Milford pauses development of lots that predate zoning rule

Milford City Hall, Spring 2021

Milford City Hall, Spring 2021

Hearst Connecticut Media

MILFORD — A moratorium on the development of all non-conforming lots in subdivisions across the city — including those created before the adoption of subdivisions on Nov. 1, 1929 — is soon going into place.

In real estate terms, a non-conforming lot is a property had improvements made to it prior to the adoption of current zoning laws. Thus the lot does not conform to regulations.

The Planning and Zoning Board, at its meeting Tuesday, approved the moratorium 7-2, with board members Etan Hirsch and Robert Satti opposed. The moratorium begins July 15 and will run through Nov. 30.

“Because we are seeing this, and it was unanticipated, all we are asking is for the ability to have a moratorium. So we can examine this a little more closely and perhaps recommend changes to the zoning regulation to get a better handle on this,” said City Planner David Sulkis.

There were two sections to the Milford Zoning Regulations (6.4.1 and 6.4.2) dealing with non-conforming lots, said Stephen Harris, zoning enforcement officer and executive secretary of the Zoning Board of Appeals. The two sections merged into Regulation 6.4.2, which was repealed by the board last year.

Joseph Griffith, director of the city’s Department of Permitting and Land Use, said his office asked for the moratorium, which would apply to non-conforming lots on any subdivision, not just those pre-1929 lots.

“Any subdivision before 1929 would not have gone through a planning and zoning board,” he said.

Harris told the board they have been running into problems with people looking to certify old small lots.

“The discussion at the time was to get rid of 6.4.2 to more easily develop these individually standing lots that are around the city,” said Sulkis. “But, what it is actually doing, is promoting people to tear down their homes and build more housing, which can be desirable, but not necessarily in every part of town, such as the flood zone.”

Satti said the board needed to have more information before making a vote to approve the moratorium and would be opposing the motion.

“I’m not sure why we need to have a moratorium,” he said. “What’s the flood gate that has opened up? Have we had 6,000 applications or three? We should also know how many parcels are going to be impacted by the moratorium and how this would affect the prices of properties. This may be unfair to those who are trying to sell their properties at higher rates.”

Board member John Mortimer said the damage that could be done, might override some of the points Satti brought forward.

“I think a temporary moratorium while we examine this issue is not a violation of their rights to build,” he said. “There’s advance notice, and I think it’s called for in this situation. Just to look at it.”

Sulkis said he could not give a firm number, but the number of requests the city has received numbers in the dozens. He pointed out that in the past, Milford has had moratoriums, and it is allowed in land use.

“Municipalities can do it, and it doesn't affect the transferability or someone owning the property,” he said. “You’re in the business of how the property, is used, and all you’re saying is you’re putting a moratorium on a particular way it might be used or utilized.”

The moratorium will also affect vacant lots or lots only having an accessory structure that predates the adoption of subdivision regulations of January 1929 by not providing any certification.

People are now asking for certification to build on lots where their current house is on, Sulkis explained. He said if their house was on a 75-foot lot that was three 25-foot lots pre-1929, they could tear down their house and build additional houses on those lots.

“They are coming to us asking us to certify the lots so they can build on those three lots,” he said. “Potentially any lot that was created before 1929, which would be probably several thousand lots, could potentially come in to ask to do this.”