Planning and Zoning: More houses on smaller access roads

An accessway — a kind of shared driveway used to reach houses without building a full road— may now legally serve up to five house lots, an increase over the previous limit of three.

The Planning and Zoning Commission raised the limit Tuesday night, June 4, approving related amendments to both the zoning regulations and the subdivision regulations.

An accessway is currently “a driveway serving up to three lots,” said attorney Robert Jewell during a public hearing on the change. “I’m proposing this number be increased to five lots.”

Jewell offered the amendments in connection with a five-lot subdivision of 10 acres off Barry Avenue — the Montanari property — scheduled for a public hearing June 25.

But the amendments would apply throughout town, allowing more flexibility in subdivision designs, Jewell said.

His chief argument was that accessways involve less pavement and earth disturbance.

An accessway claims a 25-foot width on the map, and a traveled way — the pavement — that is 16 feet wide. A town road is bigger: a 40-foot width on the map, and a paved “traveled way” of 20 feet. And often, at the end is a paved cul-de-sac 40 to 60 feet wide, Jewell said.

Building a 20-foot-wide road with a cul-de-sac at the end can be excessive intrusion on the landscape and greenery, Jewell said.

Commissioner John Katz supported the amendment, and Jewell’s ‘less-pavement’ argument.

“This decreases the use of tarmac substantially,” said Katz. “The whole aproach is much more conservative than if everybody has to build a town road.”

Commissioners George Hanlon and Mark Zeck opposed the amendments in a 6-to-2 vote.

“It has the potential to lead to more buildings, more congestion in town,” said Zeck, “ a town that’s more and more concerned with new construction.”

Jewell argued that allowing a smaller accessway didn’t really increase the area available to the creation of new lots, since subdividers can be create their access roads by easement — the home-buyers own lots that go to the centerline of the road, with free travel down the road allowed by easement and now lot area lost to the road.

He also offered census figures outlining Ridgefield’s growth over the last century, showing that complaints about the current pace of growth were in his view misguided — the decades of wild growth were the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, he argued.

Jewell’s census figures were: 1900, Ridgefield population 2,626; 1910, population 3,118; 1920, down to 2,707; 1930, 3,582; 1940, 3,900; 1950, 4,356; 1960, 8,136; 1970, 18,188; 1980, 20,126; 1990, 20,119; 2000, 23,643; 2010, 24,638.

The government projects the 2018 population to be a little over 25,000, he said.

“So when people complain about population growth” today, he said, “that’s not supported by the facts.”