Citizens Guide - Planning Department
About the Planning Department
The Planning Department is responsible for guiding the conservation and development of the town. By drafting plans and regulations, reviewing proposed developments, designing town projects, providing information on public and private developments, and administering the town's Geographic Information System (GIS) for mapping, information retrieval, and analysis, the Planning Department provides guidance and support to the Historic District Commission, the Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Commission (IWWC), and the Town Planning and Zoning Commission (TPZC). All plans, applications, maps, and other information regarding TPZC business are on file and open to public inspection between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. The Planning Department prepares plans, reports and recommendations to guide and promote the development of land in an orderly, balanced fashion to insure the adherence to sound planning principles; serves civic groups, developers and the general public by giving information on development codes and policies; and provides professional advice and assistance to the TPZC as well as coordinating its activities.
Planning and Zoning Documents
Planning and zoning files, the Plan of Conservation and Development, Zoning and Subdivision Regulations, the Official Zoning Map, minutes of meetings, etc. are available in the Planning Department. Recordings of public hearings on file in Planning Department can be reviewed by appointment but most recent meetings are streamed online here during and after the meeting. Land records, maps, and zoning information are available in the Town Clerk's Office in Town Hall. Subdivision Regulations, Zoning Regulations, and the Zoning Map can be purchased at the Planning Department and are available for free here on the Town’s website. Copies of the meeting agenda, as well as the packet of information (applications, staff comments, correspondence, etc.) sent to TPZC members is available for public inspection both in the Planning Department the day before the meeting and at the meeting.
Plan of Conservation and Development
The Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD) is adopted and periodically amended by the TPZC as a general guide to future conservation and development. The POCD can be viewed free here, or in the Planning Department between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.
In accordance with CGS Section 8-23, the TPZC must review and update the POCD at least every ten years to remain eligible for state and federal funding programs. The POCD was last comprehensively reviewed and adopted in 2004, but following a recommendation in the plan, the TPZC has been periodically updating plan chapters to keep the plan current and reflect significant changes as necessary.
Updating the POCD represents a critical step in the planning process, as the strategies and recommendations in the plan are used to: guide changes in zoning regulations and boundaries; identify appropriate open spaces for acquisition; protect agricultural, cultural, historic, and natural resources; guide road and other infrastructure improvements; and plan for municipal facilities. The planning process is as open and inclusive as possible, with workshops and public hearings designed to solicit ideas and feedback from residents, businesses, and other landowners. At no time in the planning, conservation, and development process can citizens be more effective in affecting the future of their properties, their neighborhoods, and their town. Waiting until a site plan or subdivision application is pending may be too late to effect change, as a public hearing may not be required and/or the Town Planning and Zoning Commission (TPZC) may have little or no discretion to deny an application if it meets the letter of either the Subdivision or Zoning Regulations. By participating in Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD) workshops and public hearings, you can affect the plans and policies that guide and regulate development so that zone boundaries and regulations might be changed before an application for development is made.
By signing up for the planning and zoning Public Notice Registry, the Planning Department is required to e-mail you notice of any upcoming workshops and hearings on the update of the POCD and as a courtesy will send you agendas and legal notices for all TPZC meetings and hearings. To sign up click here.
The Zoning Regulations are the written rules that govern land use in Windsor and are adopted and periodically amended by the TPZC. Zoning is a governmental police power that allows Windsor to regulate the use of land and buildings in such a way as to protect public health, safety, and general welfare and achieve a logical pattern of land development in accordance with the POCD. The Zoning Regulations, together with the Official Zoning Map are the primary tools for implementing the POCD. The Zoning Regulations can be viewed free here, or can be viewed or purchased in the Planning Department between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Unlike the Subdivision Regulations, the Zoning Regulations are regularly amended at the request of citizens, town staff, and the TPZC itself, to address development trends, changing technology, and societal changes. The Zoning Regulations were comprehensively re-written in their entirety in 2008, resulting in a simplified, more readable document, and the elimination of several conventional and design development zoning districts. When adopting or amending Zoning Regulations, the TPZC is acting in a legislative capacity, giving them the discretion to approve or deny applications for zoning text amendments as they see fit.
