Apr. 8—STONINGTON — Planning and Zoning Commission Chairman David Rathbun said Wednesday that the commission will begin work on creating a proposed demolition delay ordinance that could be sent to voters for approval later this year.
Rathbun raised the issue at the end of Tuesday night's commission meeting, in which members approved a site plan application by Whaler's Inn RE LLC to merge the Odd Fellows building lot at 11 Cottrell St. and a vacant lot at 1-3 Haley St. that formerly contained two homes to create a 14-space parking lot for the redeveloped Odd Fellows building.
There had been controversy in 2018 when the two homes on Haley Street were demolished with no delay. One of the homes was a contributing building to the neighborhood's listing on the National Register of Historic Places.
While the building official's office has a written policy that called for a 90-day delay on demolitions, the town has no ordinance that requires a delay. The policy was not used for the Haley Street homes. Neighbors had thought a delay would have given them time to mobilize and stop the demolition.
Rathbun said he heard from residents that the town needs a demolition ordinance. "They're tearing down homes all around town," he said, adding an ordinance would give residents time to consider and provide input on proposed demolitions, which he said is needed. "I think the town needs one."
He said delaying a demolition by 90 days would not hurt any proposed projects.
Rathbun said he wants the commission to look at ordinances in effect in other communities and discuss a proposed ordinance when the commission meets again next month. He said the commission would work with the town attorney and Board of Selectmen to develop a proposal.
Any proposed ordinance would have to be presented to residents for approval at a town meeting. It cannot be enacted by the commission or selectmen.
First Selectwoman Danielle Chesebrough said she, too, has heard from residents urging the town to enact a demolition ordinance. She said it was something she had planned to work on last year after she took office but then the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
"It would give people the time to do their homework to see if something is historical," she said about the need for the ordinance. "And we are a historical town."
She said an ordinance could be voted on this summer, when the town plans to hold a town meeting to vote on proposed tax breaks for the redevelopment of the former Campbell Grain building site.