[HISTORY: Adopted by the Town Council of the Town of Monroe 1-24-2005. Amendments noted where applicable.]
Prior to designating a highway or a portion thereof as a scenic road, the Planning and Zoning Commission shall first specifically find that the highway or portion of the highway to be designated is at least 1/2 mile in length or that the entire length of the highway is less than 1/4 mile in length and at least one end of the highway abuts a highway already designated as scenic. The Planning and Zoning Commission shall also find that at least three of the following criteria are met:
The highway is unpaved;
The highway is bordered by mature trees or stone walls;
The traveled portion of the highway is no more than 20 feet in width;
The highway offers scenic views;
The highway blends naturally into the surrounding terrain; or
The highway parallels or crosses over brooks, streams, lakes, or ponds.
No highway or portion thereof may be designated as a scenic road by the Planning and Zoning Commission pursuant to this chapter unless the owners of a majority of the lot frontage abutting the highway or portion thereof agree to the designation of the highway as a scenic road by filing a written statement of approval with the Town Clerk of the Town of Monroe, which statement of approval shall meet the requirements of § 430-3.
No highway or portion of a highway shall be designated as a scenic road if the abutting property contains intensive commercial development or if the highway itself has intensive vehicular traffic.
No road constructed as part of an approved plan of subdivision on or after March 23, 1956, may be considered for scenic road designation.
Statement of approval. The Planning and Zoning Commission may consider a highway or portion thereof for designation as a scenic road on its own initiative. The Planning and Zoning Commission shall also consider such designation upon submission of a petition of electors, which petition shall have attached to it a statement of approval as described below. Each page of any such petition shall have attached to it a copy of the proposed ordinance designating the highway or portion thereof as a scenic road. No ordinance designating a highway or portion thereof shall be adopted unless the Planning and Zoning Commission shall have received a statement of approval that meets each of the requirements set forth below.
The statement of approval shall be submitted on a form approved by the Town Clerk and shall contain the following:
The name of the highway to be designated as a scenic road, or a general description of the portion of such highway sought to be designated, together with a statement of the approximate total length of the highway or the portion thereof to be designated;
A description of those characteristics of the road that qualify it for scenic road status, including but not limited to the criteria set forth in § 430-2 satisfied by the road;
The signature of the owners of a majority of lot frontage abutting the highway or portion of the highway in question, stating that they approve of designating the road or portion thereof as a scenic road and indicating their address and lot frontage along the road or portion of the road in question;
The names and addresses of owners of lot frontage abutting the highway or portion of the highway in question who did not approve the designation, and as to such owners whom the circulator of the statement was unable to contact, a statement that diligent and reasonable efforts were made to contact such owners; and
The name, address and signature of the circulator of the statement of approval, who shall be a resident of Monroe, together with a statement by the circulator that he or she either knows each individual who signed the statement of approval or that the signer satisfactorily identified himself to the circulator.
The original of the statement of approval shall be filed with the Town Clerk, who shall retain one copy, forward one copy to the Town Assessor, and forward the original to the Planning and Zoning Commission. The Town Assessor shall verify the ownership and total lot frontages of those signing the statement of approval, verify that said total lot frontage constitutes a majority of lot frontage abutting the highway or portion thereof to be designated as a scenic road, and submit such verification to the Planning and Zoning Commission within 14 days from the date the Assessor received the statement of approval from the Town Clerk.
Hearing. In order to designate a highway or portion thereof a scenic road, the Planning and Zoning Commission shall, upon submission of verification, hold a public hearing regarding the designation of such road as a scenic road. Notice of the public hearing shall be given by sending a copy of the notice by registered or certified mail to the owners of lots fronting the highway or the portion of the highway to be designated as a scenic road, or any other property owners abutting such road within 500 feet.
