Saying a local developer secured a permit by deceptive means, a group of residents is calling for the town to revoke it.
The Inland Wetlands Commission at its November 2018 meeting voted 5-2 in favor of an application (over the objections of some neighbors) to install a 16-foot-wide driveway “to provide access to two proposed residences” at 17 and 23 Hill St., building lots that had been subdivided four years prior.
The adjoining undeveloped parcels, also known as lots 72 and 812, rise eastward from Hill Street, which runs parallel to Route 123, behind Brushy Ridge Road (map below).
According to a petition filed last month on behalf of a group of neighborhood residents by attorney Frank Silverstri Jr. of Westport-based Verrill Dana LLP, the property owner “secured the Permit through deception and inaccurate information.”
Though “the Permittee represented that the Property would be developed for two single-family homes, and the Permittee only orally represented to the [Commission] that the Property would not be developed for a multi-family affordable housing complex,” such a large-scale project was the plan all along, Silverstri said in the petition.
“In fact, for years prior to applying for the Permit and continuing through the present, the Permittee has intended and still intends to construct a 101-unit affordable housing complex on the Property, all the white concealing its true intent from the [Commission],” the petition said.
Those signing the petition call themselves “New Canaan Residents Against Destructive Development” and include Mark Durkin, Jeffrey Stein, Dean Magyars, Sean O’Malley, Jason Konidaris, Alison Foxworth and Joseph Braccia.
The petition was received March 17 with Inland Wetlands at Town Hall, where it is available for public viewing. The petition did not appear on the agendas of two Inland Wetlands Commission meetings held since then (March 21 and April 11).
The 376-page filing includes the petition itself and affidavits from some petitioners, as well as a survey that appears to show a proposed new zone, hydrant request for a multi-family dwelling, permits and reports from past municipal applications and approvals, emails, meeting minutes, public notices and photos.
The 2.42- and 2.34-acre parcels in question had been acquired in March 2015 for $912,500, tax records show. Its owner is listed in municipal tax records as Hill Street-72 LLC. The LLC gives an address of 16 Cross St., which also is the address of Karp Associates. An employee of the building company applied for the hydrant request, documents show.
Karp recently filed an application with the Planning & Zoning Commission to build a 102-unit affordable housing complex at Weed and Elm Streets. (After withdrawing that application due to a technical detail in the original filing, Karp’s attorney re-filed this week.)
P&Z has not received an application for an affordable housing project on Hill Street, the town planner told NewCanaanite.com.
According to the petition, the permit-holder “submitted inaccurate and conflicting information regarding the area of disturbance in the wetlands” when seeking the wider driveway four years ago. The property owner also “has engaged in construction activities on the Property that exceed the limitations of the Permit and the conditions on which it was granted,” the petition said.
Further, Karp didn’t obtain a required permit from the Army Corps of Engineers, according to the petition, and “has imported fill material onto the Property from an illegal dump in the Town of Monroe, which has issued two cease-and-desist orders concerning those activities,” it said.
Much of the petition focuses on the intended use of the site.
“Despite the fact that the only use of the Property identified in the [Inland Wetlands Commission] and P&Z proceedings was a two-lot subdivision with two single family houses, the Permittee’s true intent of developing a multi-unit affordable housing complex was lurking in the background from the outset,” the petition said. “In the late summer of 2014, petitioner Jeffrey Stein, who was purchasing a home on land abutting the Property on the west, asked Kathleen Holland, the [Inland Wetlands Commission’s] agent, about possible development. Ms. Holland told him that there was discussion about the construction of an affordable housing complex on the Property. Ms. Holland assured Mr. Stein, however, that such a project would never be approved.”
The petition notes that during a public hearing in September 2018, attorney Joel Green representing Braccia “warned the [Inland Wetlands Commission] that expanding the driveway from 12 to 16 feet was a precursor for a much larger and more intensive development.”
“At the very next public hearing on October 15, 2018, Mr. Karp addressed Attorney Green’s concerns, assuring the Commission that the sole purpose and intent of the Application was to provide a driveway for two single family homes, that two houses were all it was going to be, and that the Hill Street project had nothing to do with an affordable housing project like one that he was involved with on Route 123 with the Canaan Parish development. However, the minutes of the meeting of October 15 conveniently failed to mention Mr. Karp speaking at all, let along that he insisted the Property would never be developed for anything other than two single family homes. It is difficult to imagine that this omission was inadvertent—especially since there was never a mention by Ms. Holland about Mr. Karp’s intention, of which she was aware in 2014 and 2015, to build an apartment or affordable housing complex.” (The meeting minutes in question were submitted by Commission Secretary Angela Jameson, records show.)