Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
West Street development back in court

By Jason Rowe
Journal Inquirer
July 8, 2006

VERNON - Months after his plans for a 59-unit housing development on West Street were rejected by the Planning and Zoning Commis-sion, a local developer is now looking to build 27 single-family homes on the same site.

But the newest plans by builder Kenneth J. Boynton for the 42-acre parcel have propelled a Tracy Drive couple back into court: they're suing the town over its handling of the proposal.

On June 28 the residents, Frederick and Barbara Goff, filed suit against the Inland Wetlands Regulatory Commission, saying its June 13 approval of Boynton's modified proposal was "illegal" and "arbitrary."

While it may have the commission's thumbs-up, Boynton's plan still needs PZC approval.

Filed in Superior Court, the lawsuit also names as defendants Boynton and the parcel's owners, Donald Doherty, Catherine D. Enes, James Doherty Jr., and Eleanor Doherty McGrath.

The lawsuit, filed by local lawyer Patricia Johnson Cardin, claims the commission failed to follow its own regulations requiring it to find "prudent" alternatives to Boynton's proposal.

According to a May 15 memorandum from Town Planner Neil S. Pade to the commission, the revised proposal would disturb 1.1 acres of a regulated wetlands area. That's less than half the 2.5 acres that would have been disturbed by Boynton's earlier, rejected proposal, Pape wrote.

But in her brief, Cardin argues proper steps weren't taken to protect the affected wetland areas.

"The mitigation plan does not include a planting plan and, as such, does not satisfy the criteria or demonstrate its function as actual mitigation," she wrote. "The storm water management plan relies on best management practices for its efficacy, but does not provide a mechanism that ensures its implementation in protection of the wetlands and their continuing function."

The proposal to develop homes on the site has gone through several twists and turns - and a few courtrooms.

In denying Boynton's age-restricted housing proposal earlier this year, the PZC said the development was incompatible with the surrounding area, and would be contrary to town regulations at the time which required age-restricted housing to have easy access to shopping.

Yet, moments after voting to reject Boynton's proposal in January, the PZC voted to eliminate town regulations allowing age-restricted housing to be built at densities higher than the surrounding neighborhoods.

After that decision, Boynton sued, saying the rejection was illegal. That case is pending.

Boynton's earlier proposal stirred strong opposition from local residents, notably the Goffs, who already have filed lawsuits against the town challenging two previous land-use commission decisions approving Boynton's plans to construct 13 single family homes.

The 13 homes - which are to be built on land adjacent to the 42-acre parcel at the center of the latest lawsuit - would be accessed by a new road constructed on a parcel owned by the Goffs.

The Goffs dispute Boynton's contention that he can construct the roadway on a right-of-way located on their property.

©Journal Inquirer 2006