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Norwalk Zoning Commission stymied in effort to correct ‘constant violations’

Lajoie’s in April, as seen from a Lawrence Street backyard. (Rick Reardon)

Updated, 7:06 a.m.: Copy edits

NORWALK, Conn. – The Zoning Commission is considering revoking a permit for a South Norwalk contractor’s yard after a major zoning violation.  Land use attorney Liz Suchy said the move is unprecedented, and not allowed.

F&G Contractors has violated its permit to do business at LaJoie’s 46 Meadow St. property, Assistant Planning and Zoning Director Mike Wrinn explained Thursday at a Zoning public hearing on the possible permit revocation.

Suchy, representing F&G, said the Commission doesn’t have the power to revoke a permit. As a result, the hearing was continued until the Commission can get an opinion from the City legal department.

Video by Harold Cobin at end of story

F&G was issued a permit in 2016 but only achieved its Certificate of Occupancy in March, Wrinn and Suchy said.  P&Z then received a complaint and found a “very large violation,” Wrinn said.  He explained that “we are trying to get an understanding of how we can correct the situation on these constant violations.”

F&G was approved to use two small areas to store materials but had large piles on the property, all along the property line, when P&Z visited in late June, Wrinn said.  He explained that there were no sprinklers being used to prevent dust from spreading, and no covers on the piles for erosion control. No satisfactory explanation was given.

This was “three months after it was approved,” Commissioner Galen Wells said.  Suchy replied that the permit was issued in 2016.

Wrinn in 2017 explained that F&G Construction had a zoning permit to put a contractors yard at the rear of LaJoies.

“They have started work on the project, which includes drainage, landscaping and raising some grades by a couple of feet or so,” Wrinn wrote at the time. “Until they finish all of the work on the project (paving, landscaping, etc.) they will not be issued a final zoning compliance.”

F&G had a large pile there at the time, and was being issued a citation, he said. NancyOnNorwalk has not checked in on the situation since then.

Wrinn said during Thursday’s hearing that he and Suchy had visited the site that day to check on the efforts to comply with the June citation and found the property much improved.

“Yes sir, no sir, no excuse sir,” the violations occurred, and, “there is nothing we can say about that other than we anticipate that that material will be out of the site within a month,” Suchy said.

Her client was expecting to go to a hearing before an officer but instead, was in front of the Zoning Commission, she said.

“Why isn’t the site completely cleaned up? Your employers had two months to clean it,” Zoning Commission Vice Chairman Lou Schulman asked.

“It does take time,” Suchy said.  She noted that F&G has a City contract and materials need to be stored.

“We do believe that you don’t have the ability to undertake this hearing tonight and certainly not to vote to rescind the permit,” Suchy said. “It’s not in your regulations and case law and statutory construction prohibits you from undertaking action that you’re not permitted to do. You do not have the ability to revoke or rescind. You can issue a violation. You can fine. You can bring civil action through your law department, and your law department may even be able to seek injunctive relief if they meet the requirements of an injunction.”

F&G has the opportunity to address the problems in a reasonable manner and is doing that, she said.  Suchy said that no other violator has been threatened with a permit revocation.

“We’re serious about what we’re doing,” Chairman Nate Sumpter replied. “…The public got involved and is involved because they felt there was a need for this.”

Citizens at the Thursday hearing accused F&G of chronic violations and thanked the Commission for taking action.  Teresa Peterson, a Village Creek resident, was among those to speak.

“They have been a problem for two years but we are talking about since July,” she said.  She explained that photos had been taken of junk cars on top of dirt piles and reported to the Department of Motor Vehicles but “that went nowhere.”

“It took them two years to get their CO… they immediately go out of compliance,” she said. “….they are chronic violators who will continue to do this.”

Lynn Stephens Massey said she lives on Meeker Court, adjacent to another F&G construction site, where there are unusued vehicles idling for half an hour and huge dump trucks coming down the road.

Freddy Genestra of F&G “doesn’t listen to anyone” and “takes advantage of Norwalk citizens,” she said.  “He is damaging our property and he doesn’t follow the rules and regulations. He needs to be shut down.”

