Grace Farms

Recent Articles

Letter: Article on Grace Farms Misrepresents, Misleads

Dear Editor:

As the attorney for Grace Farms Foundation, Inc. in its “Renewed Application for Second Amended Special Permit” before the Planning and Zoning Commission, I write to correct serious inaccuracies in the above-referenced article you wrote yesterday [“Bested in Legal Arguments, Attorneys for Grace Farms ….” published April 23]. These inaccuracies misrepresent the procedural posture of the Foundation’s Renewed Application and misleadingly suggest that the Commission has already acted on a part of it. You mention late in the article the “prepared statement” of the Foundation on its decision, and focus instead on the speculation of persons who did not participate in the decision. However, the Foundation’s statement of its decision to withdraw and then refile its Renewed Application relates precisely what transpired between Commission Counsel Ira Bloom, Town Planner Steve Palmer, and the undersigned on Friday, April 21, 2017. Indeed, the reason the Foundation published its statement was to avoid the very uncorroborated speculation in which you have engaged. Continue Reading →

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Bested in Legal Arguments, Attorneys for Grace Farms Now Pursue Changes to Zoning Regulations

Grace Farms last week conceded a key legal point in its long-running bid to secure permission for robust and varied activities at its Lukes Wood Road campus. Attorneys on behalf of Grace Farms have argued that the organization is allowed to operate not only as a religious institution, as defined in the New Canaan Zoning Regulations and as approved four years ago, but—with approval from the Planning & Zoning Commission—as a club/organization and philanthropic/charitable agency, too. Gaining those new “use designations” formed the major goal of an application filed in September on behalf of Grace Farms by attorneys with Stamford-based Robinson & Cole. Yet lawyers retained by neighbors—concerned since Grace Farms opened to the public in October 2015 about what’s actually happening there, as opposed to what had been described during public hearings—successfully argued that the regulations do not allow for more than one “principal use” at Grace Farms.

That has forced the organization now to withdraw its full application with P&Z and first pursue a text change to those regulations. Neighbors Jennifer Holme and David Markatos, who are represented by attorney Amy Souchuns of Milford-based Hurwitz, Sagarin, Slossberg & Knuff LLC, told NewCanaanite.com that they are “pleased to see that the town has finally recognized that having multiple principal uses in the 4-acre, lowest density residential zone is in direct contravention of not only New Canaan’s zoning regulations and special permit criteria but also the Plan of Conservation and Development.”

The Smith Ridge Road residents noted that in an April 21 report Donald Poland, a planning consultant at New York City-based Goman+York, found that the number of principal uses Grace Farms actually is seeking is seven: foundation, church, club, restaurant, commercial conference center, public park and office building. Continue Reading →

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Judge Denies Grace Farms’ Bid To Dismiss Parts of Lawsuit Filed Against Organization, President

A state Superior Court judge last week denied Grace Farms’ bid to dismiss parts of a lawsuit brought by neighbors who say the organization and its president are responsible for sediment, silt and turbid water entering a wetlands, stream and pond on their properties during construction of the Lukes Wood Road facility. Starting in September 2013, Grace Farms violated a permit issued by the New Canaan Inland Wetlands Commission in several ways, including by failing to control storm water run-off, failing to hire an independent site monitor and failing to notify the town about problems of erosion and siltation, according to a complaint brought last June on behalf of two abutting neighbors by East Berlin, Conn.-based attorney Janet P. Brooks. Attorneys had argued on behalf of Grace Farms and the organization that those neighbors lack the standing to sue for violations of an Inland Wetlands permit because they’re individuals and not the issuing agency, according to a decision filed April 10 by Judge Marshall K. Berger. Yet “as abutting landowners, the plaintiffs have sufficiently alleged that they are personally aggrieved by the Grace defendants’ failures to comply with the conditions and that these failures have adversely affected the plaintiffs’ property and their use and enjoyment of it,” Berger wrote. The judge continued: “Indeed, the plaintiffs’ interest in insuring that the Grace defendants did not violate the conditions of the permit could not be greater given that the plaintiffs’ property is downstream and that alleged discharges have occurred and continue to occur … therefore, the motion to dismiss count two is denied.”

In all, Brooks on behalf of her clients—Smith Ridge Road residents Timothy Curt and Dona Bissonnette—included five counts in the original complaint. Continue Reading →

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Letter: Grace Farms a Sanctuary for Natural Habitat, Wildlife

The town of New Canaan received a major gift of open space when the Grace Farms Foundation acquired Windsome Farms in 2008 and choose to develop less than 5 percent of the now 80-acre parcel. A 2003 Open Space Committee commissioned by then-First Selectman Judy Neville and led by Selectman Paul Giusti had identified these rolling hills as a “top” candidate for town purchase along with the Irwin Estate. The town subsequently acquired Irwin for a total of $19 million, and today hundreds of town citizens and youth enjoy Irwin Park daily. Not only did our town not have to acquire the Windsome Farms parcel at a taxpayer cost in excess of $20 million, we avoided the projected park maintenance costs as well. Today, nature is one of five Grace Farms’ initiatives. Continue Reading →

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Letter: Grace Farms Lifts Silvermine Arts Center, Community

Dear Editor,

Sometimes I cannot believe how fortunate we are to have in New Canaan, an institution dedicating itself to bringing forward issues that affect us as a culture and a global community; and that does this on an open preserve of environmentally protected property that they share with the community. There is serenity, peace, education and understanding emanating from this one oasis from our busy lives. As a not-for-profit, Silvermine is particularly supported by Grace Farms. As an arts school and arts center, we fortunately fall into two of Grace Farms’ five initiatives. Grace Farms has lifted us to new heights. First of all, they hosted a gathering of local 501c3 organizations where we sat together and told about each of our initiatives. Continue Reading →

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