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Stratford, Connecticut looks at boosting transit-oriented development
Melvin Mason | Stratford Star

 

Wrigley Hall is home to ASU's Global Institute of Sustainability and School of Sustainability and features several elements of sustainable design.

Stratford may soon amend itsĀ current zoning rules to create a transit-oriented development zone in the downtown area near the Metro-North Railroad station.

 

Members of the Planning and Zoning commissions heard a presentation last Thursday from Brian Bidolli, executive director of the Greater Bridgeport Regional Council.

 

Town officials have been working with the GBRC for about a year to look at what can be done to spur more residential and business development downtown. Draft regulations shown last Thursday would change the transit center development floating zone approved in 2010. The zone was established in conjunction with the town’s approval of the 128-unit 1111 Stratford apartment complex at 1111 Stratford Avenue, said Planning and Zoning Director Gary Lorentson.

 

The current zone was intended to spark housing development. The proposed changes from GBRC would allow for more mixed-use development projects, such as buildings with retail shops and restaurants on the ground floor and apartments above. It would also eliminate the minimum three-acre requirement to build.

 

Bidolli said GBRC is partnering with the town of Stratford to create “a plan for improving travel in the town and region, from bike and walking paths to buses and train connections.”

 

“If the approvals go through, it becomes a component of the zoning regulations,” Bidolli said. “So when a developer comes in, they can follow these regulations written into the zoning regulations.”

 

Karen Kaiser, the town’s director of economic development, said transit-oriented development is “an extremely important project for Stratord.” Town officials have asked residents and business owners about what they can do to improve the area and their guidance has helped develop the draft plan.

 

“Their feedback is very clear. Stratford residents and business owners are looking for more downtown parking, ease of traffic congestion and walkability,” Kaiser said. “Residents are also interested in promoting bicycle paths and pedestrian paths. So basically, what they are looking for is helping us to identify strategies for obtaining the state and federal funds to revitalize the areas around the train station.”

 

The Zoning Commission is expected to send the draft proposal to the Planning Commission for review and comments, Lorentson said. The proposed regulations will eventually be subject to a public hearing so residents can offer their thoughts. Officials hope that will public hearing will take place in March or April.

 

Mayor John Harkins announced ongoing support for transit-oriented development in a statement issued last week, reminding the public of TOD being included in the town’s Plan of Conservation and Development approved in 2013.

 

“The concept of the TOD is long overdue. The more we grow our grand list on the commercial side, the less tax burden we have on the residential taxpayer,” Harkins said in the press release. “The TOD concept allows for commercial mixed-use development that would contain units of housing and some retail space on the first floor, and other commuter-friendly enhancements.”

 

Harkins added that transit-oriented development would work to “rejuvenate Stratford Center” and “it would bring jobs, housing opportunities for young and old alike, and also bring much-needed new opportunities for retail business to our downtown.”

 

Andrew Testo, owner of Off the Hook Bar & Grille on Ferry Boulevard, supports the plan, even if it may not necessarily benefit him, given his business’s location.

 

“Let’s do it. Stratford needs this,” Testo said after Bidolli’s presentation. “Downtown is important to the city.”