At the outset, I would like to make some general comments about all of the proposed applications by DoNo Hartford, LLC, encompassing Parcels A, B, C, D, E, F, and G. Then, I will get into certain portions of certain applications.
Unfortunately, time constraints do not provide me with a full opportunity to excavate the minutiae of every proposal. However, the several hours that I have put in shows that these plans are not near ready for Commission approval.
First, the specter of MacKenzie et al v. Planning and Zoning Commission of the Town of Monroe et al, 146 Conn. App. 406 (issued on October 15, 2013) hangs over all of these applications.
MacKenzie declined to allow planning and zoning commissions to waive certain regulations when dealing with special exception application, would are the equivalent of special permits here.
The Hartford Planning and Zoning Commission, then, should decline the developer’s requests in these multiple applications to waive certain requirements. Any waiver of zoning code requirements is ripe for challenge under MacKenzie, and a wise P&Z decision would avoid the use of waivers in these applications.
Second, while it is important to also ask here if these plans comply with Sections 68(a)(1), 68(a)(2) and 68(a)(3), the bigger questions lie in Section 68(b)(2) and (3).
These latter sections demand location maps at a scale of one inch to 200 feet for three city blocks around the proposed areas in the zoning application and a more detailed location map of one inch to 50 feet of the applicant property.
None of the proposed applications submitted by DoNo have conforming location maps. This alone should be fatal to the application, since the Planning and Zoning Commission cannot waive these requirements.
It further astonishes that for an application of this magnitude, details like this have been ignored or overlooked in the hopes that the Commission will abide by the hasty and arbitrary schedule set by the applicant.
Section 71 of the Zoning Code demands a completeness of application, and as of now, it does not appear that the applicant has obtained all of its permits from the Office of State Traffic Administration. The Commission should provide that the development must obtain permits from OSTA before approval.
If the OSTA permits require modifications of existing street alignments, the applicant will have to come back to the Commission for approval of these street revisions. The questions about various traffic management planning in these applications makes this vital to the success or failure of this development.
Sections 294(a), 334 and 960(c) of the Zoning Code demand the developer submit draft covenants regarding land usage as part of the building permit. Both Sections permit the Commission to review the draft covenants and approve lesser time periods than that specified in the regulations for all of these applications.
As of this point, no draft covenants have been available to public view. While Section 294(a) suggests that the Commission may waive the 15 percent retail requirement in the stadium, MacKenzie directly undermines that language.
Without draft covenants available for public review, these applications look to be incomplete, and inappropriate for approval. All of the parcels need covenants, the stadium and the grocery store for the retail component as indicated in Section 294(a) and all of the housing parcels under Section 334.
Nor is there a transportation management filed under Section 960(c) for any of the applications, at least as far as I have been able to discern. This lack of covenants should provide sufficient reason to deny these applications.
A brief review of Section 331 reveals that these applications may not have met appropriate open space requirements. This again is not waivable under MacKenzie, and I am not sure that any of the narrative account for this lack of open space.
Finally, again to all applications, the Commission should require bonding for the project under §164(f) and §171(h). The tenuous and ever-shifting nature of this proposed development demands the posting of a full bond for construction and development.
Short of a 100 percent bond, the Commission must require some level of bonding. The failure of the developer to obtain its chosen concept of credit tenant lease financing for the stadium indicates that there may not be sufficient financing available for the remainder of the project.
While the City appears ready to form a development authority to obtain financing to build this stadium, we cannot be certain the rest of the project will ever be built, therefore, Planning and Zoning should require a bond to ensure the completion of the project.
Without a bond, the probability looms that the rest of the mixed use development of housing and a grocery store will never happen. Again, the developer’s inability to finance the stadium on its own accord, despite a guarantee from the City of Hartford as its tenant, damages the credibility of this project.
A bond is imperative to protect future land use in the Downtown North area.
The requirements of Section 165, when applied to all of these plans, seem to point against an approval by the Commission. These plans, as submitted, do not seem to conform to the general notions set by §165, without going into extensive detail on all of those criteria.
I. Regarding the Application for Parcels B, C And D, the closure of Ann Uccello Street:
It seems as if Hartford Planning and Zoning Regulations Section 43(b) and (c) tend to require a hearing on the closing of Ann Uccello Street. Until such hearing is held, I question the appropriateness of a decision on this application.
