A neighbor of New Canaan Country School this month filed a lawsuit appealing the Planning & Zoning Commission’s approval of a two-story, 25,000-square-foot athletic facility near their shared property line.
According to the administrative appeal filed in state Superior Court on behalf of the plaintiff, Katherine Moore, the new facility’s location “is such that it will have more negative impact on the use, enjoyment and value of the Moore property than it would literally anywhere else on the 70-plus-acre school property.”
P&Z’s decision, ultimately, to approve the Country School’s site plan “is illegal, arbitrary, capricious and constitutes an abuse of discretion for a variety of reasons,” according to the complaint, filed Aug. 9 by attorney Ted O’Hanlon of Stamford-based Robinson + Cole.
According to the complaint, those reasons include that the Country School’s initial application was incomplete and inaccurate, failed to meet New Canaan’s Special Permit criteria, that P&Z reached its decision through “incomplete, non-conforming and illegal plans” that the Commission then tried to address through conditions of approval and that the plan allows the school to exceed maximum allowable coverage illegally (by applying a 2006 Zoning Board of Appeals decision that’s no longer relevant).
“The Commission ignored competent and unrefuted evidence offered by Moore that the facility could be located elsewhere on the school property, in a location that fully complied with the Zoning Regulations, and without impacting neighbors so severely, if at al, and which did not present the traffic or safety complications at the approved location,” the complaint said.
In the complaint, O’Hanlon also raises concerns about which Commissioners were authorized to vote on the Special Permit and site plan applications and said Moore is “classically aggrieved” by P&Z’s approval of a 45-foot-tall building that’s located about 56 feet from the property line.
The lawsuit seeks to undo P&Z’s decision, order a denial and “grant such other relief,” including costs, as allowed under state law.
Between the first hearing on the applications in January and the June meeting where P&Z approved the site plan, the Moores and Country School officials met, records show. The school adjusted its screening plan based on a 2006 agreement that had not been taken into consideration before, and “slightly revised the location of the new facility,” according to meeting minutes. Specifically, it was pushed another 30 feet off of the property line, reoriented so that no wall faces the Moore property and the sizes of the building and parking lots themselves were decreased, according to the minutes.
Ultimately, P&Z voted 9-0 in favor of the Special Permit application in March.
During that March hearing, attorney Ted O’Hanlon representing the Moores told P&Z that they should deny the application, in part, because it violates the prior agreement and the narrative in the Special Permit application failed to adequately addresses the changes in the building, among other areas.
In June, P&Z approved the site plan with 17 conditions. They included that all “existing, previously agreed buffer landscaping” would remain, and that prior to the issuance of a Zoning Permit, a revised landscape plan “which will provide additional landscaped berms to further screen the views of the Athletic Center” would need to be approved by the town planner.
P&Z approved the site plan by a 7-1 vote. Those voting in favor included Chairman John Goodwin, Secretary Jean Grzelecki, Jack Flinn, Laszlo Papp, Dick Ward, John Kriz and Claire Tiscornia. Dan Radman voted against. Commissioners Elizabeth DeLuca, Bill Redman, Kent Turner and Krista Nielson were absent.
New Canaan Country School’s application was filed by Stamford-based Wofsey, Rosen, Kweskin & Kuriansky LLP. Attorney Steve Finn, a partner at the firm, also is representing Country School in the administrative appeal. Town attorney Ira Bloom is representing P&Z.