NORWALK, Conn. – The Norwalk Planning & Zoning Commission has greenlighted the plans for a new Cranbury Elementary School, although neighbors have filed an appeal on the variance issued by the Zoning Board of Appeals.
Norwalk Corporation Counsel Mario Coppola called the legal challenge a “friendly appeal” and predicted it would be settled soon. The Commission’s vote was unanimous.
Attorney Joel Green filed the appeal on behalf of neighbors Matt Bury and Matt Forte on Wednesday, according to the State judicial website, although its dated Dec. 3. Their objections hinge on the new school’s setback: the new building is designed to be about 30 feet from the property line at its closest point, which is more than the 30 feet required for a house but less than the 223 feet required for a school building seeking a special permit in a residence zone.
Neighbors have also objected to two half-court basketball areas and other issues they say will damage their quality of life. The appeal comes in spite of the announced compromise negotiated by the City’s legal department before ZBA approved the variance.
Coppola, in November, said 90 evergreen trees were planned as screening on the western property line, as part of the compromise. The building would be positioned 10 feet further north than originally planned, making it two feet further from neighbor’s houses.
Coppola said Wednesday that he’s waiting for a draft settlement from Green. After it arrives “in a reasonable amount of time,” it will go through the ZBA and the Common Council, and “we’ll make whatever revisions are necessary.” It will be voted on in public. Then it would go in front of a judge.
The City is working to get the project approved in time to send an application to the State by June 30 to be able to start construction in the fall.
“The City continues to be ready, willing and able to resolve the additional concerns of the neighbors and we’re appreciative of their time and efforts to make this quite frankly a better project for everybody,” Coppola said.
Voting to approve the project were Planning and Zoning Commission members Lou Schulman, Richard Roina, Jacquen Jordan-Byron, Galen Wells, Brian Baxendale, Nick Kantor, Steve Ferguson and Mike Mushak.
Mushak called the building “a stunning piece of architecture, with all that glass and natural materials.”