To the Editor:
Does Stratford want to overcrowd a neighborhood that is already struggling to maintain a decent quality of life? At the January 3, 2023 Stratford Zoning Board of Appeals meeting, residents of Hickey Street and Surf Avenue opposed the zoning variance of lot 3B on Hickey Street. The newly created lot is 7,500 square feet. According to Stratford zoning regulations under section 5.1.2, the standard lot size for a two-family house in an RM-1 zone requires the lot area be at least 5,000 square feet for each dwelling unit’s section of the lot. This lot will only give each family 3,750 square feet, stripping a child of a place to play in a neighborhood overburdened with industrial activity and highway traffic.
In addition, Hickey Street is a less-than-400 foot long dead-end road. It bottlenecks in the middle at only 20 feet wide. There are four houses on Hickey Street and two lots that abut it from Surf Avenue. In total, there are nine driveways and nineteen cars that can regularly be found on this tiny street. Most homes are occupied by multigenerational families. On-street parking is limited by each driveway entrance and the presence of a fire hydrant. During holidays, the street is filled on both sides, making it almost impossible for a regular sized car to pass through. A duplex will bring two driveway entrances, four more cars, and more guests who will park on the road. The primary concern of residents is the passage of emergency vehicles..
The Zoning Appeals commissioner told residents the commission cannot consider street congestion when making a decision to grant a variance, and the variance was granted on March 7. Contrary to this statement, the Connecticut State Statute on Zoning Regulations under Section 8-23 states: “Such [zoning] regulations shall be designed to lessen congestion in the streets; to secure safety from fire, panic, flood and other dangers; to promote health and the general welfare; to provide adequate light and air; to prevent the overcrowding of land; to avoid undue concentration of population and to facilitate the adequate provision for transportation…”
In many towns throughout Connecticut, the development of affordable, multi-family housing is blocked by strict zoning laws. In response, the Fair Share Bill was recently introduced. If made into law, it would require towns to assess the need for more affordable housing and implement a plan to increase affordable housing. This bill is intended to address Connecticut’s housing crisis and lower the level of housing segregation in the state. According to a report by Desegregate CT, about 80% of residential land throughout the state requires almost 1 acre of land, about 40,000 square feet, for construction of only a single-family. Decreasing the minimum lot size of homes throughout the state can lower the cost of housing for lower income residents and help Connecticut reach its goal of conserving more land. Affordable housing is imperative in Connecticut, especially in towns like Stratford where more than half of renters spend at least 30% of their income on housing, according to CT Data Collaborative. But why are new housing developments getting concentrated in already crowded, industrial neighborhoods with high levels of air pollution from industry and traffic? Most single-family households in Connecticut enjoy the luxury of owning five times the lot space of what two families at Hickey Street 3B will split.
How can the Zoning Board of Appeals conduct a fair and honest meeting if they do not discuss the role or importance of current zoning regulations? This neighborhood, like others nearby in both Stratford and Bridgeport, experiences a constant inundation of noise and air pollution from surrounding industries and the extreme proximity to I-95, as well as a lack of green spaces. If the town will not adhere to this state statute by blocking the zoning variance at Hickey Street Lot 3b, will this town at least widen Hickey Street to a width that is equal to other residential roads? That way, if God forbid residents need emergency assistance, they will not die because cars are blocking an emergency truck. All they are asking for is the survival of family and friends in the event of an emergency.