Could Shelton zoning change mean commercial development on farms?

Photo of Brian Gioiele
Stone Gardens Farms, in Shelton, Conn. Jan. 20, 2022.

Stone Gardens Farms, in Shelton, Conn. Jan. 20, 2022.

Ned Gerard / Hearst Connecticut Media file photo

Residents living in the area of Wabuda Place are standing together against a proposed amendment to the zoning regulations that they say will create commercial development on farmland.

Fred Monahan of Stone Garden Farms has submitted the application to the Planning and Zoning Commission calling for a change to the zoning regulations permitting farm stands and commercial activity in a greater capacity on farmland in R-1 and R-1A zones.

The proposed amendment — the public hearing for which opened on March 29 and has been continued to later this month — states that farmland with “10 acres or more may have a building to sell produce, packaged meat and poultry with 50 percent of sale produced on premises or in Shelton.”

If approved, the zone change allows for construction of a building as large as 6,000 square feet, with necessary parking.

“In other words, significant commercial development and activity can be conducted on land otherwise zoned for farming,” stated Chris Carreira, a resident of the Vistas at White Hills, in a letter sent to residents in and around Wabuda Place, Sachem Drive, Sagamore Road and Village Drive.

“The actual impact to the neighborhood could be nonresidential development, commercial activity and increased traffic at the beginning of Wabuda Place at the intersection of Maple, East Village and Wabuda as that current farmland is over 10 acres, thus falling within the proposed change to the zoning regulation,” he wrote.

Monahan said plans to develop farmland on Wabuda Place is only in the “infant” planning stages.

“The one thing that really peaked our interest in investing more than $2.5 million personal dollars in preserving the Wabuda farmland, which we have farmed for more than 15 years was the DOT traffic study,” he said.

Monahan said the DOT traffic studies in 2007, 2010, 2016 and 2020 show an average of 4,550 cars per day going up East Village Road.

“The impact we would have would be zero,” Monahan said. “We would only be drawing from traffic already there.”

Carreira said more than two dozen residents met Sunday to discuss how to best respond to an application they all oppose.

“All of these streets would be impacted,” he told Hearst Connecticut Media. “We will be circulating a petition to the neighborhood shortly. I don’t see why we would not get at least 100 names at a minimum. The biggest problem we have seen is that nobody even knows this is going on because the approach being taken does not require direct notice to be given to us.”

At this point, Monahan has only submitted the zone change application, but Carreira said Stone Gardens Farm has “initiated the proposed zoning regulation change for the very purpose of building a commercial building and kitchen on this property to drive business beyond what its current location can offer.”

Attorney Stephen Bellis, representing the Monahans, said he drafted the site plan amendment to give standards in allowing a building on farm land of at least 10 acres to sell farm products.

“This prevents a commercial operation, store, or slaughterhouse activity,” Bellis said, adding that any such wording would also contain a buffer of trees for adjacent residential neighborhoods.

Carreira said he and his neighbors patronize and support the local farms, including Stone Gardens Farm.

“Development of that tract of property would be inappropriate given its location among the local residential neighborhood as well as several other residential properties directly abutting the land where the proposed building and parking lot would be developed,” the letter further states.

At the initial public hearing on March 29, zoning consultant Tony Panico voiced concern about the proposed wording, calling it “ambiguous” in relation to farm products.

Stacia Monahan of Stone Gardens Farm defined farm products as “beef, pigs, chicken, turkeys … all the meat we raise,” as well as goats and lambs raised in other towns or Shelton that they would like to sell. She added that farm products are also prepared foods, “value added products that we can create from our farm that are in demand to the public.”

Bellis told the commission that the purpose of the text change is to allow people to visit the farms and for the farmers to make a profit.

Commission Chair Virginia Harger expressed concern with the size of the building, to which Fred Monahan of Stone Gardens Farm said the family already has a 4,000-square-foot building on Saw Mill City Road at their farm.