Key Regulatory Standards

Old Lyme, Kathleen DeMeo

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State law gives the Connecticut River Gateway Commission the ability to manage development to balance protection of Zone’s scenic nature and ecology with the rights of owners to build or improve their property. 

Regulatory standards address structure characteristics such as building height and size, lot coverage and setback from the river. Timber cutting, excavation, soil removal, depositing of earth materials, and dumping or storage of refuse are also subject to regulation.

Please note: The Gateway Commission establishes minimum standards. Towns have the ability to adopt stricter regulations if they choose. The “Connecticut River” as defined in the standards includes the river and any of its tributaries or associated wetlands located within the Zone.

The linked summaries merely offer outlines of important standards. Please refer to the standards themselves for exact regulatory language.

fall foliage on Connecticut River
East Haddam, CT

Goodspeed Opera House, Kathleen DeMeo

Building Height

The Goodspeed Opera House, built in 1876 by shipbuilder and merchant William H. Goodspeed, towered six stories above the Connecticut River. Today, managing the height of structures is an important priority for the Commission and member towns.

Guidelines for Building Heights »

high on the ridge

Gillette's Castle, Greg Futoma

Large Scale Structures

With exceptions like Gillette’s Castle, homes and structures along the river were once modest in scale. As time passed, homes became bigger. Standards address the visual impact of such larger structures.

Large Scale Structures »

home with green screening

Land Coverage and Setback

The amount of land used for the construction or placement of buildings — lot coverage — and the distance such buildings are located from the river — setback — are addressed by Commission standards.

Read the Zoning for Land Coverage & Setback »

view of the United States from space

Google Earth NASA USA

Light Pollution

The Commission is asking the eight towns in the Zone to update their regulations and, in the process, to add a new standard concerning light pollution which can affect our health and harm nature.

Learn How to Protect our Night Skies »

Lyme, CT

Riparian Buffers

A minimum 50-foot strip of vegetation left between lawns and the river protects water quality. Shrubs and trees also preserve the Zone’s traditional river scene.

Riparian Buffers and Landscape Plantings »

plant buffers make the river cleaner and healthier for us all

Let Your Lawn Filter Our Water

A Gateway standard included in the zoning regulations of all eight member towns requires a “vegetative buffer” between lawns or upland property and the river. The purpose of this “riparian buffer” is to allow storm or irrigation runoff, which may contain traces of fertilizer or pesticides, to soak into the ground before reaching the Connecticut River. The earth is a great filter, and plant buffers make the river cleaner and healthier for us all.