Proposed Ordinance Changes In West Hartford Would Allow Different Entertainment, Redevelopment Options

The town council will hear from the public Tuesday on a series of proposed ordinance changes that would allow for different types of entertainment options and offer incentives to property owners weighing redevelopment.

Public hearings begin at 6 p.m. in room 314 of West Hartford Town Hall and will focus on proposals that would allow for a Dave and Busters-type of mixed entertainment and dining options, as well as building density options for developers looking to repurpose their space. According to agenda documents, the town council is expected to discuss and may vote on the proposed changes during their regular meeting.

The first public hearing at 6 p.m. is for the town council to opt-out of a recently enacted state law that would allow residents to build a temporary health care structure on single-family home plots in the residential districts in town, Town Manager Matthew Hart said. The temporary health care structures are typically a one-room, prefabricated accessory unit structure that may have plumbing. Towns have been given the option to opt-out of this proposed legislation, and Hart said “many if not most” have already done so.

At 6:15 p.m., a public hearing is scheduled on changes to the town’s zoning ordinances regarding floor area ratio for property owners in the central business district who repurpose their space to include different types of uses, such as affordable housing, preserving historic sites, infill development, creating public space, incorporating public art, or building private parking garages.

Corporation counsel Pat Alair said if property owners in West Hartford Center were to include affordable housing in redevelopment, maintain sites with historical distinction, develop property to reach the street, incorporate plazas and other public spaces, build underground parking garages or incorporate public art, those uses wouldn’t be included in the floor area ratio designated for that part of town, currently at 1.25 FAR.

Over the past few years, town staff and one property owner have proposed incremental changes to zoning in West Hartford Center and other areas identified as the central business zone, but those initiatives brought opposition from the community.

“As a result of that effort the administration did a significant outreach program with the residential neighbors around the Center in an effort to try and get a handle of what their concerns were and what we thought would be an appropriate balance of those concerns and also to do some other incentives that staff had been kicking around for a while,” Alair said.

The experiential zoning ordinance, going to public hearing at 6:45 p.m. Tuesday, would expand the types of entertainment options property owners in West Hartford Center, Bishops Corner, Corbins Corner and part of Park Road could offer. The ordinance would allow for dining and entertainment options like arcades, bowling and pool tables, among others.

Hart said, in looking at trends nationwide, West Hartford wanted to update zoning regulations to give property owners more options.

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