Cheshire is open for business again. At least, more open than it was yesterday.
The Planning and Zoning Commission voted to remove its temporary moratorium on certain commercial uses following a Sept. 11 public hearing on the subject. No members of the public spoke during the hearing.
Along with lifting the moratorium, the PZC adopted other changes to the Town’s regulations pertaining to uses such as bottled gas, boat dealers, gas stations, and car washes. A moratorium that applies to the special development and infill districts remains in place, per Town Planner Michael Glidden, and will likely be discussed at future subcommittee meetings.
The limited moratorium — a period during which no commercial applications were being accepted for certain zones — first took effect back in April. Commissioner Matt Bowman had suggested during a meeting that the PZC needed to take a closer look at how the limited number of available commercial space in town was being allocated.
Adoption of the moratorium was followed by a pair of special workshops in July and August. During these meetings, which were open to the public, PZC members worked with Glidden to address a number of questions.
“One thing we are modifying is in Section 40, dealing with drive-through restaurants. There are drive-through restaurant standards now specific to the design of the drive-through, for queuing distances, and requiring a by-pass lane, which is something that the Fire Department asked for,” explained Glidden.
Issues around queuing arose in recent consideration of a proposed car wash on South Main Street, for example, as commissioners worried that a long line of cars could block the flow of traffic on Route 10 due to the small size of the lot.
Future gas stations and car washes will no longer be allowed in commercial zones (C-2 and C-3) per the changes.
Boat dealers, addressed in 30.45 of the regulations, are similarly no longer allowed in the C-3 zone, nor is commercial storage and sale of bottled gas (64A). The bottled gas regulation addresses storage units of up to 50,000 gallons. “It’s not the refilling of the little small ones,” as Commissioner Robert Brucato put it.
As for gas stations, “portions of your C-3 zoning district are already located within the Aquifer Protection Area, so to begin with you can’t approve a new gas station in that area, because it would be in conflict with the aquifer protection ordinance,” commented Glidden.
However, as Commission Chair Earl Kurtz III clarified, “If it’s an existing gas station now, it remains with the property and be an existing gas station in the future.”
This aspect of the law could create confusion down the road, per a discussion in which Glidden was asked about a former gas station deciding to become one again at some point in the future.
“The way the laws work when it comes to non-conforming uses in Connecticut, it’s in the property owner’s favor,” Glidden said. “They’d be required to demonstrate that they didn’t intend to abandon the use.”
Yet, Glidden added, “The way non-conformities work, it’s really case-specific.”
A separate public hearing at the Sept. 11 meeting concerned a proposed 20,000 square feet indoor athletic facility at Cheshire Academy. A Sprung structure, it would be constructed of an aluminum frame with interior and exterior membranes.
The intended use, project team members explained, would be junior varsity practices and recreation mainly, with basketball courts and batting cages. It would be located on the site of what were once tennis courts.
A photometric plan stated that “no spillage” from the site would affect neighbors.
Commissioners John Hilzinger and Robert Brucato did express concerns about snow and ice on the roof and pedestrian access paths.
The Academy’s application is also pending before the Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Commission, thus project engineer Ryan McEvoy of SLR Consulting asked the PZC to leave the public hearing open, which was granted.