Grace Farms: We are not violating any zoning regs
NEW CANAAN — As the town looks for Grace Farms to tone down activities at the site the organization contends they have done nothing wrong.
Grace Farms responded to a letter from zoning officials asking they halt more activities at 365 Lukes Wood Road saying they are not violating any zoning regulations.
“GFF (Grace Farms Foundation) has always stated... that its conduct to date has not been in violation of the 2013 Special Permit,” Grace Farms Foundation’s attorney Edward O’Hanlan, of Stamford-based Robinson and Cole, wrote in a letter dated Jan. 31 addressed to Town Planner Steve Palmer. “The fact that PZC (Planning and Zoning Commission) has decided, beginning with Mr. Kleppin’s letter and continuing to date in your latter, to allow GFF to use the voluntary application process to address questions that have been raised about its activities, rather than an enforcements process, is an acknowledgment that, while reasonable people can disagree on zoning matters, there has not been any incident or event in GFF’s conduct of its business to justify an enforcement action.”
A little over a week after Grace Farms Foundation announced it would temporarily withdraw its application for an amended special permit, Palmer responded with a list of conditions he said the organization should follow or risk enforcement for being in violation of its current special permit.
Palmer’s conditions, outlined in a Jan. 27 letter, came in addition to concessions made by the organization in their Jan. 20 withdrawal letter for the interim which some, including neighbors, felt were not sufficiently restrictive.
In its original letter, Grace agreed to limit the amount of light in the evening, quieting a chiming sculpture, installing signage that would prevent visitors from traversing parts of the grounds nearest to neighbors’ property lines, limiting the number of evening events in the River Building through May and resubmitting within 60 days.
Palmer, however, stated that Grace should resubmit an application with 45 days of the letter. Also, within seven days of his letter, Palmer said that Grace should submit “a list of space grants and other foundation activities or events scheduled for the next six months for days and evenings.”
“These additional measures are integral to this process and compliance with them will be a consideration in the Commission’s review of the future Special Permit application,” Palmer added, before giving a line of instruction to Grace on their upcoming amended application.
“In your preparation of a new application please keep in mind that the Commission is seeking a detailed yet concise application that identifies specific requests with reasoning, conformance with special permit criteria, any proposed measures to mitigate the impact and ability to enforce on a run rate basis.”
Within 15 days of the letter, Palmer wrote, his office will inspect the property to ensure “all interim measures are in place.”
In O’Hanlan’s letter on Tuesday, Grace Farms announced plans to submit their amended application by March 15, 2017, within the 45-day requirement, and to move and mark trails near Smith Ridge property lines as instructed. In their original withdrawal, the letter states, Grace had offered to reduce only evening activities because they appeared to be the source of complaints about lighting and usage and because day events aren’t scheduled out as far as six months. Grace did, however, agree to submit their daily events on a month-by-month schedule for review.
“GFF feels it is important for this response to reflect its record of open discussion with staff of PZC, and the PZC itself, about these matters, and to refute expressly any notion that it is operating without regard to its Special Permit or not mindful of the concerns and questions of its neighbors, and the Town,” O’Hanlan wrote.