Darien zoning has evolved significantly over time
Have you ever wondered why a veterinarian's building and an office building aren't located next to each other, or why banks with drive-through lanes are located outside of the downtown area? A series of discussions by the Planning & Zoning Department is exploring how those decisions were made.
P&Z Director Jeremy Ginsberg kicked off the discussion about the evolution of zoning in town by looking at how the town developed from the 1920s to today. Starting in 1929, Darien first adopted zoning regulations and a few business districts were incorporated. However, it wasn't until 1954 that two business districts were designated, Ginsberg said.
Business District A covered the downtown, Goodwives and Noroton Heights shopping area. Business District B included the area on the Post Road from downtown to Norwalk, as well as Ring's End Lumber and part of Ledge Road.
At the same time the two business zones were incorporated, there were stipulations established for what wouldn't be allowed in the zones, Ginsberg said. Any uses that involved certain chemicals or processes, auto junk yards, explosives or blast furnaces were prohibited.
Both of the business districts allowed the same uses given to residential zones.
In 1959 three new zones were established: Planned Business; Central Business; and Service Business.
Instead of listing uses that weren't allowed in the zones, what would be allowed was listed and anything not listed was prohibited. The service business district allowed uses that were prohibited in the central business and planned business zones. Those uses included gas stations, veterinary hospitals and kennels, hotels and inns, etc.
By 1969 the service business zone was further restructured.
The new regulations in the zone prohibited residential uses with theory being certain uses, such as a gas station, would be incompatible with a residential area due to noise, traffic or odor.
At the same time, the demand for office space was growing in Darien and the service business district served as a means to prevent office space from taking over land that could be used for community services.
In 1980 more business zones were created to accommodate various uses. One such zone, the Designed Office and Research Zone was created solely for executive offices and research laboratories. Also, an Office Business zone was created which was used only for executive and professional office use. It prohibited retail or other services from being established in the zone.
By 1991, the service business district was divided into two zones: Service Business and Service Business-East.
The Service Business-East section encompasses the area on the Post Road near the Norwalk line. The zone allowed for more control over building design and use because there were residential areas nearby.
Currently, there are four service business zones and one service business-east zone. The four service business zones are in the area of Camp Avenue/Hoyt Street, Post Road near Exit 11, Noroton Avenue between West Avenue and Heights Road and West Avenue and parts of Ledge Road. As previously mentioned, the service business-east section covers an area near the Norwalk line and is mostly along the Post Road.
Ginsberg explained the reasoning behind the zoning regulations was to provide needed services to the community while minimizing the impact on residential areas. Because most people wouldn't want to listen to dogs barking while they are working in an office building next door, it was decided certain uses wouldn't be compatible with other uses. As well, planning and zoning commissions have tried to avoid disrupting activity in the downtown area by keeping high traffic areas, like gas stations, car washes or banks, out of the downtown area, Ginsberg said.
Wednesday night's presentation was the first of a series of presentations the P&Z Department is giving on the evolution of zoning in town.
The next presentation is tentatively scheduled for September, Ginsberg said.