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February 4th, 2018 · 23 Comments · Analysis and Comment, Development and Zoning, News and Events

It’s been a spirited debate for sure the past two years as the city navigates zoning regulations for liquor establishment proximity. Two principals in this battle, liquor store applicant Michael DeFilippo and Zoning Commissioner Anne Pappas Phillips, will also face off once again in a four-way Democratic primary for City Council in a North End district on April 10.

DeFilippo and incumbent Jeanette Herron versus Phillips and former State Rep. Bob Keeley are back on the campaign trail after a court-ordered third primary following claims of absentee ballot fraud. It’s not often you campaign through parts of four seasons for City Council seats, but that’s the case in this extraordinary set of circumstances. The top two vote producers among the four go on to the general election.

Meanwhile, City Planning Director Lynn Haig hopes an outside consultant’s expertise will shape liquor store regulations sanguine to zoning commissioners. As CT Post reporter Brian Lockhart writes, Haig “hoped those changes would be made, and the outside consultant hired, in time for the Zoning Commission to again take up her proposal at its Feb. 26 meeting.”

The city’s bid to rewrite zoning rules governing the sale of liquor, particularly around schools and other so-called “sensitive uses,” has become so controversial that the planning department is seeking a consultant’s perspective.

“We’re looking to have outside independent eyes with the technical expertise in zoning look at my proposal,” said Planning Director Lynn Haig this week. “We think we’ve crafted solid, strong regulations and we want an outside, independent look to verify that.”

Haig added: “It’s (the changes) just received so much visibility, so much more attention than any of the other zoning matters that we work on.”

Full story here.


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23 Comments so far ↓

  • Rich Augustynowicz

    So as I said in a previous post in the comment section under the WPCA story- directed to Atty.Toms: Basically- these City employees need to be removed from the City payroll. We pay taxes so that these unqualified individuals can perform work for “connected” people on topics that if not brought by the connected ones would not even be an issue. Look up Haigs qualifications. Really: For a total of $495.00, a multiple choice test to get qualified for her A.I.C.P. title after a seminar, and being a manager for a Staples store and now she writes amendments for the City that VIOLATE STATE STATUTE. Yeah, yeah I know there’s more to it than that to get the job but we all know it’s only a little bit more! Where are her superiors in the office at OPED? Do they not know the laws either? How about the City Attorneys- don’t they check on these things and advise as well? Retirement pension worries for all if you can’t do the bidding I wonder. Willinger, who someone called the “un-indicted co-conspiritor” in the JG1 case brought it to Haig- for his client after they both lost their case in Superior Court AND at the Zoning Board. Two years worth of time fighting for his client who, by the way was arrested for a FELONY offense in STAMFORD in January 2012 AND for an ANTI-SEMITIC assault case in FAIRFIELD. Public knowledge: Look it up! Top vote getter though, with the pizza guys help and fraudulent absentee ballots.
    Outside Consultant ? Law Firm maybe? Out of State Lawyer maybe. How much money? Who approves this? Many more questions, and more to come….have a nice day.

    • The Bridgeport Kid

      An anti Semitic offense is a hate crime according to Connecticut statute. I hope Ann Papas Phillips and Bob Keeley are oaying attention.

  • Tom White

    Based on current zoning regulations and State statute,they fail to convince zoning officials and lose in superior court.
    So, what do they do? Make arrangements to change those pesky regulations! Brilliant!

    • Rich Augustynowicz

      Very creative on Willingers part and I called it just that in a post when he initiated the OPED farce. Let’s just keep voting these underhanded individuals in as council members and other city positions so things can improve—-not!!! As I have stated: what does Defilippo bring with him to be a common council member. Show me issues he has spoken about to improve this cities situation. Not even one person rising to defend him when adversarial comments are pointed in his direction. Silence on his behalf. His handler, I’m certain has probably schooled him on being silent, it all passes, and we get what we want due to public apathy. More to come on him and this issue. Have a nice day.

  • The Bridgeport Kid

    All this over a goddamned liquor store. It’s not for Mr. De Filipo. He’s just boarding for Mario Testa.

  • Rich Augustynowicz

    IF….IF….. it is not Defilippo but Testa, then this would just PROVE that Defilippo is a fool to endure two years of this debate. How much is Willingers bill? Who pays? Discounted bill? No bill? Either way …..really!! More to come. Have a nice day.

    • The Bridgeport Kid

      Qui bono, Rich? Who benefits the most?

