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11/28/2005 Minutes

Planning and Zoning Commission

Special Meeting #1468
November 28, 2005

***Draft Document - subject to Commission approval***

The meeting was called to order at 6:40 P. M. by  Chairman Guiliano in the Cafeteria of the East Windsor High School, 76 South Main Street (Warehouse Point Section), East Windsor, CT.


A quorum was established as three Regular Members (Guiliano, Rodrigue, and Saunders)  and one Alternate Member (Ouellette) were present at the beginning of the Meeting; Alternate Commissioner Kehoe arrived at 7:22 P. M..  Regular Members Filipone and Gowdy, and Alternate Member Tyler were absent. Also present was Town Planner Whitten, and Glen Chalder, AICP, Principal of Planimetrics.

WORKSHOP/Discussion of Preliminary Strategies:

Town Planner Whitten introduced Glenn Chalder, of Planimetrics.   Mr. Chalder reported he had three for this evening: to discuss the preliminary strategies developed at the previous meeting (handout provided), to implement a design workshop, and to discuss/set the next meeting date.

With regard to the Preliminary Strategies, Mr. Chalder noted the strategies focused on three areas:  Zoning Regulations, Subdivision Regulations, and the Plan of Conservation and Development.   Within those three topics, Mr. Chalder reviewed various goals: 1) Zoning Regulations:  Manage Single-Family Residential Development; Manage Multi-Family Residential Development; and Address Housing Needs; 2)  Subdivision Regulations:  Open Space Regulations; Road Standards; Sidewalk Standards; 3) Plan of Conservation and Development: Conservation - Natural Resources; Development - Residential Development; Infrastructure - Pedestrian Circulation; Infrastructure - Sewer; and Future Land Use Plan - Consistency.  He queried the group if there was anything reflected on the handout that should be deleted from the list or added?

Henry Crenshaw, Riverview Drive: noted that in the Plan of Conservation and Development (POD) it states that East Windsor is ahead of the State average with regard to affordable housing; he questioned what was the town’s goal?  Is there a need for more affordable housing units?   Town Planner Whitten indicated she had not done the latest calculations but she felt that as the housing stock goes up the percentage may be declining.  The Town must provide 10% of the dwelling units as affordable housing; none of the new housing stock is affordable.  Mr. Crenshaw questioned if the Town had a percentage in mind?  Town Planner Whitten replied affirmatively, but noted there are different ways to create affordable housing.  Mr. Crenshaw suggested that the POD suggests there is enough multi-family housing already, so there is not a real need for more today.  He questioned if the Town anticipated creating more, or limiting it, or tying the units to a ratio of single family housing.  Mr. Chalder discussed options instituted by other communities, including fees-in-lieu-of affordable housing.  He noted that the current regulations are not resulting in the types of developments the Commission intended; they need to fix those regulations.

Commissioner Saunders questioned how the fees-in-lieu-of affordable housing works.   Mr. Chalder suggested it’s much like the fees-in-lieu-of open space. Because East Windsor already has more than 10% affordable housing units, it meets the State standards for affordable housing.  A developer can’t force us to do a development because it’s affordable housing.   Maybe you could say 10% of a development coming through must be set aside for affordable housing; if that’s not appropriate, or desirable, the developer can make a deposit which goes into a fund which the community can use to create affordable housing which is more appropriate.  Commissioner Saunders questioned if the money is used to purchase other units; would they be town owned, or would it go to the developer?  Mr. Chalder suggested it depends on what the town wants.  He gave as an example Farmington, where existing units are purchased and then resold but the land is retained by the town.   The units must be resold at a price restriction but the land price is taken out of the equation.

Chairman Guiliano indicated he would like to see where the Town is now relative to the required percentage.   Town Planner Whitten believed we are still over the 10% threshold.  Chairman Guiliano suggested he would like to know how much over that percentage the town actually is.

George Buttenkoff, Wells Road:  questioned if $2,000 as fee-in-lieu of open space is appropriate?  Mr. Chalder suggested he would look into that regulation; we may need to make adjustments.  Mr. Buttenkoff questioned if Mr. Chalder had seen a recent article in the Hartford Courant regarding “mega-houses”; he questioned what the minimum square foot requirements are in East Windsor, and does it depend on the zone?   Chairman Guiliano replied affirmatively in regard to the zone.  Mr. Chalder suggested offered the following square foot requirements:  1028 square feet for a one story dwelling; 1300 square feet for a one and a half story Cape, and 1400 square feet for a two story dwelling.   Town Planner Whitten suggested she would review the square foot requirements.

Returning to his discussion of Preliminary Strategies, Mr. Chalder suggested the items listed under the Plan of Conservation and Development may require more work than the current budget allows.   He will advise Town Planner Whitten on the status of the work.