Decision. The Planning and Zoning Commission shall act upon the designation within 60 days from the date of public hearing. The Planning and Zoning Commission shall approve for designation any highway or portion of highway that it finds meets the criteria of § 430-2 and if the statement of approval and any petition of electors conform to the procedural requirements of Subsection A of this section. Within 10 days after passage, the ordinance designating a highway or portion of a highway as a scenic road shall be published in a newspaper having general circulation in the Town, and notice of such passage shall be sent by certified or registered mail to the owners of lots fronting on that highway or portion thereof designated as a scenic road and to any other property owners abutting such road within 500 feet. Such notice shall be a simple statement that the highway or portion thereof was designated as a scenic road by ordinance, together with the date of such action. The grounds for the designation or nondesignation shall be stated in the records of the Planning and Zoning Commission and, in the case of designation, shall include in detail the special features that make the highway so designated scenic.
Signage. Each designated scenic road may be identified by the posting of signs at both ends.
The designation of a highway or the portion of the highway as a scenic road may be rescinded by the Planning and Zoning Commission, using the same procedures as those used for the designation, and provided that the owners of a majority of lot frontage abutting the highway or a portion of the highway concur with such rescission. No designation of a highway or a portion of a highway as a scenic road may be rescinded, and no petition or request for such rescission may be filed, for at least three years after the effective date of the ordinance so designating a highway or portion of the highway as a scenic road. No designation of a highway or the portion of the highway as a scenic road may be rescinded unless the highway or portion thereof meets the criteria set forth in § 430-2A regarding highway length.
Preservation objective. The Town shall maintain its scenic roads in good and sufficient repair and in passable condition. Routine maintenance and the regulation of future alterations and improvements of designated highways shall be carried out so as to preserve to the highest degree possible the scenic characteristics of the highway which are indicated in the records of the Planning and Zoning Commission as the basis for its designation as a scenic road.
Routine road maintenance. Such maintenance shall include removal of dead and seriously diseased or damaged trees and branches of trees; trimming of the tree branches that encroach on the traveled portion of the highway below the height needed to allow school buses and emergency vehicles to pass; trimming or removal of brush and removal of boulders or other obstacles that encroach on the traveled portion of the road; necessary trimming for utility lines; trimming of brush to enhance and protect scenic views, stone walls, mature trees and other characteristics of the scenic road set forth in the decision designating it a scenic road; correction of drainage problems; and graveling, retreatment, and repair of existing roadway surfaces. Routine road maintenance shall not require approval by the Planning and Zoning Commission, except that the First Selectman shall be notified of contemplated routine maintenance to a scenic road at least one week before it is to commence.
Natural disasters. In the case of a natural disaster in which a road becomes impassable or unsafe for public travel and access must be provided, emergency repairs may be made as needed to restore the highway or portion of highway to its pre-emergency condition.
Alterations or improvements; procedure. As used herein, the term "alteration or improvement" to a scenic road shall include widening of the right-of-way or of the traveled portion of the highway, paving (including but not limited to gravel or chipped asphalt), changes of grade, straightening, removal of stone walls and removal of mature trees, and all other improvements except routine maintenance. The alteration or improvement of a designated scenic road shall be determined by the Planning and Zoning Commission. Any proposal for alteration or improvement, whether by public or private application, shall be submitted to the Planning and Zoning Commission, along with a suitable map showing in detail the proposed alteration or improvement. If it deems necessary, the Planning and Zoning Commission may require the applicant to submit engineering or other technical reports documenting the need for alteration and offering potential alternative solutions. The Planning and Zoning Commission shall hold a public hearing on the application. Within 35 days after receiving the application, the Planning and Zoning Commission shall make a determination on the application. In making its determination, the Planning and Zoning Commission shall also consider the opinion of the Town Engineer or other licensed engineer as may be retained by the Town to render an opinion on the application. Final action on the application shall be taken within 45 days of the public hearing.