“I am happy to see there is some enforcement action. Please don’t let it stop,” Diane Lauricella said. “… The hearing officer system has not been found to be as effective as I was hoping.”

Suchy declined to answer the comments, given that the hearing is being continued.

Roger LaJoie, at the end of the public hearing, said he didn’t know what he could do about F&G.

“I am leaving them in charge. I mean, I don’t know the contractor business, he knows it. I can’t tell them how to run the business, I don’t know what it is,” Lajoie said.

Lajoie would pay the fines, as property owner. Sumpter asked him what he plans to do about it.

“I don’t know. I’ll get a lawyer, I’m not sure,” Lajoie said, telling Commissioner Michael Witherspoon that F&G doesn’t have a lease.

Schulman asked Wrinn what Stamford, New Haven and West Hartford do “when they have these kinds of persistent or egregious violations.”

“We had a meeting. We indicated how enforcement was going to be taken against contractor yards,” Commissioner Richard Roina said.  He said he was “astounded” by a letter the Commission had received from Suchy, asserting that the Commission can’t rescind the permit.

“I have the most respect for her and her firm, and I am going to presume that that didn’t come out of the air although I was hoping we would hear something from corporation counsel’s office before this meeting tonight,” Roina said. “But if what she has written is correct, I have to say in the strongest terms that we need to do something. This is embarrassing, to me.”

8 comments

john flynn September 10, 2018 at 7:17 am

Watch the video. Planning and Zoning is covering up the love canal. Planning and zoning complains of constant violations of the campaign contributers. Pay for play. Mr Igneri accused Suda of not having the facts. Mr Igneri, you are a puppet that should know about the contracts for favored contractors and the fact that the city allowed them (AMEC, F&G) to place contaminated soil in front of Colony Pizza, or the lawsuit against Jason Milligan {…} Watch this Public hearing.

Watch this public hearing.

Watch this public hearing.

Edited to remove an instance of ascribing motives without proof, a violation of the comment policy. https://www.nancyonnorwalk.com/comment-guidelines/

john flynn September 10, 2018 at 7:25 am

Play the entire Zoning Commission Video, cash payments, business as usual, the story is about the victims of the contamination that the City does not care about and they deny getting 3 complaints per day. The Health Department, Closter, D’Amore and the rest are killing people.

Watch the Video; this is a $100 million dollar Erin Brocovitch.

john flynn September 10, 2018 at 7:39 am

Suchi is firetree’s Attorney that mislead the City about the Prison release and filed permits for rehab. {…} The permits were falsified. Rock crushing occured for months at 2 Meadow and many others (Lohman’s Plaza).

The material is not allowed. There is no lease. How were they issued a permit?

Particulate matter cannot be spewed into the air. It is a carcinogen. It requires an impact study, the height is not fine. F& G is not a tenant. It requires masks, filters, the site is not in compliance. Mafia block. Yes she is. It is hazardous waste. Suchi is the Maffia Attorney.

Edited to remove an insult, a violation of the comments policy. https://www.nancyonnorwalk.com/comment-guidelines/

john flynn September 10, 2018 at 7:50 am

City jobs; the cement came from Bruce marble and the next building. The yard has been operating from 7 am to 7 pm, every day.

You can indict. They cleaned the site for last three days prior to labor day.
No lease, cash payments, pay for play.

No other violator has been punished. They fund the DTC.

Teresa Petersen September 10, 2018 at 11:19 am

Allowing business to have unlimited ability to break rules because there are no real consequences is a disgrace to our city and a disservice to our taxpayers and it must change. P&Z is over burndend and nearby neighborhoods suffer. I hope the commission takes all the steps they can to fix this. F&G was being hauled into violation hearings BEFORE they got their CO because they refused to be compliant for almost 2 years. They really don’t care and should not be in business and DEFINITELY should have no city contracts.

