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.”