Meriden officials back zone change for Kensington Ave. land near mall

reporter photo

MERIDEN — City officials this week backed a zone change for property at the corner of Chamberlain Highway and Kensington Avenue that would allow for more manufacturing and industrial uses on the 23-acre site just below South Mountain Road and the ridgetop protection area, across from Meriden Mall. 

The Economic Development, Housing and Zoning Committee of the City Council on Tuesday recommended a change from the general commercial zone to a Planned Development District zone.

The Planning Commission also recommended the zone and map change two weeks ago, saying it complied with the city’s Plan of Conservation and Development. In addition to allowing more industrial uses, the change is consistent with other adjacent Planned Development District parcels.

The applicant, 850 S. Main St. LLC, filed for the change after recently purchasing 525 Kensington Ave. from the previous mall owner Westfield Corp., which had once hoped to expand its retail operations onto the site.

“There are significant opportunities,” said attorney Dennis Ceneviva, who represents 850 S. Main St. LLC. ”It will square off contiguous land with the PDD and extend it around this parcel. The development standards for PDD provide a greater amount of open space, 50 percent. There are limits on lot coverage, the whole plan is designed to provide a significant benefit.”

Land use on South Mountain Road has been a priority for the city ever since plans to develop a natural gas fired-power plant in that area fizzled two decades ago. The city now owns the upper property and has been marketing it. But not all the land can be developed because of ridgetop protection laws. 

The purpose of the general commercial district is to provide for a wide range of commercial uses in areas with good access, particularly along major arteries, and to accommodate uses that benefit from large numbers of motorists.

These uses need larger parcels of land developed less intensively than would be appropriate in central or neighborhood business districts, and that may involve characteristics, such as trucking and noise, that are objectionable to residential areas and certain non-residential areas. The C-3 District is intended to accommodate these same activities at a lower intensity in a more open environment.

By contrast, the PDD zone is to allow for diverse but integrated uses (including, but not limited to, open space, recreation, industrial, education, retail-commercial, and housing) in a large area consistent with the objectives set forth in city land use plans.

“All of the land in such district may be considered as a single unit of development for the purpose of site planning and utilities so that the integrated nature of the development will be encouraged and maintained, even though individual lots created after the adoption of this district may be separately owned,” according to city zoning laws. 

According to city Economic Development Director Joseph Feest, 850 S. Main St. LLC plans a manufacturing facility on the site. The nature of the manufacturing was not revealed.

“The developer is anxious to move forward,” said Ceneviva, who estimated it would be at least nine months to go through approvals before construction begins. 

Committee members and the public raised no objections to the proposal. But Republican City Councilor Dan Brunet pointed out that the final use was a mystery.

With the committee nod, the change will now go before the City Council for final approval. If the zone change is accepted, 850 S. Main St. LLC must file a site plan application to the Planning Commission for a special permit that will ensure compliance with regulations regarding traffic, size, buffers, run off, parking etc., said city Planner Paul Dickson.  

Reporter Mary Ellen Godin can be reached at


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