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New Canaan Housing Plan May Be Bound for Court

NEW CANAAN, Conn. – Legal action is possible once a town board decides whether a townhouse development should be allowed at the former Jelliff Mill site, says New Canaan Planning and Zoning Commission Chairman Laszlo Papp.

Papp and his commission are still holding a public hearing on whether developers should get approval for a 16-unit townhouse development at 41 and 47 Jelliff Mill Road.

“It’s so contentious of an issue that the so-called losing party [may] appeal,” Papp said.

The planning commission and the Inland Wetlands Commission will get advice before deciding. The Board of Selectmen voted Monday to hire attorney Ira Bloom of Westport-based Berchem, Moses and Devlin to provide legal advice. It also agreed to terms with Todd Ritchie of GHD Inc. to work as a consulting engineer for the commissions. Developer 47 Jelliff Mill LLC and homeowners Bryan and Cheryl Gardiner want to build townhouses on the site, but many neighbors have voiced their opposition at town meetings.

Because five of the proposed units are set to be affordable housing, the planning commission will have the burden of proof in deciding whether the site is not suitable for the project. Papp said the tables are turned because normally applicants have to prove that their project will not pose any health or safety risks.

The board asked for advice because “there are substantial contradictions by each side,” Papp said. The Planning and Zoning Commission will continue its public hearing April 10. Once the hearing is closed, the commission will have 65 days to vote on the application.

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