Tolland Village Area – Historical Background and Update
Linda Farmer May 1, 2012
The Planning & Zoning Commission will hold a Public Hearing on Monday, June 11, 2012 on revised Zoning Regulations for the Tolland Village Area. These revisions address concerns outlined in an appeal to Superior Court and fine tune some of the procedures.
The Planning & Zoning Commission would like to provide an overview to those that have not been involved in the entire planning process. It is important to look at the historical record of discussions the Town has had about the Tolland Village Area pertaining to promoting desirable development patterns and well designed projects, maximizing commercial development and diversifying the tax base. This area has long been zoned commercial, but it is also the gateway to our historic Tolland Green. Planning began as early as 2001, when the town had an option to buy the land & building housing Papa T’s, Electric Blue, etc. to encourage redevelopment in a denser commercial, less strip style pattern. In 2003, HMA Associates, working with the newly formed Tolland Economic & Community Development Corporation (TECDC), began a draft Municipal Development Plan that included a Conceptual Plan on the west side of Merrow Road for a dense, mixed-use project in this area.
The Town visioning process began in 2005 with consultants from Planimetrics and the UCONN School of Landscape Architecture. A series of charrettes and workshops were held with broad and varied community support, culminating in the “Tolland Gateway/South Green Area Report” dated August 2007. The Planning & Zoning Commission received a $50,000 HOME CT grant to evaluate suitability of affordable housing in this area working with two different consulting teams (CHA and Planimetrics). In November 2009, a prior PZC added the newly identified “Tolland Village Area” as a “concept under development” on the Zoning Map and included this area in the POCD and Zoning Regulations. The current Tolland Village Area regulations were adopted in July 2011 – proposed revisions will be discussed during a Public Hearing on June 11, 2012.
The plans and goals developed for the Tolland Village Area also addressed other issues, concerns and needs identified in the community:
- In 2005, the PZC adopted Density Based Zoning Regulations for residential development that determined the development potential and housing density based on the characteristics of the land, such as wetlands, watercourses, steep slopes and ledge. These regulations, unique in CT at that time, were in response to the intense residential development in Tolland occurring in the rural areas and reduced the development potential. The next step was to adopt regulations that would permit denser residential in the areas having sewer, water and potential transportation links. This is what we are promoting now both in the Tolland Village Area, as well as Technology Zone (under development) and Route 30/74 planned Village Node (also under development).
- During the POCD process, the community identified a need for more diverse housing stock (including apartments and condos) which would benefit from public sewer and water. These uses are desirable either mixed with or abutting commercial uses to provide customers for the potential businesses.
- The Town has limited land for economic development and looks to maximize development near I-84 where infrastructure is available. Strip style development patterns with buildings surrounded by large parking areas and property setbacks that create unused space will not achieve this goal.
The term “village” does not mean the same thing in all uses and communities. Each is distinctly different and some are not even similar in nature. In some areas (Florida for example), several large new communities were built by a single developer who may or may not have accurately gauged the need or demand. Some CT towns are looking for infill development to create (or recreate) village areas in the community with a density that urges people to walk and allows for a mixture of uses. Simsbury, Windsor, Avon, Glastonbury, Storrs, Hamden and Bolton are examples.
The State of CT has, over the past several years, required compliance with a set of planning and development goals (for example Governor Rell’s Executive Order 15) for all projects awarded State grant funding. The goals emphasize anti-sprawl “smart growth” of promoting density in “Responsible Growth Centers” where there is infrastructure and transportation links and promotes walkability. The draft State Plan of Conservation and Development, to be completed in 2013, further emphasizes these planning goals and showing compliance is a part of all grant applications.
We do not know exactly what will be built in this area. It may be that the property owners will choose not to avail themselves of the highest density permitted or may not develop at all. We have no control over that. These Tolland Village Area Zoning Regulations will enable development to diversify both the tax base and housing opportunities, utilize the infrastructure installed at business and taxpayer expense and promote development patterns and building styles that are consistent with the gateway to the Tolland Green. Many, many communities across CT and the nation are seeing the viability of these village nodes in property values, tax revenue and demand.
Please check the Planning & Zoning Commission website at www.tolland.org/pzc for the latest information including:
- Principles of village designs
- Booklets on –
- Evaluations of land in the village area for constraints and opportunities
- Development of the Concept Plan
- Visual Preference Survey
- A video tour through the “sketch up” graphic of the proposed village (youtube link)
- A presentation to the public on November 30, 2011 that comprehensively sums up the process (slide rocket link)
- A presentation to the Town Council on February 9, 2012 to bring them up to date and also outlines the next steps.
Additional information is available in the Planning Office.