Giant Steps sues TPZ over rejection of expansion plan
Published 6:40 am, Wednesday, September 23, 2015
The Town Plan and Zoning Commission’s denial of plans to open a program for autistic adults on Barberry Road is being appealed in court
The American Institute for Neuro-Integrative Development, which runs Giant Steps school for autistic youngsters at 309 Barberry Road and wanted to open “Next Steps” for young adults on the same property, has filed a lawsuit in state Superior Court in Bridgeport seeking to overturn the TPZ’s decision to deny the plan last month.
The commission voted 5-2 on Aug. 25 to deny the application to use a former school building on the property for young adults over the age of 21 who have “aged out” of the Giant Steps programs.
In its denial, the commission said the applicant had not demonstrated the character and use of the building would be in harmony with the “appropriate and orderly development” of the neighborhood, or that the streets leading to the property were adequate for prospective traffic generated by the new program.
The TPZ majority also stated it was not demonstrated that “the proposed use is a permitted use in that there is no evidence that the proposed offices for charitable institutions will be non-profit entities nor has not been demonstrated that the proposed use is a compliant educational facility,” according to the appeal.
Under the proposal, the second floor offices in the former school building would be offered to small, “start up” non-profits that would be able to offer training to the school’s adult clients. According to Giant Steps director Kathy Roberts, the new program is not state certified as a school because, at this point, the state does not have a category for kind of program it has proposed.
The Giant Steps appeal, filed by lawyer Michael Bologna, states the commission ignored its prior decisions, its regulations and “impinges rights” protected byt he Americans with Disabilities Act.
During TPZ public hearings on the application, neighbors raised concerns about existing and future traffic to the site, which sits on a cul-de-sac. Several claimed that teachers and staff speed down the road, smoking cigarettes, talking on cell phones and blasting music on their radios, posing a safety threat to neighborhood children.