Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
PZC postpones age-restricted housing decisione

By Jason Rowe
Journal Inuqirer
May 5, 2006

VERNON - The Planning and Zoning Commission will continue deliberations on an eight-unit age-restricted housing development on West Street later this month.

After hearing the applicant's rebuttal testimony and giving residents more time to speak on the proposed project, the commission decided Thursday to continue the hearing until its May 18 meeting, Town Planner Neil S. Pade said today.

West Street Development Co, LLC is proposing to construct the homes on a 2.88-acre parcel at 256 West St., near Peterson Road.

The homes would be restricted to residents 55 and older.

Access to the new development would be provided through a private driveway extended off West Street.

Frank J. McCoy Jr. and Dennis F. McCoy own the property.

The development of age-restricted housing has become a hot topic during recent months as town officials try to deal with a sharp increase in the number of units developed during the last few years.

In February, the PZC took the formal step of abolishing these types of developments when they voted to eliminate provisions in the town's zoning regulations allowing age-restricted housing. That vote came moments after their decision to deny a proposal for a 59-unit development on a 42-acre parcel, which was also located on West Street.

Several neighbors of the most recent proposal have spoken against the project at public hearings.

Among the concerns cited were compatibility with the historic nature of the Vernon Center area, the site's proximity to schools, water drainage, and traffic safety along West Street.

On Thursday, the developers lawyer, Dorian R. Famiglietti, tried to rebut the neighbors concerns, arguing that the development's design and density is consistent with the nearby neighborhood, and that traffic impact would be minimal.

"We're not changing the status quo," Famiglietti said. "The addition of these eight units certainly will not make the level of service any worse."

Famiglietti also stressed that the site would be accessible to shopping services, as prescribed in the town's zoning regulations.

Famiglietti also read off a list of publicly-owned age-restricted developments with distances to shopping areas that are similar or farther away than the her client's proposal. Accessibility to services was at the center of the PZC's decision to deny the 59-unit development in February.

The developers of that project are appealing that decision, saying the commission went against previous precedent when it denied the application.

Famiglietti also represented the developer in that case.

At the time, she argued that the commission had previously approved developments that were farther away from shopping services than the proposed 59-unit development.

Wanting clarification on how to handle this issue, commission members had asked Town Attorney Joseph D. Courtney to weigh in before they deliberated this most recent application.

On April 24, Courtney responded in writing, saying that while the commission is not bound by previous precedent, their previous interpretations could be an indication of whether their decision was arbitrary and thus, improper.

"The past practice of the commission in interpreting its regulations is one factor that may be considered by a court in determining if a commission's denial or approval of an application is arbitrary," Courtney wrote.

©Journal Inquirer 2006