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Planning and Zoning meeting for June 9 2015
By Elaine Jones
After accepting the Center Review Study Subcommittee’s report of an amendment to the Zoning Regulations Section 3.12.5 Comprehensive Granby Center Criteria, viewing three PowerPoint presentations showing maps of the Center area and the three zones that define it, and holding three public hearings to allow more input from residents, the Planning and Zoning Commission, by a 6-1 vote, approved the amendment to the Zoning Regulations that will allow, by the special permit process, retail use, restaurants and commercial services in the Granby Center Historic Overlay District.
The amendment was necessary because six Granby Center properties are in the Granby Center Historic Overlay District, which prohibits “retail uses, restaurants and commercial services as not appropriate for any property located within that District except where such uses currently exist.” This wording prevents anyone requesting a special permit from expanding commercial opportunities within the Granby Center.
The amendment states, “The primary and most appropriate use of existing homes within the Granby Historic Overlay district portion of the Center Edge Zone is residential use.” In recognition that the area contains several historical homes, the Planning and Zoning Commission included the addition, “shall seek input from the Salmon Brook Historical Society upon receipt of an application that includes property or any portion of a property located within the Granby Center Historic Overlay District.”
The amendment was first proposed by Timothy Brignole, whose application for a restaurant in the Center was denied without prejudice on February 10 because the proposal did not meet the requirements of the Zoning Regulation. The commission realized that the future of Granby Center needed to include future uses. They felt that any changes needed more input from Granby residents and appointed an 18-member Center Zone Review Subcommittee to study the proposal, its merits and drawbacks, consider the impact of the change, and accumulate various points of view. A majority of the subcommittee favored increasing opportunities for new businesses in the Town Center and preservation of the facades of historic buildings with the possibility of future renovation and preservation. They also expressed confidence that P&Z could and would make the proper decisions when acting on necessary special permit applications. The amendment was approved by the study group and presented to P&Z on May 12.
On May 12, P&Z accepted the report at a Public Hearing which enabled subcommittee members and Granby residents to give their opinions. Peggy Lareau, a member of the study committee, expressed what she termed “a minority view,” stating the new regulation differed only slightly from the Brignole proposal previously rejected by P&Z. She explained her negative vote and she suggested nine details she wanted the commission to apply to their decision. On May 26, Director of Community Development Fran Armentano presented a PowerPoint report showing the Granby Center, the three zones that define it, and where the proposed amendment would have the greatest impact. P&Z members voted 7-0 to consider the amendment as recommended and modified by the subcommittee.
At the June 9 meeting, some P&Z members questioned the word “input” referring to the wording in the amendment that seems to include the Salmon Brook Historical Society as a possible partner in any legal action or decision-making capacity. Some members argued this wording gave the Society power to deny any application or dictate its provisions. After several other wordings were considered, the Commission finally voted 6-1 to approve the amendment as presented. Member Eric Lukingbeal opposed the amendment and urged the commission to go slowly in its actions lest an unforeseen mistake is made. He suggested that the center traffic situation and the center road configuration are areas that need more study.
The majority of people at the public hearing spoke in favor of the amendment but two people had great reservations. Rose Stone said the town needed a facelift and the availability of sidewalks to various town businesses. George Bickford suggested no drastic changes, but only those that benefitted all residents. John Moran asked for more guidelines as to what can or cannot be done. He was concerned that the changes would cause the historic district to disappear. Barbara Berkowitz felt Granby was a great town in need of good ideas. Other comments included the possibility of multi-unit housing, opening the town to bring in more business, copying Simsbury in renovating historic homes into restaurants, using the special permit designation to protect certain areas, and relying on P&Z to make thoughtful decisions on any proposal. The letter and the nine points suggested by Peggy Lareau were included in the public hearing notes.