Regulations About Signs And Cemeteries Approved By P&Z
The Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) conducted three public hearings during its Zoom meeting on Thursday, April 15.
The public hearings were for text amendments to reduce the required setback for signage to eight feet in Special Development District #5, to have educational signage as an additional use at the Fairfield Hills Campus (FFH), and to add a definition and zoning provisions for cemeteries.
The first item on the agenda that was discussed was Application 21.09 by Prithvi Real Estate Management for a text amendment to Appendix B: Special Development District #5 (SDD5) of the Town of Newtown Zoning Regulations, so as to reduce the required setback for signage to eight feet.
Mary Blackburn of Solli Engineering represented the applicant and gave a presentation on the only property affected by the request: 94 South Main Street. It is the location of the newly built Pleasant Paws Pet Center.
Blackburn said that the driveway signage is already constructed and is about eight feet from the property line.
“It was approved at 25 feet from the property line and during construction it was built at eight feet, but the overall distance from the [street] line… is about 22 feet,” She explained. “The current location does not interfere with the line of sight and so the proposal is to amend the SDD5 to allow for the sign to be reduced to eight feet from the street line.”
The proposed text amendment would make the sign legal.
P&Z member Barbara Manville inquired, “So this would allow any development in this design district to have signs this close to the property line?”
Blackburn said yes, but that the design district is specific to this one property.
Land Use Agency Director of Planning George Benson added that the site plan was revised along with the proposed text amendment, because both have to be done for approval.
P&Z Chair Don Mitchell noted that he has driven by the property and the sign does not appear to interfere with the sight lines “and seems appropriate for the district.”
P&Z member Roy Meadows asked how this construction error took place and how it could be prevented from happening in the future.
Blackburn said it is possible the contractor may not have been aware of the required setback.
Benson explained that it was not looked at during the construction period.
“We inspect after it’s done,” Benson said. “They give us an ‘as built’ and we go out and compare it. When we went out to compare it, it was in the wrong place.”
P&Z member David Rosen mentioned that the footprint size of the sign also appears different.
In the site plan presented, the previous footprint looks smaller than the updated one showing the now-built sign — likely due to an added side column and different base.
“But the size of the sign that was actually put up does adhere to the regulations,” Meadows said.
There were no comments made by the public.
A motion was made to accept Application 21.09 with an amendment to say the eight feet is not from the street line, but from the front property line.
Two alternate members were needed to step in to vote and the motion passed unanimously.
Educational Signs At FFH
P&Z had a public hearing for Application 21.07 by the Town of Newtown Land Use Agency, for a text amendment to section 8.01.671 of the Town of Newtown Zoning Regulations, to amend Fairfield Hills Adaptive Reuse (FHAR) Zone signage regulations to include specifications for educational or interpretive signs (maximum size eight square feet).
Benson detailed that Newtown Parks and Recreation reached out to the Land Use Agency about doing signage at FFH. It was brought up the signs can include historical or environmental information.
“There’s no regulation that allows that type of a sign currently at Fairfield Hills, so we decided it was a good thing to add as a possible use at Fairfield Hills to be able to do that type of signage for informational purposes,” Benson said.
Mitchell inquired about the word “interpretive,” and Benson answered that Parks and Recreation Director Amy Mangold had selected it to cover a variety of things.
FFH is town property, so sign permits would still need to take place. The Land Use Agency and the Fairfield Hills Authority would be involved in reviewing the proposed signage.
P&Z member Corinne Cox asked if there was a number associated with how many signs a person can put up.
Benson answered, “It’s tough to put a number on it.”
He added that so far, only one person has been interested in doing this and the amendment is to just add that it is an approved use.
There were no comments made by the public.
A motion was made to approve Application 21.07.
Benson noted that there is also a level of scrutiny in that any application for FFH has to be signed off by the Board of Selectmen to do any type of work on the campus.
The vote passed unanimously.
The last public hearing of the evening was for Application 21.08 by the Town of Newtown Land Use Agency for a text amendment to section 1.02 and 3.01.300 of the Town of Newtown Zoning Regulations, to add a definition and zoning provisions for cemeteries.
Benson explained that the Diocese of Bridgeport approached him about Resurrection Cemetery, at 208 South Main Street, and requested the option to use above-ground gravestones.
“We didn’t realize why they didn’t have them to begin with, so we went back and researched it,” Benson said.
What they found was that in the late 1960s, the Diocese of Bridgeport went to the Zoning Board of Appeals and got a special exception to put the cemetery in, with the condition that there would not be any above ground tombstones.
Diocese of Bridgeport wanted to amend that special exception.
As a result, Benson said, “What we decided to do is write a regulation for cemeteries, to put into the zoning regulations, so we can cover any new cemeteries that can possibly come into town... This text amendment would have no impact on the preexisting cemeteries, all of which I believe were created before zoning.”
He went on to say this regulation would only apply to any new cemeteries as well as Resurrection Cemetery, and that this should have been done a long time ago.
The text amendment’s draft document for cemeteries states, “Property used for the interment of deceased persons below and/or above ground to include: mausoleums, columbarium’s, ground level markers, and above grade headstones.”
Additionally, it mentions cemeteries need a “minimum 20-acre lot; no burials, ground level markers, or headstones within fifty feet of any property line; no mausoleums or columbariums within seventy-five feet of any property line; and no burials within seventy-five feet of any well.”
When the public was invited to comment, Newtown resident Katharine Dougherty spoke on behalf of the Huntingtown Cemetery Association.
“If the memo itself discussing the background of it uses the term ‘grandfathered’ and if there are no other regulations connected to cemeteries, how can we be sure that this regulation takes a look at the grandfathered aspects?” Dougherty asked.
She added that Huntingtown Cemetery predates zoning, is both a historical and active cemetery, and is near a water source.
Mitchell said that anything that Huntingtown Cemetery and the other town cemeteries are doing they can continue to do because they are grandfathered in.
“We can’t take away any rights that are ongoing,” Mitchell said.
A motion was made to approve Application 21.08 and the vote passed unanimously.
To learn more about the Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z), visit newtown-ct.gov/planning-zoning-commission. Call the P&Z office at 203-270-4276 for information on participating in meetings virtually.