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Trumbull's Herbst Offers Ideas on Plan of Conservation and Development

By Tim Herbst

To: Anthony G. Chory, Chairman

Trumbull Planning & Zoning Commission, Trumbull Town Hall

5866 Main Street

Trumbull, CT 06611

Dear Chairman Chory and Members of the Trumbull Planning & Zoning Commission:

The update to the current Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD) for the Town  of Trumbull will be a critical articulation of development goals and strategies for the next decade. Not only is this important for guiding land use and economic development decisions, it is an opportunity to enhance the cultural identity and neighborhood gathering places within our community. The Town of Trumbull is at a critical crossroads.  As  our  national  and  state economy have not yet fully recovered, it is important to use this time as an opportunity to update plan and articulate our long term goals and vision for the Town of Trumbull.   With this in mind, I offer the following suggestions, thoughts and recommendations to the goals and strategies of the POCD.

LONG HILL GREEN BUSINESS DISTRICT:

Consider expanding the Long Hill Business Zone. This will encourage future lot consolidation and commercial development necessary to create a critical mass of village-type amenities. Look for opportunities to incorporate non-viable residential properties to productive use such as restaurants or professional offices. Encourage preservation of  architecturally  significant properties. Also outline strategies to augment walkability such  as  sidewalk  extension s, crosswalks, traffic calming measures, and a potential traffic light near the Long  Hill  Green. Explore techniques to stimulate the  Green  as a preferred  neighborhood  gathering  spot, rather than a large traffic island. Any plan for the Long Hill Green Business District should integrate utilization of the Pequonnock River Trail, which is less than a quarter mile from the subject properties. Include goals for celebrating the history ofthe greater Long Hill Green area.

TOWN HALL SQUARE:

Quality Street, upper Church Hill Road, and nearby Main Street already exhibit the foundations of a vibrant town center offering an array of retail amenities, town services, cultural programming, professional office, single family homes, town homes, senior cluster housing and faith centers. A careful recalibration of zoning in this area will be critical to formalizing this district into a preferred destination for Trumbull residents and visitors. On  the  heels  of  the POOZ, I recommend special attention be paid to the Town Hall Square area that will focus on very specific measures to draw high-quality smart growth to this area. The Town Hall Square master plan would also make a thorough analysis of Town facilities to determine whether any consolidations or relocations  of certain services of departments would enhance the vibrancy of this community center.

GREATER TRUMBULL CENTER:

Many residents feel that Trumbull Center on White Plains Road is the current epicenter of town in terms of access to amenities and interaction with neighbors. In order to ensure the future success of this long-standing investment we must entertain broadening the scope of business commercial activity in this area. By this I mean both a geographic expansion and  a diversification of allowable uses. I feel the commercial area in this section of town should grow on White Plains Road towards Route 25, and should include the town-owned property on Berkshire Avenue.

Due to traffic concerns in this area we must heavily invest in traffic calming measures. Specifically articulating the areas of growth and of concern will be important in this POCO so we can work with the state to increase safety in the area. Furthermore, Trumbull Center is a natural fit for mixed use properties offering retail on the ground floor with office or residential above. This will a foster a symbiotic relationship between retail and non-retail uses.

Lastly, I feel strongly that we have an opportunity to make the greater Trumbull Center area the crown jewel of the Pequonnock River Valley Trail system. We must carefully knit engineering, design, public and private interests together to create a beautiful riverbank experience unmatched in upper Fairfield County. We must also develop strategies to provide dedicated stewardship for the PRV, including educational points along the trail to highlight local nature, culture  and industry.

LOWER MAIN STREET:

Main Street south of the Merritt Parkway presents three very different land use patterns directly adjacent to one another: intense retail  development  with potential  significant  long-term expansion at the Westfield Trumbull Mall, older housing directly on Main Street  that demonstrates much stronger viability as future professional office use, and a  thriving neighborhood of single family homes to the East ofMain Street, sometime informally referred to as the "Frenchtown" district. How do we ensure healthy coexistence of these three divergent uses in the long-term, especially given the pressure of elevated traffic conditions just off the Merritt Parkway? What strategies can be employed to help  foster  a mutually  beneficial  relationship rather than a contentious one?

