STAMFORD - For the second time in four months, members of the Board of Representatives have voted to appeal a developer’s case that so far has gone against them in court.
This time it involves Building & Land Technology, which earlier this year won a ruling in state Superior Court. A judge said the board does not have the authority to validate a protest petition from residents seeking to stop BLT from building a bigger high-rise in their South End neighborhood.
Representatives this week voted 20-12 for their attorney, Patricia Sullivan of Cohen & Wolf, to file a petition for certification with the Appellate Court. If the court accepts the petition, Sullivan may appeal. If not, the case is over.
If the case ends, BLT may act on a zoning change and build a high-rise with 476 apartments on a South End parcel , instead of the 128 allowed under an existing regulation.
The board’s vote to pursue an appeal followed a nearly two-hour discussion behind closed doors, which elected officials are allowed to do when deciding matters involving pending legal cases.
It was similar to what happened in March, when the board voted for Sullivan to file a petition for certification in a case involving developer George Comfort & Sons, which is seeking to build a large LifeTime Fitness complex in High Ridge Office Park.
As with the BLT case, residents in the LifeTime case asked the Board of Representatives to intervene on their behalf in the zoning matter.
Sullivan said representatives, in pursuing the appeals, are acting on authority given them by the city Charter to review decisions by the Planning Board - in the BLT case - and the Zoning Board - in the High Ridge case.
“That is part of the board’s obligation under the Charter,” Sullivan said.
The developer, which is remaking a large swath of the South End in a project called Harbor Point, has “complete confidence” in its case, said Ted Ferrarone, co-president of BLT.
“It is discouraging that the Board of Representatives would choose to continue to fight both the Planning Board and the clear and decisive ruling by the Superior Court,” Ferrarone said in a statement.
Representatives and BLT have said the change would allow BLT to build 108 units per acre instead of the 29 units per acre allowed under the original density allotment.
Residents have said that BLT’s plans for denser, taller buildings threaten to destroy what’s left of the character of their neighborhood. They petitioned against the density change BLT requested from the Planning Board and a similar one requested by city planners who want to establish consistent zoning regulations in the area.
A few weeks after representatives rejected the Planning Board changes and
supported the residents’ protest
, BLT sued the board, saying it did not have the authority to accept the petition, and that it was invalid.
In March, Judge Marshall Berger, who handles land-use cases in Hartford and also ruled in the High Ridge case, agreed.
“The judge said he did not believe the petition was valid,” Sullivan said. “In both cases he said the board doesn’t have jurisdiction to determine whether a petition is valid or not.”
Berger blamed it on the city Charter, which he said doesn’t explain who has that authority, according to his decision.
“My response to that is, ‘OK, if the board can’t determine it, who can? And if you don’t know, how can you eliminate the board?’” Sullivan said.
If the judge thinks representatives have no jurisdiction, then their vote on the petition was irrelevant, Sullivan said. It should not affect their subsequent vote to overturn the Planning Board decision to allow denser development on the South End parcel, she said.
In the other case representatives are seeking to appeal, developer George Comfort & Sons plans to build a large LifeTime Fitness complex in High Ridge Office Park, which is surrounded by single-family homes and condominiums. That developer also claims representatives accepted an invalid protest petition from residents.
Representatives in that case decided
that a Zoning Board change to allow construction of the fitness complex would have opened the door to development that could harm the character of neighborhoods surrounding High Ridge and half a dozen other office parks in the city. They also fought for the right of condominium owners to be counted as property owners.
in February, Berger ruled
that, not only do representatives have no authority over the validity of such petitions, but also that condo owners aren’t landowners under the city Charter and so have no right to protest.
NEWINGTON – The Town Hall and Community Center Project has been completed on budget, on schedule and in conformance with plans and specifications.
Town staff began moving into the newly-built facility July 15, after the certificate of occupancy was signed and remaining code compliance issues were cleared.
