CHESHIRE — You scream, I scream, we all scream for ice cream … as the old song goes.
Yet when Cheshire resident Lisa Calhoun began seeking a location for her ice cream parlor business, she found that the Town’s zoning regulations limit the places where that use is permitted. Recently, Calhoun appealed to the Planning and Zoning Commission to see about a zone text change that would allow her to open a business at 500 South Main St., in the Dawson Building.
The proposed location, right next to Bartlem Park, is currently zoned R-20A. Ice cream parlors, addressed specifically in Cheshire’s zoning regulations as places “where ice cream, soda and related products are the only items sold provided customers are served only when inside the building, provided there are a minimum of 10 seats located inside the building for use by customers,” are currently only allowed in commercial zones.
As Town Planner Michael Glidden explained at the Jan. 9 PZC meeting, the R-20A zone does allow for some commercial uses such as “professional offices, medical offices (and) personal services,” but limits most other non-residential uses.
Glidden said that Calhoun was appearing before the PZC “to get a feel for if she were to prepare a text amendment down the road, if there’s any sort of concerns from the Commission on such a change.” Any alteration would apply to all properties zoned R-20A in town, per Glidden.
Glidden pointed out that while there are “pockets” around Cheshire zoned R-20A, such as along Route 70 and Maple Avenue, “the bulk of the area that’s zoned R-20A is on Route 10.”
Commissioner Jeff Natale asked whether the PZC “could limit (the change) to ice cream shops in R-20A or does this open it up to other commercial (uses).”
Glidden replied that Cheshire’s regulations are considered “permissive,” treating ice cream parlors separately from other kinds of food service establishments. Because of that specificity, “it would only be an ice cream parlor that could open, should the change be approved.”
Glidden also suggested that the PZC could specify that “by special permit, an ice cream parlor would be allowed in R-20A zoning district provided the property has frontage along Route 10. That would eliminate the ability to go in other areas where (the use) might not be compatible with the land uses in that area.”
“This is not to add a commercial use in the R-20 zoning district,” Glidden emphasized.
Responding to questions from Commissioner Louis Todisco and Chair Earl Kurtz III, Glidden reiterated that such a change would apply to all buildings zoned R-20A on Route 10 and the PZC would have to hear special permit applications on a case-by-case basis.
However, Glidden noted that parking requirements meant that “it’s not like every property will be able to qualify for this use.”
Todisco expressed a willingness to further entertain Calhoun’s proposed changes. “There hasn’t been a lot of negative viewpoints expressed to it and the Commission would be willing to consider it at least. How can you have too many ice cream places in town, right?” he asked.
However, Commissioner Matt Bowman was more hesitant. “It’s certainly something that could be considered, but I would like to see it very narrow in its scope.”