LOWER ROUTE  108/ SOUTH NICHOLS

This small geographic area between the Merritt  Parkway and Route 8 offers superior vehicular access as well as some impressive historic architecture, yet I see a troubling collection of languishing properties here, some in foreclosure. I urge the Commission and its consultant to think creatively about how to incentivize context-appropriate growth in this area that  will preserve historic gems whenever possible and welcome eclectic uses such as specialty shops, small restaurants, or perhaps even a bed and breakfast. Several other Connecticut Towns have been successful in similar efforts and we can use them as a guide.

LOWER MADISON AVENUE/ LOWER LONG HILL: 

As noted above, these techniques might also be beneficial on the other side of Trumbull, in the area of lower Madison Avenue and lower Main Street, more commonly known  as the  lower Long Hill section of Trumbull. The former Marty Kane's Deli, PJ's Garden Exchange, Rainbow Cleaners, People's Bank, Best Edibles Supermarket, a former real estate office and a current real estate office are an amalgamation of pre-existing non-conforming uses that provide  critical services and functions to our residents. These sporadic nonconforming uses already exist and will exist into the future. The Planning and Zoning Commission needs to develop a plan to deal with these properties going forward. The question your commission and your consultant must answer is what strategies could be employed to unify these uses in a village district appropriate to the inherent character of the neighborhood.

UPPER ROUTE 111:

Route 111 from the Monroe border to the route 25 interchange offers adequate transportation access and at least two large parcels, but is currently underutilized in terms of commercial activity. A large industrial property has been vacant for some time; should the Town be more proactive in addressing the redevelopment of this property? Furthermore, the land where the Trumbull Nature and Arts Center currently sits could be targeted for development or be enveloped more formally as a conservation site. The Commission should use the POCD to spell out its goals for this property. Also, the Commission has realized measurable success with the POOZ zoning on upper Church Hill Road, White Plains Road near Trumbull Center, and Lower Main Street. Perhaps it would make sense to create a northern POOZ area on Upper Route 111 to foster professional  office growth.

LINDEMAN DRIVE/ RESERVOIR AVENUE BUSINESS AREA

The narrow purposes for which this area was initially established may no longer be broad enough to embrace and accommodate the range of potential land uses that could thrive in this area and provide economic and quality of life  benefits to the entire Town. I suggest  that the POCO contemplate a wider range of employment-intensive uses for this particular area, while conceptually preserving the conformity of existing and potential manufacturing activities. In particular, office,  classroom, and athletic facilities, each or all as a part of higher educational institutions, offer the potential for employment-intensive activities. These land uses will enhance the retail purchasing power of the Town's day-time employment base and residents alike and will, in my opinion, trigger additional economic activity in the area of Trumbull Center.

For predominantly  the same reasons as listed above, I suggest that commercial and recreational facilities for the general public should also receive consideration for this area.  The activities related to these land uses can bring economic benefits to the Town, and are difficult to locate in virtually all other areas of Trumbull. However, these facilities and their related activities should be insulated from residences in the immediate surroundings, and I suggest that the POCD clearly state that minimum distance buffers separate these uses from neighboring residences.

In addition to the specific areas referenced hereinabove, I fully support the POCO incorporating recommendations in the area of conservation, nature and open space; parks and recreational usage; sitting of government and educational buildings throughout the Town and specific proposals for the PRV Trail System. I believe the final work product serves as not only a blueprint for the Planning & Zoning Commission, but a blueprint for the entire Town of Trumbull - its elected and appointed representatives, its business interests and its citizens. We can have confidence in knowing that the thoughtful and collaborative recommendations contained in this important document will guide future long range decisions that will impact our economic development strategy, our grand list growth, our property values and our quality of life.

