The Town Plan and Zoning Commission recently approved creation of two new overlapping zones that would allow the commission to guide development in Farmington Center as the state Department of Transportation builds the long-promised “backage road.”
The creation of the two zones, the Farmington Center Zone and the Farmington Village District Zone, passed as amendments to the town’s zoning regulations after a public hearing in which business owners whose properties would be in the new zones spoke favorably about the plan.
The new zones follow the model of the Unionville Center Zone, which was adopted seven or eight years ago and has guided development there.
“The land use program there is more urban in nature to allow greater flexibility for property owners and developers to have in their designs,” Town Planner Jeffery Ollendorf explained at the public hearing. “In exchange, we’re going to give the commission greater authority in terms of reviewing plans and being able to control aesthetics, including design and colors, details of lighting and landscaping.”
The zones will be applied initially to properties at 750, 768, 772, 792, 788, 784, 780, 778, 776 and 774 Farmington Ave, and 3,5,6 and 10 Norton Lane and all those properties’ owners are in support of the new zones, Ollendorf said. Other properties in the center would likely be included in the new zones over time, with owners free to ask to be included.
Language in the amendment states the zone’s purpose “is to preserve and protect the existing heritage landscape and structures within the zone… foster mixed-use development… a village streetscape; and pedestrian access and safety in concert with the objectives found in the Farmington Plan of Conservation.”
The Backage Road
“If we don’t do the Farmington Center Zone, based on the backage road, there would be a need for tens of variances for many of the properties,” Farmington Town Engineer Russ Arnold explained.
The backage road, which has been on the DOT agenda since before the state bought the Parsons Cheverolet property on Route 4 across from High Street, aims to ease traffic in the area and allow safe access to businesses in the area. The state will implement a scaled-back version of the original plan due to funding constraints.
According to the town, the current plan calls for adding turn lanes to the Route 4/Route 10 intersection, putting a traffic signal at Route 4 and High Street, constructing the Farmington Village Backage Road with intersection improvements at Route 10 at Route 4.
“It’s basically going to allow two lanes of traffic eastbound from Route 10 to Mountain Road, will eliminate driveway entrances, make Chuck’s Steak House entrance a right-in and right-out only, with no crossing of traffic there. There will be a median strip between the eastbound and westbound lane,” Arnold said. “The backage road will be fully signalized with High Street and will proceed down to former Parsons and get down to the Chuck’s entrance.”
The intersection at High Street will be four-way and will be widened and smoothed out, with dedicated left-turn lanes onto the backage road and High Street and two through lanes. The curve around the old Parsons building will also be softened, Arnold said.
The state has said the project will go forward this spring, Arnold said, and the town is pushing for its execution.
Commissioners called the plan “a fantastic idea” and “a mini-version of Blue Back Square” and Ollendorf said once the project was finished, it would allow for the town or a private developer to develop the old Parsons site.