Town Planners Continue Talks on Commercial Zoning Overhaul

The Planning Board continued discussing changes to commercial zoning that have been proposed by the town Planning Department. One part of the change would be the creation of a Commercial Performance Zone (CPZ) that would replace the existing Route 102 and Route 28 Performance Overlay Zones and subsume the current C-I and C-II commercial districts into this new zone.

Town Planner Colleen Mailloux shared with the Board the work her team has done on the draft since her last update on April 11. Mailloux first presented the latest thinking on the Conditional Use Permit (CUP) process for potential developments in the CPZ.  In the draft of the CPZ, there are 33 types of projects or uses allowed, 28 not allowed and 14 that may be allowed if the Planning Board approves a CUP for it.

A project requesting a CUP would need to meet the following set of General Criteria to get Planning Board approval: A. Granting of the application would meet some public need or convenience. B. Granting of the application is in the public interest. C. The property in question is reasonably suited for the use requested. D. The use requested would not have a substantial adverse effect on the rights of the owners of surrounding properties. E. The traffic generated by the proposed use is consistent with the identified function, capacity, and level of service of transportation facilities serving the community F. There must be appropriate provision for access adequate for the estimated traffic from public streets and sidewalks to assure public safety and to avoid traffic congestion.

Mailloux said that for project types falling under a CUP, the town could create more specific criteria for any or all of them. As an example, for a gas station, a requirement that any new station be no closer than 500 feet from any other gas station could be drafted if the town wanted to prevent clustering of stations.

Mailloux asked their board whether they preferred more specific requirements for each type of potential use or sticking with general criteria only.  The board unanimously preferred using only the general criteria.  Board Member Al Sypek felt that leaving the criteria general would make a negative Planning Board decision easier to defend if a developer challenged their decision.

Mailloux also proposed allowing developers to request CUPs earlier in the project approval process.  Currently, a developer must have very detailed site plans in place before requesting a CUP. Under the new proposal, a developer could request a CUP during the conceptual phase of the project to get earlier input from the Planning Board on what would be permissible under the CUP.  The Planning Board agreed that this change was a good one.

Mailloux also shared a draft table that spelled out what uses would be allowed, not allowed or potentially allowed via a CUP for the CPZ.  The table also included the same information for the Route 102 and Route 28 Performance Overlay Zones and current C-I and C-II commercial districts, so that Board members could see how the CPZ differs from the current zones.

Additional dialog with the Planning Board is planned on commercial zoning changes.  Eventually the Board will ask for public comment and then vote on specific changes that they recommend to the Town Council who have the ultimate say on any changes.

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