By Lisa Capobianco
With the approval of plans for the West Street business zone development at a recent meeting, the Planning and Zoning Commission has assured the public that it will continue to protect homeowners in the residential area while still working to bring in new businesses.
“We tried to make this a collaborative effort between the town staff, business owners and residents,” said Planning & Zoning Commission Vice Chairman Paul Chaplinsky. “We want to take in complete views on the West Street Corridor.”
The zoning regulations affect the general areas of Spring Street and West Queen Street, including residential lots on Welch Road. Residents who live in these areas have reported concern over such regulations, especially if they choose to sell their homes. But the commission has reminded residents they may continue to live there and sell their home if they wish to do so.
“You have a right to your house, and we cannot take that away,” Chaplinsky said. “We’ve done our best to educate people on what their rights are, recognizing that people live there.”
Chaplinsky said that homeowners who live near the zoning regulations have only one limitation: if they decide to make any significant changes to their lots, such as adding a swimming pool, they must receive permission from the Zoning Board of Appeals because their residential use is “legally non-conforming.”
Another issue posed to commission members dealt with traffic issues. Members of the Southington community have expressed their concern about West Street turning into another Queen Street. But Chaplinsky said the town will have regulations for every new business that comes to West Street, making the roads accessible for drivers.
For instance, the town will require every new business to have “interconnectivity” with the parking lots of its adjacent businesses. Each parking lot will be located in the back of the buildings, so drivers do not have to worry about returning to West Street just to park in an adjacent lot.
Planning and Zoning Commission Chairman Michael DelSanto said he feels pleased with his commission’s work with the community.
“We assessed all avenues,” DelSanto said. “We want to control West Street before it controls us.”
Despite the concerns over residential lots and traffic, Chaplinsky said the project will benefit not only businesses but also residents themselves. Besides bringing more jobs to town, the West Street planning activity will also minimize expenses for residents, by creating a “walking community,” so they will have more access to local businesses without the burden of using gas mileage.
“People want convenience,” Chaplinsky said.
Although the commission has reflected on how to handle the project, Chaplinsky and DelSanto said more planning remains since the West Street planning activity is a “long-term strategic vision.”
“This is a marathon, not a race,” Chaplinsky said.
“It is going to take time and a lot more work,” DelSanto added.