Henry Crenshaw, Riverview Drive:  with regard to purchasing land for open space, he felt someone had said there were provisions for getting matching funds from the State.  Mr. Chalder and Town Planner Whitten replied affirmatively.   Mr. Crenshaw questioned if we are taking steps to pursue acquiring those funds?   Town Planner Whitten suggested it depends on what land is available, there must be a commitment from the owner to see, and there must be additional quotes on the value of the land, but all that must be in place before you apply for the grant.   She noted that the Natural Resources Commission is already working on an Open Space Plan  and deciding what type of land is desired, but we need to have that plan in place before seeking funding.

Doug Wilson, 233 South Water Street:  questioned if the map referenced on page 2, Conservation - Natural Resources is an aquifer protection map?  Mr. Chalder suggested it’s an aquifer zone map.   Mr. Wilson indicated the Natural Resources Preservation Commission is working on establishing an aquifer protection map, which would be one of the criteria for determining open space.  Mr. Wilson reviewed the list and noted several items that could be removed from the strategies list, as the NRPC is already working on those items.

LET THE RECORD SHOW Commissioner Kehoe arrived at 7:22 P. M.

Hearing no further discussion with regard to the Preliminary Strategies Mr. Chalder asked those present to break up into smaller groups and work on development plans for conventional vs. flexible subdivisions.  Items to be taken into consideration include wetlands restrictions, natural resources, set backs, rear lot requirements, lot size, percentage of open space, etc.   The groups worked on this exercise for approximately 45 minutes.  The various subdivision plans were then displayed, and voted on for preference.   Mr. Chalder noted it’s much more difficult to design subdivisions when dealing with zoning regulations.  He suggested that frontage requirements make a big difference in lot yield; often it’s not the number of houses but the pattern of lots that’s more desirable in a subdivision plan.   Mr. Chalder considered he may suggest that the density factor is based on buildable area rather than total lot area, as it could create more useable open space.  Discussion followed regarding how each group arrived at their design plan.  

Linda Kehoe:  noted that in the Wetlands Commission they would like to see the wetlands removed from the buildable area, as the slopes are sensitive.  Mr. Chalder suggested that some communities define non-buildable land as taking out wetlands, watercourses, steep slopes or flood plains.   When you control the number of lots by the density factor you make them premium lots with views of open space, wetlands, etc.; they are all over-sized amenities.  In many cases those near the road sell for 10% less than those to the rear.  

Chairman Guiliano indicated that the Commission is waiving the length of cul-de-sacs; the length needs to be changed.  Town Planner Whitten felt that most towns have a 900’ - 1000’ length as the average.  It’s a matter of if your fire apparatus can get in there in a reasonable amount of time.  
Mr. Chalder noted that some communities allow longer lengths but fewer lots.   He felt that the 175’ frontage standard can be relaxed to allow cluster housing.

Donna Grant:  suggested allowing affordable houses in with the standard subdivisions.  Betsy Burns, of the Human Services Department, suggested that in Farmington you can’t tell the affordable housing from the higher priced dwellings.  Town Planner Whitten noted that for the design exercise there were very few lots that used 175’ frontage in the flexible subdivision.  Commissioner Saunders questioned if instead of the lot size maybe the Commission should go with the number of houses on a parcel.   Mr. Chalder felt you want to make more considerations on the design and still have a development standard; maybe if you give more open space the town will reduce other design standards.  Commissioner Saunders noted that the Commission set design standards on a development on East Road which put the lots back from the road.  He felt that the developers are locked into the cookie cutter concept, so is it an education process for them as well?  This is where Town Planner Whitten can encourage them to be more creative.  Mr. Chalder suggested that some communities require a design architect to be part of the staff.  Town Planner Whitten noted that Mr. Chalder had indicated that some communities require a Public Hearing for conventional subdivisions but not the flexible subdivisions, so that would be another consideration.

Mr. Chalder queried the Commission on the next workshop meeting date, noting that the holidays are fast approaching.  He suggested Monday, December 19th, noting it’s a busy time of the year; we can move the meeting to January if the Commission prefers.  Chairman Guiliano and Town Planner Whitten reviewed the current meeting schedule for the next two months, noting that time is running short on the moratorium work; both would prefer to meet on December 19th.  Mr. Chalder noted he hopes to have material available to be handed out at the Commission’s regular meeting on December 13th so Commissioners can review it before December 19th.

Donna Grant:  hoped there should be an underlying consideration of what the town considers their natural treasure.  If a town is located on the shoreline it’s the ocean, if a town is located in Vermont it’s the mountains; she felt for East Windsor it’s the farmland and the soil, and that should color decisions on everything.  Town Planner Whitten noted the POD does promote preservation of farmland as well as other things, like open space.  Discussion followed on the balance of preservation, property values, and intent of the property owner


MOTION: To ADJOURN this meeting at 8:40 P. M.

Rodrigue moved/Saunders seconded/VOTE:  In Favor:   Unanimous

Respectfully submitted,

Peg Hoffman
Planning and Zoning Recording Secretary