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Zoners Get Pushback from Residents on Proposed Revision

Zoners Get Pushback from Residents on Proposed Revision

The Woodbridge Town Plan and Zoning Commission has agreed to scrap any reference to a T4 zone in the proposed regulation revision after it got increasingly hostile push-back, mainly from residents of lower Woodbridge.  The T4 description was for “urban – mixed use” and would have encouraged a walkable, urban center-type development, with mixed commercial and residential use.  The concept is called for in the Plan of Conservation and Development as a way to make the area more business-friendly and increase the housing choices in town.

But for the residents who have been attending the hearings — many of them residents of the Woodbridge Village District — that meant urbanization which is not how they define themselves.

“We feel there isn’t any clarity here,” said Frank Deleo, a resident who has been instrumental in addressing the West River flooding issues.  “There is no clear description of what the changes are.”

Commission chairman Jeff Kaufman reassured – or at least tried to reassure – the audience that there were no zone changes, except allowing in-law apartments, a new use that applies throughout the town.  He said the document was put together using in large part the old regs, but updating the language.  It also contains an updated glossary with 21st century terms.

The fact that the Village District differs in zoning from the rest of the town was brought up repeatedly.  “Who represents people from the flats on this board,” asked one frustrated resident.  The suggestion was made to form a group of residents with representatives from all corners of the town.  “People are asking why you are pushing everything into lower Woodbridge,” said one resident at the October 15 hearing.  “Perhaps we should look at other parts.”  Zoning Commission Chairman Jeff Kaufman agreed.  “I think that’s a good idea,” he said.

Kaufman pointed out that people come to the commission with widely differing attitudes.  As an example, he held up a petition the commission had received from business owners and others asking the commission to remove the age restriction on the Woodbridge Village project, an approved 145-unit active adult retirement project for those 55 and over.  It was approved more than 10 years ago, but funding evaporated in the 2008 recession.

The petition claims that by opening the development to residents of all ages would permit market-rate housing and lead to economic development and expansion of the residential base.  Unfortunately, it would also attract young families with children, and stretch the ability of Woodbridge’s only elementary school, which is already bursting at the seams.

“We need to listen to what everybody in town wants,” Kaufman said.  “There are many opinions out there and we are here to listen to all of them – and make a decision considering the whole town.  At the same time, he assured the audience that there was no plan to remove the age restriction.

Those who had looked at the proposed document pointed out inconsistencies or language issues, which the commission readily agreed to.  Veterinarian Michael Broderick objected that the new regs would outlaw outdoor enclosures in the area where his veterinary clinic is located.  He said he put one in behind the clinic, where dogs can do their business.

Commissioner Larry Greenberg suggested it was added to keep the noise down.  But they did not press the point and removed the reference.

Broderick also challenged the commission to scrap a provision that would allow apartments in the area around Hazel Terrace, an area where residents are already in a fight with a dance studio operator over cars parked in the road during drop-off and pickup.  In addition, a multi-unit condo building already went up there.

Kaufman closed the hearing November 5 after the tone became increasingly hostile, but then allowed the conversation to continue.  He suggested that the changes brought forward that night be incorporated into the document.  It is available on the home page of the town’s website.  Work on the document will continue at the next commission meeting on the first Monday of December, possibly with a final vote by the commission.

By Bettina Thiel – Woodbridge Town News Correspondent

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