The developers of two separate proposed zoning applications that were turned down by town boards have both filed lawsuits against the town.
Attorney Kevin J. Curseaden filed suit on behalf of developers, Miland LLC, and Genvest LLC for their application to build a cluster housing project off Turkey Hill Road. The proposed development, Turkey Hill Crossing, called for 10 multi-family buildings with up to 60 bedrooms and a single community building on more than 22.5 acres. The parcel, which contains nearly two acres of wetlands, adjoins the Wilbur Cross parkway which fronts on Turkey Hill Road and includes an undeveloped portion of Cranberry Lane.
The suit, filed last month in Milford Superior Court, claims the Inland Wetland Commission’s decision to deny the project was “unreasonable, improper, illegal, arbitrary and constitutes an abuse of the discretion, responsibilities and duties vested in it by law as an administrative agency.” The suit cites among its claims against the commission that it failed to state any lawful or valid reason to deny the application; ignored its own experts’ opinions that the plaintiffs satisfied their concerns; improperly interpreted its own regulations; deprives the plaintiffs of their property rights; and ignores substantial evidence there will not be a significant adverse effect upon a wetland or watercourse.
The proposal was met with fierce opposition from surrounding homeowners and other residents in town who opposed the scale of the project and feared it would change the character of their neighborhoods and create a myriad of safety and traffic issues.
Jeff Gordon, president, Codespoti Associates; and a representative for the developer, said his clients complied with the commission’s request they provide and pay for expert testimony about the project’s possible effects to wetlands in the area. “My clients paid thousands of dollars to experts who reported the project met all necessary standards yet the commission chose not to listen to them,” Gordon said. “They ignored what they said because it didn’t line up with what they wanted to hear.”
First Selectman Jim Zeoli supported the Commission’s decision saying, “Occasionally the town has to stand up for its zones as they’ve been prescribed. The developer needs to consider the application and decide whether this is the best thing for his or her community. It depends on the location. This proposal is high density, with no public sewers, potential water runoff and congestion in a pocketed area which is not acceptable. Sometimes developers. engineers and lawyers assume the affordable housing act is in their favor and they are going to win but they don’t win every time.”
Another lawsuit against the Town Plan & Zoning Commission was filed on behalf of 35 Old Tavern Road LLC, owner of the six-acre Firelite Shopping Center for his application proposing a text change to allow residential units in the town’s shopping center districts. The zone change would have opened the door to permit up to 15 units per acre, possibly as many as 90 one and two-bedroom apartments at the Firelite site. The amended regulations would have required the ground floor, or 25 percent of the center to be dedicated commercial space and the two upper levels to be residential. Though the applicants’ representatives maintained amending the regulations was in keeping with the updated Town Plan of Conservation and Development to include more affordable and senior housing in town, the board voted 3-2 against the plan. Although two Town Plan and Zoning Commissioners saw amending the zoning regulations to invite a mixed-use development as an opportunity to revitalize the struggling Firelite Shopping Center, three commissioners feared the use could be too intense for the area.
Town Attorney Vin Marino said the coronavirus has caused the courts to put most pending matters on hold. “We are exploring a resolution on the Firelite matter, but I cannot comment beyond that,” he said.
By Laura Fantarella – Orange Town News Correspondent