Glastonbury council moves to preserve 'New England town' with village district

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Dec. 8—GLASTONBURY — Culminating a historic preservation effort that has been going on for most of the year, the Town Council adopted "village district" zoning regulations Tuesday in an effort to preserve and even restore some of the town center area's character as a "New England town."

"It's a new beginning," council Chairman Thomas P. Gullotta, a Democrat, said. Gullotta has led the consideration of preservation measures along with Republican Minority Leader Kurt P. Cavanaugh.

Gullotta added, however, "It's not going to happen overnight." Over the next 50 to 75 years, he said, Glastonbury can "recover what a New England town looks like."

Cavanaugh called the adoption of the village district regulations "a big leap for the town," saying its purpose is to "preserve the New England character of this town."

The council adopted the regulations by an 8-1 vote, with only Republican Councilman Whit Osgood dissenting.

Osgood said he opposed adoption of the village district regulations unless they are accompanied by design guidelines, which officials plan to develop as the next stage in the process. For now, he said, the village district regulations require only that new buildings be consistent with other buildings in the area, which he said gives property owners no guidance as to what they can build.

VILLAGE DISTRICT

PURPOSE: TO PRESERVE AND RESTORE THE CHARACTER OF GLASTONBURY'S TOWN CENTER AREA AS A NEW ENGLAND TOWN.

ADOPTION: TOWN COUNCIL ON TUESDAY ADOPTED VILLAGE DISTRICT ZONING REGULATIONS, INCLUDING A MAP OF THE DISTRICT, BY AN 8-1 VOTE.

NEXT STEP: DEVELOPMENT OF DESIGN GUIDELINES FOR BUILDINGS IN THE VILLAGE DISTRICT AND OTHER COMMERCIAL, MIXED-USE, AND MULTIFAMILY RESIDENTIAL DEVELOPMENTS.

The council also voted unanimously to appropriate $125,000 to develop design guidelines that would apply to buildings in the village district and other commercial, mixed-use, and multifamily residential developments.

Town administrators have selected FHI Studio of Hartford to develop proposed design guidelines, and they plan to enter a $100,000 contract with the firm, Town Manager Richard J. Johnson has said. The additional $25,000 would be for extra work the council might request during the process.

The firm's process will include meetings with town officials, focus groups with business and property owners, community workshops, drafting design guidelines, holding public meetings to present the guidelines, and related work, Johnson said in a letter to the council.

The village district is an "overlay zone," in which the new regulations will apply in addition to existing zoning regulations.

It includes the section of Main Street between the Naubuc Avenue-New London Turnpike intersection, where Katz Hardware is situated, and the School Street intersection. The village district also includes the section of Hebron Avenue between Main Street and the southbound exit from Route 2, and the section of New London Turnpike between Salmon Brook Drive and Rankin Road.

On a related issue, the council has been seeking to preserve the commercial block at 2277-2289 Main St., which includes the historic Wright-Gaines House and Gaines Hotel, as well as the house in the parking lot behind it, which once housed the hotel's workers.

Those buildings would be demolished as part of a development group's plan to build a large apartment and retail complex known as the Residences at Hebron and Main.

The effort to preserve the buildings won unanimous support from a state historic preservation body Friday, Johnson told the council. But he said the State Historic Preservation Office also wants to see petitions indicating community support before it approaches the state attorney general's office to sue for an injunction to preserve the buildings.

The local historical society is already circulating such a petition, and Robert B. Laughlin, its executive director, told the council that several other petitions also are circulating.

For updates on Glastonbury, and recent crime and courts coverage in North-Central Connecticut, follow Alex Wood on Twitter: @AlexWoodJI1, Facebook: Alex Wood, and Instagram: @AlexWoodJI.

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