Letter to the editor submitted by John Timm, Cos Cob
In an application to the Zoning Board of Appeals in 2014 for the building of the Greenwich Reform Synagogue at 92 Orchard St the Board denied the application based on the Plan of Conservation and Development. The vote was two for, two against and one abstention. For an application to pass requires 4 votes.
The Greenwich Reform Synagogue sued the Town of Greenwich and the Board in Federal court. Greenwich Reform Synagogue and the Town and Zoning Board of Appeals reached a settlement of the suit with conditions that was approved by the court on October 2, 2014.
In 2018 Greenwich Reform Synagogue appealed to the Zoning Board of Appeals for special exception approval to permit a pre-school use at an existing synagogue as well as the construction of a playground for said pre-school at a religious institution located in the R-12 zone.
A motion was made by two board members to pass the appeal with conditions. This appeal with conditions was passed by the Board with a unanimous vote of 5 to 0.
The conditions that the board approved for the appeal were:
1) 100 student limit with no more than 50 students per section in the morning and afternoon.
2) No summer camp.
3) No simultaneous use of the sanctuary and school.
4) No overlapping between the morning and afternoon school sessions; and
5) No queuing of vehicles for the purpose of student arrival or dismissal.
The Greenwich Reform Synagogue subsequently filed a Complaint and Appeal with the Superior Court of the State of Connecticut from the Planning and Zoning Board of Appeals of the Town of Greenwich.
Greenwich Reform Synagogue is appealing the decision of the Planning and Zoning Board of Appeals of the Town of Greenwich and the Plaintiff complains and says:
1. The Plaintiff, Greenwich Reform Synagogue, is the owner of property at 92 Orchard Street, Greenwich, Connecticut 06807.
2. The property is located in the R-12 zone of the Town of Greenwich.
3. The plaintiff filed an application to the Defendant, Zoning Board of Appeals of the Town of Greenwich, for special exception approval to permit a pre-school use at an existing synagogue and construction of a playground for said pre-school.
4. The Defendant approved the application of the Plaintiff, with conditions, and notice of the decision was published in the Greenwich Time on April 16, 2018.
5. The Plaintiff is aggrieved by the decision of the Defendant Zoning Board of Appeals in that it is the owner of the property which is the subject of the application and this appeal and because it has a specific, personal and legal interest in the decision and its interests are specifically and injurious affected by the decision.
6. In approving the application, the Defendant Board of Appeals imposed certain conditions and in so doing acted illegally, arbitrarily and in an abuse of the discretion vested in it by law as an administrative agency, in that:
a. it failed to properly apply the regulations of the Town of Greenwich to the facts;
b. It failed to properly interpret the plain language of the Town of Greenwich Regulations;
c. It based its decision on facts not before it;
d. It failed to consider the facts presented;
e. There is insufficient evidence in the record to support the Board’s decision;
f. It failed to apply the Building Zone Regulations, or did so in a manner that was arbitrary and capricious;
g. It failed to apply the applicable law to the facts before it; and,
h. It violated the terms of a settlement agreement between the Town of Greenwich and the Applicant which settled claims brought against the Town of Greenwich and this Defendant Board of Appeals in a complaint filed by this Applicant in the Federal District Court for the District of Connecticut, which settlement was approved by the Defendant Zoning Board of Appeals on October 2, 2014.
The lawsuit has not been settled as of May 10, 2019
The authority to review the approval conditions was transferred from the Zoning Board of Appeals to the Planning and Zoning Commission in the October 2018 amendment to the Building Zone Regulations Section 6-94.
Because of the regulation changes, Greenwich Reform Synagogue does not have to appear before the Zoning Board of Appeals to settle this. It is now before the Planning and Zoning Commission. An application by the Greenwich Reform Synagogue to the Planning and Zoning Commission was opened on April 2, 2019 to make changes to the Zoning Board of Appeals decision.
The Planning and Zoning Commission action on this application will be at a future commission meeting to be determined.
If you have concerns about this or other items such as increased traffic come to the meeting and make them known