Contractor’s yard wins approval — again

Second time’s a charm?

The town Planning and Zoning Commission approved a multi-unit contractor’s yard at 800 Ethan Allen Highway on July 17.

If this sounds like a case of deja-vu, it isn’t. In August of 2015, the commission approved substantially the same application from developer Larry Leary, to build what will essentially be rentable office space for contractors — plumbers, electricians, and the like.

That approval was turned over on appeal filed by the lot’s neighbors at The Regency condominium complex based on a technicality, as the plan called for fencing and retaining walls to be built within the lot’s yard setback — the space around a property which is kept bare of any development for curb-appeal. The state judge presiding over the case ruled that the fences and retaining walls violated the town’s regulations, which at the time barred “use” from a lot’s setback.

In early January, the commission deleted the “use” restriction from the town regulations on setbacks, paving the way for the plan to be reapproved.

Len Doherty, representing The Regency housing complex at a June 19 hearing, said the homeowners association would not stand in the way of the plan a second time. Doherty said he had reached a private agreement with Leary to not appeal the decision if the contractor’s yard were to be approved for a second time.

In exchange for the neighbors’ guarantee, Doherty and Jewell told the commission, Leary agreed to put up over $100,000 in surety bonds — in addition to the $60,000 in bonds required by the town — to restore the property if the project is ever abandoned in the middle of construction.

Jewell indicated that such an abandonment would be highly unlikely.

The commission also voted to approve a request from Leary that the commission waive the application fees the town planning and zoning office typically charges developers. Jewell previously argued that the fees were a hardship on the developer, as the application had not substantially changed from the one that was approved in 2015.

Planning and Zoning Director Richard Baldelli told the commission the bulk of the review work had already completed when the yard was approved before, and that he was comfortable waiving the fees.

Indeed, the application drew little discussion from the six commissioners — commissioner Tim Dunphy was absent from the meeting, while Vice Chairman Joe Fossi and commissioner Charles Robbins recused themselves and left the room for that portion of the meeting — on July 17.

“This is an identical application to one that was subject to numerous public hearings,” said Chairwoman Rebecca Mucchetti, who also noted that the Planning and Zoning office had reviewed the application extensively. “That is why we’re moving so quickly.”

The six commissioners voted to approve the yard unanimously.