Zoning Board of Appeals

Recent Articles

‘This Is Completely Inappropriate’: Sober House Operators, Neighbor Fail To Reach Accord

Though they had appeared close to reaching an agreement, the operators of a sober house on West Road home and a neighbor appealing the town’s decision to allow it have failed to reach an accord, representatives said during a public hearing last week. Now, the question of whether the sober house may continue to operate—or, more likely, under exactly what conditions it will continue—is entirely in the hands of town officials who heard attorneys from both sides make their cases at a June 5 meeting of the Zoning Board of Appeals. During an unusual ZBA hearing that featured spirited interruptions and apologies, appellant Thom Harrow told board members that the owners of The Lighthouse proposed a series of conditions under which they agreed to run a sober house living facility for men at 909 West Road. According to Harrow, just one point of disagreement remained at the time the ZBA hearing opened—a question of whether six or eight clients would be allowed in the 8,000-square-foot home at one time. Harrow, Lighthouse officials and various attorneys took a break following an initial part of the hearing—ostensibly to sort out that final matter. Continue Reading →

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Owner of Historic Park Street Home Seeks Increased Flexibility in Home Office Use

The owner of a prominent Park Street house that’s lingered on the market for two years is seeking more flexibility from town officials than the New Canaan Zoning Regulations normally allow, regarding his home office. Richard Bergmann, an architect who since 1973 has owned the stately and well-preserved Greek revival at 63 Park St.—a house located in New Canaan’s Historic District that had been owned by Maxwell Perkins, masterful Scribners editor of Hemingway, Fitzgerald and Wolfe—on Monday night asked zoning officials for permission to allow the home’s owner to not live in the house while still using its first floor as an office. Specifically, he’s seeking a variance to a section of the zoning regulations (see page 47 here) that allows for a home-based business by permit so long as the person working there also uses the same dwelling as his or her primary residence, among other requirements. One of those requirements is that no more than one nonresident of the house can be employed on the premises—Bergmann in 1985 obtained a variance that allowed him to employ two people in addition to himself at the 1837-built Park Street home. In making his statement of hardship, which Bergmann reviewed before the Zoning Board of Appeals at its regular meeting Monday night, the homeowner noted that the house is adjacent to the town’s business district and that a similarly situated residence already has the allowances that he’s seeking. Continue Reading →

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‘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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