Stamford Initiates First Phase of Comprehensive Zoning Overhaul

Mayor David Martin announced the first phase of an overhaul of the City of Stamford’s zoning regulations. These revisions will address residents’ concerns about zoning, as well as simplify and modernize the City of Stamford’s zoning regulations.

“My administration’s proposed revisions will ensure Stamford’s future generations retain the values of our community today,” said Mayor David Martin. “We began this overhaul to streamline our zoning regulations and modernize the City’s expectations for new developments, while sustaining our environment and strengthening protections for historic sites across Stamford.”

The proposed revisions submitted today are the first phase of a larger effort led by the City’s Land Use Bureau to implement a comprehensive update of Stamford’s 360-paged zoning regulations, which date back to the 1950s. This first phase of revisions proposes better protections for historic buildings, implementing a “Stamford Sustainability Scorecard,” stricter guidelines for development around Stamford’s Downtown and South End, and requiring better stormwater management. Few changes have been proposed for the City’s single-family zoning districts, with the exception of strengthening protections for neighborhoods.

“These proposals are a combination of feedback from Stamford’s community, new legal mandates established by the State and the Federal Government, and best practices from other cities researched by City staff over many months,” said Land Use Bureau Chief Ralph Blessing. “This project began in February, and we’re committed to modernizing our guidelines to match the expectations residents have for a forward-thinking City like Stamford.”

“City Land Use staff have worked diligently to update Stamford’s zoning regulations so they reflect the current needs of the City” said Zoning Board Chair David Stein. “This was an extensive project that needed to be done and I’m looking forward to seeing the positive results from these efforts."

The proposals for historic preservation are partly the result of recommendations made by the South End Neighborhood Study completed in 2018. The proposed changes would strengthen Stamford’s Historic Preservation Advisory Commission (HPAC) as the reviewing body for redevelopment of historic buildings.

The Stamford Sustainability Scorecard would require new office and apartment buildings to disclose their environmental sustainability. Categories of sustainability include energy usage, water usage, open spaces and landscaping, urban design, waste management, and others. Depending on their scores, buildings would be awarded a respective letter grade — similar to the letter grading awarded to New York City restaurants.

The proposed new “R-HD” zoning district — or “Residential High Density” — is a stricter version of the “R-H” zoning district currently utilized in areas of Downtown and the South End. Developments approved for the R-HD zoning district would have to adhere to the following requirements:

Provide onsite parking not visible from the street, preventing “concrete deserts” in Stamford’s most populated areas;

New projects will be restricted by floor area and numbers of units, providing the City with more control over managing the size of new developments; and

Design guidelines for ground floor storefronts and residencies to create an attractive environment for pedestrians, residents, and businesses.

Finally, in response to new regulations required by the State of Connecticut and Federal Government, the proposed zoning revisions would also require new developments to better manage stormwater runoff from private property preventing stormwater from overburdening the City’s storm drains and better protecting the City’s wetlands areas and Long Island Sound.

Since February of this year, the Land Use Bureau has reached out to numerous neighborhood associations, the development community, and other stakeholders to get feedback on proposed changes. The proposed revisions submitted today will be reviewed by the City’s Planning Board, various City Departments including the Traffic Department and Law Department, before they are submitted for approval. Following this process, the zoning board will hold public meetings on the proposed revisions — potentially as soon as February 2020.

Following this first round of proposed revisions, the City will move forward with revising zoning regulations for affordable housing, parking requirements, and updating the “downtown” zoning district.

All proposed zoning revisions can be viewed on the City’s website.