Wallingford proposes new Watershed Interchange zone

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WALLINGFORD — Town officials have proposed changes to land use zoning regulations in and around the Watershed Protection District in the northeastern part of town.

All land within the watershed for Mackenzie Reservoir — the main source of the town's drinking water — is designated as the Watershed Protection District.

The zoning changes, released publicly Tuesday, are aimed at updating water quality standards and separating land uses within and outside the protection district, according to a joint memo from Town Planner Kevin Pagini and Town Engineer Alison Kapushinski.

The changes would also reflect the current industrial development climate in Connecticut and beyond, the memo stated.

The Planning and Zoning Commission last reviewed proposed changes to allow more kinds of business and industry in the Watershed Protection District in December, but Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. requested the withdrawal of those proposals.

The majority of the content is the same as the previous proposals, just organized differently, the memo stated.

“We have made an effort to include all comments to date, including comments from Water Division and Law Department, as well as comments from Planning and Zoning commissioners and the public during several PZC workshops and public hearings,” the memo states.

Pagini and Kapushinski plan to present the changes and hold a workshop for PZC members.

‘Responsibly developed’

One of the biggest changes would be the elimination of the Interchange District (I-5) currently located near Interstate 91.

The parcels would be absorbed into a newly formed Watershed Interchange (WI) District.

The current zoning map “unnecessarily burdens” properties that are within the I-5 zone but not within the WPD by restricting higher-intensity uses, and at the same time, there are parcels that are currently in the IX zone which have accessibility to I-91 and are within the WPD, according to a summary of the proposed zoning regulation changes.

The portions of existing I-5 and IX zones that fall within the Watershed Protection District would become the Watershed Interchange district. The land currently zoned I-5 outside of the WPD would be combined with the IX zone.

Commission members and town staff would be able to request additional information demonstrating design strategies to limit potential adverse effects to the public drinking water supply for sites that are within the new IX boundary but contain only a portion of the parcel within the WPD through a special permit, the summary stated.

That would leave the IX zone with sites that are either mostly or completely out of the WPD, but the typical storm water quality measures still would apply to this zone.

The WI zone would include “appropriate uses that can be responsibly developed and operated within the WPD,” the summary stated.

Data centers

Parcel sorting and retail distribution centers would not be permitted due to the extensive parking needs and adverse impacts to storm water runoff associated with large surface parking areas.

Data centers in the IX and WI zones would be allowed with a special permit.

Wallingford’s current zoning regulations don’t mention data centers, so language must been added to define a data center and allow them as a use.

GotSpace Data Partners LLC, a Groton-based company with its business registration in Boston, has signed a municipal host fee agreement with the town, approved by the Town Council in June, to bring data centers to Wallingford.

Although the proposed new regulations cover data center developments, GotSpace must comply with the stricter rules set forth in the agreement that they have with the town.

“These zoning regulations are for other data center developments that may arise in the future,” Pagini said Wednesday, “and may add further restrictions onto the municipal agreement, but GotSpace must adhere to the stricter requirements.”

LTakores@record-journal.com203-317-2212Twitter: @LCTakores

Map of proposed zoning regulation changes in Wallingford, Sept. 3, 2021. Courtesy of Town of Wallingford
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