Now Newington is in the final stages of the $28.8 million project, designed by QA+M Architecture and built by Downes Construction, with oversight by the Town Hall Project Building Committee. The state-of-the-art 72,000 sq. ft. facility stands adjacent to the town’s 105,000 sq. ft. former headquarters, to be demolished in Phase II of the project. “This is going to be a fantastic resource for the community of Newington,” Principal Architect Tom Arcari told the Herald during a tour of the building Monday morning. In spite of unforeseen setbacks in the past year, like the Metropolitan District Commission requiring the town to relocate its water main, the project remained on schedule and within budget, Arcari said. “Many people have come together to make a wonderful product,” he said, later adding, “I think we should be crossing the finish line and cheering.” The Board of Education offices were among the first completed. Superintendent of Schools Dr. Maureen Brummett was working inside her new office Monday, with a view of the Lucy Robbins Welles Library. “I’m very happy with it,” Brummett said. “We have large conference rooms and I think we’ll be in much better shape technologically.” There are multiple ways to enter the building, with designated entrances for Human Services, the Community Center and Parks and Recreation, as well as the main entrance, which brings visitors into the “grand hall.” Here, the town’s essential services are centrally located, so residents can conduct regular business in a convenient fashion. In terms of energy efficiency, a highly-sophisticated heating and cooling system is expected to garner the town approximately $100,000 in energy cost savings per year. “As a committee we worked on the scope of this project,” said Joe Harpie, chairman of the building committee. “I have to say, quite honestly, that Quisenberry-Arcari Malik and Downes Construction met our specifications and even embellished them in many ways. We’re very lucky to have had them. I’m extremely proud of the new Town Hall and I think every member of the community will be proud of it.” The construction team functioned under a comprehensive covid-19 plan, with workers’ temperatures tested daily and all required to wear masks. If the pandemic had any impact on the project, it has delayed the arrival of some gym equipment. The dual-gymnasium inside the Community Center contains 14 basketball hoops and will have the ability to host multiple sporting events at the same time and seat up to 1,100 spectators once completed. “Because of the covid situation some gym equipment was delayed. We’re looking at completion of the gym by the middle of September,” Senior Project Manager Frank Tomcak said. Parks and Recreation Superintendent Bill DeMaio is thrilled with his department’s new headquarters and impressed with the facility as a whole. “I think it’s absolutely gorgeous, beautiful and functional,” DeMaio said. “It’s going to put Newington on the map for having one of the nicest indoor sports facilities in the state.” There is much opportunity to earn revenue through facility rental to outside groups and concession sales, putting the department in great financial standing, he added. Town Council was expected to tour the facility Tuesday evening. Town Manager Keith Chapman could not be reached for comment Monday.
Stonington — A Boston-based developer has unveiled plans for 82 mixed income apartments on the site of the
former Campbell Grain Building site. Redevelopment of the site has long been considered a critical piece of the ongoing effort to revitalize downtown Pawcatuck. Winn Companies, which builds and manages similar projects across the country, outlined the $30 million project at the end of Coggswell Street to the Economic Development Commission during a virtual meeting Monday night. A virtual public presentation is slated for July 29 at 5:30 p.m. “Great project guys. This is going to make a big difference in downtown Pawcatuck,” commission member Jim Lathrop told Winn officials after listening to the presentation. Commission member Kevin Bowdler agreed calling the project a “great opportunity." "What’s great about this is that we’re creating a (residential) community where a community doesn’t exist,” he said, adding that it will bring more residents closer to the downtown commercial area. The commission then voted to write a letter of support for the project. “We couldn’t ask for a more above board investor/developer to be interested in our community,” commission Chairman Dave Hammond said. Adam Stein, Winn’s senior vice president of development, told the commission, “We’re not in the business of building and then selling projects. We’re in the business of long time ownership or properties and being part of the community.” Plans call for a four-story building over a garage with open space along the Pawcatuck River. The building would include a mix of studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom units. Rents will range from market rate such as $1,800 a month for a two-bedroom unit to lesser monthly rents for tenants earning 30, 50 and 80% of the area household median income. Winn envisions renters coming from the Pawcatuck area. Winn’s attorney for the project, Bill Sweeney of New London, said the project would require the town to grant about a half dozen variances and waivers of requirements such as those governing height, density and a project with all multi-family residential use. He also indicated Winn would be taking advantage of state affordable housing law that allows such projects to be built without meeting all zoning requirements. Winn’s plan is to seek local zoning approval this summer and fall; in November apply for financing from the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority and Department of Housing, and begin construction in the November of 2021. The project would be complete in April of 2023.