Rejection of Chatham development plan challenged in court
Published 7:33 am, Sunday, September 16, 2012
A developer who, battling neighborhood opposition, wants to subdivide vacant property on Chatham Road into three lots has taken his fight to Bridgeport Superior Court.
After the proposal to create the three residential lots at 50/92 Chatham Road, filed by 50 Development LLC, was rejected 7-0 by the Town Plan and Zoning Commission in August, one of the partners, Alex Karp, said the applicants' next options would either be to modify the application, apply for a much denser affordable housing development on the site, or challenge the denial in court.
The appeal, filed Aug. 31, contends the application complied with all of the relevant zoning regulations and that, by denying the application, the TPZ attempted to impose standards that are not contained in the regulations.
One example of the TPZ's over-reach, the suit claims, is a concern about proposed individual driveway sight lines. In the suit, the developer's lawyer, James Walsh, said the driveway sight lines inquiry "was beyond the legal scope of their administrative review" of the application and the regulations have no definitive requirements for driveway sight lines.
The commission, Walsh states, ignored "uncontradicted expert testimony" regarding public safety, drainage and excavation and showed, prior to making a decision, "a predisposition with regard to the application and an intention to ignore the clear legal standards pertaining to re-subdivision application review" all the while knowing it was "acting beyond the scope of their legal authority" in doing so.
The TPZ conducted four nights of hearings on the application, which generated overwhelming neighborhood opposition.
In denying the proposal, the commission said 50 Development LLC failed to demonstrate the lot -- which was originally three separate lots -- could be subdivided without danger to health or public safety "in that adequate sight lines have not been provided for individual driveways according to the applicant's own traffic report and the town engineer." The decision also held that it was not demonstrated that adequate provision for drainage was made to avoid off-site impact, and the installation of the detention systems within the required lot square violates lot area and shape requirements.
In emails from Laura Pulie, the town engineer, to Assistant Planning Director James Wendt, Pulie said the detention systems designed for each lot met Engineering Department requirements, and the plan is less disruptive to existing vegetative buffers and allows for the construction of a retaining wall.
Pulie also said in the emails that the town Department of Public Works has plans to correct ponding at the intersection of Chatham and Random roads.
The Chatham Road property in question is now clear after the home that previously stood there was demolished; the structure was heavily damaged by a set fire last year. It was one of several vacant houses burned in a series of fires set in town by now-convicted arsonist Christopher Message, who has bene sentenced to 10 years in prison.
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