A second set of Grace Farms neighbors this month filed a lawsuit seeking to reverse the town’s decision to grant the organization an amended zoning permit that allow for wide-ranging activities on its Lukes Wood Road campus.
The New Canaan Planning & Zoning Commission’s heavily conditioned Sept. 26 approval of Grace Farms’ application was made “illegally, arbitrarily, and in an abuse of its discretion” in several ways, according to an appeal filed on behalf of Danita and Paul Ostling of Smith Ridge Road.
The application did not conform to various requirements of the New Canaan Zoning Regulations, according a complaint filed Nov. 1 in state Superior Court in Stamford, including a section that outlines what is allowed by Special Permit in those regs (see page 42 here) and others that lay out the criteria and considerations for making a decision on such applications (page 170).
P&Z’s “decision cannot be sustained in view of the reliable, probative evidence before the Commission” and “is based upon such errors of law and fact as the record may reveal,” according to the appeal, filed by attorney Amy Zabetakis of Darien-based Rucci Law Group.
The lawsuit represents the third filed by parties close to the Grace Farms matter since P&Z reached its decision following multiple re-filed applications and several months of public hearings. Grace Farms was granted text changes to New Canaan’s zoning regulations that allow it to be classified not only as a religious institution but also as a philanthropic agency and a club. The amended zoning permit also specifies what types of events Grace Farms may host, of what size and how often, as well as how it may use some of its buildings and what is required in terms of reporting back to the town.
Grace Farms itself filed a lawsuit last month following the approval, saying it is “statutorily and classically aggrieved” by the approval in that it “imposes conditions on activities and events of the [Grace Farms] Foundation that are not reasonably supported by substantial evidence in the record before the Commission about the [Grace Farms] Foundation’s operations and how they protect the health and safety of visitors and the neighborhood.” In its appeal, Grace Farms also said the town’s decision “imposes at least one condition that constitutes an invalid penalty under law” and “imposes limitations on religious activity on the site, that, upon information and belief, were not intended, and that are in violation of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 … and the Connecticut Religious Freedom Act.”
A different set of neighbors had filed their own lawsuit even before Grace Farms, saying P&Z’s approvals will hurt them financially and threaten residential zones in New Canaan.
The Ostlings live closest to the hub of activity at Grace Farms—less than 100 feet of the property, according to the appeal filed on their behalf.
They’re seeking for the court to deny Grace Farms’ application and enter a new decision.