Back and forth between neighbors, Grace Farms continues between town meetings
Updated 1:14 pm, Friday, March 17, 2017
NEW CANAAN — Residents are claiming the Grace Farms Foundation is not playing by newly established — albeit temporary — rules put upon them by the town.
A letter sent to Town Planner Steve Palmer by attorney Amy Zabetakis, of the Darien-based Rucci Law Group, which represents Grace Farms neighbors, claims several violations of a temporary agreement restricting use at the 72-acre property until a new special permit is acquired.
In the letter sent March 3, Zabetakis alleges Grace Farms has run afoul of restrictions placed on the foundation by Palmer after Grace withdrew a special permit application in January and until it resubmits an amended application, which was expected Wednesday.
Zabetakis represents Grace Farms neighbors and Smith Ridge Road
According to Zabetakis, Grace Farms has left the lights of the transparent River Building on into the night, continues to schedule new activities and encourage applications for space grants, citing Grace Farms March newsletter, in which space grant applications are called for, despite the interim regulations specifically barring those actions.
“We remain concerned that Grace Farms will continue — as they did during the hearing in 2013 — to say one thing and then act as if the rules that apply to every property owner in New Canaan do not apply to them,” Zabetakis wrote in the letter to Palmer. She also cited a lack of transparency and an unwillingness to work with neighbors on the part of Grace Farms.
Grace Farms’ attorney, Edward V. O’Hanlan, of Stamford-based Robinson and Cole, however, rebutted in a March 7 letter to Steve Palmer, stating that Grace Farms President Sharon Prince was limited in the extent to which she can interact with Curt and Bissonette because they have sued the foundation for damages to wetlands in Superior Court, naming specifically Prince as a defendant.
O’Hanlan said officials from Grace have been meeting weekly with town officials and have had several meetings with neighbors, as well as the attorneys of neighbors, including Zabetakis, who was met with O’Hanlan and a landscape architect from Planimetrix.
“In light of this, Atty. Zabetakis’ letter is disheartening in its tone and what can only be characterized as unhelpful sniping,” O’Hanlan wrote.
O’Hanlan also refuted Zabetakis’ claim that the lights of the River Building had been left on for all but one night during the week preceding the March 3 letter, offering to meet with Palmer in person to review Grace Farms’ camera footage and disprove the claim. O’Hanlan said Grace Farms has been totally transparent in its scheduling, and offered to answer any questions Palmer or Zabetakis may have.
“As for the allegations about scheduling in Ms. Zabetakis’ letter, the Foundation has provided you with its calendars — including a long-term tentative calendar and a short-term firm calendar, and continues to be willing to answer any scheduling questions that you may have,” O’Hanlan said.
Grace Farms’ application for an amended special permit better encapsulating the scope of its work is expected back in front of the Planning and Zoning Commission in April.