Stamford Zoning Board back in session
STAMFORD — The city’s zoning board is back in session Thursday night after a six-week recess, and is set to revist discussions on everything from development on Hope Street to rezonings on the West Side.
During a special meeting scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Sept. 9 — the board’s first public meeting since late July — board members are currently scheduled to tackle three items: a proposed self-storage facility at the former United House Wrecking site, a text change that could reconfigure Stamford’s zoning regulations, and the fate of development on the West Side.
Before you tune in for the discussions, this is what you need to know:
The board could make a final decision on what replaces United House Wrecking
In place of the iconic Stamford antiques business United House Wrecking, the zoning board since July has weighed the merits approving a self-storage facility its place which has polarized residents and members alike.
The prospective facility, a 44,133-square-foot complex operated by Safeguard Self Storage, would feature park-like greenery out front. Along with the benches and trees, the new addition to the neighborhood would also add a pop of color to Hope Street: Safeguard’s signature color is canary yellow, and the facade would be painted that shade.
The warehouse-like facility sparked debate among some residents who argued that the complex would make a poor fit for Glenbrook’s main drag. In response, the board asked Safeguard Self Storage and its attorney Nicholas Vitti to update the architectural and landscaping plans for the building.
Though the board closed public discussions on the Hope Street property, it is expected to decide whether the newly proposed aesthetic improvements are enough to warrant final approval.
Board members will get a look at Stamford’s newest omnibus text change
The Land Use Bureau — the Operations Department division tasked with overseeing planning and zoning enforcement and environmental protection in Stamford — has spent the past two years editing Stamford’s unwieldy set of rules that govern who builds what and where. The bureau in 2020 and 2021 overhauled rules on historic preservation, parking requirements and created standards for sidewalks
and mandatory bicycle storage.
The set of changes being introduced by bureau head Ralph Blessing on Thursday will tackle Stamford’s Designed Commercial, or C-D, District. The C-D district was originally created “to control uses and development on large tracts of land that are primarily used for office parks” throughout Stamford.
On top of that, the omnibus aims to update the guidelines for general development plans in the city.
In response to dwindling office demand in Stamford, the omnibus change reimagines what can go in areas zoned under the C-D standard.
If approved, residential uses will be allowed without zoning board approval in all C-D districts. Under the current rules, residential properties are permitted in C-D districts with a special permit only if contiguous to existing residential zones. Public schools could also be built in the district without permit.
According to the Land Use Bureau, currently permitted special permit uses — assisted living, senior
housing and nursing home facility complexes and nonpublic schools — would remain subject to special permit approval. Colleges and universities would be added as a new special permit use.
C-D districts presently are peppered across Stamford in five distinct patches and include High Ridge Office Park and sites on Long Ridge Road and Havermeyer Lane.
Debates about the West Side’s future could take the floor again
Deliberations about the future of development on Stamford’s West Side cast a shadow over many of the board’s meetings in the first half of 2020. A group of neighbors mounted vocal opposition to a proposed rezoning along West Main Street, catching the eye of mayoral candidates and local leaders alike.
After facing community pressure, the developer — the Stamford-based Steinegger estate — put forth a scaled back version of the project, which was ultimately approved by the board.
Similar discontent has
bubbled up in response to a proposed site on Stillwater Avenue that first came before the board in June. Another Stamford developer, Artel Properties, pitched a mixed-use building that could include 39 residential units and 1,980 square feet of commercial space on a stretch of road near West Main Street.
To facilitate that building, the developer also wants to bring that sliver of Stillwater Avenue into the Village Commercial zoning district, a designation that gives zoning authorities more aesthetic control over proposed properties but allows for more density. Most of Stillwater Avenue is already zoned in the V-C district.
The board at that meeting expressed pointed concerns about the number of parking spaces on site, especially given the heavy demand for spaces in the neighborhood, and the proposed landscaping on the property. Board Chairman David Stein told The Stamford Advocate that since June 7, the developer has proposed new ways to deal the push for more parking spaces, including leasing spots
from a nearby lot.
Some community members, however, took the criticisms a step further. Suzanne Scott, a registered nurse in Stamford, argued that displacing current residents could “interrupt the stability of their housing and the cohesion of the community,” at the June 7 meeting.
“We’re a working, struggling community trying to do (its) best,” said Cynthia Bowser, one West Side resident who has become a staple of her neighborhood’s zoning debates, that same night. “We want change. We want buildings to be redeveloped. But we need them to be redeveloped so that they positively impact the quality of life of people who already live there, as well as the new people who are coming in.”
In the lead up to Thursday’s meeting, Bowser pushed back against the Artel proposal again in an email, questioning how affordable the property would be to existing West Siders or low income individuals.