Adam Thatcher was working as director of operations at the newly opened Grace Farms five years ago when he noticed something unexpected coming out of its popular food service. Visitors from across the nation who’d had a cup of coffee in “the Commons” section of Grace Farms’s River building began phoning the organization to say they loved the brew and wanted to buy some. The coffee itself—grown on fair trade, women-owned farms, as per Grace Farms CEO and founder Sharon Prince, and donated by town resident and Grace supporter Joe Apuzzo, who owns coffee roasting and importing companies—was called “Heavenly Roast” at the time. Its beans were available for sale, though in a limited way. In the spring of 2019, Thatcher—who prior to Grace Farms had opened restaurants at Lake Tahoe, Calif.
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.
Renowned author, professor and researcher, Doug Tallamy, will speak on the topic of his recently published book, “Nature’s Best Hope: A New Approach to Conservation that Starts in Your Yard.” Tallamy is best known for the national conversation he sparked more than a decade ago about the link between healthy ecosystems and human wellbeing. His first book, “Bringing Nature Home”, emphasized the irrefutably significant tie between native plant species, native insects and the rest of the food chain essential for a healthy world. Sponsored by the ten organizations that comprise the New Canaan Pollinator Pathway, Mr. Tallamy’s presentation will offer specific suggestions of how homeowners can turn their properties into conservation corridors and help make a difference for global biodiversity. The event will take place on Tuesday, March 3 at New Canaan Country School Auditorium, 635 Frogtown Road, starting at 7:30 pm (Doors open at 7:00 pm). Tickets are $15.
Enjoy a moment of peace and tranquility this holiday season with improvisational arrangements of seasonal music performed by local musicians. These calming selections, along with expansive winter views of our 80-acre preserve, will create a serene environment for reflection and contemplation.
As part of our Community Initiative, Grace Farms Foundation invites you to join us for an evening of gift-making merriment. Together as a community, we will assemble winter care packages of blankets, toiletries, and other essential items for local families and children in need. Enjoy music and games as we wrap gifts, write cards, and create crafts to bring cheer during the holiday season. Winter care packages will be distributed in collaboration with the Walter E. Luckett, Jr. Foundation.