Planning and Zoning Commission to receive public feedback about proposed changes to zoning regulations

Greek life is working with the town to interact better with Mansfield residents in regards to students living in neighborhoods. (Zhelun Lang/The Daily Campus)

The Town of Mansfield’s Planning and Zoning Commission will soon receive public feedback about a proposed change to zoning regulations regarding fraternities and sororities in particular.

In the near future, the commission will also hear public input about a proposed extension to the current moratorium on multi-unit housing development. The moratorium is in place as the commission’s Regulatory Review Committee continues to rework multi-unit housing zoning regulations.

At their meeting Monday night the commission passed a motion scheduling a public hearing for Monday, May 1 about the suggested change to zoning regulations regarding fraternities and sororities. The commission then passed another motion that set an additional public hearing for Monday, May 1, regarding the proposed moratorium extension.

The proposed amendment to the zoning regulations would revamp the definitions of dormitory, family and fraternity/sorority house in the zoning regulations, director of planning and development Linda Painter said. It also expands the term “fraternity/sorority” to “fraternal organization,” she added.

“With regard to the definitions of fraternity and sorority, the intent here is to really broaden these terms to capture more than the current regulations,” Painter said. “Our definition of fraternity and sorority currently is limited to organizations or fraternities and sororities that are recognized by the University of Connecticut or Eastern Connecticut State University.”

Painter said that the current definition includes the social fraternities and sororities which university offices that handle fraternity and Greek life usually direct; it does not account for those that are service or academic-oriented, which these offices do not typically manage.

According to Painter, the current definition restricts the commission’s ability to enforce zoning regulations about fraternity houses when a fraternity or sorority loses university identification.

“One of the issues that we have seen is that when sororities and fraternities run into problems, the university will pull their recognition, so then they are considered off-campus fraternities and sororities. Under our definition, a lot of them continue to operate,” Painter said. “The problem for us is that while they may still be operating as a fraternity, since they are no longer considered a fraternity under our definition, we can’t cite them as operating a fraternity house against zoning regulations in those cases.”

The suggested change was originally included in the larger adjustments now underway to multi-unit housing zoning regulations, Painter said. She added that it became prioritized in light of the proposed moratorium extension.

“We thought it might be beneficial to bring this (proposed change to zoning regulations that regard fraternities and sororities) amendment forward in advance; the reason for that is when you go through and you look at the proposed changes, what we’re really proposing to do is update regulations, particularly definitions as they relate to fraternities and sororities,” Painter said.

The moratorium on multi-unit housing development has been in effect since Sept. 12, 2016, and is set to run out on June 12, 2017, Painter said. The proposed extension would keep the moratorium in place until Dec. 12, 2017.

“There has been significant retooling and an alternate approach developed for the proposed multi-unit housing zoning regulation changes, so with that kind of change in direction, extra time is needed,” Painter said.

Painter said that the Regulatory Review Committee rejected a proposed three-month extension, as it would have caused public hearings about suggested changes to multi-unit housing zoning regulations to take place in August of this year. They instead offered that the extension last until Dec. 2017, she said.

“We didn’t think having the public hearings in August would be the appropriate choice, based on all the public feedback we’ve received about these proposed regulations,” Painter said. “The goal here would be to schedule public hearings for the fall. That would give the commission a little leeway to make changes, based on the public comment received, by Dec. 12.”


Alexandra Retter is staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at alexandra.retter@uconn.edu.