UPDATE: Brookfield Township Zoning Committee will hand out literature and answer questions from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday, Sept. 7, and 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 8, on the green in Brookfield Center.
Sure, there were people who attended the July 23 Brookfield trustees’ public hearing on the proposed zoning resolution who were against zoning.
But, the discussion went beyond standard opinions about a property owners’ rights and whether someone wanted a junkyard to move in next door.
There were questions about specific sections of the proposed zoning resolution, how parts of the resolution were derived, and how zoning – the regulation of land use – could change Brookfield from what it is today.
“Those weren’t questions, really, attacking the nature of zoning,” said township attorney Gil Blair. “Those were questions saying, ‘Hey, we might want to think of the use of this land in a different way.’ Those are great issues to raise.”
Dan Styduhar, who lives in the Valley View development, brought up one of those great issues. He objected to Valley View being classified as high-density residential, the same as the West Hill.
“The character of the West Hill R-3 and the character of Valley View R-3 are totally, totally different,” said Styduhar, comparing the age of the homes and the size of lots.
He also noted that the permitted uses in R-3 included group homes, boarding and rooming houses and dormitories.
“I don’t want to see a group home in Valley View,” Styduhar said. “I don’t want to see dormitories in Valley View.”
“That would be a subject you could take up once you actually adopt the ordinance,” said Shane Burkholder of the Trumbull County Planning Commission, who drew the proposed zoning resolution map. “You might want to change it down the road.”
As for group homes, “those are very hard to legislate, leaving them out of different jurisdictions,” said Burkholder. “They’re a protected class, most of the time.”
Steve Shull asked about the industrial designation for land at the northeast corner of Warner and Warren Sharon roads. He said the area is a mix of commercial businesses, residences and farm land.
“If I was living on Warner Road, and I found out that was zoned industrial, I would complain about the noise,” he said. “As far as industry goes, I think we have enough available land.”
Trustee Ron Haun said the land was proposed industrial because of the existing business there, and township attorney Gil Blair noted the railroad that runs through that area, which could make it attractive as a location for warehouses.
Shull said the industrial tag mischaracterizes the businesses there.
“Those are commercial businesses,” he said. “They are not industrial.”
Styduhar questioned why the resolution does not differentiate between heavy and light industrial areas. It simply lists industrial/manufacturing as a zone.
“Some of these things I see here are really scary: coal or coke yards,” he said of the permitted uses in the industrial zone. “Some of these are rather intimidating.”
He said he would consider the industrial section Shull spoke of and that around the Nick Strimbu Inc. headquarters as better suited to light industry.
Blair, a Weathersfield Township trustee, said people need to take a “practical approach” to the resolution.
“Your coal and coke yards are going to be, probably, found near your rail spurs, your heavy rail areas, which is going to be down in the Masury area,” Blair said.
Reading from the resolution, Blair added: “Land use activity in this area can only be permitted if it not noxious, dangerous or offensive due to emission of odor, dust, smoke, gas, noise, flame or vibration. So, that does take into account a lot of limitation of certain industries and allows flexibility for the zoning commission in dealing with these things.”
Dave Harden, who described himself as neither for nor against zoning, said people seem to have two concerns: the cost to run the zoning bureaucracy and the amount of regulation it will impose.
“The business that I was in, I dealt with a lot of zoning commissions … submit all my drawings and signage for all the areas that I’ve worked in,” said Harden, who was the son of the George in the former Brookfield business Signs by George and Son. “What I found is, over time, things get more strict and more strict, which is fine, but it also entails more people.”
“As far as the zoning commission comes into play, somebody has to run it,” Harden said. “There’s going to be four or five or 10 people that run the zoning department, correct?”
“There’ll be not a department,” Haun said, reiterating that current township Code Enforcement Officer Jimmy Ewing would be named zoning officer and would work the same part-time schedule he does now for the same pay.
Pat Dolan said she didn’t see how zoning might attract business and other development to Brookfield when neighboring communities that are zoned – she mentioned Sharon, Hermitage, Girard and Warren – are losing businesses.
Besides, she said, she doesn’t want Brookfield to lose its “country atmosphere.”
“You want to change it into a Hubbard atmosphere or a Girard atmosphere,” Dolan said. “I think that’s why a lot of people are against the zoning, because you want to change the atmosphere of the township.”
“I understand what you’re saying. I’ve lived here my whole life,” Haun said. “I think you can have both.”
Burkholder added that zoning is “not just for business.”
“It’s also to regulate that country feel so you can retain it,” he said. “In a township with no zoning, there is nothing stopping you from coming into your nice, country town and putting in a marijuana farm next door, or a chicken farm, or some other noxious, loud nuisance next door. If you want to retain the character of the neighborhood or the township, zoning is absolutely the only way to do it.”
Brookfield Township Zoning Commission Alternate Member Leyla Sartori said she attended a zoning board meeting in Hartford and came away feeling that that board was trying to do exactly what Dolan advocated.
“They weren’t in there doing these plannings for these big, huge pushes for major industrial things going on,” Sartori said. “It was definitely about preservation of the township and that community and keeping it intact, keeping it that way. I think it would be very similar to how ours would work.”
Dolan said the meeting gave her food for thought.
“I’m working on it,” she said, when asked if she was for or against zoning. “I’ve been against it, but I’m working on different things on what they’ve said.”