Bernard Pellegrino, Esq.
HAMDEN, ARE YOU READY FOR THE SMARTCODE?
The Zoning Regulations determine the uses and size of buildings that can be built and maintained on specific pieces of land in Town. The Town of Hamden is currently undertaking the process of revising its Zoning Regulations by adopting a “form- based” code, known as the “SmartCode” along the Town’s major commercial corridors, namely Whitney Avenue, Dixwell Avenue and State Street. Hamden would be the first Town in the State of Connecticut to adopt a version of the SmartCode. Many towns in other areas of the country have adopted this type of code in an effort to encourage the redevelopment of tired sites or the development of new sites in a manner which is deemed more user-friendly and environmentally sensitive.
The primary focus of this new type of zoning code is the regulation of the form or size and appearance of the structure as opposed to significant restrictions on the uses that could be housed in the buildings. In fact, the SmartCode attempts to promote mixed uses within neighborhoods which afford residents the opportunity to “live, work and play” in close proximity. The proposal currently under consideration in Hamden is a hybrid of the “form-based” code with the more traditional “Euclidean” zoning code that focuses primarily on regulating the uses permitted within the building. It combines both in that while it will still have some use restrictions although the proposal will also promote a greater mixture of uses within the new zones along with permitting greater density in building size.
The Town of Hamden has focused its re-zoning along the Whitney-Dixwell-State commercial corridors which are perceived as the areas with the most potential for increased economic development. In these areas the Town is proposing to rezone the properties into zones that will promote mixed uses and will provide the property owners along these corridors to increase the size of the buildings that would be permitted on their properties. The so-called “magic mile” along Dixwell Avenue has perhaps the most potential for re-development. While some might argue that mile has been less than magic for many years, the hope is that by permitting a significant increase in the size of the buildings that could be constructed along this stretch of Dixwell Avenue, with building heights of up to five stories, that new retail, personal service businesses and multi-family residential development could revitalize the tax base in this area of Town. Similar changes are proposed with the goal of helping to redevelop the southern portion of Dixwell Avenue from the Merritt Parkway all the way to the New Haven City line and the State Street commercial corridor, especially along the eastern side of the street.
The Town has also proposed some special design districts for the Town Hall District, industrial areas and areas where it believes municipal uses and manufacturing should be located. It is also notable that most of the residential zones in Town will remain unaffected by the re-zoning and that the size and permitted density of those areas in Town such as Spring Glen and the northern part of Hamden will not change.
The process for the adoption of the new Regulations is still one in progress. Applications will probably be filed later this spring with public hearings to follow on the changes through the spring and early summer. The changes will most likely be formally adopted in the later part of the summer.