The town of New Canaan failed to comply with state sunshine law when it took more than two months to deliver a public document to a resident who had asked for it, officials said. According to an attorney with the Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission, “there is no reason why” the town should’ve taken until Nov. 7 to hand over a 15-page document that the Planning & Zoning Commission had discussed at a public meeting on Aug. 29. The document, revised extensively at that August meeting, spelled out in a draft the conditions of approval that P&Z was considering for Grace Farms’s application for an amended permit.
Grace Farms must revert to the terms of its 2013 special permit, as a religious institution only, because the validity of a more recent approval is now in question, according to a recent legal filing from one of the organization’s neighbors. According to a motion filed on behalf of Smith Ridge Road residents Tim Curt and Dona Bissonnette, though Grace Farms itself is appealing some of the 100 conditions imposed by the Planning & Zoning Commission in an approval from last fall, both that Lukes Wood Road organization and the Planning & Zoning Commission “have been proceeding as if the special permit which is the subject of this appeal were in full force and effect, and have been pursuing activities which would only be permitted if this court determines after a hearing that the special permit is valid.”
The motion filed by attorney David Sherwood of Glastonbury-based Moriarty, Paetzold & Sherwood also notes that the validity of a prior P&Z decision regarding Grace Farms—specifically, a decision to amend the New Canaan Zoning Regulations in order to allow for more than one “principle use”—may be invalid due to a filing mistake, as described in a separate lawsuit. Because of that mistake and on the advice of Town Attorney Ira Bloom, Grace in November re-filed its applications for a text change and special permit—then in January withdrew them, saying only that it was satisfied, after all, with the earlier approval. Yet “by reapplying for the text amendment and the special permit on which it depends, at the request of counsel to the commission, the plaintiff and the commission are acknowledging the previous approvals are invalid,” according to the motion filed by Sherwood. “There is simply no other logical explanation for the resubmission of identical applications incorporating thousands of pages of documents nor justification for the inordinate time and expense required t process and consider them if not to correct the errors identified in the Curt/Bisonnette appeals.
Urged by local leaders, dozens of New Canaanites attended Tuesday night’s ConnDOT hearing in Stamford on proposed service cuts to the New Canaan branch of Metro-North Railroad—reductions that government and business officials both have called potentially devastating. Scroll through the gallery above for photos and a transcription of First Selectman Kevin Moynihan’s comments at the hearing. ***
South School failed the most recent surprise health inspection of its cafeteria kitchen, and East School and New Canaan High School, as well as St. Luke’s School, also failed recent inspections. Food items in a 2-door Hobart at South were discarded after the cooler was found to be at 63.7 degrees—far higher than required—during a May 2, 2017 inspection.
In February, the Board of Selectmen appointed a seven-member committee and tasked it with one of the most consequential jobs assigned to a municipal body: Study the physical condition, uses and capital needs of all 56 town-owned buildings in New Canaan (except the school district’s) and report back to the town. As a one-person news operation, I often make difficult decisions about what to cover, and forgo coverage of entire boards or commissions—I rarely covered the Charter Revision Commission, for example, never go to Deer Committee meetings and did not cover the Playhouse Committee after its second meeting. But the Town Building Evaluation & Use Committee—an advisory body—was to make recommendations (in a report originally scheduled for September delivery) with wide implications for the town, including whether to raze, sell, invest in or use differently buildings such as Waveny House, Vine Cottage, the former Outback Teen Center and Irwin House. I decided to attend every meeting I could and report back to our readers on what they were discussing. My goal was to clue people in as to the committee’s thought process as its work unfolded.
Seeking to address part of a lawsuit filed by neighbors of Grace Farms, New Canaan’s town attorney is asking the Lukes Wood Road organization to re-file its applications for an amended permit and changes to the New Canaan Zoning Regulations. The Planning & Zoning Commission approved the applications in September on a record-high number of conditions following months of public hearings. However, according to a lawsuit filed on behalf of Smith Ridge Road residents Timothy Curt and Dona Bissonnette, the post-hearing legal notices of P&Z’s decision were “defective, incomplete and misleading” and also failed to meet the requirements of state law or the town’s own zoning regulations. According to the complaint filed by attorney David Sherwood of Glastonbury-based Moriarty, Paetzoid & Sherwood, P&Z also failed to file a copy of the regulation change with the Town Clerk prior to the effective date of the amended regulation, according to the complaint. Though the town would “contest these claims in court,” one way to address “the alleged procedural defects now and thereby reduce the risk of a court later overruling our position and requiring re-filing and new hearing, after the full effort and expense of the administrative appeal process” will be to re-file, according to a Nov.