City planners have given thought to creating a new zoning regulation for apartments similar to one recently formed in neighboring Monroe.
Director of Planning and Land Use George Benson said a new Multiple Housing Development Zone could benefit Newtown by allowing higher density, market-rate apartments and condominiums, but only with more control by the Planning & Zoning Commission (PZC).
He stressed that there is no rush to create the new zoning. No developer has applied for one. But he said that makes it the best time to do it, because the PZC would only have to consider its own priorities and not an applicant’s.
In July, the PZC voted it had no objection to Monroe’s new Neighborhood Apartment Residence Overlay zone, which requires that at least 65 percent of the units are one-bedroom or studios and the development must be within 1,000 feet, walking distance, of a shopping center.
Monroe needed Newtown’s consent because it planned to put the new zone close to the town line. If Newtown had opposed it, Monroe’s zoning commission would needed more than a simple majority to pass it.
What Newtown has in mind is slightly different than Monroe’s new zone, but Benson noted it would also be an overlay zone that gives the PZC more discretion over the development’s design and unit density.
He said the history goes back to 2004 when developer Guri Dauti won a lawsuit against Newtown to allow a condominium complex on Church Hill Road under the state’s affordable housing law.
That lawsuit rewrote the town’s affordable housing regulations, increasing the unit density from four to six units per usable acre.
Benson said the Multiple Housing Development Zone might be set at six units per acre, and the affordable housing zone raised to eight units per acre.
He said the multiple housing zone would only be allowed in R2 and R3 zones where there are public water and sanitary sewer service, which would strictly limit it to the Route 6 and Route 25 corridors near I-84 Exit 9.
"It’s all in concept now," Benson cautioned. "We have a long way to go before anything is decided. We might decide in the end not even to do it."