September 16, 2008

Zoning wants a say about school plans

Reporter Jackie Majerus wrote this story:

When city councilors and school officials move ahead with plans to build two new K-8 schools without first getting land use approvals, they're taking a risk of derailing the project, said zoning board Chairman Frank Johnson.
The plans to buy a former Scalia sand pit to use as a site for a proposed West End school require a recommendation from the planning board and a special permit from the city zoning commission.
The planning commission meets next week and is expected to consider the question of a school on the Scalia site then. They'll be asked to make a recommendation as to whether or not the site is appropriate for a school.
If the planning board recommends against it, the city can still move forward, but the vote by city councilors must be by a two-thirds majority rather than a simple majority.
If the project moves beyond the planning commission's recommendation, at some point it will land in the lap of zoning commissioners, who will have to decide whether that parcel of land in a residential zone should get a special permit to build a school there.
"The zoning commission's purview would be to determine whether or not that's the highest and best use for that land," said Johnson.
While Johnson said he could not speak for other zoning commissioners, he said he would personally "have to be convinced" that a school is the "highest and best" use for the property.
Johnson said he wouldn't want the zoning board to be the stumbling block that keeps the project from happening, but said the city's delay in consulting with land use boards sets them up for that role.
"They're putting us in a position where our decision is very late in the process," said Johnson.
It's difficult for the zoning commissioners to get their first look at a proposal after the city's already spent a bundle of money on the project, Johnson said.
In that case, Johnson said, the city may expect commissioners to "rubber stamp" the application.
But school and town officials shouldn't count on it, Johnson said.
"While that may have happened in the past on school projects, there's no guarantee it will always happen," Johnson said.
Johnson, who has served on the zoning board for two decades, said it wouldn't be right – or wise – to assume that the special permit application will sail through his commission.
"This has still got a lot of obstacles to go," said Johnson, before the deal is done.


City Councilor Craig Minor comments:

I was surprised to read Frank Johnson say that "The zoning commission's purview would be to determine whether or not that's the highest and best use for that land." "Highest and best use" is a phrase that real estate appraisers use to refer to the activity that makes the most profit for the land owner. The phrase is not in the Bristol Zoning Regulations, and according to the Connecticut Supreme Court, "The highest and best use…is not a controlling purpose of zoning".
The Zoning Commission's job is to make sure that an application complies with all of the zoning regulations. Finding the most profitable way to develop a piece of property is the job of the free market, not local government.


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Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

All aong I thought that it was Kenny Johnson that wanted to be mayor.

Now I find out is really is Frank Johnson.

Run Frank Run.

Anonymous said...

Will Frank listen to his buddy Rimshot or will he use this to cure the many problems the city has with Scalia?

Stay tuned.

Anonymous said...

Can Bristol do anything right???

Republican for Minor said...

Good remarks by Craig Minor. Once again he's right on!

Good job Craig!

Anonymous said...

Frank, Craig has a point. Response?

Anonymous said...

Thank God for Craig Minor.

Anonymous said...

Thank God that there is only ONE craig minor.

Anonymous said...

Frank Johnson should have been taken off zoning last year. He continues to be lead around by a nose ring. He adds insult to injury by, in so many words, saying he will vote against the project before it's even close to coming to the zoning board. I sure hope the other members of the zoning board have a mind of their own. Let's hope our mayor hasn't gotten to them either. We shall see.

Anonymous said...

Johnson wants to put a Walgrens on the Scalia property.

Anonymous said...

I actually like the Walgreen windows.

Anonymous said...

ounds like Johnson is running for MayorS

Anonymous said...

Minor needs to shut up. He sounds dumber and dumber with each statement he makes.

Anonymous said...

Minor is right in this case.

Anonymous said...

3:11p.m. - not possible.

Anonymous said...

Will someone explain to me that unless a Zone Change is needed, why Zoning is involved at all?

Anonymous said...

Will someone explain to me that unless a Zone Change is needed, why Zoning is involved at all?

Perhaps you should (re-)read the article more carefully. The Scalia property is in a residential zone. Under current zoning regulations, a public school proposed in a residential zone requires the approval of a Special Permit from the Zoning Commission. Oh, and approval of a Site Plan for the project, too.

Anonymous said...

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

8:45p.m. - minor is right in every case, unless he changes his mind - then he is right again - just ask him, he'll tell you....