Dueling Zone Change Proposals Control Washington Street Development

Remember that proposed commercial development on Washington Street that everyone got all worked up about last semester? Thought it was doomed when Wesleyan pulled out of the project, opting not to relocate its bookstore?

Think again. According to the Courant, dueling zone change requests have been filed for the neighborhoods surrounding Wesleyan, including that strip on Washington Street where the development would be located. Both seek to change portions of the “mixed-use” and “institutional” development zoning regulations. One of the requests comes from Centerplan developer Robert Landino, who presented the development at an open forum in November and was met with fierce community resistance. The other comes from Pearl Street resident Ed McKeon, an avowed opponent of what he calls a “cookie-cutter strip mall with carbon-copy National Chains.”

As the Courant explains it, Landino’s zone request seeks to permit a building with retail or restaurant space on the first floor, below office or residential spaces:

Attorney Ralph Wilson has filed a request on behalf of Landino, the president of Centerplan Companies who announced preliminary plans in November for a retail development on Washington Street between Pearl and High streets.

Their zoning change application seeks to allow in the mixed-use zone buildings with retail or restaurants on the first floor and office or residential space on the upper floors. The request suggests requiring parking in the rear or side of a building rather than along main roads. It also suggests allowing drive-throughs as long as they don’t face the street.

“The proposed text change will allow the MX zone to be developed in a much better fashion than the current regulations allow,” the application says.

On the other hand, McKeon’s proposal “would make non-institutional uses in the institutional zone revert to residential zoning when there are other houses nearby.” In particular, McKeon points to the historic buildings that would be tore down for the sake of the development:

“This is directed at the proposed development on Washington Street where they’re planning to tear down three historic buildings to put up a modern building with retail and a restaurant,” McKeon said. “My personal fear is that the commercial strip that begins west of there [near Newfield Street] would suddenly be able to move up Washington all the way to Main Street.”

There’s more debate surrounding Landino’s zone proposal over at (where else?) the Middletown Eye. The planning and zoning commission will meet and (presumably) make its decision Wednesday night, in city hall. (Correction: The Middletown Eye’s Stephen Devoto clarifies that the planning and zoning commission will simply schedule a public hearing, which should take place in February.)

Related:

Administration Mulls Bookstore Relocation 
Liveblogging the Bookstore Relocation Open Forum
Bookstore Relocation Forum Follow-Up: Photos, Video Statements, and More
Complete Video: Tuesday’s Open Forum on the Washington Street Development
It’s Official: Bookstore is Staying Put

[Hartford Courant]

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  • Ed McKeon

    Yet another clarification. The Planning office informed me today that they are recommending to the Zoning Board to table my request for a zoning change because I don’t own property in any ID zone.

    There is no law or regulation that prevents me from applying, but my application is in the hands of a city attorney for an “opinion.”

    In the meantime, I’m attempting to recruit any landowner in an ID zone willing to add their name to my application. It obliges them in no way, but allows me to make a full presentation as to why we should be preserving our historic residences, especially in the face of unnecessary and ugly commercial/retail development.

    BTW, the developers, while not owners of property in an MX zone will be allowed to pursue a zoning change in that zone because they have an option on that property.

    I would request Wesleyan staff and students ask the Wes admin to lobby against a further weakening of the already diluted MX zone.

  • Stephen Devoto

    Small clarification: The Planning and Zoning Commission won’t make a decision on these dueling applications Wednesday, they will simply schedule the for a public hearing. The decision would only take place after the public hearing. The public hearing will probably be scheduled for February 13th or 27th.