Do we need a public hearing so that the streets on the application line up with the zoning proposals? Section 76 of the zoning requirements further reinforces this idea that public hearing is necessary?
The applicant has already submitted to hearing under the authority of Connecticut General Statutes §8-24. However, it would seem that C.G.S. §8-29 demands a public hearing on the street closure in this instance, as indicated in Section 76 of the Zoning Code.
Additionally, Sections §165 of the Zoning Code demands that any application be in harmony with the Plan of Conservation and Development. The Plan states that any housing constructed in Downtown North have at least 20 percent affordable housing units.
This variance from the Plan of Conservation and Development remains unaddressed in the application, and should not be waived by the Planning and Zoning Commission under MacKenzie.
The failure to address this regulation should be fatal to the application for Parcels B, C and D.
Finally, §322(5) of the City’s Zoning Code calls for the preservation of views to important landmarks, like the state capitol. It is not clear how this housing project protects the view of the state capitol’s gold dome from that section of Main Street, if at all. This is not accounted for in the permit application narrative, or in the drawings.
Connecticut is one of only ten state capitols with a gold dome. Given the prospect that this stadium area will be a major tourist attraction, it is important to ask whether or not the housing across the street from it allows for a view of the state’s architectural masterpiece.
II. Regarding Parcel E
Section 957(a) of the Zoning Code requires sufficient turn-around space for off-street loading. The drawings for the grocery store in Parcel E do not seem to account for the off-street loading requirements.
This requirement in §957(a) is not waivable under MacKenzie. Nor does this off-street loading omission comport with the site review criteria in Section 165, where is states that the development must not create safety hazards in the proposed vehicular and pedestrian circulation pattern, and the development will degrade traffic levels of service without mitigation.
It is of note that the application suggestion for the size of the grocery store is 54,090 square feet, yet the BETA study submitted as part of the application indicated the grocery store is only 26,000 square feet. This differential is difficult to reconcile, and raises questions about the veracity of the traffic study.
III. Regarding Parcel G
Section 951(c)(2)(a) of the Zoning Code demands accessory parking lots for on the same lot as the principal building for which they are serving as accessory uses.
Parcel G is its own property, yet it contains accessory parking for Parcel A. Accessory use parking for Parcel A, by definition, cannot exist on Parcel G, since they are distinct and separate parcels, as declared by two separate zoning applications.
The Zoning Code clearly differentiates between primary use and accessory use, and it would seem that an accessory use cannot be on a different parcel than the primary use.
This requirement under Section 951(c)(2)(a) cannot be waived under MacKenzie. The Commission should request the applicant cure this defect prior to granting approval.
The ongoing controversy between the definition of brewery and brew-pub seems to go against the developer. An industrial use like a brewery is not allowed in the B-1 zone. Given this, the applicant has recast the brewery as a brew-pub.
A brew-pub is an accessory to the main building use as a brewery. It seems untoward to have an industrial facility like brewery be next to a school, to say nothing of the condonation of alcohol usage that a brewery represents.
The narrative calls the proposed use the “Thomas Hooker Brewery Brew Pub”, which seems to conflate the two uses under zoning code. The submitted drawings for Parcel G show label 37,040 square feet for a brew pub.
However, a closer examination of the drawing shows that only 4,900 square feet of that space is reserved for restaurant and event uses. The rest of it is for the industrial brewery usage, a function not permitted in the B-2 zone
This application has serious issues. Nor is it clear that all loading will be off-street as required under Section 957(a). This requirement, if I need to reiterate it, should not be waivable under MacKenzie.
IV. Regarding Parcel A
It would seem that the 15 percent retail requirement under Section 294 is not waivable under MacKenzie.
The same comments which discuss accessory and primary use parking parking in Parcel G apply to Parcel A.
The biggest reason, though, for me, that a special permit required for Parcel A is inappropriate and should not be granted rests in the Planning and Zoning Commission’s previous denial of the stadium for this parcel.
On September 24, 2014, the Commission sent a rejection of this stadium back to Court of Common Council, based on a number of reasons. The stadium violates the superblock requirement in Section 322(b)(2).
Under §165, the stadium does not narrative does not appear to address how it will not place excessive demands on city services and infrastructure. This requirement demands serious consideration in the Commission’s review.
Kenneth J. Krayeske, Esq.