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Borough Zoning Members To Tackle Main Street Multifamily Rules



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Having heard many comments from residents during heavily-attended public hearings held in November and December, Borough Zoning Commission (BZC) members now have the task of deciding whether to approve, reject, or possibly modify two controversial proposed zoning regulations, which would serve as regulatory mechanisms for a development firm that wants to demolish the vacant former Inn at Newtown at 19 Main Street and replace it with a multifamily housing complex containing market-rate rental apartments.

The BZC is scheduled to deliberate on developer 19 Main Street LLC’s proposed zoning rules at 7 pm on Wednesday, January 8, at Edmond Town Hall, 45 Main Street.

Residents had the opportunity to comment on the proposed zoning regulations during the two sessions of the public hearing, which lasted nearly five hours. Most people commenting opposed the project. Now, because the hearing has closed, members of the public are allowed to watch and listen at BZC sessions, but not comment.

The developer is seeking to create the Borough Residential Overlay District (BROD), a set a regulations known as an “overlay zone,” which would control the creation of high-density multifamily complexes in certain limited areas, provided that stated developmental conditions are met. Additionally, the developer wants to apply the BROD regulations to the 3.002-acre site at 19 Main Street, where the inn did business until suddenly closing in January 2016. The inn was a restaurant, bar, and lounge.

In November, the town Planning & Zoning Commission (P&Z) voted 3-to-2 in deciding that the proposed borough zoning regulations are not consistent with the 2014 Town Plan of Conservation and Development. That decision means that in order for the BZC to approve the proposed zoning rules, it would need to approve them with a super majority vote, rather than a simple majority. In other words, four of the BZC’s five voting members would need to vote in the affirmative, rather than three members voting in the affirmative, to approve the rules.

If the BZC agrees to incorporate the developer’s zoning rule proposals into the Borough of Newtown’s zoning regulations, a mechanism would then exist through which the developer could apply to construct the multifamily complex, which the developer, so far, has described in “conceptual” terms.

The developer would require additional approvals from the BZC for a site development plan, special zoning permit, and Village District (VD) zoning certificate. Such a project may require a wetlands/watercourses protection permit from the Inland Wetland Commission (IWC).

Also, the developer would need approval from the Borough of Newtown Historic District Commission because the site is within a historic district.

Conceptual Site Plan

According to a “conceptual site plan” submitted to the BZC, 40 apartments, contained within three multiple-story buildings, would each be approximately 1,200 square feet in floor area. There would be a total of 72 parking spaces, of which 22 spaces would be in the form of garage space on the bottom level of a larger apartment building located at the rear of the site. The other 50 parking spaces would be located outdoors behind two smaller apartment buildings positioned at the front of the site. Monthly rents are projected to range from $2,500 to $3,000.

All apartments would be offered at the “market rate,” and none would be designated as “affordable housing.” Also, the there would be no age restrictions on tenants.

The developers have told residents that they want to design a project that fits into the neighborhood in terms of architecture and are open to suggestions on what would work best at the site.

However, residents speaking at the two public hearings largely opposed the redevelopment proposal, generally saying that such growth would not visually fit in on Main Street within the historic district where most properties hold older single-family houses. Some residents have suggested that such a project would be better suited for land elsewhere, possibly at Fairfield Hills.

Also, some residents have said that the presence of a multifamily complex would worsen traffic problems on Main Street. The developer contends that such a complex would generate less traffic than was generated by the former inn.

State law gives the BZC 65 days after a public hearing closes to decide on a zoning application, allowing the panel until mid-February to act on 19 Main Street LLC’s application for the proposed zoning rules.

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