Standards for alteration. No alterations or improvements to a scenic road or portion thereof (other than routine maintenance) shall be made unless the Planning and Zoning Commission determines that such alterations are necessary to maintain the road in good and sufficient repair and in reasonably safe condition for public travel. The Planning and Zoning Commission shall not grant an application to improve or alter a scenic road or portion thereof to accommodate a proposed subdivision or other development of land to which the scenic road would provide access unless the Planning and Zoning Commission determines that such alteration will not have a material adverse effect on the scenic characteristics of the highway which formed the basis for its designation as a scenic road, or unless the Planning and Zoning Commission, upon the advice of the Town Attorney, determines that a refusal to permit such alteration or improvement would result in a violation of Article I, Section 11, of the Connecticut Constitution. In determining whether to allow proposed improvements or alterations, the Planning and Zoning Commission shall take into account the specific safety features of the proposed change, the overall impact of the proposed change on the scenic road, and the public response to the proposed change. Any decision by the Planning and Zoning Commission to alter or improve a scenic road shall reflect the least possible damage to the scenic character of the highway. If alterations or improvements to a scenic road are required, then they shall conform to the following requirements:
Speed limits. Scenic values are correlated with lower speeds. The speed limit established by the Town for a scenic road shall be clearly posted.
Curves. Scenic values are correlated with the existence of curves, which allow a constant unfolding of new and changing views. Curves shall not be eliminated until they are found to be a definite hazard within the concept of the specific road.
Grades. Hills and valleys are correlated with scenic values. They shall not be destroyed by cuts and fills unless absolutely essential for road safety.
Widths. A narrow road is correlated with high scenic beauty. Designated highways should never be widened unless the amount of traffic, as determined by a factual study, demands it. For some rural roads, the amount of traffic that can be handled can be greatly increased by wide bypasses and turnouts constructed at intervals where they do least damage to scenic and other values; such bypasses and turnouts shall be implemented wherever possible.
Side slopes. Existing steepness of side slope is preferable to reduction of gradient by extensive removal of soil and rock. This is especially true where the slope is fully stabilized and where it is rich with existing ground cover, shrubs and trees.
Vistas. Vistas of different landscapes shall be preserved by suitable vegetation management techniques.
Utility lines. Where such lines are overhead, the utility corporations shall cooperate by suitable vegetation management techniques which preserve the wildflowers and the shrubs.
Vegetation. Vegetation on the side of the road shall be managed in such a way as to preserve wildflowers, permissible shrubs of ornamental and wildlife values, and trees. Overarching isolated trees, and the canopy of a closed forest, can have extremely high scenic value.
Stone walls. If stone walls or portions thereof must be removed, they shall be rebuilt along the untraveled portion of the scenic road.
Nonscenic activities and structures shall be forbidden, such as billboards, sand, gravel and salt piles, refuse disposal, and other unsightly situations, and compliance will be strictly enforced. Where possible, scenic and preservation easements should be acquired from adjacent owners to ensure the continuance of natural relief, desirable features, and scenic and historic values in the public interest.
Paving criteria. No scenic road may be paved unless the Town Council passes a resolution to the effect that there is no reasonable alternative to the improvement or alteration of the road other than paving. Such resolution shall be based upon certification by the Town Engineer or a licensed civil engineer retained by the Town Council that there is no reasonable alternative to the improvement or alteration of the road other than paving and that the alteration or improvement by paving is necessary to maintain the road in good and sufficient repair and in reasonably safe condition for travel. Any paving of a scenic road in accordance with this subsection, or any work to be done in connection with such paving, shall not commence before 60 days after the date of the resolution of the Town Council in accordance with the provisions of this subsection. Before any alteration or improvement may be made to a road pursuant to this subsection, all other requirements and procedures of this section must also be complied with.
Rights of landowners.
Nothing in this chapter shall be deemed to prohibit a person owning or occupying land abutting the highway or portion thereof designated as a scenic road from:
Maintaining, altering or repairing the land which abuts the road so designated if the maintenance occurs on land not within the right-of-way, paved or unpaved, of the scenic road; or
Having access to his or her property by driveway or subdivision road by encroachment within the rights-of-way, provided that such encroachment is constructed so as to safeguard the highway's scenic features as recorded by the Town Council.
Nothing herein shall prohibit a landowner from permanently removing a portion of a stone wall in order to construct or improve a driveway or, in the case of a subdivision, to connect a subdivision road with a designated scenic road.
This chapter shall be enforced by the Zoning Enforcement Officer or, in his absence, by the Police Department. Violation of this chapter shall be subject to a fine not exceeding $250 per day for each day the violation continues and such other legal remedies as may be available to the Town.