Louis Regina owns three properties on the stretch of Monroe Turnpike near the Trumbull border. The area is a Limited Office District, but Regina and other commercial property owners are unable to develop their land due to a lack of demand for office space.
One potential solution is the creation of what's called an overlay zone in the district. It would preserve the L.O. zoning while allowing other uses on commercial properties. The Planning & Zoning Commission had discussed the possibility of allowing a mixed use of retail and residential.
Regina participated in a round table discussion on Districts in the Masuk High School Media Center Thursday night, during a public hearing on updating town zoning regulations and codes. The event was sponsored by BFJ Planning and the Monroe Planning & Zoning Commission.
After a presentation, everyone broke up into three groups for round table discussions. The other two groups were Code Organization and Supplemental Regulations.
The Districts group talked about whether or not to have an overlay zone in the L.O. District or to change the zoning all together. Another topic was an idea to use upper Stepney as a pilot area for a new Village District.
An Overlay District
Todd K. Okolichany, senior planner for BFJ, said the P&Z is considering allowing retail and some residential uses in the L.O. District with parking to the rear of the buildings, rather than in front of them.
Regina's attorney, David Quatrella, said a mixed use of retail and residential should be an option, but not required. Instead, he expressed his belief that residential and retail uses should be allowed separately too.
Regina said having mixed uses in Monroe is made more difficult by the lack of public sewers.
"I would love to develop one floor of retail with two residential stories above it, but you can't handle the effluent," he said.
Regina also contended that the major retailers would oppose having parking in back of buildings.
Lee Hossler, chairman of the Monroe Economic Development Commission, said, "It's just atmosphere, so you're not looking at a big parking lot."
But Regina said you can't create a downtown atmosphere off of a six-lane highway.
"He's right," Kevin Solli, an engineer with The Kimball Group, said. "Just because it's zoned for retail doesn't mean [you'll get tenants]."
One resident at the table said, "You'll have ugly buildings with backs to the roadway because the entrance will be off of the parking in the back."
Hossler said he saw a business with parking in the front and aesthetic landscaping, so the properties could still look good facing Route 111.
Solli suggested having an overlay zone over the entire corridor from Big Y supermarket to the Trumbull town line.
A Village District
A few areas seen as possible Village Districts are Stepney, the East Village area and the Stevenson Lumber/Lake Zoar area. But before attempting to establish multiple districts, the P&Z is considering a pilot district in upper Stepney — near the intersection of Route 59 and Main Street.
Okolichany said a Village District could carry architectural requirements meant to preserve the character of Stepney which has an historic green surrounded by churches.
Hossler pointed out that most of upper Stepney is already built up. There was discussion over the possibility of an area not being as affected by the Village District designation if no new developments occur.