Future of Huntington Center to be decided by planning study

A planning study will look at the best way to upgrade the Huntington Center commercial area, including whether it makes sense to allow residential development near or above stores and offices.

The Planning and Zoning Commission, guided by staff, will consider such issues as allowed uses, new construction, parking, building height, and sidewalks. “We have to look at all these issues,” P&Z Administrator Rick Schultz said.

The study is an attempt to be proactive rather than simply waiting to react to development proposals when they are submitted, Schultz said. “There’s renewed interest in economic development for that area,” he said.

The owner of a large property considered pursuing a project with new construction in Huntington Center, he said, which led to the idea of doing a thorough study. The P&Z will work with Joseph Pereira of Shelton-based Pereira Engineering on some aspects of the project.

Schultz went over the study concept with the P&Z at its Feb. 13 meeting, asking for input on exactly what properties should be included.

The center area is across the street from the Huntington Green and borders Huntington Street, Shelton Road, Old Shelton Road, Meeting House Lane, and Lane Street. It includes Huntington Plaza and a mix of retail stores, office and service operations, restaurants, and a gas station. There are multiple parcels covering about 15 acres or so.

Schultz told the commission it makes sense to “comprehensively” look at Huntington Center, particularly the possibility of adding new buildings and allowing new uses.

Most of the land is zoned CA-2 for commercial and retail use, although a few bordering residential parcels — on Huntington Street south of Lane Street — may be added to the study area based on P&Z member comments.

Whether to allow apartments or condominiums, now prohibited due to the current zoning, is one issue to be considered. A growing development trend is to put multi-family housing near existing stores or village centers, such as Huntington Center.

Another topic is adding second stories to existing one-story buildings, and whether current buildings even have the structural integrity to make that possible.

The study will look at current and possible uses, where new construction might make sense, whether on-site parking is adequate and can be refigured, and if sidewalks should be extended along roads.

The zoning regulations could be adjusted to allow for new types of development in the center. Another option is creating a state-sanctioned Village District, a zoning tool that brings more control over the specific development allowed.

Schultz told the P&Z the study process should take six to eight months, and property owners in Huntington Center will be asked to provide input. A series of meetings with interested parties should begin soon.

“We’ll talk to property owners,” he said. “We want them to participate.”