Proposal to change residential lot frontage rules sparks debate
Updated 6:34 pm, Wednesday, August 14, 2013
A zoning amendment designed to limit the number of homes that can be built on cul de sacs and rear lots in new subdivisions violates the U.S. Constitution on lawyer told the Town Plan and Zoning Commission on Tuesday.
The amendment has been proposed by the commission, prompted by feedback heard from the public during hearings on subdivision applications. No vote was taken on the amendment following Tuesday's hearing.
Rather than requiring a 20-foot street frontage for each lot in a subdivision as now is the case, lots would now require frontage of anywhere from 50 feet in a C zone to 200 feet in the AAA zone.
The change, Assistant Planning Director James Wendt said, would ensure than newer developments "will fit better in the neighborhood."
He said there are 2,246 lots in AAA zones across town, where the minimum lot size is 2 acres. Of those lots, 227 are 4 acres or more. In the AA zone, which has a minimum lot size of 1 acre, there are 279 lots, with 90 lots having 2 acres or more, according to Wendt.
"This is land people paid for," said Michael Bologna, the lawyer representing a client with Congress Street property. "They own it."
To require additional frontage for lots when property is subdivided, as is proposed under the regulation, is essentially taking land without compensation, he said. "You're infringing on people's right to build on their land," he said.
Bologna said that for his client, the proposed changes would make his existing lot "non-conforming."
He and another lawyer, William Fitzpatrick, also argued that the TPZ has the available technology to send a notice about the proposed amendment to all property owners in town who might be affected should the amendment be adopted.
Fitzpatrick, who was representing two LLCs, said the commission always places great emphasis on developers informing property owners who would be affected by planned projects.
"Here, your proposed zone change is very, very significant," he claimed, adding the change will affect landowners, not the developers. "The developers will just pay less for the land."
Fitzpatrick also said that concerns that too many homes potentially could be built in new subdivisions have little basis in fact. He said over the last five years, 48 residential subdivision lots, or roughly 10 per year, have been approved.
For residents concerned about overdevelopment, though, it may be more the way the new homes are being added. "We're building houses too close together," said Shady Hill Road resident Bill Gerber. "The way our zoning currently is, we squeeze homes in to every nook and cranny."
Ken Lee, a Representative Town Meeting member from District 10, said, "Every square foot of this town is getting filled up with houses."
The proposed amendment has received support from Fairfielders Protecting Land And Neighborhoods, a citizens' land-use group. But an opponent paid for a half-page ad in the Aug. 9 issue of the Fairfield Citizen urging residents to oppose the change. The website listed in the ad, www.ownersrights.org, does not give any indication of who has organized the opposition group or any way to contact it.
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