The Official Zoning Map, also referred to in the Connecticut General Statutes as the comprehensive plan, is a map that divides Windsor into 15 land use zones that dictate the use and scale of development. There are six residential zones; two business zones; four office, industrial, and warehouse zones; an agricultural zone, an institutional zone, and a planned urban development zone. Each zone corresponds with a section or subsection in the Zoning Regulations that dictates the allowed uses and zone specific development standards such as lot area, building height, etc.
The Official Zoning Map is periodically amended at the request of property owners, town staff, and the Commission itself. When amending the Official Zoning Map, the TPZC is acting in a legislative capacity, giving them the discretion to approve or deny zone boundary change applications. This may seem confusing but it is considered a legislative act because changing a zone boundary effectively changes which set of regulations apply to the area being rezoned.
The Subdivision Regulations are the written rules that govern the subdivision of land in Windsor and are adopted and periodically amended by the TPZC. Subdivision is a governmental police power that allows Windsor to regulate the division of land and the layout of roads and open spaces. The Subdivision Regulations work hand-in-hand with the Zoning Regulations and the Engineering Standards and Specifications to ensure that the division of land, the construction of roads and other public infrastructure, and the preservation of opens space are done appropriately. The Subdivision Regulations can be viewed free here, or you can view or purchase them in the Planning Department between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.
While rarely done, when amending Subdivision Regulations, the TPZC is acting in a legislative capacity, giving them the discretion to approve or deny applications for subdivision text amendments as they see fit. However, when acting on a subdivision application or re-subdivision application, the TPZC is acting in an administrative capacity and is compelled to approve or approve with modifications, any application that meets the letter of the subdivision and zoning regulations, and engineering standards.
Engineering Standards and Specifications
Developed by the Engineering Division of the Development Services Group, also known as the Engineering Department, the Engineering Standards and Specifications provide consistent guidance to developers, contractors, and homeowners so that public improvements reflect the use of quality materials as well as proven designs and construction techniques that will continue to enhance our community. These standards and specifications include illustrated standard details of street lighting, storm drainage structures, sidewalks, roadways and other improvements, as well as written specifications for how construction is to be carried out. They are revised from time to time to reflect changes in technology, materials, and construction practices.
All planning and zoning application files, in some cases dating back to the 1960s, are kept in the Planning Department and are open to public inspection between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. Files typically contain applications; plans or proposed text; supporting materials; correspondences; staff comments; and other miscellaneous information.
Application materials such as completed application forms and a representative site plan sheet (when applicable) are also posted online prior to a meeting and can be viewed here. This information can also be accessed from a smart phone by scanning the QR code provided on public hearing signs that are required to be posted on sites that are the subject of a Town Planning and Zoning Commission (TPZC) public hearing.
For access to a full set of plans and all other application materials, it is strongly recommended that citizens visit the Planning Department between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, well before an item is scheduled to be reviewed by the TPZC. Planning Department staff is available to explain application materials and receive valuable input from abutters and other interested parties. If you bring a regulatory oversight to the attention of staff, changes to the application will be required to meet the regulations. In other instances, staff may pass on your suggestions that an applicant might incorporate into their application if financially or otherwise feasible, resulting in a superior development than might otherwise be required.
It should be noted that unless accompanied by another application that requires a public hearing, site plan applications do not themselves require a public hearing and there may be no opportunity to point out regulatory oversights or suggest site improvements during a public meeting. When a public hearing is required, waiting until the public hearing to suggest changes that go beyond the requirements of the regulations might not be well received by the applicant if they would delay their application or require another costly set of engineered revisions to their application. By meeting with Town staff or even the applicant well before the hearing, the applicant might incorporate suggested changes into their application if they are financially or otherwise feasible
To remain informed of pending applications without regularly reading the Hartford Courant legal notices or visiting the Planning Department website, you may sign up for the TPZC’s Public Notice Registry here. The Planning Department will e-mail you or your organization legal notices and agendas as they become available.
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Did You Know?
Public Heaing signs for the Town Planning and Zoning Commission contain a QR code that you can scan with any smartphone to access the Planning Department's web page for pending applications. Once there, you can find the completed application and a representative plan for the proposed project.