AROD suit is settled

The lawsuit brought by Patricia Frisch against the town of Wilton and Planning and Zoning Commission has been settled. Frisch told The Bulletin both her attorney, Roger Frisch, and Town Attorney Ira Bloom, signed a stipulation and withdrawal that was e-filed with Stamford Superior Court on Aug. 22.

Both the lawsuit and a motion to dismiss filed by the town have been withdrawn.

“I have never sought publicity for myself or for the lawsuit, and I respect the Commission’s prompt action to rescind the age-restricted overlay district regulation (“AROD Regulation”) on the advice of Town Counsel shortly after the lawsuit was filed,” Frisch said in a letter to The Bulletin.

“The reason I continued the lawsuit beyond the rescission date was to obtain a court order that the rescinded AROD Regulation is truly null and void, as though it never existed. That is something that the Town Counsel advised the public and the Commission (at its June 12, 2017, meeting) could only be done by a court,” she continued.

“To be fair, both Town Counsel and the Chairman of the Commission later said (at the Commission’s July 10, 2017, hearing) that, following the rescission of the zoning amendments that created the AROD Regulation, any new application for the adoption of similar AROD regulations would ‘essentially have to start over;’ but I was still concerned. I did not want to be arguing in the future about what the Commission meant by ‘rescission’ or ‘essentially start over’ or about whether the rescinded AROD Regulation can be simply ‘restored’ by a ‘new’ application that relies only on past consideration of what has been rescinded.”

Frisch said there is a “Stipulation and Withdrawal” that has been signed by the parties and submitted to the court for signature. It states that any ‘application(s) made on or after July 10, 2017 to or by the PZC for an AROD regulation shall be treated as a de novo application, including the giving of statutory notices to the public and scheduling of public hearings thereon.’ This provides the clarity I have been looking for.”

A de novo application means starting anew.

“I think everyone will be best served if the public has unshaken confidence that any decision that is ultimately made on this controversial subject is made after a new application is submitted, with appropriate supporting documentation, and objectively considered and decided in the interests of the entire Town, including all property owners whose property interests would be affected, not just those of any one property owner (mine or anyone else’s),” she said.

The lawsuit, filed earlier this year, brought to light the fact the amendments to the town’s zoning regulations that would allow age-restricted housing, including the AROD, were improperly publicized and that led to the amendments — as well as several other unrelated decisions — being rescinded.

A request to be named an intervenor in the lawsuit was made Aug. 10 by 183 Ridgefield Road LLC. The company’s attorney was notified of the settlement.

The town had filed a motion to dismiss the case on Aug. 16.

“Before the motion to intervene was filed, my original motion for an injunction had been scheduled to be heard on Aug. 21,” Frisch told The Bulletin on Wednesday. “My lawyer was ready to proceed. When 183 Ridgefield Road LLC filed a motion to intervene and the Town filed a motion to dismiss, my lawyer requested and obtained a continuance of the hearing date until Sept. 25 to give us time to respond to the motions.

“I could have asked him to use that continuance to my advantage as a matter of litigation ‘strategy’ and done nothing until late September. But neither he nor I have ever used litigation procedures for dilatory purposes. Instead, we continued in good faith to try to achieve our substantive objectives and were able to do so with the agreement of Stipulation and Withdrawal reached with the Town Attorney.”

The Planning and Zoning Commission still has before it an application submitted July 19 by 183 Ridgefield Road seeking a modified age-restricted overlay district that would extend up Ridgefield Road to Drum Hill Road. While the commission has not acted on it, Town Planner Bob Nerney said the application was automatically accepted and a public hearing must open within 65 days according to state statute. The commission next meets Sept. 11 and will likely set a hearing date for Sept. 25 unless the applicant requests an extension.