Highland Lake commercial properties will retain their area, official says

WINSTED – Highland Lake is surrounded by homes of all shapes and sizes, from the quaint and charming to large and modern, and everything in between. An area of ​​the lake is also home to a group of commercial enterprises.

In the fall, the Planning and Zoning Commission stepped up its review of local ordinances. It’s a project that has been going on for quite some time, and CEO Josh Kelly worked with the committees and staff to read and discuss them all.

At one point, the commission considered turning commercial businesses on the lake – now referred to as Highland Lake Business District properties – into residences. The idea was that if the properties were sold in the future, they could be used for housing. In the end, the commission chose to leave the business district of the lake alone.

But some of those business owners, including Stuart Jones and his wife, Karen, say any zoning change will render their properties useless.

The Joneses recently said that Winsted was “waging industrial genocide on the hilltop industrial estate” around Highland Lake.

“While most cities court and subsidize the industry, Winsted is choking it,” Jones said. “The Stu Jones Restoration at 201 East Lake Street and 249 Rockwell St. is grandfathered for current use (if bylaws are changed). But once the businesses are dissolved, they will revert to city zoning.

“The zoning change (would make) these commercial buildings unusable, if they were to go from industrial to single-family,” he said. “The Zoning Board is appointed by the Board of Selectmen – the responsibility rests with you.”

Jones said he dedicated his life to improving its properties and making them last. He said he was never made aware of possible changes to zoning bylaws.

“Even though my business (would) be grandfathered, neither of the two properties can be used again for automotive restoration or repair,” he said. “We are asking for a change of zone to protect us.”

President George Closson said Jones was wrong and assumed something was not going to happen.

“When we made our regulatory changes, we realized that a big part of the puzzle was to protect the commercial aspects of the lake and the marina,” he said. “At one point a Holiday Inn was going to be built at (a former commercial property) and there are commercial properties that have been around the lake for years … From the marina along the waterfront including the owned by Stu Jones, those are in the Highland Lake business district.

“But there are no auto repairs listed in this district, and the commissions have agreed that at this point it is not in the best interest of the health of the lake to allow them. Anything that has an impact on aquifers and water bodies is just not allowed, ”he said.

But Jones’ business, as well as Sterling Sintered Technologies and B&D Landscaping, both on Rockwell Street, are protected, Closson said.

“What Stu has twisted is to say that if he dies or passes the business on, it will be eliminated. And that is categorically incorrect,” Closson said. “He is vested.”

Members of the PZC and other land use boards have the opportunity every two years to attend a seminar on land use organized by the Connecticut Bar Association, and the topics on which the boards and Volunteer commissions have to deal with are a big part of this event.

“One thing they really emphasized is that if (a city decides to) change an area and something becomes non-compliant, they aren’t abandoned,” he said. “If a building collapses, the use is not abandoned, the property is still in the area. We tried to tell Stu, but he doesn’t understand.

Winsted recently sold a factory building on Meadow Street to a private buyer, and the zoning commission took a close look at the uses of that building to ensure it would be properly used.

“The new owner cannot extend or change the footprint,” Closson said. “In the long term, that’s the goal: to see neighborhoods better protected.

Sterling Sintered Technologies and B&D Landscaping are other examples of existing companies that cannot change their footprint on Rockwell Street.

“The Sterling Center building is owned by Precision Ball and the property is contaminated,” Closson said. “Precision Ball is not going to sell it, so it will stay as is. All we’re trying to do is get industrial property where it should be, but we’re not trying to kick the industry out of Winsted. We just want to see them grow appropriately.

Closson also noted that industrial and commercial properties have not stopped new residents from buying homes on Highland Lake.

“It’s been there for a long time and people have bought properties anyway,” he said.

The business district area will remain in place, he said. If someone like Jones moves or retires, they can sell their property, but a new owner will need to comply with existing zoning and apply for special exception permits before making any changes.

“We have decided not to change the activity zone at all, so Stu is protected,” said Closson. “Stu is one of the best in town at maintaining his property. We are in no way trying to harm him. But you’re not zoning based on who owns a property. You do it based on what’s there.

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