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Canton EDA Recommends Satan’s Kingdom, LLC Developer Pursue a ‘Design District’ Master Plan

A conceptual plan for the 674 and 684 Albany Turnpike.  Courtesy of Borghesi Building.

A conceptual plan for the 674 and 684 Albany Turnpike.
Courtesy of Borghesi Building.

The town’s Economic Development Agency has recommended that a developer looking to build an industrial park on Route 44 near the Farmington River apply for a master plan under the design district portion of the Canton zoning regulations rather than seek a change to an industrial zone.

Satan’s Kingdom, LLC has applied for a Zoning map amendment to change 30.386 of its 38.99 acres in Canton (674, 684 Albany Turnpike) from residential to industrial. The matter is slated for public hearing Wednesday night.

A district has separate requirements than any specific zone in the town’s regulations.

A design district would involve a master plan that considers such factors as a design compatibility with Canton’s historic, cultural and geographic qualities, buffers or transitional areas, a mix of compatible uses, breaking up the mass and scale of large areas and lots to reduce visual impacts, a safe and comfortable pedestrian scale environment and flexible and innovative design techniques.

“The Design District as defined by Canton’s zoning regulations is a way to balance the need for community character, economic viability and cultural vibrancy,” EDA members stated in a blog post. The district is also a middle ground to the industrial vs. residential zone discussion, according to the EDA.

The EDA’s motion, in part, states, “The Canton Economic Development Agency believes that a Design District has the greatest potential for balancing the Town’s need for revenue enhancement with the equally important needs for character and design coherence on US Route 44 (Albany Turnpike).

Developer Allan Borghesi said he had some concerns with the design district idea. He said that while in theory, he had no problem with the concept, he would be concerned that it could be an onerous process that too tightly restricted development and specified building features that his clients would not want.

“I need flexibility to move quickly,” he said. “If it’s onerous, I will literally give up now.” (Borghesi has said that his back-up plan for the property is to subdivide it for residential lots. He said the ridge behind the farm field on the property will be re-graded or largely leveled either way).

Neil Pade, director of Planning and Community Development, said the Planning and Zoning Commission would have a lot of say in such a process and he understood Borghesi’s concerns.

On the other hand, if done correctly, the design district could work very well, he said.

“It doesn’t have to be an excruciating thing but it doesn’t have to be a blank check either,” Pade said.

That “blank check,” as it pertains to all possible industrial uses, is what concerned some EDA members at the previous meeting and again Tuesday.

Earlier in the meeting, Theresa Sullivan Barger advocated for stronger language in the recommendation and said the plan should really fit in with the residential character of the surrounding neighborhood. She said the plan might look nice but the town has learned that things often change and a development can end up drastically different than planned.

“My feeling that this if you don’t agree to a design district, we should recommend it be denied,” she said.

Other members, however, said they felt that was not necessary and would actually dilute the issue.

Diana Boorjian spoke strongest against adding such language, saying it’s essential the town take measures to ensure homes are not built on the property.

“We need the tax dollars,” she said. “Housing will make it worse, not better.”

Boorjian said there may not be guarantees in life but that Borghesi’s plan is a good one, protects the river and is a good move for the town’s economics. Elderly people and others are moving out of town due to rising tax burdens, she said.

“You can’t be in a perfect world but I do know one thing,” she said. “You don’t have a lot of opportunity for economic development in this town and boy do we need this.”

According to the EDA blog, the town spend $1.09 in services for “every tax dollar received from Canton residences. By contrast, only $.32 is spent for every tax dollar received from commercial enterprises.”

After the meeting, Borghesi said he would have to study up more on the district before deciding if it would impact the way he would proceed at a public hearing slated for Wednesday night. The Planning and Zoning Commission meeting is set for 7:30 p.m. in the Canton High School auditorium on Wednesday, Sept. 17.

For more on design districts see http://www.townofcantonct.org/filestorage/19342/19345/19617/ZONING_REGULATION_Effective_5-12-14_No_Appendix%2C_Revised_8-6-14.pdf and start on page 79.

See the complete EDA blog at http://cantoneconomicdevelopment.com

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