Grace Farms

Recent Articles

Grace Farms Seeks Changes in Re-Filed P&Z Application; Neighbor’s ‘Conflict of Interest’ Claim Targets Chairman

As its resubmitted application goes before the Planning & Zoning Commission this week, Grace Farms is seeking to redefine parts of the town’s approval in ways that would allow for more people than the town body had envisioned on its vast campus. A key piece of P&Z’s heavily conditioned September approval calls for Grace Farms to limit how many times it may have large numbers of people on its site—for example, one condition specifies that it may have 500 to 1,200 people on the site no more than six days per year. In a proposed rewrite of those conditions, Grace Farms is seeking to apply those limits to guests at specific events, rather than total people on site. As such, those visiting Grace Farms for reasons not tied to the events—for example, to walk the property, view its celebrated River Building, eat lunch in its cafeteria, work in the library or sip tea—would not count toward the limit. The changes would “clarify” that P&Z’s limits apply “to identified/planned events, as intended, and not to non-event daily usage by church or Foundation staff, or general public visits, which are monitored by the availability of parking on site,” according to Grace Farms’s proposed changes. Continue Reading →

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Town Attorney Seeks To Address ‘Alleged Procedural Defects’ with Grace Farms Approval through Re-Filing

Seeking to address part of a lawsuit filed by neighbors of Grace Farms, New Canaan’s town attorney is asking the Lukes Wood Road organization to re-file its applications for an amended permit and changes to the New Canaan Zoning Regulations. The Planning & Zoning Commission approved the applications in September on a record-high number of conditions following months of public hearings. However, according to a lawsuit filed on behalf of Smith Ridge Road residents Timothy Curt and Dona Bissonnette, the post-hearing legal notices of P&Z’s decision were “defective, incomplete and misleading” and also failed to meet the requirements of state law or the town’s own zoning regulations. According to the complaint filed by attorney David Sherwood of Glastonbury-based Moriarty, Paetzoid & Sherwood, P&Z also failed to file a copy of the regulation change with the Town Clerk prior to the effective date of the amended regulation, according to the complaint. Though the town would “contest these claims in court,” one way to address “the alleged procedural defects now and thereby reduce the risk of a court later overruling our position and requiring re-filing and new hearing, after the full effort and expense of the administrative appeal process” will be to re-file, according to a Nov. Continue Reading →

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Second Neighbor Files Suit Following P&Z’s Conditioned Approval of Grace Farms Application

A second set of Grace Farms neighbors this month filed a lawsuit seeking to reverse the town’s decision to grant the organization an amended zoning permit that allow for wide-ranging activities on its Lukes Wood Road campus. The New Canaan Planning & Zoning Commission’s heavily conditioned Sept. 26 approval of Grace Farms’ application was made “illegally, arbitrarily, and in an abuse of its discretion” in several ways, according to an appeal filed on behalf of Danita and Paul Ostling of Smith Ridge Road. The application did not conform to various requirements of the New Canaan Zoning Regulations, according a complaint filed Nov. 1 in state Superior Court in Stamford, including a section that outlines what is allowed by Special Permit in those regs (see page 42 here) and others that lay out the criteria and considerations for making a decision on such applications (page 170). Continue Reading →

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Grace Farms Sues Town Over Conditions of P&Z Approval

Saying its rights as a religious organization are being violated, Grace Farms on Friday sued the town in connection with conditions included in recent approvals from the Planning & Zoning Commission. The Grace Farms Foundation “is statutorily and classically aggrieved” by P&Z’s Sept. 26 heavily conditioned approval of its application to amend its zoning permit and is appealing the town’s decision because it is “specially and injuriously affected,” according to a lawsuit filed on behalf of the Lukes Wood Road organization by Attorney Diana Neeves of Stamford-based Robinson + Cole. “The Resolution is illegal, arbitrary, capricious and constitutes an abuse of discretion for a variety of reasons,” including that it “imposes conditions on activities and events of the [Grace Farms] Foundation that are not reasonably supported by substantial evidence in the record before the Commission about the [Grace Farms] Foundation’s operations and how they protect the health and safety of visitors and the neighborhood,” according to the lawsuit, filed in state Superior Court and received Oct. 20 in the New Canaan Town Clerk’s office. Continue Reading →

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Grace Farms’ Neighbor Files Lawsuit Seeking To Reverse P&Z’s Approvals

Saying the Planning & Zoning Commission’s recent approvals of Grace Farms’ closely followed applications will hurt them financially and threaten residential zones in New Canaan, a neighbor of the Lukes Wood Road organization on Monday filed a lawsuit in state Superior Court seeking to reverse those decisions. According to complaints filed on behalf of Smith Ridge Road residents Timothy Curt and Dona Bissonnette by attorney David Sherwood of Glastonbury-based Moriarty, Paetzoid & Sherwood, the neighbors are “aggrieved by the action of” P&Z, because their property “is adversely affected by” changes to New Canaan’s zoning regulations. The lawsuit refers to amendments to the regulations that allow an applicant to seek multiple principal uses for their properties—something Grace Farms wanted in order to be categorized not only as a religious institution but also as a philanthropic agency and club. “The amendments allow applications for multiple principal uses in residential zones and encourage the expansion of commercial and institutional uses in residential zones, to the detriment of established residential uses,” according to the complaint. Further, the complaint says, the plaintiffs are “aggrieved” by P&Z’s decision because they’ve “suffered and will suffer economic damage as a result of the regulation changes and their implementation on the abutting property of Grace Farms Foundation Inc.”

The neighbors are seeking for the court to reverse P&Z decision on the text changes—as well as to nullify the commission’s approval of Grace Farms’ amended special permit application—and to be awarded costs and “such other relief as the court deems appropriate.”

P&Z by a 5-4 margin approved the text amendment application at its July 25 meeting. Continue Reading →

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