Frequently Asked Questions

Can a car repair business be conducted at a home in a residential neighborhood?

Motor vehicle repairs on vehicles other than incidental repairs to vehicles registered to the owner of the address must be conducted at a facility licensed by the Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles and approved by the Town Planning and Zoning Commission. The repeated purchase, repair, and sale of motor vehicles from a residential address is also prohibited.

Can a recreational vehicle be parked on private property in a residential zone?

Recreational vehicles, boats, and their trailers may be parked or stored on a lot in any residential zone, provided that:

  1. there is no more than one RV or boat/trailer on the property;
  2. it is stored in the back yard and screened from view from the street;
  3. it is no more than 25 feet in length;
  4. it is not hooked up to utilities or used for habitation purposes; and
  5. it is not parked in the driveway for more than 24 hours for the purpose of loading/unloading.

Can an inoperable car be stored in the driveway or yard of a residence?

If the car is registered at the address and is in the process of being repaired, it can be parked in the driveway or in a garage. An inoperable and unregistered vehicle can be stored in a garage.

Can day care be conducted in a my home or residential neighborhood?

A family day care home with six or less children can be conducted in any single-family residence with a license from the Connecticut Department of Public Health (DPH). A group day care home with more than six but less than 12 children may be approved with a Special Use Permit from the Town Planning and Zoning Commission in addition to a license from the DPH.

Can I bring my company truck home at night?

If you live in a residential zone, you can bring home one truck with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 11,000 lbs or less.  The GVWR is the curb weight of the vehicle and its maximum rated payload.  The GVWR is typically printed on the driver's-side doorframe.  Most stock pickup trucks and vans fall within this weight class (e.g., F-150, F-250, Ram 1500, Ram 2500, C/K 1500, C/K 2500, Silverado, Tundra, Titan).  If the truck is bigger than a typical pickup truck or van (e.g., F-350, F-450, Ram 3500, C/K 3500) or has been modified to carry more weight (e.g., dual rear wheels, heavy duty suspension) it is probably not permitted.  Diesel trucks should not be left idling during freezing weather.

Can I convert my house from a single-family house to a two-family or multi-family house?

Windsor's residential zones are single-family residential zones and as such, do not typically allow two-family or multi-family homes unless they pre-existed before the Zoning Regulations prohibited them. 

 

In limited areas of Windsor Center and Wilson, single-family homes can be converted to two-family or multi-family homes, professional offices or a combination of the above by Special Use Permit from the Town Planning and Zoning Commission, provided that certain criteria are met.  Please contact either the Building Department (285-1960) or Planning Department (285-1980) for more information.

Can I have an accessory apartment in my home?

Yes, it is called an in-law apartment and it would be limited to use by an elderly or disabled relative(s) and cannot be rented out to unrelated people. A Special Use Permit from the Town Planning and Zoning Commission is required and there are a number of restrictions on the size and appearance of the accessory apartment.

Can I hold religious services in my home?

Religious institutions are considered a place of assembly and must meet specific building and life safety code requirement as well as obtain a Special Use Permit and Site Plan approval from the Town Planning and Zoning Commission.

Can I prune a neighbor's tree hanging over my property line?

If a tree limb is dead, endangering overhead wires, or otherwise a threat to the safe use of your property, you can have the limb(s) removed in some circumstances. You should speak to your neighbor first before having any limbs cut. You should not attempt to cut limbs yourself near overhead wires, you cannot prune a limb beyond your property line without your neighbors permission, and you should not aggressively prune a tree so as to severely disfigure or kill the tree. The Town will not intervene in nuisance tree issues unless the tree is within a Town right-of-way or open space.

Can I put up a sign on my property or building?

Most non-residential uses are entitled to some form of signage and signs are even permitted in limited instances in the residential zones. Political signs are considered protected speech and are not regulated by the town. Due to the complexity of the sign regulations, you should consult Section 3 of the Zoning Regulations and speak with the Planning Department (860 285-1980) staff before purchasing or installing a sign. Site Plan approval and a Building Permit are required to install new signs. In some cases, sign faces can be changed without a permit.

Can I run a small business out of my home?

There is no simple answer to this question.  The Zoning Regulations allow home occupations with the following conditions:

  • the business must be operated by the owner or resident of the home with no outside employees;
  • any equipment used should be typically found in the home (e.g. a computer or sewing machine) and incidental to residential occupancy;
  • products or signs cannot be visible from the street; and
  • the business cannot alter the residential character of the neighborhood (i.e. generate car or truck traffic other than typical mail and parcel delivery services, noise, odors or other impacts not typical of a residential neighborhood).

