Fairfield Zoning meeting devolves into shouting match
FAIRFIELD — A Town Plan and Zoning Commission meeting erupted in anger and accusations Tuesday as the panel wrestled with what to do with a zoning amendment that would create a new transit-oriented overlay district.
The shouting match came as the commission was about to vote on tabling a vote on the amendment. One commissioner said they didn’t need Vice Chairman Gerry Alessi acting like “the godfather,” while another accused Chairman Matthew Wagner of threatening him over the phone the night before.
Before the vote to table — which passed — Commissioner Jim Kennelly again said the panel would be ceding its authority as a planning board if it voted on some version of the amendment proposed by the developer seeking to build a 118-unit apartment building on the former Knights of Columbus property on Unquowa Road.
That proved to be the last straw for Alessi, who angrily asked Kennelly, “Why do you feel the need to attack everyone every time you speak?”
“I’m tired of you intimidating people,” Kennelly shot back, as Wagner tried to bring the meeting back to order. “We don’t need a godfather on the commission making deals with developers,” Kennelly said.
Baratz jumped in, claiming he received a phone call from Wagner “and you threatened me about this application.” Wagner vehemently denied threatening anyone. “I did not threaten you in any sense” Wagner said. “I tried to engage you in a substantive discussion.”
Kennelly had made a motion to deny the amendment, but that motion failed by a vote of three in favor and four opposed. Wagner then proposed some changes to the amendment, making it more restrictive, but Kennelly and Baratz were adamant that such a zoning amendment should only come from the commission itself, similar to what happened in the Commerce Drive area.
Video of the meeting can be watched at https://dv2.discovervideo.com/play/?vod=48151
Baratz said in the phone call with the chairman, Wagner said the developer would sell the property immediately if the application was denied and that Baratz would be responsible if a five-story building went up instead.
Wagner said the developer had stated during the public hearing that if they did not get approval, they would, indeed, sell the property. But in the phone call, Wagner said, he told Baratz that he didn’t want to be responsible for a five-story building, not that Baratz would be.
Ray Rizio, attorney for Post Road Residential, LLC, the developer of the proposed apartment building, had no comment on the commission’s shouting match.