Land Use Development Guide

The following content may also be downloaded as a PDF version here.

Hello!

Welcome and thank you for your interest in the City of Groton!  This Guide is a resource for citizens, businesses and developers to understand the process of receiving land use permits in the City leading up to filing for a Building Permit.  For specific information related to Building Permits, please visit the Building and Zoning webpage.

About the City of Groton

The City of Groton, a borough of the Town of Groton, is a small coastal community situated where the Thames River greets Long Island and Fisher’s Island Sounds.  The City initially formed to provide services to the growing shipbuilding and pharmaceutical industries.  The City evolved into a full service borough and today continues to enjoy the expanding technological, innovation and maritime sectors.  We have our own City Council, Plan of Conservation and Development, zoning and regulatory system, and various boards and commissions.  The City consists of eleven zoning districts ranging from high intensity industry to historic villages.

Our Services

As a full service borough, our departments collaborate during all stages of the land use permitting process.  The primary departments are Building and Zoning & Planning and Economic Development.  A unique aspect is that the City owns Groton Utilities (GU) which provides sewer, water and electric services within the City as well as surrounding communities.  GU plays an important part in many applications to ensure services can be provided and they are coordinated with the needs of a development project at the initial stages.  Other regular partner departments include Fire, Police, and Public Works.

Our Philosophy

The City makes every attempt to simplify and streamline our regulatory process.  In fact, the Planning and Zoning Commission has given the City Planner discretion to act upon Site Plan applications for non-residential uses without the need to bring the application to the Commission.  We welcome development and growth that fits within our requirements and long range master plan.  While our established policies help to ensure the environment and community character is protected, we strive to be predictable to reduce your risks.

Land use, regardless of the Connecticut municipality, is guided by State law.  While each community has slightly different procedures of managing land use, the foundation for all regulations is the Connecticut General Statutes (CGS) and case law established by the courts.

Using this Guide

To navigate this guide select a topic to expand its content.  Expand another topic to close the previous selection.

Questions? Here are the Primary Points of Contact

Please contact us if at anytime you have a question.  For a full list of departments see the Department Contacts tab below.

Site Plans, Special Permits, Floodplain Development Permits, and Coastal Site Plans
Dennis Goderre, City Planner
860-446-4169
goderred@cityofgroton-ct.gov

Economic Development
Cierra Patrick, Economic Development Specialist
860-446-4066
patrickc@cityofgroton-ct.gov

Building, Zoning Permits, Variances, Wetlands, Historic District Commission, Harbor Management Commission
Carlton Smith, Building & Zoning Official; Wetlands Enforcement Agent
860-446-4104
smithc@cityofgroton-ct.gov

A Necessary Disclaimer:  This guide is provided as a very simplified summary of the City of Groton’s ordinances, regulations and the Connecticut General Statutes (CGS).  The afore mentioned documents take precedent if there is a conflict with the content discussed below.

Regulations and Standards

The following resource links are referenced in this Guide and may be helpful for cross reference.

Various land use regulations and references are here.

Overview of Zoning Regulations

Our Zoning Regulations consist of nine sections and three appendices.  While it may appear daunting, you are encouraged to read the full document because not all requirements can be summarized in this Guide and there can be subtle standards that influence your application.  Staff is always here to assist.  The following is a summary of each section of the Zoning Regulations:

Section 1. Regulatory Basics:  This consists of the necessary introductory elements that lays the foundation for how to interpret the Zoning Regulations.

Section 2. Words and Terms:  This may be one of the most important sections.  It lays out the meaning of words and terms used throughout the Zoning Regulations.

Section 3 thru 5:  These sections outline the allowed uses and bulk standards of each zoning district within the City.  Some uses will refer to other sections of the Regulations that outline additional standards.

Section 6. Use-Related Provisions: As noted above, some uses have specific requirements.  They will be discussed in this section.

Section 7. Standards:  This section is applicable to nearly all applications and provides the requirements for such matters as parking, earthwork, lighting and stormwater management.

Section 8. Special Provisions:  Unique situations are discussed here and may apply to only a select few applications.  You are still encouraged to understand this section as they may be applicable.

Section 9. Administrative Provisions:  This section covers the procedures that must be followed for filing permits, conducting a public hearing, notifications, and several other requirements as primarily defined by the Connecticut General Statutes.

