Zoning Board of Appeals

Recent Articles

‘We Have Got Something Else’: Town Officials Deny Bid To Redo Century-Old Barn’s Exterior in Stone without New Application

Town officials last week denied a West Road homeowner’s request to amend without an entirely new application the exterior of a renovated barn, from the traditional red-painted wall boards of a century-old structure to stone. Saying a stone exterior would create a more substantive change than what they already had approved, members of the Zoning Board of Appeals during their regular meeting on April 3 said a new variance would be needed in order to redo a barn at 416 West Road with a stone exterior. The ZBA’s rationale for approving an application that came before the board in December was to match existing barns along that stretch of West Road, but “I feel like this is completely in the opposite direction,” board member Luke Tashjian said at the meeting, held at Town Hall. “The only thing still looks like barn is it has got these doors on it,” he said of a new set of drawings. “If you take these doors off, it looks like a stone house to me.”

The ZBA voted 5-0 to approve only a minor change to the windows on the barn, which is to undergo a comprehensive renovation. Continue Reading →

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Sober House Operator Proposes ‘Community Agreement’ in Advance of Hearing on Appeal

Officials with the company running a widely discussed “sober house” out of a private home in northwestern New Canaan, after meeting with the town, are proposing a set of conditions regarding those who will staff and operate the facility, as well as those who will live there as clients, documents show. The conditions—some of which reflect bills now before the state legislature—include that staff at The Lighthouse-operated home on West Road will provide the town with contact information for an on-site point person, will be trained in administering the life-saving drug Narcan, which is to be kept on premises, and will themselves be recovering addicts with five or more years’ experience supporting those with substance abuse disorders, according to a copy of the proposed “Community Agreement,” date-stamped March 28. Further, those with active arrest warrants or who are registered as sex offenders will not be permitted to participate in the non-medical sober living program, and residents at The Lighthouse home will be limited to eight total and required to abide by “House Rules” that include submitting to random drug and alcohol tests, requesting 24 hours in advance permission to have a visitor and participate in “self-directed recovery program activities,” according to the proposed agreement. The Zoning Board of Appeals on Monday night is expected to issue a decision on an appeal brought by one next-door neighbor who is objecting to a decision by the town that The Lighthouse needs no special or health permit—as otherwise required by the New Canaan Zoning Regulations—to operate the sober house in a residential zone. The meeting comes on the heels of an emotionally charged initial public hearing on the matter, after which the ZBA decided to postpone its decision on the appeal until after hearing from additional legal counsel. Continue Reading →

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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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