July 4, 2022

Proposed Business Zone Gets Favorable Response at Essex Zoning Hearing

ESSEX— A proposed new business zone on Plains Road received a generally favorable response Monday evening at a public hearing of the zoning commission.

About 30 residents, many of them property owners on Plains Road, turned out for the public hearing on proposed zoning changes the commission has been discussing for more than two years. The proposed change would create a new business zone on both sides of Plains Road from the Valley Railroad crossing south to the intersection with Bokum Road and Westbrook Road (Route 153). The approximate one-mile stretch that includes about 30 properties is currently zoned for limited industrial, though some commercial uses have been permitted over the past decade under variances approved by the zoning board of appeals.

Along with establishing a business zone on both sides of the road, the proposed changes would direct limited industrial uses to sections of parcels set back from the road. The proposed changes, which would not affect any existing uses, also includes the town’s first definition of light manufacturing, the use intended for the light industrial zone.

The proposed new business zone would allow an array of commercial/business uses, most under a special permit that would require a public hearing and approval from the commission. Excluded would be large-scale retail uses, and trash or solid waste disposal facilities. The change would allow restaurants, dropping an existing regulation limiting new restaurants to ten seats, and second-floor apartments for any existing residential uses on the road.

Much of the comment at the hearing was from property owners supporting the proposed new zone, and from a handful of property owners whose parcels had been excluded from the proposed new zone. As proposed by the commission, the new zone would not include six properties on the east side of Plains Road, between the railroad crossing and the entrance to southbound Route 9.

The Connecticut Marine Trades Association, owner of one of the parcels, submitted a letter asking for the zone to be extended. Charles Irving, owner of another of the excluded parcels, also called for extending the business zone to include the six parcels. Irving also suggested the commission consider allowing additional commercial uses in the new zone. “It’s a step but only a small step,” he said.

Commission chairman Alvin Wolfgram said the panel would consider including the six properties on the northeast segment of Plains Road in the new zone, though any expansion of the new zone would require a separate proposal and public hearing. Wolfgram said the commission is also willing to discuss other possible commercial uses for the new zone. “It’s sort of a work in progress and we can amend the uses going down the pike,” he said.

The commission is expected to continue the public hearing on the proposed zoning changes at its May 16 meeting.