Many communities have difficulty answering the question, What will our future look like, and how will we get there? For West Haven, that question is further influenced by the community’s location on Long Island Sound and New Haven Harbor: Coastal communities enjoy the beauty of the waterfront but also have the responsibility of planning for extreme weather, such as hurricanes, floods and coastal storms.
The city has embarked on a number of planning initiatives in recent years. Below is a summary of current and recent planning initiatives that have all been geared toward making the city a more attractive place to live, work and play.
After adopting the city’s current Plan of Conservation and Development in 2017, the Planning and Zoning Commission formed a subcommittee that has spearheaded a multitude of planning efforts to help implement the POCD. The following planning projects are underway as of 2020 — with more expected. Watch for public engagement opportunities to participate in these efforts:
Late in 2018, the Planning and Zoning Commission formed a neighborhood-based Steering Committee to help develop an Allingtown Plan as recommended in the Plan of Conservation and Development. Throughout 2019 and early 2020, the committee met to develop the plan and combined efforts with the commission to hold two workshops to obtain community input. The committee and the Allingtown community had a distinct interest in making the Allingtown Center a more walkable community, particularly close to the University of New Haven campus. A variety of recommendations were included in a draft plan that was presented to the committee and the commission for their consideration in June 2020.
In recent years, it had become increasingly clear to the Planning and Zoning Commission of the need to modify the city’s current roadways to better accommodate travel by those on foot and bike. The city approached the South Central Regional Council of Governments (SCRCOG) in 2019 to request funding for a citywide Bicycle/Pedestrian Plan. The SCRCOG moved quickly to secure the necessary money to include this plan in its 2020 Work Plan. The Beta Group Inc., an engineering firm based in Hartford, was selected to prepare a study of the Bicycle/Pedestrian Plan. The study has been delayed until the latter part of 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
As recommended in the Plan of Conservation and Development, the Planning and Zoning Commission began researching village district regulations in many communities throughout the state. In 2019, the commission drafted its own regulation for West Haven and conducted two well-attended public workshops to refine the regulation before it was adopted in September 2019. That regulation is now in place and provides important design guidance for substantial renovation and new-construction projects in the city’s historic central business district.
See the Village District Zoning Regulations.
See the Village District Properties List.
Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD)
In June 2017, the city completed the formulation of its long-range Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD), or, as commonly referred to in other states, its “master plan” or “comprehensive plan.” This plan is a guidance document that sets goals, policies and priorities for the physical, economic, environmental and social development of the community. In addition to a future Land Use Plan, the POCD identified key strategies for guiding future development within focal areas of the city, such as the shoreline, the train station, the downtown and the Allingtown neighborhood, as well as the area connecting with the Yale West Campus. The plan was developed with the technical assistance of The RBA Group, a consulting firm based in Norwalk. The development of the plan relied on community input through workshops, public meetings, community surveys and a blog that tracked the entire process.
See the Plan of Conservation and Development.
Transit-Oriented Development (TOD)
Starting in 2006, the city began to recognize the importance of the area surrounding a future West Haven train station. At the time, the city adopted its first set of transit-oriented development (TOD) regulations in anticipation of the state’s construction of the newest Metro-North Railroad commuter station in West Haven in 2013. Using a state grant, the city completed an assessment study of this area in 2014-15 under the direction of architectural and town planning firms Robert Orr & Associates of New Haven and DPZ Partners LLC of Miami. Proposed changes to the regulations were identified to help West Haven compete more effectively with other Connecticut municipalities that have spurred new mixed-use developments around their train stations, which tend to appeal to millennials and empty nesters. As a result of that visioning process, new regulations were adopted in November 2016 and continue to guide land uses in the area.
See the TOD Vision Plan & Code Charrette.
See the TOD District Zoning Regulations.
Train Station Area: In 2018, based on recommendations by the Plan of Conservation and Development, the Planning and Zoning Commission proposed an expansion to the Transit-Oriented Development District to incorporate properties along lower Sawmill Road and Main Street. After a public hearing on the proposal, the commission voted unanimously to expand the TOD District as proposed.
See the West Haven Zoning Map.
Harbor Management Plan
Under the direction of the Harbor Management Commission, the city prepared a Harbor Management Plan in 2015-18 to guide the most desirable use of West Haven’s navigable waters and intertidal areas for recreational, commercial and conservation purposes. The plan was reviewed and approved by the state and was ultimately adopted by the City Council in September 2018. Through this plan, the city analyzed conditions within the West Haven Harbor Management Area and recommended a number of future goals and policies to guide the safe and beneficial use of this area and the conservation and enhancement of coastal resources, such as tidal wetlands, beaches and dunes, and shellfish beds. The Harbor Management Area encompasses the city’s municipal jurisdiction on the western half of New Haven Harbor, near the shore of Long Island Sound, and tidal portions of the West River, Oyster River, Cove River and Old Field Creek.
The Harbor Management Plan complements the Plan of Conservation and Development and the city’s waterfront zoning regulations by focusing on issues most pertinent to the safe, orderly and beneficial use of the waters of the Harbor Management Area and the protection and enhancement of the area’s natural coastal resources and water quality. Together, the two plans function as the city’s principal guides for the use and conservation of West Haven’s coastal waters and waterfront resources.
The plan was developed with the technical assistance of Westport coastal consultant Geoffrey Steadman. The preparation of the plan was influenced by an online community survey, to which more than 550 residents and interested individuals responded.
See the Harbor Management Plan.
Proposed Boat Launching Ramp: After the adoption of the Harbor Management Plan, the Harbor Management Commission turned its efforts to planning for a much-needed boat launching ramp (the existing boat launch on April Street is unfortunately more than a mile from the federal channel, and users are limited to narrow periods of high tide to ensure sufficient water depth for launching and RACE Coastal Engineering LLC of Stratford).
Coastal Resilience Plan
The impacts of Tropical Storm Irene and Superstorm Sandy demonstrated the vulnerabilities of West Haven’s coastal areas. The city received funding to address these issues and to examine the vulnerability and levels of risk to minimize, manage and respond to the possibility of significant damage from future storms. The plan was prepared with the assistance of engineering consultant Milone & MacBroom Inc. of Cheshire and was adopted in 2018. (A companion project, a Wastewater Treatment Facility Outfall Study for the city’s Water Pollution Control Plant, is being developed by engineering consultant Black & Veatch Corp. of Burlington, Massachusetts, as part of the overall study.)
See the Coastal Resilience Plan.