Op/Ed

Letter to the editor: New Haven zoning laws riddled with exceptions

We the undersigned New Haven residents are confused and disheartened by the lack of consistency in town development regulations. After making an appeal to a building permit issued on June 4, 2020, we took part in a virtual Development Review Board (DRB) meeting on July 20 where these inconsistencies in zoning regulations became more than apparent.
First, we need to provide some background. The town has zoning classifications for commercial, industrial and residential areas of the town.
The classification of particular concern here is the RA10 classification, which allows for residential development of a single family house on a lot of at least 10 acres where the types of soil encountered are less than suitable, but may be acceptable for building a single family unit. No subdivision is allowed of a lot classified as RA10 without a DRB review.
At the July 20 meeting we learned many conflicting exemptions exist to this zoning classification. These exemptions serve to undermine the intent if not the spirit of the RA10 classification.
If you are a homeowner with a lot zoned RA10 you can theoretically build one “accessory” dwelling of one-bedroom capacity, and multiple accessory structures, garages, barns, sheds, etc. as you want on this 10-acre lot provided the accessory dwelling is less than 30% of the footprint of the primary residence of the single family house. There are no size restrictions on accessory structures. There are also no restrictions as to the use of the “accessory” dwellings/structures, including for rental income.
There are no lot coverage guidelines for RA10 zone lots, which means you are not restricted on the amount of square footage used for buildings on a lot zoned RA10. You can have as many structures on them that you want, provided the one “accessory” dwelling and all accessory structures fall within the recommended setbacks as set forth by the RA10 classification.
These exemptions basically allow for excessive land development within one lot without review by the town, except for the application of a building permit, which is just a formality. With the above exemptions, the town basically permits the RA10 landowner to subdivide a 10-plus-acre lot, without going through the DRB subdivision requirements. Why have a RA10 zone, when you’re going to allow one and possibly two houses and as many support structures as the landowner desires?
The town of New Haven has on paper classifications which appear to encourage a thoughtful review of any development occurring within the town, when in fact the town allows its own classifications to be circumvented by writing in exemptions that appear to say come one, come all and do as you please as long as the tax revenue flows freely.
David and Nancy Matthews, David Maille, Jeff Meyers and Tammy Newmark, & Lynn Wolf
New Haven

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