Rick Redniss op-ed: ‘Change is not erosion’
Published 6:10 pm EDT, Wednesday, May 30, 2018
It was interesting to read the May 30 op-ed (“Life Time decision another erosion of zoning rules”) that a change in the zoning text is considered “erosion” when it helps an office park cope with reduced demand by adding a use that benefits Stamford workers and residents. (FYI, the repositioning of suburban office parks is prevalent throughout the entire country.) It is also ironic to characterize a text amendment as “erosion” in this particular neighborhood. There have been five zoning text amendments over the years that helped create the diverse housing opportunities around High Ridge Office Park.
Stone Brook, Riverturn Condominiums, Sterling Lake, Sunrise Assisted Living, and the Turn of River fire department all required zoning text changes. With the exception of the fire department, they all faced some level of opposition, including some court challenges, none of which prevented progress in this transitional area. Stone Brook faced enormous opposition including an appeal to the Board of Representatives.
The BOR upheld the Zoning Board and time has proven that the reasons for the opposition were all unfounded. In fact, the opposite of those fears was realized. The development of Stone Brook solved previously existing drainage, traffic, and sanitary sewer issues. Homes in the Barmore and Pamlynn area off Vine Road had many failing septic systems and presented a health hazard. Allowing these homes to connect to public sewers via the Stone Brook development (then Geriak Farms), enhanced property values and environmental health.
Look at any of the five developments now. They are all an asset to Stamford and provide for a diversity of housing alternatives within walking distance to shopping and easy access to the Merritt Parkway and High Ridge Road. All good planning and zoning.
In the end I agree with the writer that the planning and zoning boards spent an exceptional amount of time reviewing the High Ridge Office Park application and ensuring that the residents were properly protected. Some of the protections for the residents are more restrictive than currently required anywhere else in the Stamford Zoning Regulations; more than even required for similar permitted uses in residential zones. And this is for a commercial zone that existed long before most of the surrounding housing in the neighborhood.
Change is not erosion. Zoning is a dynamic process that grows and adapts as Stamford grows and adapts. This Turn of River Road neighborhood is a great example of that process.
Rick Redniss, AICP is a certified planner and land-use consultant from the Stamford land surveying, engineering and planning firm Redniss & Mead.