The common City departments involved in the permitting process and primary point of contact is provided below.  General application coordination however is done through Planning or Building and Zoning Department, depending upon the type of application.

Building and Zoning (includes Wetlands and Historic)
Carlton Smith, Building & Zoning Official/Wetlands Enforcement Agent
860-446-4104smithc@cityofgroton-ct.gov

Planning and Economic Development
Dennis Goderre, City Planner
860-446-4169
goderred@cityofgroton-ct.gov

Cierra Patrick, Economic Development Specialist
860-446-4066
patrickc@cityofgroton-ct.gov

Fire Department
Robert Tompkins, Fire Chief/Fire Marshall
860-446-4106
TompkinsR@cityofgroton-ct.gov

Edward ‘Ted’ Sargent, Deputy Fire Marshall
860-446-4106
sargente@cityofgroton-ct.gov

Police Department
Michael Spellman, Police Chief
860-446-4181
SpellmanM@cityofgroton-ct.gov

Groton Utilities
Water/Sanitary
Ray Valentini, Manager Water
860-446-4032
valentinir@grotonutilities.com

Electric
Brian Roche, Manager of Engineering
860-446-4051
rocheb@grotonutilities.com

Public Works
Timothy Umrysz, Director
860-446-4126
UmryszT@cityofgroton-ct.gov

The following are the boards and commissions involved in the permitting process, their responsibilities and meeting schedule. Note that the meeting date may vary based upon holidays and other events.  You are encouraged to visit their respective website for the adopted schedule.

Board/Commission Primary Responsibility Meeting Schedule (may vary see approved schedule) Webpage
Conservation Commission Inland Wetlands and Watercourses 1st Tuesday per month, 7:30pm click here
Harbor Management The development and use of coastal waters 2nd Thursday per month, 6:30pm click here
Eastern Point Historic District Review alterations, demolition and construction in the Eastern Point Historic District (local) 1st Thursday per month, 7:00pm click here
Planning and Zoning Review and act upon site plans, special permits, subdivisions, coastal site plans; administer the POCD 3rd Tuesday per month, 6:30pm click here
Zoning Board of Appeals Review and act upon variances; appeals of ZEO decisions; interpretation of zoning regulations 4th Tuesday per month, 7:30pm click here

Overview

Getting started requires a small amount of knowledge of land use procedures.  This brief overview provides some guidance to assist you.  More information on the topics touched upon in this section are discussed in latter sections and in the Zoning Regulations.

Site Selections, Districts and Uses

The first step is to determine the zoning district your building or property is located within.  This is done by locating your property on the Zoning Map and use the color coded legend to determine your zoning district.  Referring to the Zoning Regulations, review the applicable section for your zone and list of uses that are permitted.  There are generally two or three subsections listing uses.  They will be classified as requiring a zoning permit, site plan permit or special permit.  If your use is listed it is allowed in the zone.  When a use is not listed then that generally means it is not permitted (see note below).  You are encouraged to read about the differences of each permit in the ‘Types of Permits’ tab below.

On occasion a use is allowed in the district but the building or property is not conducive to accommodating the use.  For instance, there may not be enough room for parking, storage, and circulation.  Therefore, understanding the use requirements is an important part of the initial due diligence to ensure the selected site can achieve your requirements.  You are encouraged to review Sections 6 and 7 of the Zoning Regulations.

A note about uses:  It is not possible to list all uses.  In the case a specific use is not listed, staff often searches to see if a similar use is listed.  This is not always easy and it requires a comprehensive understanding of the proposed use.  We recommend you contact staff to discuss this either via phone or to schedule a meeting to ensure this very important first step is done accurately.

Natural Resources

Once it has been determined the use is allowed in the district and the site appears to be capable of accommodating the necessary improvements, consideration should be given to its proximity to the shoreline, floodplains, and inland wetlands and watercourses.

  • Properties within 1000′ of the shoreline will require knowledge of possible impacts to coastal resources and mitigation of impacts.
  • Improvements within a floodplain may require a Flood Development Permit.
  • Improvements within 200′ of an inland wetland or watercourse will require special attention be given to conservation of this resource.  This includes inland wetland and watercourse systems that may not be on your site.