 

More intensive home occupations than those described above may be allowed by Special Use Permit from the Town Planning and Zoning Commission.  In addition to the applicable conditions stated above, they must also comply with the following conditions:

  • the hours of operation shall be Monday through Saturday between 8am and 6pm;
  • a site plan shall be provided with the initial application;
  • no more than four parking spaces are permitted;
  • no dumpsters are permitted;
  • any special equipment or construction associated with the home occupation must be removed if the business ceases operation;
  • a maximum of three square feet of total sign area is permitted; and
  • the Commission must conclude that the operation will not generate noise, odor, glare, and/or other nuisances that are incompatible with a residential neighborhood.

 

Typical home businesses include professional offices, small contractor's offices, word processing services, dressmaking, music lessons, candy and soap making and artisans.  Examples of inappropriate home businesses are retail stores, florists, art galleries, machine shops, and contractor's offices that use the property as a base of operations for many employees.  Please consult with the Planning Department prior to investing in a home-based business.

Can Planning Department staff recommend a certified or licensed professional such as a professional engineer or soil scientist?

For liability and other reasons, staff cannot recommend one licensed professional over another. In some instances, we may have brochures or lists of certified or licensed professionals provided by their respective trade organizations that we could offer you for your convenience. As the quality and timeliness of work can vary significantly from one professional to another, it is highly recommended that you seek references from other sources.

How can I find out what utilities are available at my property?

The Engineering Department has maps depicting the location of water, sewer, and gas lines throughout town that are available for public inspection.  Windsor is served by the Metropolitan District Commission (MDC) for water and sewer service and both Connecticut Natural Gas (CNG) and Yankee Gas for natural gas service (depending on your location).  Cable television and internet service are provided by both Comcast and AT&T (U-verse) (depending on your location).  For service availability at a particular location, please contact these utilities directly using the links above.

How do I file a zoning complaint?

Contact the Zoning Enforcement Officer at 285-1960.  A complaint can also be mailed to the Building Department, 275 Broad Street, Windsor, CT 06095.

How many garage sales can I have in a year?

You can hold up to a maximum of four sales per year, per address, not to exceed three days in duration each.  Items cannot be displayed within the street right-of-way (generally within 10 to 12 feet of the curb) and any signs advertising garage or tag sales must be legally placed and removed within 24 hours after the sale.

How wide can my residential driveway be?

Generally, a residential driveway can be 18 feet wide, except where the driveway flares outward at the street.  There are provisions for the driveway to be wider directly in front of a garage entrance, depending on the size and orientation of the garage.  Unless the driveway is shared between two adjacent properties, it cannot be located within six feet of a side property line without approval by town staff or the Town Planning and Zoning Commission, depending on how close the driveway is.  Due to the complexity of these regulations, you should consult with the Building Department (285-1960) or Planning Department (285-1980) prior to constructing or modifying a driveway.

If I heard a rumor about a new development in town, can you tell me about it?

Prior to a formal application, various Town staff may meet with potential applicants and be asked to maintain confidentiality until they make a formal application.  This may be due to trade secrets, local competition, or to prevent land speculation in advance of their development.  We will make every attempt to abide by their wishes when appropriate.  If confidentiality is not requested, we may reveal whatever we know. 

 

Once a formal application is made, all of the contents of the application file are available to the public for inspection during normal business hours.

Is my lot a buildable lot?

Many issues factor into whether a lot is buildable and there is no simple answer. The availability of public water and sewer; the ability to drill a well and/or construct a septic system; and the presence of floodplain, inland wetlands, watercourses, and topography all factor into whether a lot is buildable. Subdivision approval from the Town Planning and Zoning Commission with valid permits from the Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Commission and/or the Windsor Health Department (where required) are a good indication of a buildable lot. To determine how many dwelling units can be built on a lot or whether a lot can be built upon at all, you may need to consult with professionals such as a Certified Professional Soil Scientist, a Connecticut Licensed Land Surveyor, and/or a Connecticut Licensed Professional (Civil) Engineer.

Is my property in a flood zone?

The Engineering Department has printed as well as digital FEMA floodplain maps that you can review to determine whether your property is in a flood zone.  Where it is unclear from the FEMA floodplain maps whether your property is, or is not in the floodplain, you can use our geographic information system (GIS) to look up your property and select the layer entitled "Floodplain Mapping Effective 9-26-2008" on the right-hand side of the page to overlay the floodplain onto your property.  The blue hatched areas represent areas that have a one-percent chance of flooding in any given year, which are the areas used to determine whether flood insurance is required.