I hope you will take these recommendations seriously . I welcome the opportunity to meet with your board  in person to discuss these issues and determine how we can work collaboratively to use this POCO revision process to move Trumbull forward in a position direction.

First Selectman Tim Herbst

Pam Georgas April 23, 2013 at 10:55 AM
This is actually very good in that it sites specific design ideas and questions for each area of town . I hope that the POCD does get this detailed, so that the town has an actual design plan for future conservation and development. The POCD becomes little more than a fluff marketing piece, when it is too broadly defined. It would also give residents an understanding of how their neighborhood will be defined, and businesses confidence that their location will bring the needed traffic to succeed, encouraging them to plant roots in Trumbull & invest in the community.
Pam Georgas April 23, 2013 at 11:40 AM
To give an example of how specific the plan should be; I think a viable idea would be to flip flop the Nature & Arts Center location with the Family Counseling Center. Place the Nature & Arts Center somewhere in Old Mine, giving it the expanded parkland, public traffic and trail system needed to run effective and a wide range of programs...while allowing the counceling center a more private setting than a large public park. If the town added a small house-type building (like the Tellelian/rec. building on the front corner of the property and put the Trumbull/Monroe health district in it, we would have a small complex that makes sense. A plan that the neighbors would likely embrace, if the rest of the land where kept as open space parkland for use by the Counceling Center and Monroe health district for their activities. Having the Counceling Center in the middle of a large public park never really made sense to begin with.
Concerned resident April 23, 2013 at 02:31 PM
To the first Selectman Tim Herbst, a simple question for how does increasing traffic help any of the home owners on lower Main Street help anyone who lives there? I currently have not seen anyone address this in any discussions? How do you reward People who live there now and have let there homes fall apart for many years with a zoning change...what happens when the professional building owners neglect there building, what zoning change will you implement then? I remember when you were looking for votes in the area and promised all of us you would straighten this out and so far I have seen nothing but going against your word! And the issue getting worse! Concerned lower Main Street resident
Richard April 24, 2013 at 02:21 AM
That's a great idea!
Richard April 24, 2013 at 02:39 AM
I think 95% of the ideas communicate a solid vision of moving this town into a more economically vital future while also making long awaited improvements on existing assets. One thing in which this town has failed miserably for many years (and the blame lies mostly with the demographic who resist anything that resembles progress often voiced towards the education budget and against modernizing our facilities) is not having a cohesive plan to both preserve and progress. We have been caught in not wanting to be Fairfield or Westport at the expense of defining what has made this community appealing and what will continue to make it prosper. Concerned resident, you bring up good questions and those are issues that need to be addressed. However, your neighborhood has declined or become less desireable (as have many others that border the parkway or Bridgeport) and will continue that trend if the only thing that is done is to fight any change or progress. The only lingering cynicism that I have is that some of this could have been accomplished by Mr. Herbst while he was Chair of Planning and Zoning, but I bet he waited for the time to be right so he gets the credit. Mr. Baldwin deserves credit for starting the dialogue with the first Economic Developer. Anyway that's more a criticism of the negative impact of local politics. I hope this plan successfully moves forward!!!!!
Concerned Resident April 24, 2013 at 02:01 PM
The first selectman's plan clearly indicates a total disregard for residents in the area that he is asking to be developed. Did the residents ask for this? I thought the first selectman was our representative in local government, not just the individuals that live in the Trumbull mcmansions. Would he like it if a 2900 sq. ft office building was going to be built next to his house? I am not opposed to all development, but where the zoning is mixed residential and commercial, which is generally in south Trumbull, it is not welcome. We already have increased traffic and no police presence on the roads to discourage the speeding. If you don't believe this, just spend some time on one of the side streets off of Reservoir Avenue. I have to say I am very disappointed in the town leadership. We are facing difficulty with home values due to the economy and disrespecting us with commercial over development will only make it worse.

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