 

More information on these matters are provided in the ‘Types of Permits’ tab below.  Remember, it is always advisable to consult with City staff.

Pre-application reviews are very important to a successful land use permitting experience.  It provides a time for staff to understand your project and vision, while identifying opportunities and possible hurdles that need to be overcome.  At this time  we will provide guidance on how to proceed.  We will also work with you to understand if your use can be accommodated in one of our districts.  We recommend you make an appointment as early in the process as possible.  Initial discussions should begin while your project is in its very early stages, preferably before the start of design and engineering.  Following this initial meeting we will continue to work with you, be available to answer questions, and conduct initial reviews of your design, as may be applicable and based upon the complexity of your project.  Depending upon your proposed project we will coordinate the attendance of necessary departments at a meeting with you and your team.

To reach us and schedule a meeting refer to the contacts provided above.

The following provides a list of local permits and guidance associated when they are required.  For detailed information select a the link to the corresponding Fact Sheet.

Permit Type Explanation Supporting Staff Responsible Board/Commission  Fact Sheet/Submission Requirements
Home Occupations Home based businesses must be registered with the zoning official and are permitted in residential zones when it meets specific standards outlined with the zoning regulations. Zoning Enforcement Officer or City Planner NA Home Occupation

Registration

Zoning Permit A Zoning Permit is required for various uses and activities as defined in the zoning regulations. These generally include single family or two-family homes, fences, walls, and pools. Zoning Enforcement Officer NA See Building Department
Referrals Some applications to commission a must also be ‘referred’ to another for their opinion and prior to the responsible commission rendering a decision.  This process is coordinated by staff, if applicable. Varies Varies NA
Inland Wetlands & Watercourse An activity in an inland wetland or watercourse or occurring within 200 feet of an inland wetland or watercourse.  If your proposed activity is within 200 feet from a wetland located on another property, it may still require a permit.  Generally speaking an activity includes any improvement within the review area such as grading, stormwater management, pavement, etc.  If an activity is determined to be a significant activity by the commission, a public hearing will be required. Wetlands Enforcement Agent Conservation Commission Local Application

State Reporting Form

Coastal Site Plan When an activity occurs on a property and any portion of the property is within 1000’ of the coast.  The 1000’ boundary is depicted on the zoning map. City Planner Planning and Zoning Commission See Site Plan Below
Site Plan A Site Plan Permit is issued for uses that are considered ‘as of right’ within a particular zoning district.  Site Plans are reviewed for compliance with the standards set forth within the Zoning Regulations by either Staff or the Planning and Zoning Commission – as outlined in Section 9.3 Site Plan Application.

Some uses or activities are exempt, meaning they do not require Site Plan Review and may be subject only to a Zoning Permit.

See the Fact Sheet for what requires a site plan application and refer tot he Zoning Regulations.

City Planner Planning and Zoning Commission Click Here for Fact Sheet
Special Permit A Special Permit, also referred to as a Special Exception, is a permit for a use of land or modification to a specific zoning standard (i.e. parking space size, building height, etc.) and which may be compatible within a zoning district only if certain criteria are met.  For Special Permits in the City of Groton, this criteria is outlined within Section 9.4 of the Zoning Regulations as well as applicable sections of the zoning standards.

The intent of the special permit criteria includes, but is not limited to, the intent to reduce nuisances (i.e. noise, dust, vibration, traffic, etc.), protect public safety, promote the implementation of the City’s POCD, and avoid conflicts with adjacent and nearby land uses.  Special Permits require a public hearing.

See the Fact Sheet for what requires a special permit application and refer to the Zoning Regulations.

