Zoning Board of Appeals

Recent Articles

Town To Tap Bridgeport-Based Land Use Attorney for Advice on ‘Sober House’ Appeal

The town plans to tap a Bridgeport-based attorney with wide experience and expertise in land use to advise municipal officials on a closely followed appeal regarding the “sober house” operating on West Road. Patricia Sullivan of Cohen and Wolf is “a very good lawyer with issues related to zoning,” according to First Selectman Rob Mallozzi. “She is a very good land use lawyer and is familiar with the limitations of zoning with respect to federal and state law,” he said. Selected from among a number of candidates and with vetting and feedback from attorneys who serve on the New Canaan Zoning Board of Appeals, Sullivan is expected to advise on whether the town’s determination that the sober house may operate without a permit is a legally correct, tenable position. Opponents of the sober house’s “as-of-right” operation on upper West Road—including the appellant, next-door neighbor Thom Harrow—have said New Canaan should have a formal application process for such businesses seeking to launch in residential zones. Continue Reading →

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Judge Denies New Canaan Homeowner’s Motion To Quash; ‘Sober House’ Lawsuit Headed Toward Trial

In a closely followed lawsuit that appears headed to trial, a judge last week denied a motion filed on behalf of the New Canaan woman who owns a West Road property where a “sober house” is operating. An attorney representing the owner of 909 West Road had argued in a March 9 filing that his client should not need to appear and testify in court this week, as spelled out in a subpoena from a next-door neighbor who is suing her in order to halt the facility’s operation. The subpoena filed on behalf of neighbor Thom Harrow also is “unreasonable, oppressive and burdensome because it seeks production of documents that are plainly irrelevant,” according to the Motion to Quash filed by attorney Robert Maslan of Darien-based Maslan Associates PC. “The subpoena’s overly broad document requests for ‘any communications … concerning the use and/or occupancy of the subject premises’ go far beyond the scope of this purported private zoning enforcement and/or nuisance action, in which Plaintiff bears the burden to prove that defendants’ conduct constitutes an unreasonable interference with his use and enjoyment of his own property … or violates the Town of New Canaan’s zoning regulations … It is difficult to see how defendants’ communications regarding the property at issue are relevant to plaintiff’s allegations that defendants have already interfered with plaintiff’s use and enjoyment of his property (which allegations the evidence will show are entirely false) or violated the zoning regulations (which must, to the extent defendants’ proposed use of the property is inconsistent with them, be waived or modified pursuant to the federal Fair Housing Act).”

Judge Kevin Tierney of the state Superior Court in Stamford on March 9 denied the motion. The matter is scheduled to go to trial May 16, according to Connecticut Judicial Branch records. Continue Reading →

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After Contentious Hearing, Town Officials Call for Fresh Legal Advice on ‘Sober House’ Appeal

During an emotionally charged, at times contentious public hearing that saw a line of lawyers paint vastly different pictures of what’s required of the town, officials on Monday night said they would obtain yet another legal opinion prior to deciding whether a “sober house” may operate in a single-family home in northwestern New Canaan without obtaining a permit. Those opposed to a sober house operating out of a West Road residence criticized the town’s finding that the for-profit facility needs no permit to do so, saying New Canaan should have a formal application process for the business and pooh-poohing legal advice that imposing such would trigger liability for discrimination. Those who have found that The Lighthouse may operate at 909 West Road without a permit point to federal laws that govern treatment of the disabled and fair housing practices. During a public hearing on next-door neighbor Thom Harrow’s appeal of the town’s finding before the Zoning Board of Appeals, what emerged were competing legal interpretations of what would constitute a “reasonable accommodation” for the sober house on New Canaan’s part. According to Town Attorney Ira Bloom, whose advice led to an assertion that The Lighthouse may operate its facility in the 8,000-square-foot home, New Canaan is required “to reasonably accommodate” the sober house within its own regulations. Continue Reading →

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Legal Counsel to Zoning Board: Back Up Town Planner on ‘Sober House’ Decision

After telling municipal officials that a “sober house” on West Road may operate without a permit in a residential zone, the town attorney is advising the volunteer body that will hear an appeal of that decision to uphold it. New Canaan must grant a “reasonable accommodation” under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act to the sober house “and cannot discriminate against handicapped or disabled persons,” town attorney Ira Bloom said in a letter filed Thursday with Planning & Zoning. “Even when the sober house reaches capacity of six or perhaps eight from time to time, the ADA requires a reasonable accommodation that would allow for such occupancy,” Bloom said in the letter. “[Town Planner] Mr. [Steve] Palmer has been working diligently with the proprietor of the sober house to craft a set of conditions for its ongoing operation, including provisions for inspections, reporting and supervision. His goal is to have such conditions become part of the official record—perhaps even part of the [Zoning Board of Appeals’] decision after the March 6 hearing. Continue Reading →

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Hawks Hill Road Homeowner Seeks Permission To Build Pool House into Rear Yard Setback

The owner of a ranch house in the southwestern corner of New Canaan is seeking permission from the town to build a pool house about 10 feet closer to his northern property line—and the Merritt Parkway beyond it—than the town’s zoning regulations permit as-of-right. To be located on the far side of the in-ground pool already installed at 58 Hawks Hill Road, the proposed pool house and patio would reduce the rear yard setback from 25 feet, as allowed in the 1-acre zone (see page 58 of the New Canaan Zoning Regulations here) to about 14.4 feet, according to an application filed with Planning & Zoning. The Zoning Board of Appeals is scheduled to take up the application at its Feb. 6 meeting, to be held at 7 p.m. at Town Hall. It isn’t clear what is the hardship claimed by the applicant. Continue Reading →

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