Town Denies Appeal from Neighbor Regarding Use of Guest Cottage on Oenoke Ridge Road


Backed by documents showing that an Oenoke Ridge Road accessory structure received town approval for use as a guesthouse, and citing the many years it has been occupied as such without complaint, officials last month rejected a next-door neighbor’s appeal regarding the building’s use.

The Zoning Board of Appeals at its most recent meeting by a 5-0 vote denied an appeal that had been filed this spring on behalf of Peter and Kathleen Streinger, owners of 785 Oenoke Ridge Road. They had sought to halt use of a guest cottage on the property to their west as a dwelling, saying it violated the New Canaan Zoning Regulations and conditions attached to a subdivision approved in 2003.

However, the town planner told ZBA members in a memo ahead of the group’s Aug. 1 meeting, a subsequent owner of the property in question (number 757 Oenoke Ridge Road) in 2004 applied for a special permit exempting the historic accessory structure from building coverage under a newly enacted regulation (see page 148 here). The following month, that owner received a special permit at a Planning & Zoning Commission meeting where reference was made to the cottage’s conversion into a poolhouse—a change that never materialized though the issued showed that those owners “decided it was best to keep the guesthouse as a guesthouse and not a poolhouse,” Town Planner Steve Kleppin said in his memo.

He added: “The regulations clearly list ‘guesthouse’ as an allowable use.”

The property in question sold again in 2011, though its immediate prior owners indicated to Kleppin that even back then it “had been continuously used as a dwelling unit.”

“It is clear to me that when the [P&Z] commission granted the special permit allowing the historic structures to be exempt from building coverage that they were well aware that the cottage had been and would continue to be used as a dwelling unit. In addition, guesthouses were, and remain, a permitted use on that property. The structure in question fully complies with all applicable yard setbacks. Therefore, it is my opinion that the special permit approval supersedes the previously granted subdivision condition requiring the cottage to be rendered uninhabitable.”

Ultimately, in a hearing that saw Kleppin review an extensive timeline of the property including the information above, according to minutes of the meeting, ZBA denied the Streingers’ appeal.

“After a brief discussion among the board members, it was determined that the applicant had constructive notice for five years and failed to appeal P&Z’s decision in a timely manner,” the minutes said. “Upon motion of Mr. [Angelo] Ziotas, seconded by Mr. [John] Mahoney, the board unanimously voted to deny the application on the basis of timeliness.”

At the hearing, the applicant’s attorney—Joseph Williams of Shipman & Goodwin—reviewed his clients’ complaints regarding not only the land use records but also “allowable farming operations on what was once an 8-acre property,” according to the minutes.

Under a May 23 letter sent to P&Z with the appeal, Williams said the current property owner’s keeping of livestock violated the Town Code in some ways, precluded the Streingers from enjoyment of their home and posed a risk to their drinking wells. Those claims, however, are unrelated to the formal appeal of the town planner’s 2011 assertion that the guesthouse next door is a legal dwelling unit and in any case have been addressed by other relevant town departments, Kleppin said.

Those issues were raised during the hearing, according to the minutes, though in the end “it was determined by the board that those issues were not going to be addressed in this application hearing,” the minutes said.

“Mr. Kleppin did, however, review the current regulations of the septic system and pointed out that the current septic on the 757 Oenoke Ridge Road property was in compliance with the regulations,” according to the minutes.

The town in a certified Aug. 10 letter to the Streingers notified them of the ZBA decision regarding their appeal and said they have until about Aug. 26 to further appeal that decision in court. A review of Connecticut Judicial Branch records shows that no such lawsuit has been filed.

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