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. 20 letter from Town Attorney Ira Bloom to an attorney representing Grace Farms.
“I would ask that your client re-file with the Planning and Zoning Commission both the text amendment application and special permit application and incorporate by reference the full records from the previous proceedings,” Bloom said in the letter to Ted O’Hanlan of Stamford-based Robinson + Cole.
“These new matters will be placed on an upcoming agenda for a public hearing, with all requisite filings and notices to ensure that no procedural defects can be claimed. Although these would indeed be new applications, my hope is that by incorporating the earlier records, the time required for the Planning and Zoning Commission to hear and to decide them will be significantly condensed.”
Asked for a comment on the strategy, Grace Farms through a spokesperson said that the applications to be filed “are identical to those submitted in April 2017, and include the full record from subsequent hearings.”
“This re-filing was requested to help resolve technical issues that were raised in appeals.”
Those technical issues are only part of what Curt and Bissonnette objected to in their lawsuit.
In asking the state Superior Court to overturn P&Z’s approval, the lawsuit said they will be hurt financially by the town’s decision and that residential zones in New Canaan will be threatened.
The neighbors said their own property “is adversely affected by” changes to New Canaan’s zoning regulations.
The lawsuit refers to amendments to the regulations that allow an applicant to seek multiple principal uses for their properties—something Grace Farms wanted in order to be categorized not only as a religious institution but also as a philanthropic agency and club.
“The amendments allow applications for multiple principal uses in residential zones and encourage the expansion of commercial and institutional uses in residential zones, to the detriment of established residential uses,” according to the complaint.
Further, the complaint says, the plaintiffs are “aggrieved” by P&Z’s decision because they’ve “suffered and will suffer economic damage as a result of the regulation changes and their implementation on the abutting property of Grace Farms Foundation Inc.”