City Planner Planning and Zoning Commission Click Here for Fact Sheet
Variance This allows for a proposed improvement to deviate from a specific requirement of the zoning regulations.  To qualify for a variance there must be a specific ‘hardship’ that does not allow you to meet a specific zoning requirement.  Simply wishing to not meet a standard or because of the cost to apply the standard is high are not considered hardships.  A variance requires a public hearing. Zoning Enforcement Officer Zoning Board of Appeals Click Here
Zoning Amendment This consists of changing the zoning regulations.  This change may be as simple as editing existing text or more complex by drafting new regulations.  A zoning amendment requires a public hearing. City Planner Planning and Zoning Commission
Zone Change This entails the change of land from one zoning district to another zoning district.  The new district may be an existing zone or a new zone that is created by drafting new regulations and adopted by a Zoning Amendment.  A zone change requires a public hearing. City Planner Planning and Zoning Commission
Eastern Point Historic District Since 1961, any municipality in Connecticut has been enabled by state law to establish within it’s confines an historic district to promote the educational, cultural, economic and general welfare of the public through the preservation and protection of the distinct characteristics of the buildings and places associated with the history of or indicative period or style of architecture of the district. This commission is charged with maintaining the historical integrity of the structures within its geographical boundaries.  The Eastern Point Historic District Commission was established to review any and all alteration, demolition or construction of buildings and other structures within its boundaries. Zoning Enforcement Officer Eastern Point Historic District Commission Click Here
Floodplain Development Permit Improvements within a special flood hazard area as depicted on the City’s adopted FIRM maps require a Floodplain Development Permit.  Special flood hazard areas are Zones A, AE, Coastal AE and VE.  The purpose is to ensure improvements conform to building codes, respond to the unique and hazardous conditions often experienced in these flood prone areas, and avoid possible impacts to other properties within or near a flood hazard area. City Planner Planning and Zoning Commission Same as Site Plan
Building Permit(s) See Building and Zoning Building Official NA See Building Department
Demolition Permit See Building and Zoning Building Official NA See Building Department
Mooring Permit See Building and Zoning Harbor Master NA Click Here
Possible State of Connecticut/Federal Permits It is important to consider other possible permits outside the jurisdiction of the City of Groton.  Common State or Federal permits in the City include those from CT DEEP, specifically for coastal activities and the Office of the State Traffic Authority.  Others include registration of hazardous materials and discharge permits for certain activities.  The respective State or Federal agencies should be contacted for further information. NA NA NA

Exempt Activities

Some activities/improvements do not require a site plan permit.  An outline of these situations can be found in Section 9.3.B.2 of the Zoning Regulations.

Staff Decisions

To assist in streamlining the application process and expedite permit requests that have minor alterations to a building or site the Commission adopted new regulatory guidance in January 2019 to expand the City Planner’s authority to make a decision to review and decide upon an application avoiding the need for Planning and Zoning Commission review. Section 9.3.B.3 of the Zoning Regulations describes this discretion.

How to Apply

Applications are filed at 295 Meridian Street, Groton CT between the hours of 8am – 4pm, M-F at the Building and Zoning Department and requires a complete application form, payment of a fee and any necessary supporting information such as site plans, floor plans and reports.  See Submission Requirements below.

Required Forms

Application forms for Coastal Site Plans, Site Plans and Special Permits can be downloaded here.

Application forms for variances, inland wetlands and watercourse, historic district commission and building permits can be downloaded here.

Fees

Fees are required.  The costs are nominal when compared to the time invested by staff to review and coordinate an application.  The fee table can be downloaded here.  When multiple applications are filed the fee is the total of all applications filed. All checks are made payable to the City of Groton, including the required CT DEEP fee.  The CT DEEP fee is paid for each application filed.

Submission Requirements

Submission requirements vary based upon the application type and scope of work.  Submission requirements can be found within the respective regulations.  Appendix A of the Zoning Regulations lists the minimum requirements for site plans, coastal site plans, floodplain development permits and special permits.

The following table provides a summary of the legal requirements associated with application reviews.  The City makes every attempt to ensure the full length of time is not necessary.  The complexity of the project, thoroughness of the application, ability for an applicant to respond to staff comments, and staff workload will determine the overall schedule.

Permit Type  Submission Deadline Date of Receipt of Application (see note 1) Legal Notice Publications (see note 2) Summary of Maximum Timeframe to Render Decision Extensions Allowed by Applicant Request
Home Occupations Rolling NA NA
Zoning Permit Rolling NA NA 65 days 130 days
Referrals NA NA Coincident with application type
Inland Wetlands & Watercourse 2 weeks prior to meeting At regular meeting following submission If no hearing: NA

If hearing required:

First: 10-15 days before hearing

Second: Two days after first notice but no less than two days before hearing

No hearing: Decision within 65 days

If hearing required:
65 days to start hearing from date of receipt (if required)

