Zoning board decides to hold onto regulations regarding cell towers

The Planning and Zoning Board unanimously voted at its Oct. 10 meeting to keep local regulations regarding communication buildings, stations and towers.

At its Sept. 16 meeting, the board was considering deleting this section of the zoning regulations based on the fact that the Connecticut Siting Council regulates such facilities, and its power overrides local zoning rules.

The board tabled the proposal at the September meeting, pending feedback from City Attorney Jonathan Berchem.

John Grant, chairman of the board's Regulations Subcommittee, shared Berchem's opinion at the Oct. 10 meeting. Berchem advised the board to keep the regulations, saying the siting council takes local regulations into account when making a decision.

In other business, the board is moving forward with updates to the regulations regarding property elevations in a flood zone.

Grant said the state revised its building code in 2009, requiring structures to be built at least one foot above the base flood elevation.

Milford's current regulations state that structures should be built at or above the base flood elevation. This means that the local regulations are out of compliance with the state requirements. Until the board updates the regulations, zoning staff is informing applicants about the need to meet the current state regulations, said Grant.

The board's unanimous vote on the proposed change in wording to section 5.8.12 to 5.8.14 recommends deleting the words “base flood” and replacing them with “regulatory flood protection elevation.”

The board also would like to add a section numbered, which would state that all buildings in a flood hazard area would need to meet the requirements of the current state building code.

The next steps in the process include having the proposed regulation changes reviewed by city departments, and the South Central Regional Council of Governments. With comments from these officials, the P&Z would then review its proposal and conduct a public hearing before voting on the updates.

With regard to other regulation updates, the board is proposing deleting the paragraph numbered, which regulates non-conforming lots in the Shopping Center Design District.

The board is also proposing deleting from the regulations, which outlines the powers of the Zoning Board of Appeals with regard to granting variances.

The final proposed change addresses 5.16, which regulates the number of required parking spaces on a property. This change would simply substitute the word “should” for “shall” in the regulations.

Building Addition Approved

The board unanimously approved a building addition at 100 Raton Drive for SCS Direct Mail Order Inc. Project engineer Keith Buda told the board that the company plans to construct an 11,500 square foot addition to its existing 12,000 square foot building.

Buda said the plan would add parking, but would retain the existing wooded buffer to the adjacent residential zone. The parking lot expansion on the 2.3-acre lot would require construction of a retaining wall topped by a chain link fence along the eastern edge of the property, said Buda.

Buda said the stormwater drainage system on the property would be improved, including the addition of a detention system to allow ground water recharge, and keeping runoff at present levels.

The board did place one condition on the approval. The plans call for abandoning the existing septic system and connecting the building to new sanitary sewers on Raton Drive.

City Planner David B. Sulkis said the sewers are not yet operational. If the sewers are not ready by the time construction is complete, the applicant will need approval from the city Health Department to continue septic tank use. If the sewers are ready, then the project will need approval from the Sewer Commission to connect to the new sewers.

“This is a good site plan and it complies with the regulations,” said board member Jeanne Cervin prior to voting in favor of the project.

In other business, the board decided against adding to its agenda an application for a single-family house at 105 Hillside Avenue. Sulkis told the board the application was incomplete, in particular needing additional information regarding soil erosion and sanitary sewers, as requested by the city engineer.

Stephen Bellis, attorney for the applicant, said he believed the application has been complete, and only received comments from Sulkis minutes before he (Bellis) addressed the board.

Bellis said he had an email from the state, which is requiring a quick test to make sure run-off from the roof will be absorbed in the soil. Since the area is sandy, Bellis said he did not anticipate this being a problem. He said the state was also requiring installation of a temporary fence along the sea wall during construction. He said sanitary sewers are already in the roadway.

Board member Jim Quish said he preferred to receive applications in advance of a meeting, to give him time to review the plans, visit the site, and generate questions for the applicant.

Board Chairman Benjamin Gettinger suggested the board hear the presentation, since the attorney was present with the plans, and could address any issues through its review.

In response, Sulkis said information on these areas would still have to be reviewed by the city engineer and the public works director. Sulkis recommended the board not add the application to the agenda until city staff deems it complete and ready for presentation. The board accepted his recommendation.

Finally, a proposal for a re-subdivision of a seven-acre parcel at 701 North Street, which adjoins the Orchards Golf Course, has been withdrawn by the applicant, Stone Preserve LLC, which lists Arnold Peck as manager. Sulkis said the applicant wanted to re-design the layout of the lots. The application originally came before the board at an Aug. 5 public hearing.

At the Aug. 5 meeting, board members had environmental questions regarding the property. One question was in regard to the property's prior use as an orchard and whether there were any pesticide residues in the soil. The other question was with regard to a possible underground oil tank.

The board had held open the public hearing for the applicant to provide any information with regard to the tank and any soil testing. The hearing never reopened, as Stone Preserve kept requesting time extensions and did not present any information on these topics.