However, all this talk about conspiracy theories and people being bought off muddies the water. Just stop. John Flynn, you should be embarrassed at how you acted and think about how that kind of {…} would go over on the state level (hint: it wouldn’t). Passing out campaign material to the commissioners? Literally yelling at them after the meeting has been closed? Wearing a bright campaign shirt so everyone watching the video notices you? You weren’t there to help, you were there to campaign. It was disgusting and counter productive. If what you say is true, stop making a circus out of it and maybe people will take you more seriously.

Edited to remove a vulgarity, a violation of the comments policy. https://www.nancyonnorwalk.com/comment-guidelines/

Rick September 10, 2018 at 1:05 pm

I think the circus started a long time ago , iconsider John just another act. For some of us working on the problems on meadow st one woman said it all the CHILDREN those who wait for the bus or play in the playground on Meadow she spoke with passion.

Where my emails are no longer accepted to the Vilage creek assoc I suggest a multi media investigation by both the EPA and the DEEP the 15 years or so information and reports dumped on the city would be good reading for this not versed with whats been going on for years.

This ponds of unchecked water you see and the fact that from the air piles of dirt was investigated bt the state the city knows they exist but where were they?

If you think John is doing this for a voite I’m afraid your sadly mistaken and misrepresent what we are trying to do in South Norwalk. We are focussed on the children as one woman said so aggressively our thanks to her.

Pointing out counsel not attending would be a good start where was the lawyers for the city?

Im afraid you have taken the low road in fact we were wondering why the president of the assoc didn’t;t speak?

Where your not self serving we hope there is a rep at the south Norwalk meeting to voice concern not rehash a old complaint as stated that has been made every time there is a meeting.

Kleppin was asked about the data from the state what he said was hear say so to the point i was told the health board had the reports they after asked were trying to get reports that were done months ago by just the air quality DEEP ct office.

Some cooperation would go along way so far what i see is a candidate from Village creek backing away from any responsibility , so when it comes to the State house maybe we need a write in as you and I have pointed out.

The Epa has action reports on all of meadow st how many do yip have there is at least 19 years of monthly contacts from the EPA or the Ct DEEP coast guard or water quality in Milford.

I think the best person to lead anyone in village creek is a woman who also spoke she is also a peacemaker that would be helpful, I find so far limited knowledge on how to fight this problem from the air the land and the water is not being done thats what I suggest a Multi media approach , asking the city at this point after listening to the board is without bringing in both the DEEP and EPA is strongly recommended they can come in and override some things we are fighting.

The State has said to Norwalk many times in the last several months you clean it up or we will and bill you.

Was that hard to follow an email would of been better but here we all see whats going on or whats not

Rick September 11, 2018 at 12:51 pm

Im disappointed I saw no one from Village creek at the meeting last night, Cutting through South Norwalk just got worse.If you plan on using water st to get to 95 expect delays not because of the walk bridge but the new high rise on water st.

We were told many businesses on Water st are leaving, alternates route to go North on 95 may have use Darien exists.

Im not sure if anyone knows whats going on at the power plant seems they are getting ready to reactivate the property with much work last couple of weeks. In fact a ring around the property part of a multi million dollar job tells us selling may not be an option. Security for a moth balled plant seems a little bit over the top.

Why is it when things happen around the power plant its kept a secret,we are still waiting for the outcome of last meeting both at the plant and city hall. We realize some problems were just found trust they were not environmental problems.

This all goes into whats going on and who in the city is working one issues in south Norwalk. just like Lajoies. Keeping it a secret only hurts those living here.

No conspiracy here just facts go by the power plant ands see for yourself.

The questions with the rivers around lajoies and the power plant is now that the power company stopped taking tests around the property making sure contamination found wasn’t their who does the testing now?

The meeting last night a family on Woodward ave have replaced three heating systems and two water heaters when the cellar floods no chance the work in the contracting yards caused any flooding?

Where are our experts now or the defender of the environment via election handouts who Rilling backs?

Exactly, the meeting was open to anyone. There was a good crowd including our two city reps Earnie and Travis. It was informative and very civil.

Rick September 21, 2018 at 12:36 am

Westport Planning and Zoning Commission can only deny the application on the grounds of a “substantial public interest,” such as fire or traffic safety concerns.

No one at Norwalk city hall has ever thought of this ?

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