Neighbors of Grace Farms have sued the town over a recent decision regarding its oversight of the Lukes Wood Road organization.
The town last year issued a zoning permit allowing Grace Farms to convert a storage area in one of its buildings into office space.
The permit was issued following administrative sign-off by zoning staff, rather than review and approval by the full Planning & Zoning Commission. Neighbors Jennifer Holme and David Markatos said P&Z’s approval was needed and, in January, contested the permit’s issuance.
The Zoning Board of Appeals at its July 6 meeting voted 5-0 to deny the appeal. On July 26, attorney Amy Souchens of Milford-based Hurwitz, Sagarin, Slossberg & Knuff LLC filed a lawsuit on behalf of the neighbors, saying the ZBA “acted illegally, arbitrarily and in abuse of its discretion.”
Specifically, the permit “was illegally issued” because one condition of the Grace Farms’s own modified operating permit—that “[t]here shall be no material change of the approved use or intensification of any use unless specifically authorized herein”—means P&Z approval was needed, according to the complaint.
The suit seeks to void the zoning permit and sustain the appeal.
The ZBA during its July meeting discussed the cited condition at length, and specifically what P&Z meant by “intensification.”
“I really don’t think turning storage space into an office amounts to that,” ZBA member Ben Bilus said during the meeting, held via videoconference. Secretary John Mahoney said that P&Z placed several conditions on Grace Farms’s Special Permit “which limited their ability to grow,” in areas such as parking, hours, events, lighting, food service and noise. The interior change creating office space in the West Barn building at Grace Farms does not represent an “intensification” in the way that P&Z intended to limit, he said.