Grace Farms withdraws special permit application
NEW CANAAN — Instead of continuing with deliberation on a new application, Grace Farms will stick to a special permit approved in September of last year that came with over 100 conditions.
The foundation issued a statement on Feb. 6 saying that the new application filed on Nov. 21 would be withdrawn “to avoid any further unnecessary deliberations on this matter and to allow the Commission the courtesy of managing its agenda at the next meeting.”
In the same statement, the foundation thanked the Planning and Zoning Commission for their efforts and analysis “culminating in the Special Permit approved on Sept. 26.”
This development comes in the wake of Planning and Zoning Commission meetings on the re-filed application made in late November of last year by the foundation. Town Attorney Ira Bloom had recommended that a new application be filed in order to correct procedural issues that had been raised in lawsuits against the foundation by neighbors.
The special permit granted back in October, meant to appease neighbors and contain the scope of activities at Grace Farms, has over 100 conditions that include limitations on the number and size of events throughout the year, regulations on light usage, landscaping and fencing.
Bloom had previously written to the foundation that a new application with the records of prior meetings would shorten “the time required for the Planning and Zoning Commission to hear and decide” the new application.
Grace Farms, which has been a popular 80-acres town attraction since its opening in 2015, describes itself as a a n on-profit center “dedicated to advancing faith, nature, arts, community and justice initiatives.”
Bloom issued no comment on the withdrawal when reached by email Tuesday.
Neighbors have engaged in legal action against the foundation and the town.
Timothy Curt and his wife Dona Bissonnette filed a suit in state Superior Court in Stamford last October against the Planning and Zoning Commission after it approved Grace Farms’ special permit. Paul and Danita Ostling also filed suits against the Planning and Zoning Commission and Grace Farms back in October.
Additionally, Grace Farms also filed suit against the Planning and Zoning Commission in the same month.
Interim Town Planner Keisha Fink issued no comment regarding Grace Farm’s withdrawal when reached by email Wednesday.
Neighbors who reside on property bordering Grace Farms have communicated their complaints to the Planning and Zoning Commission at public hearings. Smith Ridge Road resident, Jennifer Buczkiewicz asked that the commission close a path east of a stream near her property and “return the backyard to our family."
The Planning and Zoning Commission met Jan. 16 for an open hearing on the new application. Edward O’Hanlan, an attorney representing Grace Farms, went over 20 clarifications and corrections of the language of the already approved special permit.
Attorney Amy Zabetakis of Rucci Law Group and attorney Amy Souchuns from Hurwitz Sagarin Slossberg & Knuff, who each represent certain neighbors appealing the foundation’s application, argued that new arguments could be made as the application was a wholly new procedure.
The mid-January meeting also brought up an apparent conflict of interest referencing Chairman John Goodwin’s career as a managing director at the investment bank Morgan Stanley.
The letter was signed by four neighbors — Timothy Curt, his wife Dona Bissonnette and Paul and Danita Ostling — who are all Smith Ridge Road residents. Chairman Goodwin did not recuse himself citing an affront to his person and integrity.