Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
With PZC short a member, Home Depot settlement takes back seat

By Kym Soper
Journal Inquirer
January 17, 2008

VERNON — Home Depot has taken a back seat for the Planning and Zoning Commission for now as the panel is short one member, town officials say.

Also, lawyers are still crafting the settlement agreement, which allows the home building retailer to construct a store just off Interstate 84 on the site of former Softball fields.

While the item is on the agenda for tonight's meeting, Town Planner Leonard Tundermann says Home Depot likely will be continued for some time to come.

PZC Chairman Lester Finkle also has said he wants to wait until a full board is installed before taking up the controversial subject again.

The PZC approved the settlement agreement in concept Dec. 20 in a 4-3 vote. The terms of two members — one who voted in favor and another against — have expired since then.

Mary Kelly was replaced last week by Democrat Chet Morgan. And Mayor Jason L. McCoy said Wednesday that he plans to reappoint Walter "Chip" Bellows at the next Town Council meeting.

The settlement, which still needs court approval, has been at least five years in the making. It allows developers Diamond 67 LLC to build a 132,973-square-foot Home Depot and garden center at the exit 67 off-ramp on 14.7 acres near Walker 's Reservoir.

The compromise agreement consists of a smaller building footprint, less parking spaces, more landscaping, and hook-up to sewer lines rather than digging a septic system.

Home Depot lawyers brokered the agreement with a subcommittee of three PZC members in court-sponsored mediation resulting out of a lawsuit.

PZC members voting in favor of the agreement felt that the settlement struck a better deal for the town, as it addressed all environmental issues raised over the last five years by residents before the Inland Wetlands Commission.

Those opposed said they were concerned the precedent-setting process had stifled public input, as the courts did not allow for intervener status at the Planning and Zoning level.