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Enfield, Ready for Development, Awaits OK

Valley News - Shawn Braley

Valley News - Shawn Braley

Enfield — With a $3.2 million water and sewer line extension project near completion along Route 4, town officials said the infrastructure is in place to promote development and hope newly drafted land use regulations will lead to improvements on the east side of town.

It will be up to Enfield Planning Board members and Enfield voters, however, as to whether the town will implement the creation of a Route 4 zoning district, which would change the guidelines regarding what could be built along the mile-long corridor running east of Enfield Village to the Canaan town line.

“We have a draft proposal and it’s out for review and consideration. We have a hearing (tomorrow night) and if the Planning Board endorses the proposal, then it will be on the Town Meeting agenda,” said Acting Town Planner Nate Miller.

If the zoning changes are approved, Miller said the town would see its “designated growth area” — from Baltic Street to the Canaan town line — bloom, allowing for more economic growth and job opportunities within the town.

Enfield Planning Board members invited public feedback over the last two years as to what residents would like to see in regards to building placement, size, usage and characteristics. More than 200 residents attended a design workshop in July 2011 and provided input, which was later turned into a draft proposal that will go in front of the Planning Board at the public hearing tomorrow at 7 p.m. at the Enfield Public Works Facility.

“A big thing was building size,” said Enfield Planning Board Chairman Timothy Taylor, who called the zoning district proposal “a flexible and positive approach.”

“There were to be no buildings over 40,000 square feet. People didn’t want big box stores,” he said.

Other proposed ideas were to have buildings be modest in scale, allow for higher densities, be pedestrian and bicyclist friendly and have mixed-uses in the same building, such as retail shops on the first floor and apartments above them.

Town officials said they have also crafted the zoning amendments so that Enfield’s main water supply, near Lovejoy Brook Road, and the brook itself, remain protected.

Another suggestion, which wasn’t only folded into the proposal for the Route 4 district — but for the entire town to follow — was to reduce the number of mandatory parking spaces per location.

If Planning Board members vote in favor of changing the parking requirements tomorrow, Enfield voters would also weigh in with a Town Meeting vote — slated for March 12.

Miller said in the current ordinance, a retail store requires one parking space per 300 square feet of store space; if the proposal passed, retail stores would be required to have one space per 500 square feet.

“What the town is requiring is far too much. Developers have to put in substantially more parking than they need,” Miller said.

Taylor agreed. “We are trying to keep it from being an asphalt jungle,” he said.

Selectman John Kluge, who acts as the Selectboard representative on the Planning Board, said parts of Route 4 are “totally stagnant” and the implementation of zoning changes will turn that around.

“It’s going to be an economic engine for the town of Enfield,” he said. “Right now Route 4 has a lot of traffic going to it, yet it has not yet been developed.”

An additional increase in traffic has Family Pharmacy co-owner John Croteau skeptical of future projects, however — saying “two lanes of traffic” might not be enough to keep up with growing demand.

“It will be bringing a lot more people in and with encouraging pedestrian and bicycle traffic, I see some real issues,” Croteau said, whose business borders Route 4. Traffic concerns aside, he said the development project will positively impact surrounding businesses and the town of Enfield.

Kevin Lary, owner of the Movie Market along Route 4 in Enfield, agreed economic growth would be good for the town, but said his business could suffer if a movie rental kiosk were to pop up along Route 4.

“But anything that will stimulate growth and keep people in town rather than going to West Lebanon to do their shopping will be good for the community,” Lary said.

Under current law, Route 4 from Baltic Street to the Canaan town line currently sits in Enfield’s commercially zoned community business district. The new zoning district will allow for improved “form and function” of space, Miller said

Although town residents wanted to see development along Route 4 for “many years,” Miller said the project wasn’t foreseeable until the water and sewer extension project was completed, as the land lacked the necessary piping for businesses to connect to the town lines.

During the voter-approved project, crews extended sewer lines from Baltic Street to the Canaan town line. Because an existing water pipe ran past Baltic Street to Lovejoy Brook Road, crews picked up there and extended water capabilities to the Canaan line

Before, prospective developers of land along the corridor “didn’t have the water or sewer and would have to site a septic system on their property,” Town Manager Steven Schneider said of prospective businesses. “Now that they have town sewer available, their property is much more usable.”

Public Works Director Jim Taylor said the water and sewer project would be completed by May or June.

Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at jcuddemi@gmail.com.