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7 Forest Hill owners appeal and advertise

A screengrab from the Sunshine Senior Residence website. Last week “September 15th 2018” was changed to “Soon”.

Updated, 12:12 p.m.: Photo added; 8:01 a.m.: Clarification to opening sentence; 6:34 a.m.: Copy edits

NORWALK, Conn. — A business that was denied permission to operate a senior living residence in West Norwalk is appealing the decision in court while requesting permits to continue work on the property.

7 Forest Hill LLC, owner of the single-family residence 7 Forest Hill Road, applied for and was granted a permit earlier this year for five unrelated senior citizens to rent rooms in the home and receive help cooking and cleaning.  Neighbors appealed to the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA), which unanimously overturned the permit July 12.

Attorney Joseph Capalbo, representing the owner, appealed the decision in an Aug. 1 complaint to Stamford Superior Court.  The complaint argues that the ZBA illegally abused its discretion to reverse the permit as the use is “valid, proper, compliant and permitted.”

The owners on July 30 applied for Zoning Approval and Zoning Compliance, to complete ongoing renovations.

“The decision of the ZBA … is anticipated to be the subject of an administrative appeal. In the meantime, the owner still maintains a single family residence in the AAA zone and intends to use and occupy same in conformance with the Norwalk Building Zone Regulations while the appeal is pending,” Capablo wrote to Norwalk Director of Planning and Zoning Steve Kleppin on July 31.

“{T}he owner agrees that it will not use the premises as previously approved” by the permit, pending the outcome of the appeal, Capalbo wrote. “The owner will further represent that the use of the dwelling during the pendency of the appeal will be consistent and in compliance with the current Norwalk Building Zone Regulations.”

Full text of Capalbo’s July 31 letter

While the appeal is pending, Norwalk Planning and Zoning intends to issue permits, provided that the home won’t be used as a senior living residence.

“We allowed the property owner to continue the construction under the permit based on the letter from his counsel regarding the use of the dwelling,” Kleppin wrote to NancyOnNorwalk on Tuesday. “We have not issued the COZC {Certificate of Occupancy/Zoning Compliance} yet based on our concerns about whether they are actually going to comply with the letter they sent.  We have asked their Counsel for comment but haven’t heard anything back yet.”

Capalbo did not reply to an email from NancyOnNorwalk.  Kleppin said Thursday that he had not yet received a reply.

Zoning Compliance Inspector Tammy Maldonado informed Kleppin on Wednesday via e-mail that the home has an active surveillance system with cameras in the rooms.

Kleppin e-mailed Capalbo on Thursday regarding the system:

“One of our inspectors was at 7 Forest Hill for their CZC inspection and was speaking with one of the guys onsite about the cameras in the rooms and took this picture showing a laptop hooked up to the cameras.  It seemed to indicate that the system was more than you would have in a residential dwelling.  I understand your position on the ZBA decision and that when the work was stopped the wiring and infrastructure for a system like this was probably already installed, but I am surprised they would hook a laptop up and actually use the service if it is truly going to be used as a single family dwelling and in accordance with the regulations.

“I don’t intend to hold up the CZC but I really don’t want to spend staff resources surveilling activities at the site.  I suspect there will be plenty of eyes watching already,” Kleppin wrote.

A photo attached to the e-mail shows a laptop attached to a basement utility panel.  A web site for Sunshine Senior Residence contains a page for “Forest Hill Residence” which states that “residences are monitored for safety 24/7 by interior and exterior cameras.”

A photo from 7 Forest Hill Road provided by Zoning Compliance Inspector Tammy Maldonado to Director of Planning and Zoning Steve Kleppin. A laptop is visible on the utility panel at right.

Kleppin later sent another email to Capalbo:

“In addition {…} your client’s website indicates that the Norwalk house will be available on the 15th.  {I} would assume that page would be removed.

http://www.sunshineseniorresidence.com/forest-hill-residence

“We have the COZC on our desk waiting for clarification on this issue.”

On Wednesday the Sunshine Senior Residence web site contained text saying the Forest Hill Residence home would open Sept. 15.  Sunshine Senior Residence’s web site now states that the Forest Hill facility is “due to open soon.”

The Norwalk Zoning Board of Appeals overturned the Norwalk Zoning Enforcement Officer’s construction permit for renovations at 7 Forest Hill Road, after a public hearing in which Mark Lorusso, a direct neighbor, argued that the company was trying to open a commercial business in a Triple A residential neighborhood.

“(T)here is nothing to say in the law you can’t purchase a home… and rent it out. This is not a commercial business that is being run,” Gary Ferone of Fairfield Family Care LLC said at the hearing.  “I don’t think the regulations prohibit commercial uses in residential zones… It doesn’t prohibit people from renting out their house.”

