Ridgefield zoning officer's permit repeal for Prospect Street development sustained

An appeal to overturn the zoning officer's denial of a 21-unit development at 63-67 Prospect Street was not upheld by the Zoning Board of Appeals Tuesday night.

An appeal to overturn the zoning officer’s denial of a 21-unit development at 63-67 Prospect Street was not upheld by the Zoning Board of Appeals Tuesday night.

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RIDGEFIELD — Despite a complicated argument about pandemic-related executive orders — and a majority of members in support — an appeal to overturn the zoning officer’s denial of a 21-unit development on Prospect Street was rejected by the Zoning Board of Appeals Tuesday night.

Representatives from Pierandri Realty LLC and The Giardini Limited Partnership argued that Gov. Ned Lamont’s emergency orders extended their deadline to begin work on the project at 63-67 Prospect Street, which was first approved 14 years ago.

“This development’s construction has been historically delayed due to the long life of an individual with a life estate interest in the property,” attorney William Hennessey wrote in a letter to the board.

On May 17, Planning & Zoning Director Richard Baldelli repealed the zoning permit issued for the 1.145-acre property, which he said had expired two days earlier.

“Any time during the past 14 years the applicant could have received a permit to go forward with this project,” he added, disagreeing that an extension was intrinsic in the governor’s orders.

Ironically, three of the five ZBA members disagreed with Baldelli’s repeal, as they believed the applicant was entitled to more time because of the pandemic. But as attorney Patricia Sullivan pointed out, a “supermajority” was required to overturn the decision, meaning four of the five members had to agree.

“I’ve done more reading on this case than any in the four years I’ve been on the board,” said Terry Bearden-Rettger. “They missed the deadline. … They lost that coverage of the covered laws and the executive order when it became a public act.”

Board member Joseph Pastore was adamant that the applicant should be given leeway. “I think the executive order issued by the governor is applicable and trumps all here,” he said. “I’m not supportive of a development that’s not handled correctly (but) I don’t think they missed the deadline.”

All the board members seemed to agree that their decision was not going to be the final word, as a legal appeal was likely regardless of how the vote went.

“It’s probably to be challenged either way,” said ZBA Chair Carson Fincham. “This is a tough one — nobody is clearly right or clearly wrong.”

Several members of the public spoke to voice their objections to the project. Neighbor Tracey O’Connor expressed concerns about its density and the affects it could have on traffic, flooding and the electric grid.

“I know it’s not your issue right now, but I do feel the site plan was inadequate for site-screen mitigation,” added neighbor Paul Cockerill.

“I’m opposed to anything that would increase the density of our neighborhood,” neighbor John Johnson said.