What kinds of commercial development does Monroe want to see on Main Street? Should zoning regulations encourage agriculture? What standards should be followed for accessory apartments? The Planning & Zoning Commission is reviewing the regulations that shape Monroe's Future.
Some regulations may be outdated, others too stringent or lax and new ones could be proposed.
"Some homeowners wondered if the town would entertain a bed and breakfast," David Killeen, the town planning administrator, told the commission at its meeting Thursday night. "That is something we haven't considered."
P&Z Chairman Richard Zini said a red book containing proposed revisions and everything done from 2006 to 2009 will be reviewed by commissioners.
"We don't want to lose sight of any work that was done," Zini said of past work on the regulations, adding the record contains comments made by commissioners and members of the public.
The P&Z's first workshop will most likely be held on Feb. 23. From March to early September, Zini said the commission will immerse itself in reviewing the plan. Then there will be heavy public input from September to November.
Killeen said, "Hopefully by the end of December we'll be able to adopt any revisions."
All proposed regulations and amendments must be reviewed by the town attorney, according to Zini.
A consultant will be hired in April to assist the commission by drafting the proposal for the updated regulations. Requests for proposals would go out in a process that involves the first selectman and the Board of Finance. The final candidate would be chosen by the commission. Zini said funding for consultants is already in the town operating budget and that the commission could ask for it to be re-assigned in the next budget.
Not Re-Inventing the Wheel
Killeen expressed his hope that the town will "spruce up the existing regulations, but also add some new components."
Zini told his fellow commissioners that there are a lot of issues that have not gone away, but just have not been addressed yet. "We're not trying to re-invent the wheel," he said.
One-by-one commissioners expressed any concerns or goals they had going into the process.
"It is my hope that whatever we do will be more business stimulating than something that is repressive," said Sean O'Rourk. "We need to improve our tax base."
Killeen said zoning is finding a balance between enforcing regulations and not infringing upon the rights of property owners.
P&Z Vice Chairman Patrick O'Hara wants to encourage agriculture in town "in a progressive manner allowing for it and being mindful of what neighbors expect." He conceded that he has a personal interest in the issue. O'Hara owns O'Hara's Nursery on Route 110.
O'Hara also wants to look at what kinds of commercial development would be best for Main Street.
Commissioner Cathleen Lindstrom cited a statistic from Connecticut Housing, a non-profit group, showing that about one-third of Monroe's population is age 60 and older. If new U.S. Census numbers echo that, Lindstrom noted it could mean big changes in town.
"Almost one-third of our population may be moving and younger families may be moving in," she said.
That could mean more demand for accessory apartments and greater impacts on the school system.
"These are issues that are going to hit us hard," Lindstrom said.
Zini quickly pointed out that the latest U.S. Census numbers have yet to be released, adding those are the statistics the P&Z goes by when revising town regulations.