P&Z opts out of granny pods

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The Middlebury Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) at its Nov. 2 meeting voted to opt out of legislation allowing temporary health care structures. It also continued public hearings on a Straits Turnpike zone change and a house on Lake Quassapaug and heard a report from the Economic and Industrial Development Commission.

Consultant Hiram Peck, an AICP certified planner, gave an overview of Connecticut Public Act 17-155 which automatically permitted temporary health care structures, sometimes referred to as “granny pods,” unless a municipality opted out. He said the act was intended to provide a temporary healthcare dwelling unit for specific folks, including mentally or physically impaired people.

While the act didn’t mention the elderly, Peck said most people think that was the legislation’s original intent, and the structures are often referred to as “granny pods.” He said there seem to be numerous loopholes in the legislation; one is requiring permit issuance 15 days after the application, which can pose a problem when various zoning requirements need to be verified or other approvals need to be given.

Additionally, there is a $50,000 bond requirement, and the cost of removal needs to be considered. Peck said he believes there is a better solution or, alternatively, zoning regulations could be adjusted to make accessory units comfortable for people who really need them.

A resolution to opt out of the legislation was unanimously approved. The resolution was sent to the Board of Selectmen, which voted Nov. 20 to opt out as well, putting the opt-out process into effect.

A decision on a zone change from R40 to CA40 for properties that run on the Waterbury side of Straits Turnpike northward from Joanne Drive to vacant commercial lots at the intersection of Park Road was tabled until Dec. 7. The Naugatuck Valley Council of Governments wrote to P&Z to recommend Middlebury work closely with Waterbury to avoid impacts to Waterbury residential neighborhoods behind those lots. Chairman Terry Smith said of the proposed change, “One of my concerns is the lots would be merged into a strip mall.”

A decision on a special exception for excavation and grading for Robert and Florence Bosco to build a house at 383 White Deer Rock Road was tabled until Dec. 7. Professional Engineer Scott Meyers of Meyers Associates told commissioners the Boscos want to remove about 1,900 cubic yards of fill so the house site would be approximately 7 feet lower.

In other matters, Terrence McAuliffe, chairman of the Economic and Industrial Development Commission (EIDC), presented a report on a survey of Middlebury business owners conducted in April. He said the EIDC recommended P&Z develop signage rules to attract customers while preserving the town’s character, taking into account Middlebury’s seven distinct commercial areas so the rules can vary.

He also said he would be asking for funding estimated at $35,000 for “Architecture and Design Guidelines” to be used in conjunction with the town’s newly revised zoning regulations, and funding estimated at $35,000 for a “Streetscape Plan” for Middlebury Center. He said both of these items were consistent with recommendations in the 2015 Plan of Conservation and Development and would help both commissions improve the aesthetics and shopper friendliness of Middlebury.

The next regular P&Z meeting will be Thursday, Dec. 7, at 7:30 p.m. at Shepardson Community Center.


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