Larger frontage requirement for subdivisions OK'd by TPZ

Despite requests for another public hearing -- including one from the first selectman -- the Town Plan and Zoning Commission has unanimously approved an amendment to the town zoning regulations that will increase the size of lot frontage required for subdivision of residential property.

Property owners of large acreage in town opposed the change, arguing the new rule would, in essence, take sections of their property without compensation because of the more limited development that would be possible.

However, others concerned about too much development in town urged its approval at the TPZ's August hearing.

Until the change, which was approved Tuesday by the TPZ, a 20-foot street frontage for each lot in a subdivision was required. The new regulation will require frontage of anywhere from 50 feet in a C residential zone to 200 feet in the AAA zones.

"This is land people paid for," lawyer Michael Bologna had said during the public hearing. "You're infringing on people's right to build on their land."

Bologna and lawyer William Fitzpatrick had spoken against the amendment at the hearing, and a half-page ad was taken out in the Aug. 9 issue of the Fairfield Citizen urging residents to oppose the change. The ad listed a website, www.ownersrights.org, which had not been updated since immediately after the hearing on Aug. 28.

The amendment received support from Fairfielders Protecting Land and Neighborhoods, a citizen land-use group.

First Selectman Michael Tetreau sent an Aug. 16 email to Planning Director Joseph Devonshuk asking if a second public hearing could be held.

"I am getting some feedback on the back lot regulations that are proposed," Tetreau wrote. "From what I'm hearing, a number of people are saying they just weren't aware of the agenda item in time to make the last meeting."

The hearing took place Aug. 13.

Merwins Lane resident Samuel E. Banks, in a Sept. 4 letter to Representative Town Meeting members in District 3, said he also made a plea for another hearing, and asked if the RTM could do anything to postpone the vote by the TPZ.

"To whom does the Planning and Zoning Commission report?" Banks wrote. "They propose an amendment and then vote on it. I'm not a student of government or law but this surely lacks `due process.' "

The TPZ is an elected board.

Banks said that the majority of affected owners are unaware of the proposed change, which he said reduces the number of potential lots that could be subdivided on his property. "These lots are my IRA, 401k and long-term care insurance all rolled into one," Banks wrote. "This proposal therefore is a 50 percent write-down of my retirement plan. Should Planning and Zoning be able to do this? An investment in Fairfield real estate should not be high risk."

TPZ Commissioner Richard Jacobs said the planning meetings started in February and were all open to the public.

"This has been a regulation change that started a long time ago," Jacobs said Tuesday. "We've had many meetings on this."

Commissioner Douglas Soutar said he read emails from people who were not in town in August and were unable to attend the hearing, and suggested that perhaps a second hearing could be held.

"Last summer in August, we sat here with a packed house with the same notification for Homeland Street," Commissioner Gerald Alessi said. "We spent hours on this. It's not something we did lightly."

And Commissioner Matthew Wagner said even if adopted, homeowners still have an opportunity to seek a variance for their property if they want to subdivide and don't have enough frontage.

"This is not something that was undertaken lightly or with haste," Wagner said.