Washington passes zoning change that gives some public events OK

Photo of Sandra Diamond Fox
Washington Zoning Commission meeting

Washington Zoning Commission meeting

Town of Washington / Contributed photo

WASHINGTON, Conn. — A series of zoning changes that have been discussed for two years and have been the subject of a letter of concerns signed by about 100 were approved unanimously by the town’s Zoning Commission this week.

Residents are concerned that the revisions could substantially restrict public events in town. Additionally, many claim the need the revisions were first proposed is from neighbors’ concerns about the noise of the town’s annual Five Senses Festival.

The meeting, held virtually on Zoom Monday, was watched by about 60 and the topic was deliberated for nearly 40 minutes.

The changes will take effect March 10. The changes include limiting certain events to either a single day while limiting the quantity or extending events to a full seven days. There are also permit and parking requirements instituted for certain events.

At the meeting, Chairman Nicholas Solley said the process in coming to an agreement on this topic has been “a long one and an arduous one.”

“I commend the commissioners and I commend the town for coming out and showing some support regardless of their sense or their feelings that we’re doing something right or wrong, Solley said. “I think that someone who understands the regulations will interpret our rationale for including this revision to the Section 12.8.”

He added “the general public will be amazed at how little the regulation change actually affects their daily lives.”

According to Solley, the revisions were necessary for several reasons, including to “explain the range of permitted temporary uses by allowing additional artistic entertainment endeavors that are important to Washington’s economic vitality” and to “protect the residential character of residential neighborhoods in accordance with the town’s Plan of Conservation and Development.” Solley’s statement was officially made part of the revisions.

Other commission members agreed with Solley’s points. David Werkhoven said the commission has done “due diligence” with regard to this topic.

“We’ve simplified this. We have eased up a couple of things. I think it’s good to go,” he said. “I don’t think it inhibits anything that’s happened in the past.”

Janet Hill said it bothers her that there’s “such concern” in the public. She brought up the Five Senses Festival, which residents have strongly said they want to continue.

“For those who were concerned the proposed revisions would shut down the Five Senses Festival, the proposed revisions add types of temporary events that will be permitted, including events such as artistic performances and festivals which had not previously been listed as permitted,” Hill said.

Additionally, Hill said with the new revisions, “multi-day temporary events are possible throughout town. Therefore, I support the revisions because they also add protections for residential neighborhoods.”