Stamford Advocate

Stamford Zoning Board back in session

- By Veronica Del Valle veronica.delvalle@ hearstmedi­

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.

 ?? Erik Trautmann / Hearst Connecticu­t Media ?? A proposed West Main Street developmen­t would add 80 units to the community. Residents want no more than 40.
Erik Trautmann / Hearst Connecticu­t Media A proposed West Main Street developmen­t would add 80 units to the community. Residents want no more than 40.
 ?? Hearst Connecticu­t Media file photo ?? Building 4 in the High Ridge Office Park on High Ridge Road in Stamford.
Hearst Connecticu­t Media file photo Building 4 in the High Ridge Office Park on High Ridge Road in Stamford.

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