March 18, 2018

Meeting Averts Deep River Planning and Zoning Lawsuit

DEEP RIVER— A July 2 meeting has averted a lawsuit between the planning and zoning commission and the zoning board of appeals over the board’s June 19 approval of a variance that would open the door to a used car dealership in a vacant industrial building at 444 South Main Street on the south end of town.

The ZBA on June 19 approved a variance for local resident George Bartlett of the road frontage requirements of zoning regulations as applied to the former Champion Tool & Dye Company site on South Main Street, also known as Route 154. Zoning regulations require at least 150-feet of road frontage for used car dealerships and other uses in the turnpike industrial zone on the south end of town, while the parcel acquired by Bartlett has only 144 feet of road frontage.

The planning and zoning commission, represented by Zoning Enforcement Officer Cathy Jefferson and commission attorney William Howard, opposed the variance appeal at the June 19 public hearing, with Howard contending approval of the six-foot road frontage variance would also be a use variance that exceeded the legal authority of the ZBA. The board approved the variance on a 4-1 vote. Two days later, at its June 21 meeting, the planning and zoning commission directed Howard to file a court appeal challenging the variance approval.

Concerned about the prospect of one town board suing another, with the town paying legal expenses for both sides, First Selectman Richard Smith arranged a July 2 meeting where he was joined by ZBA Chairman Donald Grohs, ZBA attorney David Royston, Jefferson, and Howard.

Smith said Thursday the meeting resulted in the planning and zoning commission agreeing not to pursue a lawsuit against the variance approval, with Bartlett required to file a special permit application with the commission for the proposed used car dealership. The special permit application requires a public hearing, where the commission will hold jurisdiction over all aspects of the used car dealership plan, including the final decision on whether to approve a used car dealership on the site.

Smith said he is pleased the meeting earlier this month was able to resolve the dispute, and avert a lawsuit. “I don’t think boards should be fighting with each other and costing the town money,” he said.