Proposed legal action against RTM will be stopped
Citing the actions that could lead to potential changes in how the Representative Town Meeting [RTM] handles land issues, Ron Corwin, chairman of the Planning and Zoning Commission, issued a memo Wednesday stating that he will no longer seek legal action against the RTM.
"The reason we took the appeal was because we couldn't be certain that others would see this as an issue that's as important as we did," Corwin said in an interview. "Once it became clear that others also saw this as important, then it became reasonable to step back."
The P&Z's attempt at legal action began on Jan. 21 when a resolution to sue the RTM was passed in a 4--3 vote. Corwin and other commission members expressed concern over how the RTM was able to overturn a text amendment on Jan. 13.
Text Amendment No. 601 would have changed zoning regulations for several buildings on the corner of Post Road West and Wilton Road.
The amendment permitted the Inn at National Hall to be converted into office space for the potential purchases of the buildings.
Greenfield Partners, a Norwalk-based real-estate investment company, was slated to purchase the buildings from Antares Investment Partners, contingent upon the amendment being passed. The amendment was passed, but once it was appealed and eventually overturned by the RTM, the deal was stopped.
The P&Z's action sparked an outcry from other commission members, and First Selectman Gordon Joseloff organized a private meeting Monday. At the meeting, it was decided that town attorneys would draft proposed changes to how the RTM handles land issues, and then these changes would be considered by the rules committee and eventually voted upon by the full RTM.
"I'm happy that we're apparently going this course," said Hadley Rose, RTM moderator. "Basically, I would have preferred it to be handled this way to begin with."
Rose was present at the Monday meeting, and he said he had intended to speak with town lawyers about clarifying the RTM's process before the P&Z stated their intention to sue.
Still, Rose said he believes good will come out of the discussions between the town attorneys, the RTM and P&Z. He anticipates that proposed changes will be presented to him next week.
"I think this is just better for everybody," said Rose. "I want to make sure everyone is treated fairly and maybe our normal procedure could be improved upon."
Joseloff did not return a phone call seeking comment.
In order for a P&Z decision to be appealed to the RTM, 20 signatures need to be gathered by a petitioner. The P&Z committee of the RTM then reviews the decision, and eventually the full RTM votes. With 24 out of 36 votes, the decision is overturned. The last time this happened was in the 1980s.
Catherine Walsh, one of three P&Z members who opposed any legal action against the town"s legislative body, was relieved when she heard that her colleague Corwin was backing off on filing a law suit.
"I'm happy and I'm very glad that everyone came to their senses," Walsh said. "I think it was a waste of time to begin with and I'm glad that a decision was made."
Walsh said she looks forward to seeing what kind of changes are proposed, and Corwin does as well.
"We don't know what the outcome will be and we can't truly impact that," Corwin said. "What we'd like to accomplish is that applicants know the standards by which their application will be judged and we think that with what's going on, there's a very good chance [that will happen]."
The next P&Z meeting will be on Feb. 4, and a majority vote is needed for the resolution seeking legal action to be officially taken off the table.