Did You Hear … ?

Jeff Immelt, chairman of the board at General Electric and the company’s CEO (through next month), sold his New Canaan home for $4 million, according to a property transfer logged Wednesday at the Town Clerk’s office. He had purchased a new 10,000-square-foot Colonial on West Road in 2001. ***

A little dog who resides on Old Stamford Road got off-property when someone left a gate open and he found his way to Waveny Pool on a hot and humid day this week. The Havanese mix called ‘Pepe,’ approximately four years old, turned up at the town facility around 11:08 a.m. on Monday, June 19. The pool supervisor contacted police and an owner was located.

Four More New Canaan Homeowners Seek Lower Property Assessments through Legal Filings

The town has received four more lawsuits from homeowners appealing to the courts recent decisions to leave their property assessments unchanged following initial appeals in March. A total of 77 property owners appeared before the Board of Assessment Appeals through five hearings in March to make their cases following the Oct. 1, 2016 Grand List valuation. Of those, 25 saw a reduction in their assessments, ranging from $7,000 to $243,000. The town earlier this month received one appeal state Superior Court in Stamford, from a Ponus Ridge homeowner.

Bested in Legal Arguments, Attorneys for Grace Farms Now Pursue Changes to Zoning Regulations

Grace Farms last week conceded a key legal point in its long-running bid to secure permission for robust and varied activities at its Lukes Wood Road campus. Attorneys on behalf of Grace Farms have argued that the organization is allowed to operate not only as a religious institution, as defined in the New Canaan Zoning Regulations and as approved four years ago, but—with approval from the Planning & Zoning Commission—as a club/organization and philanthropic/charitable agency, too. Gaining those new “use designations” formed the major goal of an application filed in September on behalf of Grace Farms by attorneys with Stamford-based Robinson & Cole. Yet lawyers retained by neighbors—concerned since Grace Farms opened to the public in October 2015 about what’s actually happening there, as opposed to what had been described during public hearings—successfully argued that the regulations do not allow for more than one “principal use” at Grace Farms.

That has forced the organization now to withdraw its full application with P&Z and first pursue a text change to those regulations. Neighbors Jennifer Holme and David Markatos, who are represented by attorney Amy Souchuns of Milford-based Hurwitz, Sagarin, Slossberg & Knuff LLC, told NewCanaanite.com that they are “pleased to see that the town has finally recognized that having multiple principal uses in the 4-acre, lowest density residential zone is in direct contravention of not only New Canaan’s zoning regulations and special permit criteria but also the Plan of Conservation and Development.”

The Smith Ridge Road residents noted that in an April 21 report Donald Poland, a planning consultant at New York City-based Goman+York, found that the number of principal uses Grace Farms actually is seeking is seven: foundation, church, club, restaurant, commercial conference center, public park and office building.

‘Grace Farms Continues To Flout the Restrictions It Agreed To’: Concerns Persist As New Filing Nears

Grace Farms has failed to comply with temporary measures imposed by the town while the organization prepares a new application to amend its zoning permit, according to representatives for two sets of direct neighbors. While the town planner has worked hard to help Grace prepare a more appropriate application than what had been filed in the fall (and later withdrawn, after a consultant found it problematic), and also has tried to address neighbors’ concerns, the latter “remain troubled by Grace Farms’ lack of transparency and lack of accountability,” a Darien-based attorney representing the owners of two abutting residences said in a March 3 letter to Planning & Zoning. “While the neighbors would like to be able to work with Grace Farms, it is challenging to do so when Grace Farms refuses to communicate with the [neighbors] or their attorneys and when Grace Farms continues to flout the restrictions it agreed to at the end of January,” attorney Amy Zabetakis of Rucci Law Group said in a letter sent to Town Attorney Steve Palmer and obtained by NewCanaanite.com. Specifically, according to the letter, Grace has failed to comply with measures designed to reduce lighting through the night, to halt for now the scheduling of new evening activities and the scheduling of new “space grants” beyond what already is booked. For example, lights at the “River Building” have been left on all night (apart from one Tuesday night when they went off at 1:30 a.m.), when other than the basketball court they were to be turned off no later than 8:30 p.m. (and the court itself no later than 9:30 p.m.).

Town to Grace Farms: Supply a List of Scheduled Events and, For Now, Stop Booking New Ones

Town officials on Monday instructed Grace Farms to stop booking new events on its campus and provide details of all activities planned for the next six months, pending a final decision of a yet-to-be-filed application to amend its operating permit. Citing “outstanding violations” of Grace Farms’ existing permit, the town planner in a letter obtained by NewCanaanite.com specified that the organization’s list of activities “shall include the date of the event, the event or group name, the location of the property, start and end times, and the number of attendees expected.”

Town Planner Steve Palmer also instructed Grace Farms to file its new application within 45 days—rather than 60, as the organization had proposed—and called for stronger measures to prevent visitors from wandering toward neighbors’ properties. “These additional measures are integral to this process and compliance with them will be a consideration of the [Planning & Zoning] Commission’s review of the future Special Permit application,” Palmer said. The measures come one week after Grace Farms withdrew an application to amend its zoning permit—a decision prompted by the findings of a third-party consultant that found the application lacking. According to Simsbury-based consulting firm Planimetrics, Grace Farms instead of seeking to add new principal uses to its approved use as a religious institution, should put in for an entirely new special permit.