‘Food retail,’ flooring considered for ‘B-2’ zone
“Food retail” — which isn’t quite fast food, but can involve take out — and the manufacture of “flooring, granite and marble” products may be added to the land uses allowed in the town’s B-2 business zones.
The Planning and Zoning Commission is considering adding the two uses to others already legal in B-2 areas — which are general business zones allowing offices, warehouses, restaurants, assisted living, kennels and a variety of service uses, but excluding most traditional retail stores and shopping centers.
The town’s B-2 zones include areas along Route 7 just north of Branchville and also south of the Danbury line past Route 35 to Haviland Road, as well as some areas off Grove Street and Route 35 — northeast of the village.
The idea of expanding uses in the B-2 zones was put forward by Commissioner Bob Cascella at the June 26 planning meeting.
“It struck me as odd that I can have a full-service restaurant in the B-2 zone, but I can’t have an ice cream parlor or a little deli,” Cascella said.
The “food retail” category might correct that, allowing a broader range of businesses.
Things like delis and ice cream shops are “really neighborhood type of uses,” Cascella said.
“They don’t stay open late at night. They don’t make a lot of noise early in the morning,” he said.
Planning and Zoning Director Richard Baldelli said food retail would be distinguished from restaurant uses buy parking requirements.
“Parking standards for restaurants are three times what they are for retail,” he said.
In food retail, people stop in quick and pick something up. In restaurants, they sit down and have a meal — parking for a long time.
Commissioners were supportive.
“In thinking about zoning in general,” said John Katz, “where you have a gas station, like Mobil, with a large food component … there’s definitely a retail component to zones that don’t allow retail.
“So, it seems this concept would fit with the reality of what goes on around us.”
Commissioner Joe Fossi thought the expansion of uses in the B-2 zones could achieve some of what the commission was trying to do when it approved a “gateway zone” that would have expanded the uses allowed along Route 7 near the Danbury line — a zone change proposal that eventually lost when challenged in court by a coalition that included both neighbors and village business owners.
Fossi also liked the other use proposed as an addition to the B-2 zone: expanding the “fabrication, processing, assembling, packing, storing and distribution” aspect to include “flooring, granite and marble” products.
Other products that are already allowed to be made under the fabrication, assembly and processing clause range from “precision electrical or precision mechanical equipment, optical goods, business machines” to “pharmaceutical, toiletry and cosmetic” products.
Fossi, who builds houses for a living, thought allowing businesses that sell marble and stone to work them into finished products would be a sensible addition to the zone.
“They’re fabricators,” he said. “They cut the sink out and polish the edges, and it’s not noisy or dirty.”
He also said it might diminish traffic a bit. Currently some places that sell such products to builders have them trucked away to be worked on and then trucked back after being customized to meet specifications.
Hearing in September
Chairwoman Rebecca Mucchetti backed broadening the zone’s permitted uses.
“I like the opportunity to add a use to the zone that might help some of the property owners who’ve come to us and said the uses in B-2 zone don’t work any more,” she said.
Baldelli told the commission that refining the language and putting together a public hearing proposal to expand the permitted uses in the B-2 zone would take some time.
“Chances are pretty slim this would be ready before August break,” he said.
“We could review it,” Mucchetti said, “and schedule it for a public hearing in September.”