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Barry Michelson ‘Zoning in Stamford should not be for sale’

August 5, 2018

The Lifetime Fitness application is not a political issue. It is a rule of law and quality of life issue.

The conditioned approval of the Zoning Board should be rejected and overturned. The Board of Representatives is under no obligation to grant or uphold this text change.

The Zoning Board acted capriciously, and in its discretion, approved yet again another text change to the Zoning Regulations.

The purpose of the Zoning Code, as defined in our City Charter, the zoning regulations, and the state statutes, is to encourage the most appropriate use of land, conserve and stabilize the value of property; ... to prevent undue concentration of population,: to lessen congestion on streets...; to promote health, safety, and the general welfare, to regulate and restrict the location and use of buildings, structures and land for agriculture, residences, commerce, trade, industry or other purposes..., and to regulate and limit the density of population; and for said purposes to divide the City into zoning districts of such number, shape and area as may be deemed best suited to carry out these regulations and provide for their enforcement.

The text change approved does not do any of these; in fact, it promotes the opposite, and on a citywide basis!

You may hear conversations relating to adoptive reuse, highest and best use, or a discussion as to the application fees and taxes generated to the benefit of the city. These are not criteria or standards to be used for consideration of any zoning approval, according to our state statutes, code of ordinances or zoning regulations. And most certainly zoning in Stamford should not be for sale for the price of a permit or future taxes.

Make no mistake: in Stamford, there is no fidelity to the Zoning Code, and there has not been for quite some time. The very night the Land-Use Committee was debating whether to accept the Land Owner Petition, applicants before the Zoning Board had two applications for new text changes on its agenda.

Applicants have no compunction about pursuing text changes. Many of you may have heard my mantra; instead of land-use proposals conforming to the Zoning Regulations, we make the Regulations conform to the proposals, a practice that has been going on far too long and is detrimental to the long-term well- being of the community.

The Zoning Board has enthusiastically granted text changes. The law department is cavalier in its opinions and interpretation of case law, as the Land-Use Committee of the Board of Representatives has witnessed. And there is limited enforcement of zoning violations.

As a result, the quality of life in Stamford has eroded and has given rise to concerned neighborhood organizations and the Coalition of Neighborhoods.

I do not make these representations lightly.

Zoning serves to: (1) To set the standards for new development and (2) Provide protections to existing properties.

By constantly changing the standards we have effectively eviscerated any standard. The Regulations should be our Bible.

The folks in this city are frustrated and very often feel disenfranchised. They go to meetings; they are heard but not listed to.

The Board of Representatives should overturn the decision of the Zoning Board for the following reasons:

1. The proposed text change is not compatible with the objectives of the Master Plan.

2. The proposed text change would lead to an expansion and greatly increase the intensity of use in the CD Zone.

3. The proposed text change would expand the CD zone from predominately weekday uses to an intense 24/7 use.

4. The proposed text change would increase traffic and congestion:

The medical traffic classification is dubious and not consistent with the traffic that would be generated by an athletic facility that would operate 7 days a week and

5. Quality of life of adjoining property owners would be negatively impacted by the expanded outdoors uses.

6. Property values would be negatively affected.

Barry Michelson was the 2017 Republican mayoral candidate in Stamford and is a former member of the city’s Zoning Board.

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