Commission discusses zoning along U.S. 460

Published 6:07 pm Tuesday, October 11, 2022

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Consistency of conditions established for property zoned B-2, Restricted Business, along the U.S. Route 460/Windsor Boulevard corridor in Windsor was a topic of conversation for the town’s planning commission following a public hearing Wednesday, Sept. 28.

The planning commission voted 5-0 to recommend to the Windsor Town Council approval of an application for a change in zoning classification from O-R, Office/Residential, to B-2 for Tax Parcel 54B-01-200, also identified as 57 East Windsor Blvd., and Tax Parcel 54B-01-200A.

“The purpose of the application is for a contractor’s office and storage yard,” Windsor Planning and Zoning Administrator James “Jay” Randolph said.

Commissioners not present for the meeting included Leonard L. Marshall and Jesse Taylor.

“This application does have somewhat of a history to it,” Randolph said.

He noted that the planning and zoning report would help commissioners get familiar with letters that the town had given to the applicant in the past regarding their zoning on the property at 57 East Windsor Blvd., as well as the adjacent lot next to that property.

“After reviewing all the records, I could find no action to indicate the governing body, the Town Council, had ever taken any action to ever amend the zoning from the Office/Residential to the B-2 zoning,” he said. “Therefore when the applicant came forward to submit an application for construction of a 36-by-70 building on the property, I was not able to approve that zoning permit because the property, essentially, is nonconforming.

“They’re operating a contractor’s office and storage yard on property zoned Office/Residential, which leads to a nonconforming use,” he continued. “Contractor’s yards are not a permitted use in the Office/Residential — that’s strictly just for office and professional use of the property to keep the residential character as such. So with all of that, the applicant has submitted an application to amend the zoning to B-2.”

Christy Leitner, one of the owners of the property in question, was the only person to speak during the public hearing.

“It was an unfortunate situation when we purchased the property back in 2013,” she said. “It was owned, I believe, by a real estate broker, and it was listed, obviously, by a different real estate broker, and it was advertised as B-2, commercial property, and so we made the purchase at that time with the intention that we would be able to use it eventually to put the office there. 

“So we were across the street next to the dentist at 70 East Windsor Blvd., and about 2016, we wanted to move our office and our yard across the street, so I came up here to check just to be sure, because the information I had was that we were B-2,” she continued.

She spoke with a member of town staff to review the plan and make sure it was OK.

“He said, ‘Yes, it is,’ and he gave me a letter to clarify, because I asked him to,” Leitner said. “I said, ‘Can you just clarify what we can do so we’ll have it,’ because I didn’t want to go to the expense to move if it was going to be a problem. So he gave me this letter on the town letterhead and said, ‘Yes, you can do this. You need to put a fence up.’”

She said that was no problem, and it was done.

“And then they gave us a permit,” she said. “We applied for a permit to put the sign up, and that was no problem and everything was fine, but now we decided to improve the property — or at least we think it’ll be an improvement to the property — to put sort of like an open shelter behind an existing metal building where we can just neatly store a few things out of the weather and so forth.

“Also, our sign fell down during a storm, so we wanted to put it back up, and I spoke to them about that, but they notified me that I couldn’t put the sign up,” she added. “Because of my zoning it would have to be two square feet, which is not very big.”

She was also informed that the new building could not be added unless the property was rezoned.

“So this is the purpose,” she said. “We don’t plan to change our operation in any way from what we’ve been doing all along. We just want to be conforming with our operation to the zoning and so that we can possibly get the zoning permit to apply for the building permit to put this additional building in the back.”

Commissioner Dale Scott indicated that he was not opposed to what the Leitners were trying to do. He simply noted that in the corridor where their property is located, it was his understanding that there is another property zoned B-2.

“And full disclosure, that’s a building my family owns,” he said.

He said it was rezoned back in late 1996/early 1997, and no one in his family can remember if any conditions were placed on the property when it was rezoned. He requested research be done to resolve this issue.

“If you’re going to have a stretch of O-R-zoned properties in that corridor and you’ve got a B-2 and another B-2, are there any conditions that are consistent with both of those to make it somewhat compatible with the neighboring properties?” he asked.

Commissioner G. Devon Hewitt asked, “Are you suggesting that we change all those along there to B-2?”

“I’m not,” Scott replied. “I’m just saying if you’re going to have another B-2, have some condition consistency, if that exists. Because if you look here, you can have an automotive repair shop, you can have a gasoline-filling station, those type things. Is that what we’re looking to do through that corridor today? That may be the case down the road, but is it consistent with the surroundings today?”

He noted later that the B-2 zoning designation was fairly broad, and O-R is less so.

Hewitt said he thought that if the other businesses in that corridor want to rezone to B-2, the planning commission can handle those requests on a case-by-case basis like it was doing in this case with the Leitners.

“And in the future, maybe after this is all settled and done, maybe the commission can sit down and come up with a plan for a corridor-type zoning as you’re suggesting,” Hewitt said to Scott.

Commissioner George Stubbs shared details from a relevant discussion that took place back during his days on the Windsor Economic Development Authority.

“There was a discussion about selecting an area in the town of Windsor that would be called Old Town Windsor — that would be part of Court Street, part of Church Street,” he said.

The idea was that some of the older homes that people had inherited and may not be able to maintain could possibly have different shops or an attorney’s office in them but also have living quarters upstairs, he stated.

“All of this was just discussion when the 460 corridor at one time was talked about designating it as a business area,” he said. “Like Mr. Randolph said, I went back and looked on minutes that I can find online. I’ve still got some paperwork, but nothing was ever actually voted on or changed or anything.”

Stubbs noted that some residents were in favor of the Old Town Windsor idea, and some were not.

“I think the Leitners have continued to work diligently in accordance with the information (that) had been passed to them,” he said. Then, referencing what they had been previously told about their property’s zoning, he said, “It was an error. We can’t correct it, but just to put that information out there, I don’t know that the planning and zoning individual at the time maybe got a little bit confused.”