While thumbing through a booklet of Monroe's zoning regulations, local developer John Kimball told people gathered around a table inside the Masuk High School media center that the parking requirements should all be in one place in the book.
"That's exactly what we're trying to do," Frank Fish, principal of BFJ Planning, said of simplifying the regulations and codes.
At another table, land use officials and members of the public had a lively discussion over signage, from maximum size and location to lighting.
"I think when a business is closed, the light goes off," Town Zoning Enforcement Officer Joseph Chapman said. "If a business is closed, do you need to drive by at one in the morning to see a hair salon is there?"
The Planning & Zoning Commission's last public workshop on Monroe zoning code updates was held on Thursday. BFJ Planning is the consultant hired by the commission to work on the updates and revisions.
"The purpose of this meeting is so residents can express concerns over the language they see now," said P&Z Chairman Patrick O'Hara.
The workshop covered chapters 1-5, and O'Hara said commissioners will have a copy of a proposal for a full code update before their Feb. 7 meeting. Even after changes are adopted, the codes are a living document that can always change and grow, O'Hara explained.
Some of the regulations are old and dated, according to O'Hara. For instance, he said a minimum of five acres is needed to build a church, which holds the use to a higher standard. Instead, he said churches should be able to go by the same rules in each individual zone that other types of developments do.
During a presentation at the beginning of the workshop, Fish said an effort is underway to make the regulations and codes better organized, simplified and easier for people to understand.
Residential farming districts include an RC, 1 acre; RD, 2 acres, and an RE, 3 acres. BFJ proposes calling it R1, R2 and R3.
Design districts would also be renamed. Currently there is the Design Multifamily Residence District, the Design Recreational Residence District, the Design Elderly Residence District and the Design Housing Opportunity District.
BFJ proposes keeping all of the names minus the word "Design".
"Somebody in the past liked 'design,'" Fish said, causing laughter among the 32 people gathered in the media center.
One significant change to the regulations was adding retail uses as-of-right to the Limited Office District. Rather than an LO district, it would be an LOR district.
The P&Z had been looking into changes for the LO district because property owners in the zone along a stretch of Route 111 near the Trumbull town line saw little demand for light office uses, so their properties just sat there. Most people who approached them had asked about retail.
Fish stressed that no map changes to business zones are being proposed.
Currently there are no permitted uses as-of-right in any zone, so all uses require a special exception permit. BFJ is proposing to have some uses as-of-right and to require special exception permits for uses that need special consideration as to their suitability on a particular site.
According to the Site Plan process for a use allowed in the zone, a professionally prepared site development plan would be required. After an administrative review with input and resubmission of a revised plan, the P&Z Commission would allow public input at one of its meetings before voting on it.
A Special Permit application, for uses allowed in a zone if specified standards are met, goes by the same process, but a formal public hearing is required.
BFJ has also proposed revisions to requirements for parking, landscaping and screening, excavations and signs.
Common uses for parking would be combined into one category and numbers of spaces would be assigned per 1,000 square feet of gross floor area.
There would be a uniform maximum height for ground and pole signs. Seasonal agricultural signs would be allowed. And neon, digital, flat-panel and LED signs would be prohibited.
A special permit would be required for excavation exceeding 1,000 cubic yards per acre. Another of the requirements is there would be hours and days when excavation operations are prohibited.
landscaping provisions scattered throughout the code would be consolidated into one section. Landscape buffers would be required between residential and commercial properties. There would be specific requirements for businesses and industrial districts.
In parking and loading areas, at least 10% of the interior lot must be landscaped. Landscaped traffic islands would break up pavement, facilitate traffic and pedestrian circulation and improve drainage.
There would be follow up inspections to ensure success in plantings.