Council explains zone change before passage

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The Town Council cleared up confusion surrounding a zone change before ultimately approving it, 4-0, during its monthly meeting on Monday night.

The council voted to change the zoning classification of lots 143, 144, 227 and 239 — which are located off of Plainfield Pike — from a mix of residential R-20 and business B-2 to solely B-2.

The bulk of the discussion came after the council approved, 4-0, an amendment officially codifying the definitions of a self-storage facility and a multi-self-storage facility. Solicitor Dylan Conley told the Sun Rise over the phone Tuesday afternoon that including the definitions allows the town to issue zoning violations and other measures.

Abutter Dennis Cardillo expressed concern about adding arbor vitae or other landscaping on his property line should a potential storage facility come to the area, but Solicitor Dylan Conley said there is no formal proposal before the town yet.

“Any building will be subject to review by planning,” Conley said. “So those sorts of things will come into play. I will add, that one of the restrictions is that any exterior loading must be screened from view. So the arbor vitae or some sort of green screen will be in place.”

Conley said the circumstances for the four aforementioned lots were a “somewhat interesting although not completely unique” issue. He told the board that the zone doesn’t match with the parcels, where some could be both a percentage of residential and business zones.

Council Vice President Joseph Polisena Jr. — who led proceedings in President Robert V. Russo’s place on Monday — said the change “creates uniformity.”

“The parcels are actually – depending on what portion of the parcel you’re on, you’re on a different zone,” Conley said. “That creates problems on basically layout, management, what set of regulations to apply, so the request is to take all the parcels that are partial B-2, partial R-20, and turn them to completely B-2. So it’s not that it’s a completely new zone for these parcels, it’s just making them completely encumbered by the B-2 zone.”

Jeff Gallo was the only other speaker during the public hearing, and he was confused as to why the council needed to pass the amendment. He pointed out that there is already another storage facility – Extra Space Storage – nearby on 1815 Plainfield Pike, and wondered why the zoning of the lots needed to be changed if a storage facility is already accommodated on one.

Polisena explained that, in the future, a company may want to propose a facility that crosses into other lots. The zone change would create the same zone across all four lots so potential conflicts could be avoided.

“So, sir, just imagine – we’ll take your theory of the storage unit is on Lot 143,” Polisena said. “The physical units on 143 may be in a B-2, but remember how we were saying it’s mixed between R-20 and a B-2. What we’re doing is so we don’t miss anything, we’re going to make them all B-2 so it’s for certain every square inch of 143 is B-2, every square inch of 239, 227 and 144 will all be B-2.”

Conley added that the measure receiving a positive recommendation from the Planning Board.

“There’s portions of B-2 and R-20 in the immediate surrounding area,” Conley said. “Plainfield Pike is a commercial road, generally speaking, so I mean it may be B-2, but we have the recommendation from the Planning Board that this change is compatible with the comprehensive plan, so it matches what the surrounding area is.”

Gallo also expressed concern that once the zone is changed to B-2, there could be an entirely different business proposed for the lots rather than a storage facility. Polisena said that is true, but said this is just the first step and the public would have plenty of chances to fight a development along the way.

“So, not saying this is happening, I’m using this as an example, if somebody wanted to put a Burger King there – which I don't think any of us would want – then you go to planning, all the residents would go to planning, they would express their dissatisfaction and then it would be shot down at planning,” Polisena said.

Polisena said the public will “always” have a say in what goes in those lots moving forward. Conley also advised Gallo that, although a storage facility would be a permitted use, planning would determine what shape it took.

“Go before the planning board and that’s where we said, if you want a certain number of arbor vitae there, the actual aesthetics of a building, when a proposal comes forward,” Polisena said. “So, there’s no proposal yet, but we need to make this change.”

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