Feb 19

Keeping Busy

Posted on February 19, 2019 at 2:06 PM by Eric Knapp

My role as Planning, Zoning and Development Coordinator involves lots of "hats".  At present, I am the staff for the Zoning Commission, Planning Commission, Zoning Board of Appeals, Economic Development Commission and Town Center Revitalization Committee.  I also contribute to the ad hoc MS2 committee established to coordinate our town's response to that program (MS4 stands for Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems, and the general goal is to reduce pollutants running into the Sound). Most recently, I am now on the committee reviewing proposals for Kirtland Landing.

I am also the flood plain manager, dealing with all things FEMA.  I monitor activities in the aquifer. Tidal wetlands are under Zoning in Connecticut, so i deal with those.  There are grants, which have generally fallen under the "Planning" function, so I monitor those. And I am the one who answers phone calls, emails and people at the front counter for my department.

I am not either bragging or complaining.  This is the job and I am happy to handle it.  But it is a word of caution that if you bump into me and ask me a question, I may struggle to remember exactly what is happening on a specific matter.  I'm not trying to be rude.  I just may be thinking of something else.
Jan 07

Zoning is Forever

Posted on January 7, 2019 at 12:45 PM by Eric Knapp

The title is trite, I know.  But the underlying point is something that people generally have a hard time wrapping their heads around.

Applications before the Zoning Board of Appeals, the body that grants variances from the Zoning Regulations, almost always center on whether the neighbors like the people who are asking for the variance. Except the people requesting the variance are human. They are mortal, which means they will eventually no longer own the property and others, perhaps others who are less friendly, will eventually be the beneficiaries of the bending of the rules.

So, before you think it is fine that the neighbors' garage can be 5' from your property line, it might be worth asking if this would always be okay.  Since it will now be that way forever.

Likewise, uses approved by the Zoning Commission for specific locations are approved forever.  Once a *use* has been approved, the specific tenant or owner can change and almost certainly will.  Everyone might be wildly enthusiastic about a high-profile tenant asking to move into a location.  But retail, or restaurant or service businesses are hard to run profitably, particularly in the internet age.  And once a use is a approved, the tenant could leave tomorrow, and someone else could be there with a less appealing version of the same use.

All of this is not to say that you should not care about the qualities of a particular neighbor.  My first question to almost every possible applicant is "have you talked with your neighbors yet?"  Good communication is really important.  But neighbors will come and go.  Land use permits are forever.
Jan 03

Zoning in Three Dimensions

Posted on January 3, 2019 at 10:40 AM by Eric Knapp

A lot of what I do involves looking at two-dimensional objects, i.e. maps, plans, surveys, architectural drawings, and trying to make sense of it in three-dimensional space.  Trying to explain the concept of a "building envelope", that three dimensional space within which the building is now or is proposed to be within, to a person who does not do this for a living can be a challenge.  It is important, though, because the setbacks contained in the Zoning Regulations are not just lines on the ground.  They are imaginary vertical walls.  So, if your house already has one floor encroaching on a setback, that may be a pre-existing nonconformity.  But if you are proposing a *second* floor, over that first floor, even if it is exactly over the old footprint, it breaks more of that imaginary vertical wall and can't be approved, absent a variance. 

I'd probably be better off letting my son explain this using Sims4.  He's building houses all the time.  But zoning never seems to be an issue there.  Probably just as well.