Report given to the Board of Selectman and shared with the P&Z Commission never indicated that the recommendations to Planning and Zoning were for Affordable Housing.

Mr. Von Plachecki then stated “the Housing Commission would like to express our support for the accessory dwelling changes” and “we think this is a strong start to diversifying the opportunity for different styles of housing in the Town of Sherman.” He added that by not diversifying, the Town is vulnerable to State mandates along with private contractors coming in and designating their units as Affordable Housing, which would avoid entirely the Town’s zoning regulations.

Related to this, Tony Guieker, a resident who wrote in, does not think the proposed changes are the answer to Affordable Housing and he will not support it if it is. Both Ms. Ackerman and Mr. Von Plachecki’s responses reassured attendees this is not the case.

8 Acre Minimum:

Before opening up the floor to public comment, Ms. Burruano said “the purpose of this proposed regulation is to permit property owners with parcels of 8 or more acres to create an accessory dwelling to provide small scale housing for a variety of occupants. Such occupants include, but are not limited to; family, caregivers, guests, and domestic help.”

Ms. Burruano then stated “there are approximately 234 properties of 8 acres or more out of a total of 2,484 properties, which excludes town owned, state owned, or conserved in the Town of Sherman. Therefore, this regulation change would potentially effect approximately 10.6% of all Sherman properties…” She added how the intent of the P&Z Commission is to also not compromise existing and developing properties, neighborhoods, or significant natural features. Here’s what attendees had to say…

Ms. Burruano read Katherine Russo Heyser’s March 4th letter and Mrs. Heyser, a resident, attended the public hearing as well. In summation, Mrs. Heyser has lived in Sherman since 1981 with her extended family. For 30 years, her parents lived with her family in a studio apartment on the property that does not meet the ever increasing acreage requirements. Recently, her daughter and husband purchased the property so that she and her husband can now live in the studio on the property with their daughter’s young family, just like her parents once did.

Mrs. Heyser “loves the proposal idea” and wanted to go on record as an accessory dwelling proponent. However, she is not a fan of the 8 acre limitation. The reason being, the acreage limitation would not allow for more multi-generational families, like hers, to live in Sherman.

Thomas Piel, resident, also agrees the acreage restriction “denies an awful lot of people in our town majority who have less than 8 acres… it denies them the right to have an accessory dwelling.”

Samantha Addonizio, a resident who wrote in, thinks the 8 acre minimum is too restrictive and exclusive as well and wants the P&Z Commission to adopt a zoning rule that better balances Sherman families who are part of the Sandwich Generation.

Just Perfect!

Richard Gustovson, resident, was the most enthusiastic proponent that spoke at this public hearing. “This proposal seems like it was meant for me,” he stated. The reason being, he thinks what the P&Z Commission is proposing is a great improvement. For two years, he has tried to plan for a 750 sq. ft. accessory apartment for him and his wife to live in once one of his children with a young family moves to his main house. He couldn’t make the space work because the size restriction was too small. Now, he thinks the proposed 1,200 sq. ft. restriction is just the perfect size so he can add a bedroom for visiting grandchildren and guests if he builds an accessory dwelling.

Mr. Gustovson would also like to have a two car garage and wants to see this added in the language. “I think this is a very well-written plan and it happens to work perfectly for me! …I appreciate it.”

Owner Occupied, Principal Dwelling

Mr. Piel has a concern with the principal dwelling occupancy requirement that the owner must live in it because he thinks the property owner should be able to live in either the accessory apartment / dwelling, or the principal building, a single family dwelling. In other words, as long as the property owner is living on the property, then it shouldn’t matter.

Small House Quandary

Marge Josephson, resident, shared her square footage requirement concerns, because with her situation, the acreage is there but her 200 year-old house is small. She wanted to know if the P&Z Commission would consider letting her build an additional building with a small house as the principal building. She added “there are some older, very small buildings where it would be better, ultimately, to have that as the accessory building and another one as a primary building.”

Shared Driveway / Curb Cuts Restriction

Ms. Josephson also said she has a short driveway and is hoping there would be special permits to deal with her special case regarding the no additional curb cuts restriction.

Ms. Ackerman was interested in knowing where accessory dwellings would be located on any property because they would need to have “a driveway shared by the principal house.” She does not think this is realistic for many properties to accomplish.

Why a Landscaping Provision?

As for the proposed landscaping provision, Ms. Josephson does not understand why there should be one since she believes there are currently no landscaping regulations for homes with smaller parcels.

PUBLIC HEARING 3: OBSTRUCTION IN LOT AREA / ARCHITECTURAL FEATURES & RESIDENTIAL FENCING

Mary Cusack, resident, read a letter she wrote about her concern regarding residential fencing because she lives in a residential farming zone and does not want to see tall vehicles and equipment. She is worried that the proposed front lot fencing language will eliminate the side lot fencing language.

Ms. Burruano said that any side or rear lot can have a 6 ft. fence and this language is already in the regulations. In other words, the proposed new language should not affect sides and rear height and that it will allow for a 4 ft. front yard fence, with conditions. The P&Z Commission will review the wording.

Regarding fencing regulations, Ms. Josephson thinks it’s good to have them. However, she has a concern regarding how a residential fence shall not cross any easements because she thinks there should be the option to put up fencing across a conservation easement.

Ms. Josephson asked if residential deer fencing is okay and it is. She wanted to know if barbwire fencing and electrified fencing are okay on farms, and they are okay on farms. The P&Z Commission said that what they are proposing is for residential properties and not for farms. The P&Z Commission will review the wording.

PUBLIC HEARING 4: SCENIC FEATURES, STONE WALLS & HISTORIC FEATURES

Ms. Josephson said “I am pleased that we will have something finally in the regulations about stonewalls and foundations, it’s long overdue.” However, she thinks the wording needs to be strengthened or clarified regarding how the intent needs to be applied to all existing walls and foundations on existing lots AND new lots. She said the proposed wording seems to only apply to new subdivision plans and not existing lots.

NEXT STEPS:

The Commissioners listened attentively to the public’s input and suggestions, and the public hearing is closed. The P&Z Commission will do deliberations at their mid-month meeting on June 18th at 7 p.m. in Mallory Town Hall. If there are final decisions made then the P&Z Commission will vote on the amendments and newly proposed regulations. This is a public meeting, and all residents are welcome. However, there will not be an opportunity to speak. If the P&Z Commission drastically changes anything then they will schedule a new public hearing and go through the same process again.

Written by Alicia Sakal, Citizen News Journalist, June 10th Edition.

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