P&Z Weighs Expanded Hawleyville Industrial Uses

With an expanded sanitary sewer system planned for Hawleyville, Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) members are considering revising the zoning regulations to allow three additional land uses in the M-2A (Industrial) zone there.

At a P&Z public hearing earlier this month, the Economic Development Commission (EDC), represented by Elizabeth Stocker, town director of economic and community development, sought to have the P&Z revise its M-2A zoning regulations to allow “distribution centers, warehouses, and/or wholesale businesses” in that zone.

The EDC sought to have those land uses allowed in the M-2A regulations as “permitted uses.”

However, after discussion, P&Z members suggested that such uses be allowed under the terms of the “special permit” process. Such “special permit” land uses are held to a stricter, more thorough review process than are “permitted uses.”

The EDC sought to add the three land uses to the M-2A zoning regulations following voters’ recent approval of expanding the Hawleyville sanitary sewer system. The expansion will involve extending sewer lines to the general vicinity of the intersection of Mt Pleasant Road and Hawleyville Road. That area holds large vacant land parcels with M-2A zoning that town officials have long eyed as potential economic development sites.

The town is embarking on the Hawleyville sewer expansion project as a means to spur economic development. (See related story.)

On May 1, following extended discussion by the P&Z on the regulatory mechanism through which distribution centers, warehouses, and/or wholesale businesses might be allowed in the M-2A zone, Ms Stocker withdrew the EDC’s application. She later said the EDC would return to the P&Z with a “refined” zoning proposal.


Public Hearing

At the P&Z public hearing, Ms Stocker said the town has received inquiries from real estate agents concerning the local availability of land that could support the construction of distribution centers ranging from 350,000 to 1 million square feet in floor area.

Although the area with M-2A zoning in Hawleyville could not support the construction of very large buildings, the land there could be important in terms of local economic development, she said.

 The M-2A zone in Hawleyville holds two major vacant properties — a 102-acre site and a 34-acre site, she said. Overall, that zone holds about seven properties. The area with M-2A zoning has rugged terrain.

Ms Stocker noted that the Town of Windsor in the Connecticut River Valley has been successful in attracting companies to build distribution centers there.

The presence of such centers generates significant municipal revenue through real estate taxes and personal property taxes, she said.

“It would be nice to capture something like that,” she said.

Ms Stocker provided P&Z members with a past traffic report on the Hawleyville area which indicates that distribution centers would generate a relatively low amount of traffic compared to other uses for such an industrially zoned area.

Ms Stocker said that in early March she received an inquiry from a real estate broker who was seeking a site somewhere in the Northeast that is ready for the construction of a 350,000-square-foot distribution center that could potentially expand to 500,000 square feet. Such a facility would employ about 150 workers and be the base for about 35 tractor-trailer trucks for the unnamed firm.

P&Z Chairman Robert Mulholland asked whether the unnamed firm is considering sites other than Newtown.

Ms Stocker replied that other sites are under consideration, adding that she does not know if Hawleyville is still under consideration for such a project.

 George Benson, town director of planning and land use, told P&Z members that although there are two large parcels with M-2A zoning in Hawleyville, the amount of “developable” land there is unclear due the presence of limiting features such as wetlands and steep slopes.

The recent broker’s inquiry prompted the EDC’s application to the P&Z for regulations that would allow the three new types of uses in the M-2A zone, Ms Stocker said. She added that the EDC has received similar inquiries in the past.

When considering that much office space already exists in the area, the EDC is seeking other commercial uses for the Hawleyville area, she said.

The construction of corporate headquarters are “few and far between,” she noted.

P&Z Chairman Robert Mulholland and member Michael Porco, Sr, recommended that the EDC seek to have the three requested new land uses added to the zoning regulations as uses that are allowed through the special permit process.

Mr Mulholland said he would feel “more comfortable” with the special permit process in effect when the P&Z reviews such development applications.

Ms Stocker said she would discuss the matter with EDC members to refine the regulatory proposal and return to the P&Z with a new application.

“Permitted uses” currently allowed in the M-2A zone include laboratories for research, design and experimentation; office buildings; light industrial uses; and hotels and conference centers.

“Special permit” uses currently allowed in the M-2A zone include recreation/sports facilities including indoor/outdoor golf courses, dance studios, health and fitness centers, facilities for racquetball, squash, basketball, volleyball, tennis, baseball, football, soccer, lacrosse, field hockey, and track and field, as well as swimming pools and ice rinks, among others.

“Accessory uses” allowed in the M-2A zone include stores, personal services businesses, financial institutions, restaurants, child daycare centers, and adult daycare centers.

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