Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Vernon PZC allows project critics to offer opposing testimony

By Jason Rowe, Journal Inquirer
January 6, 2006

VERNON - The proposal to develop an age-restricted housing complex on West Street took another twist Thursday when the Planning and Zoning Commission granted intervenor status to a couple who have been among the most vehement critics of the project.

The commission voted 6-0 to grant intervenor status to Fred M. Goff and Barbara J. Goff of 130 Tracy Drive.

The Goffs, through their lawyer and the courts, have been ardent critics of local developer Kenneth J. Boynton's plan to construct 13 single-family homes and 59 units of age-restricted housing on a 42-acre parcel.

Intervenor status gives private citizens a chance to be a party to proceedings and present their own expert testimony to ensure natural resources remain protected.

In asking the commission to grant them intervenor status, the Goffs cited potential harm to nearby Ogden Brook as a result of the development.

The PZC took public comment during Thursday's meeting, but a 10:30 p.m. curfew prompted them to continue the remainder of the public hearing to Jan. 19. Boynton and his representatives are expected to present their rebuttal case during that meeting.

After the commission granted her clients intervenor status, New Haven lawyer Marjorie Shansky told the commission that Boynton's plans do not meet state guidelines for erosion control and sedimentation control.

The town's Inland Wetlands Commission signed off on the project in September, but the North Central Conservation District recommended that Boynton locate storm water discharge points on a different part of the site. If the developer were to move those discharge points, he would need to return to the wetlands agency for approval.

Local lawyer Dorian R. Famiglietti, who is representing Boynton, told the commission that they have the authority to go with the wetlands commission plan.

But Shansky told the commission that it would be improper for them to ignore the recommendations of the conservation district.

"I submit a technically sound reason to evade the requirements of the guidelines is not, 'We will have a problem with the wetlands agency if we don't,'" said Shansky, who later described the development as sprawl. "Maybe it's all evidence that this is too much development. We're not stuck with this development plan," she said.

Shansky added that proposed drainage basins would be problematic because it would be difficult for the town to compel the new condominium association to make sure they are functioning properly.

The remaining speakers were mixed in their position on the project.

Dennis Gliha, a Watson Road resident who owns the nearby Garden Barn Nursery on West Street, said traffic should not be a problem for the new complex's residents, especially during non-peak hours.

During the PZC's Dec. 15 meeting, some commission members expressed concern that residents of the new development would have trouble leaving their driveway because of traffic conditions.

"The rest of the day, there is absolutely no issues," Gliha said. "There hasn't been any significant accidents."

Eleanor Drive resident Robert O'Brien, who said he lives in a home constructed by Boynton, praised the quality of the developer's work.

"These are beautiful places," said O'Brien, who added that the age-restricted housing would make older homes available for younger residents.

On the other side of the issue, Fred Goff told the commission that they should reject the application because it was not close to shopping or bus service, which he said is a town requirement for age-restricted housing.

And Kenneth Drive resident Kathleen Murphy expressed concern about the development's impact on environmental conditions in the area.

"I can't believe there isn't going to be some impact on the brook," said Murphy, who added that age-restricted housing developments are becoming commonplace in the community. "We know it's a high-density development. We're not sure what the future of these developments are going to be."

The proposed development is already the subject of two lawsuits brought by the Goffs.

The Goffs have sued the Inland Wetlands Commission, saying their September approval of Boynton's plan was improper. And last month, the couple filed suit against the PZC, arguing that their Dec. 1 approval of a 15-lot residential subdivision was improper because the commission failed to follow its own regulations.

The Goffs also contend that Boynton does not have the right to construct a road for the proposed subdivision on a piece of property they acquired in June.

But a town legal opinion has said that a legal right-of-way does exist and any dispute over the matter would have to be dealt with by the Goffs and Boynton.