    • The Bridgeport Kid

      De Filipo will always have a job slinging drinks for the politically weel connected. He’s bearding for Don Mario. That’s a given. It would be enlightening to learn who is paying Wiilinger, Willinger & Bucci’s legal fees.

  • Rich Augustynowicz

    Those who will benefit the will be the residents and taxpayers of Bridgeport..WHEN AND IF the new blood in City Hall and and others who could make a difference stop allowing corrupt and underhanded behavior to exist in their midst. Hearings need to be held to start looking into how City Hall and it’s employee’s are allowed to operate and by what means they do what they do. How the tax dollars are spent, for what reason and for what outcome. They need to be held accountable for all that they do and/or don’t do. We also should carefully examine credentials and ask questions. It seems that checks and balances on employees and elected people are not a priority. I would like to hear statements and see actions from the new blood. If that doesn’t start soon then it’s over. There needs to be a momentum to their cause if they want change. This issue with Defilippo, Willinger, Haig, Zoning, and whomever is just one example of how the system works in the wrong manner. I am certain however, that it is a CLEAR example of how a few can manipulate those they want to. So who it benefits on the “corrupt” side doesn’t matter. When the citizens benefit is when things start to get taken care of.
    Like I said…more to come on this issue and the cohorts involved.
    Have a nice day and besides, halftime is almost over!!

  • The Bridgeport Kid

    Bridgeport still battling over liquor regulations
    By Brian Lockhart Published 12:00 am, Sunday, February 4, 2018

    BRIDGEPORT — The city’s bid to rewrite zoning rules governing the sale of liquor, particularly around schools and other so-called “sensitive uses,” has become so controversial that the planning department is seeking a consultant’s perspective.

    “We’re looking to have outside independent eyes with the technical expertise in zoning look at my proposal,” said Planning Director Lynn Haig this week. “We think we’ve crafted solid, strong regulations and we want an outside, independent look to verify that.”

    Haig added: “It’s (the changes) just received so much visibility, so much more attention than any of the other zoning matters that we work on.”
    Much of that attention was negative. When the Planning & Zoning Commission in late October held a public hearing on the proposal, which would halve the current 1,500 foot distance between package stores and schools, day cares, houses of worship and hospitals, to 750 feet, members of the audience in opposition were asked to stand.

    Thirty people got to their feet. None rose in support.

    Critics range from Schools Superintendent Aresta Johnson, who called the proposal “unconscionable,” to some Board of Education and City Council members, to local liquor store owners.

    Haig unveiled the plan last summer. Her proposal came in response to a debate begun two years ago by Chuck Willinger, a prominent zoning attorney, and his client Michael DeFilippo, a politically connected North End resident.

    DeFilippo received a zoning variance in 2015 to open a new package store at 1044 Brooklawn Ave. within 1,500 feet of houses of worship and a day care.

    DeFilippo bartends at Democratic Chairman Mario Testa’s restaurant and several prominent politicians and former politicians had lobbied zoning officials on his behalf.

    A Superior Court judge in January 2016 overturned that zoning approval, and Willinger has since been seeking — unsuccessfully — to change the city’s regulations to allow DeFilippo’s store to reopen.
    Haig, who has been trying to update several different zoning requirements, got involved, performed an analysis and concluded there was some merit to updating the liquor regulations and making them more “business friendly.”

    At the Zoning Commission’s late October hearing, Joel Green, an attorney representing the Bridgeport Package Store Owners Association, said the proposal is unnecessary.

    “Of all challenges that face the city of Bridgeport, the need to create the opportunity for more liquor stores is not one that should take up time of this commission,” he said. “It is not going to make life better.” And Johnson complained that it would only lead to more inebriated men and women standing outside of liquor stores that students walk by on their way to school.

    For those reasons, Haig’s proposal may have come under fire no matter what. But DeFilippo’s involvement has not helped, with critics complaining his seemingly neverending attempts to find a way to circumvent the court’s ruling is an example of Bridgeport’s movers-and-shakers feeling entitled to do what they want and unable to take “no” for an answer.
    DeFilippo has also been caught up in an unrelated controversy. He ran for City Council in the North End’s 133rd District and was top vote-getter in last summer’s four-way primary for two seats. But that race still remains undecided because both a Superior Court judge and, most recently, the state Supreme Court, concluded there was funny-business involving votes that requires a to-be-scheduled do-over.

    Asked this week what she believes are the biggest mis-perceptions of her liquor law changes, Haig said she is also proposing more tools for zoning officials to judge and approve or reject applications for new package stores.