35 days to conduct hearing

35 days after hearing to make a decision

A total of 65 days
Coastal Site Plan 3 weeks prior to meeting At regular meeting following submission Same as Site Plan or Special Permit
Site Plan 3 weeks prior to meeting At regular meeting following submission NA 65 days 130 days
Special Permit 3 weeks prior to meeting At regular meeting following submission First: 10-15 days before hearing

Second: Two days after first notice  but no less than two days before hearing

65 days to start hearing from date of receipt

3 days to conduct the hearing

65 days after hearing to make a decision

A total of 65 days
Variance or appeal of ZEO order or  decision Last business day of month prior to next meeting At regular meeting following submission Same as Special Permit
Zoning Amendment 3 weeks prior to meeting At regular meeting following submission

At least 10 days before start of public hearing

Same as Special Permit
Zone Change 3 weeks prior to meeting At regular meeting following submission

At least 10 days before start of public hearing

Same as Special Permit
Harbor Management Commission 2 weeks prior to meeting NA No requirements.  Application is generally reviewed and acted upon at the meeting following submission.
Historic District Review 2 weeks prior to meeting NA No requirements.  Application is generally reviewed and acted upon at the meeting following submission.
Floodplain Development Permit 3 weeks prior to meeting At regular meeting following submission Same as Site Plan or Special Permit
Building Permit(s) Rolling NA Must receive all land use permits before filing.  Statutory timeframe for review is 65 days.
Demolition Permit Rolling NA NA
Mooring Permit Rolling NA NA

Notes:

  1. Date of receipt is the date from which the timeframe to render a decision is determined, no the date the application was provided to the City offices.
  2. Staff is responsible for legal notices for publication.  Applicant is responsible for all other notices including signs and mailing to property owners.  See applicable regulations.

Depending upon the nature of an application will determine who is best qualified to assist in preparing the application and representing the application when it goes before a board or commission.  However, the following provides general guidance to assist in your planning.  Please note we do not recommend design professionals but all design professionals must be licensed/registered with the State of Connecticut.

Activity/Permit Recommended Professional
Change of Use/No Site Improvements This can typically be completed by the property owner, tenant or business owner.  Please note, if interior modifications are being made a building permit may be required.
Buildings: Additions Architect
Buildings: New Architect
Buildings: Major Interior Renovations Architect
Site Improvements Land Surveyor, Civil Engineer, Landscape Architect
Stormwater Improvements Civil Engineer with experience in stormwater management
Site Survey (A2/T2) Licensed Land Surveyor
Retaining Wall Design Professional Engineer
Wetland Delineation Licensed Soil Scientist
Coastal Resource Review Environmental scientist recommended when property/activity is directly adjacent to the coastal jurisdiction line
Landscape design Landscape Architect is recommended for significant landscape plantings
Traffic Impact Assessment/Study Traffic Engineer

Sequence

Certain actions must occur prior to others.  In summary they are as follows:

Variances: If a variance is required, it must be approved before an application is filed for another permit.  If a variance is not approved, then the application cannot move forward since it does not conform to the zoning regulations.  If a variance is approved, there may be conditions placed upon the approval that impact the overall design, which in turn, influences the design of a project and preparation of other permit applications.

Inland Wetlands and Watercourses (IWWC):  A zoning permit, site plan permit, or special permit cannot be approved until the Conservation Commission approves an inland wetland and watercourse application, if required.  Applications for zoning, site plan and special permit may be filed at the same time as an IWWC application, but the Conservation Commission must act prior to the Planning and Zoning Commission acting.

Building Permits:  You may not file for a building permit until all other local permits are received.

Office of State Traffic Commission (OSTA): OSTA will not act upon a major traffic generator until the local zoning commission has approved the application.

Applications will be distributed to various departments before staff or a board or commission makes a decision.  Each department will review the materials as it pertains to their particular area of expertise and issue a report to the lead department.

If staff reports are not complete, a board or commission may still review the application at their next regular meeting, but will generally not make a decision.

Once staff reports are complete, they will be compiled and distributed to the application.  If applicable, the applicant must address the comments in writing, by revising and resubmitting drawings and reports or both.  A new submission and further staff review may be required.

Depending upon the complexity of the application and the amount of coordination that has been completed before the application was filed will determine the length of a review.  Review time is also dependent upon staff workload.  In the end, we must follow the statutory timelines, however we make every attempt to be more expeditious than the maximum allowed by law.