What are the rules for constructing an accessory building such as a garage or shed?

Detached accessory buildings must observe all zoning requirements for setbacks from property lines and coverage of the site.  In addition, the total floor area of all detached accessory structures on a residential property is limited to 580 square feet and their height is limited to one-story or 15 feet.  There are several exceptions to the rules for setbacks and total area, which are too complicated to explain in this FAQ.  Please contact either the Planning Department (285-1980) or Building Department (285-1960) for more information.

What are the rules for installing a residential fence?

There are a number of rules and guidelines governing the installation of a new fence. No fence, wall, or hedge over four feet high may be located within five feet of any property line within the required front yard, which is typically the first 40 feet from the front property line, which itself is typically 12 feet from the curb or edge of pavement (i.e. 52 feet from the street). No fencing is allowed within the street right-of-way, which is generally the first 12 feet from the street, and no fence, wall, or hedge that obscures the vision of motorists or pedestrians can be located within a ten-foot radius of the intersection of any driveway edge and the front property line (i.e. within ten feet of the first 22 feet of driveway). Fences, walls, or hedges up to six feet high may be located within the required front yard if they are set back five feet from the property line for each additional foot of height. No fence, wall, or hedge exceeding six feet in height may be located within any required side or rear yard.

What are the rules for installing a swimming pool?

Swimming pools, whether in-ground or above-ground, are considered structures, which must observe all zoning requirements for setbacks from property lines and coverage of the site.  A building permit is required for all pools greater than 24 inches in depth, 250 square feet in surface area, or equipped with a permanent circulation pump.  See the Building Department's Swimming Pool FAQ for more information.

What does the AICP after the planners' names mean?

AICP stands for the American Institute of Certified Planners.  The AICP designation is a mark of competence and integrity among planners, requiring a broad knowlege of planning principles and practices; continuing education in the latest tools, trends, laws and ethics; a commitment to enriching the profession through education and innovation; and adherence to a strict code of ethics.

What is smart growth?

Smart growth is a development philosophy that is the exact opposite of single-use suburban sprawl, which has been the predominant development pattern over the last half century. Smart Growth seeks to create compact development patterns that promote walking and mass transit, and reduce environmental impacts by redirecting growth from environmentally sensitive rural areas.

What is Traditional Neighborhood Development?

Traditional Neighborhood Development (TND) also known as Neo-Traditional Development is a development philosophy that combines the benefits of historic village development patterns with the reality of modern auto-oriented lifestyles. TND results in mixed-use developments that are compact, walkable, and often transit-oriented; allowing residents and workers to live, work, shop, and play in close proximity; reducing or eliminating the need for second or third cars for most households. TND can be an effective tool for reducing traffic congestion and demand for parking, providing desirable workforce housing, and attracting future economic development.

What is Transit Oriented Development?

Transit Oriented Development (TOD) is medium- to high-density development within a quarter- to half-mile radius of mass transit services such as bus, light-rail, and heavy-rail, creating a mutually beneficial relationship between residents and/or businesses and the transit services. The availability of transit services allows for more dense development without the land intensive demand for parking, while the proximity of large numbers of residents and/or workers supports existing investments or justifies new investments in mass transit and reduces the need for subsidies.

When do I need site plan approval?

Any development activity other than a new single-family home requires a Site Plan Application.  The conversion of a single-family home into two or more dwelling units, professional offices, or a combination of the two also requires a Site Plan Application.  Any building expansion or exterior site improvement on a site previously approved by site plan application requires a Site Plan Modification Application.

When do I need subdivision approval?

Any parcel of land in existence prior to July 16, 1955 that has not been split, subdivided, or reduced in size can be split into two lots, provided that both lots conform to all applicable zoning requirements in effect at the time of the split (e.g. minimum lot width, minimum lot area, etc.).  If the lot has been previously split into two lots, a Subdivision Application is required before any additional lots can be created.  If a lot has been previously subdivided, a Resubdivision Application is required.

When does a proposed development project need a traffic study?

The State Traffic Commission (STC) requires a Certificate of Operation for all developments of over 100,000 square feet or 200 parking spaces, which in turn requires a traffic study of the proposal. The Town Planning and Zoning Commission may also require a traffic study independently of the STC process when processing a zoning map amendment or other application that is likely to generate significant traffic above current conditions.