Kleppin said at the hearing that 7 Forest Road LLC had “manipulated the system a little bit” by not providing medical care, “a fine line and a loophole.”  He defended his decision to issue the permit based on current regulations.  “I don’t think the regulations prohibit commercial uses in residential zones… It doesn’t prohibit people from renting out their house,” he said.

Capalbo’s appeal of the ZBA’s reversal called it “unique and unusual” that Norwalk notified neighbors of the building permit issued in April to 7 Forest Hill Road LLC.

The Zoning Commission in May 2016 amended the Zoning regulations to mandate that neighbors be notified of an application for abutting or adjacent properties.  Lorusso lives next door.

No court dates have been scheduled for the appeal, Assistant Corporation Counsel Brian McCann said Monday.

A Friday screengrab from the Sunshine Senior Residence website.

 

 

 

 

 

 

14 comments

Rick September 17, 2018 at 10:47 am

vote next election get rid of the problems as it can happen to anyone next.

Nothing has been changed in the city ,the new high rise on Chestnut st is another example. It was never talked about it was just given to the district the other night its a done deal like it or not.

Im still waiting for the Cumberland farms gas station to be built , no one can stop anything until the city is run by valid responsible adults.

manipulated the system a little bit? The taxpayer is played thank those elected stop treating Kleppin like a saint.Why is McCann still working for the city?

Another nice area of the city experiencing a slow death.

marny Smith September 17, 2018 at 10:48 am

Sooner or later everyone becomes a senior citizen unless they die young. Many seniors are faced with the ongoing problem of finding an affordable place to live with some assistance (cooking and cleaning). The cost of senior apartment residences in Fairfield County is too high for many seniors, so a “senior house residence” could be a good idea. We already have Family Daycare for small children in many residential neighborhoods because there is a need for working parents to find affordable daycare. As Norwalk’s zoning regulations undergo updating (long overdue) “senior house residences” could be made an exception in triple A zones. After all, we are all headed in the same direction!

Cecilia Andy September 17, 2018 at 11:00 am

Thank you NoN for updating and reporting on this story. It is somewhat curious and defiant that the operator would advertise this commercial enterprise for a Sept 15 open. City attorneys/corporation counsel office must recuse themselves from the defense/pending litigation of the ZBA given they erroneously gave the green light to P&Z for the original application. Anything less than retaining competent outside counsel defending the ZBA here is indication that city attorneys would likely buckle to any lawsuit and not represent the will of what most residents stood up for apart from conflict of interest. I have my concerns on this one.

Norwalk Lost September 17, 2018 at 11:15 am

Defacto nursing homes do not belong on residential streets period! This is the problem with city government – the owner of this facility continues as though it is business as usual. Why is work being allowed to continue under the original permits when this has been rejected? This would be the optimal time for P&Z to shore up the enforcement/fines. Installing cameras speaks volumes about the intent to operate in the down and low.

Rick September 17, 2018 at 12:39 pm

With all respect seniors like myself share the stage with some who are not what you would want on your street. The door opens to one person it opens the floodgates. No one can insure who with what background and reasons that prevents them from other facilities from moving in. Some Seniors have pasts just like kids.

Safety is nice to read what about those living in Norwalk? Where is the fire dept and police dept and ems reports on this facility? on anything?

00:15
A014
*MEDICAL AID CALL*
REPORT REQUIRED
SUNOCO – LAND M SUNOCO ct ave this morning

what you wont read or hear is the person who was hit by a hit and run driver this morning waited for a out of town ambulance to be treated and transported.

why is this important? Do we have enough resources to take care of the city now before the mall and the new housing?

What are we paying for when dept heads are making so much money?

note 4 ems calls within minutes is the norm when bars are closing in this mornings case no bars needed ems.

but add the hit and run you had four calls within minutes.

1800044750
00055 CHESTNUT ST
09/17/2018
00:36
*MEDICAL AID CALL*
SMILOW CENTER

1800044749
00012 OHIO AV
09/17/2018
00:15
B031
*MEDICAL AID CALL*
NO REPORT\MV STOP
12 OHIO AVE

1800044748
00128 CONNECTICUT AV
09/17/2018
00:15
A014
*MEDICAL AID CALL*
REPORT REQUIRED
SUNOCO – LAND M SUNOCO

1800044747
00051 PLATTSVILLE AV
09/17/2018
23:55
C034
*MEDICAL AID CALL

Norwalk hospital wants Norwalk needs coverage, there should be consideration to the taxpayers right Mr Mayor?

When someone is hit by a car the last thing I want to hear is they are coming from another town to pick you up.

All your senior homes group homes including the State on Silvermine in Norwalk call for ambulances all the time they are usually met with the fire dept on every call along with the police dept.

