The West Hartford Town Council on Tuesday unanimously approved several changes to the town’s zoning ordinances, including giving more leeway for developers to build underground parking garages.
Deputy Corporation Counsel Patrick Alair told the Town Council that the majority of the changes were due to the zoning laws being outdated or unnecessary.
For example, Alair recommended removing “beer,” “wine,” “alcohol” and “spirits” from the zoning laws because the were not necessary. The zoning laws refer to a state statute that properly defines those terms, Alair said.
One substantive recommendation, however, called for changing the definition of "floor area ratio" to allow for developers to build underground parking without it counting toward a building's area.
Another substantive recommendation changed the definition of “family” so that unmarried couples or three unrelated people were no longer required to obtain a zoning permit annually in order to live together. Alair said that the rule was “not feasible” to enforce.
Alair said that the zoning law would still have in place a requirement for four, five and six unrelated people to obtain a special use permit from the Town Planning and Zoning Commission in order to live together. Such a regulation is still in place “to control what amounts to illegal boarding or rooming houses,” Alair said.
The definition of “story” was also changed to not include basements.
Finally, the definition of a “hotel” was also amended. The ordinance defined a hotel such that it allowed only for a general kitchen and dining room, Alair said.
But most modern hotels, Alair said, have catering and banquet facilities, as well as auxiliary kitchens, “none of which comply with the definition.”
The change would allow for additional facilities, such as the Residence Inn, Alair said, which has cooking facilities in its rooms for people who want to stay longer than perhaps one or two nights.
In other business, the Town Council set for public hearing on Oct. 22 an ordinance that declares a 9-month moratorium on the establishment of medical marijuana production facilities and dispensaries in town.
The state is expected to award a manufacturer the ability to produce medical marijuana and separately award a retailer to sell the product, Town Manager Ron Van Winkle said. That is not expected until November.Because the zoning ordinance is silent on the matter, marijuana could be produced in any manufacturing zone, and sold in any commercial zone. The moratorium would allow the council time to discuss and amend regulations as it sees fit.