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P&Z Study of Use Groups and Parking
P&Z Study of Use Groups and Parking

The Planning and Zoning Commission is working with the firm of Fitzgerald Halliday (Report March 2017) to amend the zoning regulations pertaining to commercial zones to provide greater clarity in the definitions (6-5 of the Town of Greenwich Building Zone Regulations (BZR)), parking requirements for commercial uses (6-158 (of BZR)) and the organization of the Use Groups (6-100 of BZR), which identifies the zone(s) a use is permitted within.  The amendment should also codify an approval process in commercial zones to provide greater predictability and a better supported business environment.  There are 10 commercial zones in Town comprising 924 parcels and 737 acres of land.
The goal of the project is to address the following issues:
1) There are 124 business uses identified in the regulations.  Only 6 of them are defined, in a Use Group, and assigned a parking requirement.  Sections 6-5, 6-100, 6-158 of the BZR need to be reconciled so that a use is defined, in a use group so you know what zone the use can be located, and what the associated parking requirements are.  

2) Ensure consistency throughout the different sections of the regulations.  For example, 6-5 of the BZR defines medical professional, but 6-158 of the BZR refers to medical personnel.  

3) The definitions of uses should not include any information about where a use can be located or what type of approval process is required (see definition of animal day care establishment as an example).  It should be a definition only. 

4) Examine the uses within the Use Groups and ensure the uses are grouped appropriately.  This should include removing the exceptions to the rule as much as possible.

5) A site plan is required pursuant to Section 6-13 of the BZR.  A special permit is required pursuant to Section 6-101 of the BZR, however, there are many other instances of when a special permit is required that are not in this section.  There is no section that speaks to when an Administrative Site Plan is required.  The codification of the process should be updated.  The use of a table/matrix to be used as a quick guide should be considered.

6) The review process is fluid if there is no change of use or change to the parking requirement.  However, many commercial properties do not have the number of parking spaces that would be required under the current regulations and therefore there are a considerable number of non-conforming sites.  Parking regulations that do not reflect the built environment appears to be the driver behind most delays.  The review process needed for a change of use is not clear for staff of the Planning and Zoning division and the Zoning Enforcement Officer (ZEO) that issue zoning permits.  The ZEO estimates that approximately 50% of the time they opt to send a customer to Planning and Zoning (P&Z) to ensure that the P&Z staff don’t need to review a proposal for a change of use.  As a result, it can take too much time for the public to obtain an answer or permit, which has led to complaints from the business community.  This again speaks to codifying the approval process as much as possible.

7) There are at least two instances within the BZR where uses are permitted but it is unlikely the standards to the allow the use can be met.  The first is for office use on the second floor of Greenwich Avenue.   This is permitted if the site has parking on site.  There are only a few instances where a site has parking on-site.  The majority of the offices on the second floor now are grandfathered.   The other regulation relates to nail salons.  The parking requirement for nail salons is considerably higher than other uses in the same Use Group.  This pushes nail salons into limited areas outside of the CGBR and LBR zones.  

8) The regulations should reflect that the Town has planned for and considered that on-line shopping increases more and more each year.  Although not currently considered a major threat, the vibrancy of the downtown is paramount and needs to be supported and protected through the regulations.

9) The definition of retail allows for incidental uses.  That should be defined.

10) The use of the basement in the CGBR zone (see Section 6-103.1 of the BZR) should be clarified and the existing contradictions in the regulations should be removed.  For example, it is confusing as to whether food preparation is permitted in basements because “Food prep” for retail food counts towards the parking count if it is located on the 1st floor which implies it is an active use.  However, if “food prep” is an active use it should not be permitted in the basement because that would lead to 3 floors of active use if there is a 2 story or higher building, which is prohibited.  

11) Examine 6-162 Pooled Parking of the BZR – to determine if there is a way to provide incentives to use this option to reduce curb cuts.  This has worked well for Chase Bank and Dunkin Donuts at 371 East Putnam Avenue in Cos Cob.  

12) Sec. 6-102. STATEMENT OF PURPOSES – ALL BUSINESS ZONES of the BZR needs to be updated.  For example, it currently refers to the 1986 POCD.

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Peter Tesei
Peter Tesei
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