The Mall? The new housing? Increased population where is city hall ?

recipe for disaster

Paul Lanning September 17, 2018 at 1:21 pm

“I don’t think the regulations prohibit commercial uses in residential zones”–Steve Kleppin, Norwalk Director of Planning and Zoning

Why don’t our laws protect our neighborhoods??

Commercial business in a residential zone is unacceptable. If our code allows commercial business in a residential zone, the code needs to be changed NOW before any more businesses swoop down on the city.

Lisa Brinton Thomson September 17, 2018 at 2:25 pm

… commercial in a residential zone, but we split hairs on what’s allowed on Wall Street – a commercial zone. 😆 We won’t allow a dentist office (maybe that’s just for Milligan) in a commercial zone, but you can do just about whatever you want in a residential neighborhood, if it doesn’t say you can’t.

Why doesn’t City Hall clean up its regs? Because there is no political will. If we were to clean up P&Z, where would the campaign donations come from?

Gypsy September 18, 2018 at 10:54 am

To “Norwalk Lost” – But I bet you’re perfectly fine with Honey Hill being located smack dab in the middle of the residential neighborhood it’s in, correct? I sense a HUGE double standard here.

Will Erdef September 18, 2018 at 11:45 am

There was a reason that ZBA overturned this application; it simply does not belong. The decision has already been rendered and there is no point re-litigating the issue. The owner/operator will soon learn that attempts to overturn the application in courts will be futile. What is important now is the neighborhood stay vigilant to ensure the business never operates illegally. Anything less will stain the residential brand of our city streets and erode the grand list valuations. Finally as much as I respect the Norwalk Fire Department/EMS, residential neighborhoods prefer not to be inundated by inordinate first res-ponders assisted living facilities will require.

alan September 18, 2018 at 4:59 pm

“This is not a commercial business that is being run,” Gary Ferone of Fairfield Family Care LLC said at the hearing”

The man lies like a rug!!!
Trust me. You do not want a business like this operating in your neighborhood and your REALLY do not want a man with his history doing business in your neighborhood.
The law is clear…septic,well…no group home.
The Ferone enterprise is a disaster in the making and I question the sanity of anyone who hands over their loved ones to this operation.

Rick September 21, 2018 at 4:13 pm

Forest Hill was lucky , they must of got all kinds of help from the police fire ems and board of health to deny such a facility. Quick check on salaries tells one Norwalk may not pay enough to its department heads to or pick ones who are effective.

Westport seems to have the same mindset’

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.

advertising for such a facility simple makes more money for the victor when it gets to court.

Is everyone certain this didn’t happen anywhere else in the city?

http://www.firetree.com/community-reentry-centers/norwalk-pavilion/

forest hill road October 1, 2018 at 3:07 pm

dear nancy on norwalk
thank you for your ongoing coverage of forest hill road
we believe the residence is being rented as of today
the question is whether it is in keeping with the allowed use granted by building and zoning
it seems to me that residents that arrive by way of Ambulance or EMS are the type of residents that require the care that is the subject of the on going appeal by the owner of the property, according to your article of 9/17

RosemaryC October 11, 2018 at 8:40 am

If Gary Ferone was acquiring multiple homes in Stamford and Norwalk yo7 “rent” go multiple people in a single dwelling, why is he charging $6500 per month for room with shared common areas? That s a pretty unaffordable “rent” for having 4 other roommates, no? Who is Gary Ferone trying to fool? Only a FOOL would believe this is not a profitable BUSINESS for this unscrupulous person!!! He hires sraff, employs them, has his staff report their wages to the IRS, has his “residents” sign CONTRACTS listing itemized services provided….if it is run as a business…Gary Ferone is not merely a landlord as he pleads! Shut this man’s businesses down! He is not providing skilled care these poor seniors need and deserve!

Wise October 14, 2018 at 10:41 am

Good point to Rosemary C! I hope city officials follow these posts for continued support to reassure Sunshine Homes does NOT open up another BUSINESS! I know a co-worker of mine inquired for his father and visited one of Ferones Stamford homes. He said the residents were in “bad shape” and required aides to toilet, eat, and transfer from wheelchairs. He said this was an inappropriate way to dwindle seniors and their families their loved ones are paying less than nursing homes, but NOT getting licensed or skilled care. It is a business. Fact. This gentleman went as far to discuss staff credentials with Gary Ferone as his brochures claim they have specialized training. After he did his homework with the state, he found out Gary Ferone is clearly misrepresenting his staff as educated, credentialed professionals. I drove by his company on 5th Street in Stamford and see a standing open door policy to hire people of the streets. Rosemary, I so agree with you. Who does Mr. Ferone think he is fooling? Norwalk is onto this business and will prevail!

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