Town OKs $70K deal to settle Fairfield Woods lawsuit
Published 6:30 am, Thursday, March 3, 2011
The town has settled a lawsuit filed by a neighbor of Fairfield Woods Middle School, who sought a court injunction to halt construction on additions to the school.
Marc Corcoran, who filed suit in December after the Town Plan and Zoning Commission issued a special permit for the project, will receive two payments of $35,000 each -- one now and the second on July 2 -- according to Town Attorney Richard Saxl.
The Board of Selectmen unanimously approved the settlement Wednesday.
Corcoran's suit claimed he would be harmed by construction of the Fairfield Woods addition, especially the auditorium being built on property adjacent to his home.
Saxl said the town thought it had a strong case in defending itself against the lawsuit, but said there is zoning language that speaks to any diminution of neighboring property when a special permit is issued, as well as "external obsolescence," defined as circumstances when a neighbor does something on their property that could negatively affect the value of abutting property.
"There was a risk a judge could be persuaded," Saxl said of the challenge, and if an injunction had been issued to stop construction it could have ended up costing the town much more. "A two-year delay in construction would have cost us about $2 million," he said, with another $2 million to house Fairfield Woods students in portable classrooms in the meantime.
First Selectman Kenneth Flatto said it was important to "get this matter behind us. We always try to work things out fairly." He said even if there was only a 1 percent risk that an injunction halting work would be granted, it was too great a chance.
Half of the settlement, which has been approved by the courts, will be paid from the town's risk retention account and the other half out of the building project account.
The $24.2 million project at Fairfield Woods includes an auditorium, 17 new classrooms, expansion of the kitchen and cafeteria, an auxiliary gym, and an occupational and physical therapy classroom.