Meetings (No hearing)

For applications to a board or commission that do not require a public hearing, an application will be reviewed by the board or commission based upon where the application is on the meeting agenda.  Agendas can be found on the City Calendar on the City’s home page.  Typically, the applicant is asked to present their application(s).  Following the presentation, staff and members of the board or commission may ask additional questions.  If all items have been addressed for a particular application the commission may vote to make a decision for approval or denial.  The public is not allowed to speak nor submit information about a particular application when a public hearing is not conducted.

Public Hearings

Public hearings are formal matters.  Hearings are listed on the agenda and require formal notices both via the newspaper and mailings to nearby property owners (see Section 9.9 Procedural Matters of the Zoning Regulations or the IWWC Regulations).

The ‘opening’ of a hearing is formal and typically begins with the chairman reading the standard instructions followed for all public hearings, ensuring consistency between applications.  First, the City Planner will take care of house keeping matters such as reading the legal notice, exhibit list and other relevant matters.  The applicant will then make a formal presentation.  This will be followed with the members of the board or commission and staff asking questions and the public offered an opportunity to provide opinion.

When a hearing is open the board or commission can receive information from the applicant, staff or a member of the public.  Once the hearing is closed, no additional information can be submitted and the board or commission will begin deliberations, leading to a decision.  Deliberations and possible decisions must be listed on the agenda.

After an Approval

Following a decision, and assuming an approval, a board or commission may impose certain conditions or modifications to the site plans or supporting documentation.  The conditions or modifications, if any, must be addressed to receive final approval.  It is generally staff’s responsibility to review the plans at this stage.  Once staff has confirmed these final revisions are made, the applicant will be notified and the appropriate number of copies of finalized documents will be provided by the applicant to the City.  The respective chair of the board or commission will then be notified, he/she will review the final plans, and sign and date the drawings.  Once signed, the applicant may proceed to apply for the next application or building permit.

Depending upon the type of permit, there are legal notices that must be published and an appeal period may apply.  An appeal period means a timeframe that a person(s) may appeal a decision of a board or commission to the courts.  In this case, the decision does not become valid until the appeal is decided upon by the courts, or the appeal is withdrawn.  Please consult with your legal counsel for more information.

Expiration of a Permit and Extensions

Once a Site Plan Permit is approved, construction must be complete within five (5) years from the approval date.  One or more extensions can be requested for up to a total of ten years, subject to Planning and Zoning Commission approval.  If the project has not been completed within any of the above timeframes, the permit becomes void.  In that case a new permit is required it must be applied for under the regulations that are in effect at the time of the new permit application(s).

After approvals from the land use commissions are received and conditions that may have been placed upon the approval(s) addressed you may proceed with applying for a Building Permit.  Applying for a Building Permit can only occur after all required land use permits are obtained.  For more information on filing for a building permit refer to the Building and Zoning webpage.  For more information please contact the Building Official:

Carlton Smith, Building Official
860-446-4104
smithc@cityofgroton-ct.gov

During Construction

During construction staff will make periodic visits to review progress and ensure the project is being constructed as depicted on the approved plans.  If field conditions warrant a change to the approved plans, the changes must be brought to staff’s attention prior to the change being implemented.  This can usually be reviewed by staff to maintain progress during construction but may require commission review if the change is extensive.

Occupying your Site/Building

The Building Official has the authority to issue a Certificate of Occupancy (CO) for any construction that requires a Building Permit.  When only site improvements are required, the City Planner issuance a Certificate of Site Compliance.  For both situations, the City Planner must review the built improvements to ensure they were constructed per the approved plans, or approved modifications based upon field conditions.  A CO or Certificate of Site Compliance must be received prior to occupying the building or site.  Failure to do so would be considered a violation.

Enforcement of zoning and building codes is not a responsibility the City takes lightly.  We understand it can have significant implications to a business or residence.  Prior to issuing any written notices we take every step to work with the owner or tenant to remedy the issue.  In most cases, this collaborative approach is effective and achieves the outcome both parties desire to reach.  In some instance, a more formal response may be taken.  Depending upon the violation, enforcement is the responsibility of the Building and Zoning Official or Wetlands Enforcement Agent.

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