    And, she said, the new regulations would also be applied to corner stores that want to sell alcohol.

    “A package store could not locate within 1,500 feet of a school, but that did not mean the corner store, which is located 50 feet from the school, could not start selling beer,” Haig said. “You could have 17 corner stores selling beer circling a sensitive use, and it was OK. The proposal restricts that now as well, and treats the corner stores selling liquor the same as a package store.”

    Haig said she is sensitive to some of the criticisms she has heard and will be proposing unspecified modifications to her initial draft. Haig hoped those changes would be made, and the outside consultant hired, in time for the Zoning Commission to again take up her proposal at its Feb. 26 meeting.

  • Rich Augustynowicz

    So at tonight’s council meeting at 7, one if the public speakers signed up to speak about an anti corruption movement. I will be listening closely and watching the faces of all council members to see who is actually listening and who may not. Have a nice day.

  • Bob Halstead

    Need an “outside, independent voice” to determine how we manage our City. As if they are not all out of towners running our “City PlanningOffice” already!
    As if there is some kind of brain surgery with people with high fallout in degrees can only make determinations. I know I worked hard for mine- a Masters in Urban and Regional Planning and went to one of the best planning schools: Pratt- an accredited school in contrast to Southern Connecticut a non accredited one where City Planning Dept and Oxford resident, Lynn Haig got her MS and that department should follow its own advice from their Jane Jacobs symposium “Citizen Jane”: self determination from Bridgeport. We are not all idiots with the exception of some of our Boards and Commissions appointed by corrupt mayors. And shame on Gill and Ganim for really milking this farce happen!

  • Andrew C Fardy

    I have a question for Lynn Haig. Who asked you to review the regulations on distances for liquor sales? Sinc when is it important to add more liquor stores in our city? Note I said our city not yours you live in freakin Oxford. BTW how many liquor stores do you have in Oxford?
    Whats next? A politically connected lawyer is going to want clearance on strip joint and are you going to change the rules.
    hey Lynn read the Master Plan which my wife help write and you endorsed. What happened ? Is it a case of money talks and bullshit walks? Shame on you

  • Andrew C Fardy

    Here is a story on how the city works. When I was V pres of the park board a local restaurant owner (not mario) came before the Park Board and wanted to lease the seaside park bath house for weddings and amily parties. He showed us the blue prints and a letter of Credit for $1,000,000.. We passed the plans and his proposal and allowed the distribution of alcohol at these events.
    The contract went to the city attorneys office and the approved the contract minus the alcohol sales. Realize the city attorneys office did not have any control over what happened in the parks. This man was told to go see a politically connected lawyer ( you get 2 guesses) when he got to meet the lawyer he was told it would cost him $35,000 to be able to sell liquor at his events. This man took his money and cancelled the project.
    There are more stories out there but people that can investigate happenings in this city who are tied up with bullshit like well you figure it out.

    • Rich Augustynowicz

      Thank you Mr. Fardy. New blood in city hall…any ideas? Let’s go, this why you ran correct, to fix what’s being done wrong. These people who make bad decisions need to go. Oh wait I get it: hire an”indepedant outsider” to make get the decision you want and later you can blame him for the mistake. Pontius Pilate!! After all it’s not you $$$. ….More to come. Have a nice day.

      • The Bridgeport Kid

        The people of the city of Bridgeport will not benefit from a change in liquor store zoning. After two years anyone else would have said “Fuck this!” and scouted for a new location. Not Mario Testa, oh no no no. (Let’s call the Ace of Cups for who he is. De Filippo is merly a shill.) There’s more to this story.

        Time to upset the balance of the BDTC, get rid of the district leaders more interested in self preservation and maintaining the status quo than doing good for the city. Out with them all.

  • Bob Walsh

    Well people, here’s one solution to start cleaning up this mess. DON’T VOTE FOR DEFILIPPO AND HERRON.
    Instead vote for Keeley and Philips. BUT vote. Don’t say you will. Get out and vote. That’s the beginning.
    Got it? Do it.

  • Bob Walsh

    Second, if you don’t live in the district, tell all of your friends that do.

  • Bob Halstead

    I agree with Walsh but need clarification on where Ann stands on the liquor issue

    • The Bridgeport Kid

      Vote early, and often.

      The lawfirm of Willinger, Willinger & Bucci ought to change the corporate name to Dewey, Cheatham & Howe LLP.

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