NEW CANAAN — Since they bought their 1218 Smith Ridge Road, house in 2003, Timothy Curt and his wife, Dona Bissonnette have poured money into their “dream home,” particularly their backyard.

The pair created gardens, a Japanese tea house and patios in the rear of their property. But their carefully cultivated backyard, the pair said, was soon spoiled, beginning with the issuance of a special permit and construction in 2013 of the adjacent Grace Farms Foundation River Building, which site on a hill above the Curt-Bissonnette home.

“I have no sense of privacy. I have no sense of, I’m home. It’s just a complete invasion, and we just feel like we’re on display,” Curt said, at a Monday meeting of the Planning and Zoning Commission, the second public hearing since the Grace Farms Foundation resubmitted its request for a zoning regulation text amendment change that would allow for multiple principal uses, and an amended special permit that would allow for religious, foundational and eleemosynary uses.

“It’s been horrendous for our lives since construction started,” Curt added.

Curt — who, with his wife, has filed a lawsuit against Grace for the destruction of wetlands on his property as a result of runoff from construction — was one of several speakers to make the case against Grace Farms on Tuesday. Attorney Amy Zabetakis, of Rucci Law Group, spoke on behalf of Curt and Bissonnette, as well as their neighbors, Paul and Danita Ostling, of 1196 Smith Ridge Road. Attorney Amy Souchuns, of Hurwitz, Sagarin, Slossberg and Knuff, spoke on behalf of David Markatos and Jennifer Holme, of 1328 Smith Ridge Road.

In the first public hearing, Grace Farms and its attorney, Edward O’Hanlan, of Robinson and Cole, were given the floor to state Grace’s case. At that meeting, Grace explained aspects of their March 27 application that would establish a neighborhood hotline, outline future plans and set caps for certain kinds of events, and depict where Grace planned to add additional landscaping to shield neighbors.

The group of dissenting neighbors, however, were unsatisfied with the concessions, claiming the same issues regarding noise and light pollution, security and intensity of usage.

Landscapers for the Curt-Bissonnettes and the Ostlings claimed that Grace Farms had not followed through on initial plans to plant trees to provide a buffer. They requested the planting of additional evergreen trees, and the creation of a six-foot high berm, atop which trees would be planted, outside of the River Building’s basketball court.

Souchuns, on behalf of Markatos and Holme, asked that space grants issued by Grace Farms get Planning and Zoning approval, that the Commons — the cafeteria and meeting area on site — be limited to employee and special event use only, that the sound sculpture be permanently turned or moved inside, that a more permanent fencing solution be established to keep guests from wandering toward neighboring property lines, and that they be fully screened from the light of the River Building at night.

Representatives of the neighbors again made the complaint that Grace has been uncooperative and that approving a text change that would allow for multiple principal uses would greatly increase intensity of use on site and open the town up to other instances of institutional expansion — such as the Frank Lloyd Wright House, which is on the market in a residential zone, and which, Souchuns said, could apply to become a museum, or bed and breakfast.

“It’s exactly the kind of thing… that really will open up the commission and the town to more institutional expansion in the residential zone, rather than addressing the issues of handling and narrowing those impacts, as outlined in the POCD [Plan of Conservation and Development].

Members of the commission, too, wondered if accepting the text change would set a precedent. O’Hanlan, however, stressed that a process remained in place — including meetings with the Town Planner and approval by the commission — to stop instances of institutional expansion when deemed inappropriate.

“You’re hearing a lot of fear mongering tonight that I think is not good for the town or the regulations. These are not substantive changes,” O’Hanlan told the commission.

Neighbors disagree.

“We ask you to deny the application. Not so Grace Farms can be shut down. We’re not these extremist crazy people that people want to believe we are,” Curt said. “I’d like for you to ask Grace farms to make the neighborhood a better place before they make the world a better place.”

“We’ve been losing faith in the town’s ability to protect the taxpayers.”

justin.papp@scni.com; @justinjpapp1