Darien looking to opt out of new state parking regulation
DARIEN — The town is looking to opt out of a new state regulation and address its parking needs in its own way.
The new state law concerning multifamily projects was adopted during this past session and goes into effect Friday. It requires developers to include one parking spot for every studio or one-bedroom unit and two spaces for every two-bedroom or more unit. It is just one example, some Darien officials said, of how the recent zoning changes from Hartford don’t work.
“This one-size-fits-all approach isn’t the best way of going about things for the state as a whole, particularly for Darien,” Fred Doneit, senior planner for the town, said at a recent Board of Selectmen meeting.
The Planning and Zoning Commission will hold a public hearing on opting out on Oct. 5. The commission will vote on Oct. 12 and then the Representative Town Meeting will vote on it on Oct. 18. Both the commission and RTM need to approve opting out by a two-thirds majority, otherwise the town reverts to the state standards.
It comes shortly after Darien’s Planning and Zoning Commission made its own changes to their parking requirements for these projects, which went into effect on Sunday. Under the town regulations, one spot would be required for every studio unit, 1.5 spaces for every one-bedroom unit, two spaces for every two-bedroom unit and 2.5 spaces for every unit with at least three bedrooms.
“That standard the commission adopted really only differs from Public Act 21-29 by a half of a space for both one bedroom and three-plus bedroom units,” Doneit said.
Previously, the town had required 2.5 spaces for every unit in a multifamily project. This regulation was in effect for quite some time, Doneit said.
Developers might be able to get a variance to get an exception for the parking requirement, though Jeremy Ginsberg, the town’s planning and zoning director, said no one has ever done it. He also said developers could add even more on-site parking than required.
Officials said the state took on-street parking options into consideration when it set the new standards, but Darien doesn’t have a lot of these opportunities. On-street parking also isn’t generally allowed when it snows so the plows can get through, which officials also said needs to be considered.
“Many public streets in Darien don’t allow for or have sufficient room for on-street parking, whereas other communities across the state, particularly larger towns or cities, might had additional parking on their streets,” Doneit said.
First Selectwoman Jayme Stevenson agreed there are some narrow streets in town due to the old New England character that don’t accommodate onstreet parking. She said some police officers have also said some of the neighborhoods can be dangerous for children if people park on the streets.
“Our community highly values bicycle and pedestrian safety,” she said, adding they need to find the sweet spot between that and parking.
Stevenson said she appreciates the thoughtful approach the commission has taken to the parking requirement.
“The commission deliberated on this quite extensively,” Doneit said, adding the members have been looking at it since June.