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Pot Luck–Finch To Zoning Commissioners: Don’t Roadblock Development

November 29th, 2012 · 37 Comments · Analysis and Comment, Development and Zoning, News and Events

Expressing frustration with zoning commissioners whom he appoints, Mayor Bill Finch tells CT Post reporter Brian Lockhart it’s time zoners build bridges for job growth. Is the mayor communicating with commissioners he appoints? Story below:

Mayor Bill Finch wants zoning commissioners to speed up economic growth and that includes approving a medical marijuana farm.

“We’ve got to move things quicker,” Finch, a Democrat, said in an interview Wednesday following his weekly “brown bag lunch” with constituents.

During the lunch, students from Housatonic Community College asked the mayor what his administration is doing to create more jobs in Bridgeport. Finch spoke at length on the challenges faced by the Parks City and also criticized the Planning and Zoning Commission.

“We don’t want the zoning board creating road blocks,” Finch said, adding: “Part of it’s my fault. I appoint them.”

Asked afterward to elaborate, Finch said, “I just think in general zoning in every city takes too long. And people get way far afield.”

He referred to the commission’s rejection Monday of Fairfield resident Rob Schulter’s request to locate a “hydroponic plan cultivation business”–a pot farm–in leased space at a warehouse at 50 Hastings St.

Schulter wants to take advantage of Connecticut’s recent legalization of medical marijuana and grow and sell weed wholesale to treat symptoms of cancer, AIDS and other debilitating diseases. The Department of Consumer Protection is still drafting the regulations. But Schulter is moving ahead with his business plan and seeing local permits so he can be one of the first in line for a $25,000 state license.

All but one commissioner voted to reject Schulter’s proposal, which has the backing of the Finch administration, on the grounds there are still too many unknowns. Some raised concerns about security at Schulter’s facility and whether employees could steal the pot.

“I saw some of the comments … about a use for a building on Hastings Street that made them uneasy. It’s a legal use,” Finch said. “We’ve got to give the private sector who’s wanting to spend their money here the assurance that these things are not going to languish and people are going to go way off topic into areas that they’re neither qualified nor empowered to get into.”

The zoning chairman–Republican Melville Riley Jr.–could not be reached for comment Wednesday night.

Finch has come under criticism for not keeping the membership of such a crucial committee current. Of the nine regular zoning members appointed by the mayor with City Council approval, two had their terms expire in 2008 and a third in 2010.

Two other members’ terms are up on Dec. 31. Also, one of the three alternates has not had their membership renewed since 2008.

Asked why, Finch said, “I don’t know what terms have expired and what haven’t.”

The city attorney’s office has said commissioners can conduct city business until their replacements are named.

“I’m always looking for good people … to bring new blood, new points of view,” Finch said. “I wouldn’t say there’s anybody I’m disappointed with, but I am looking for people … for all kinds of commissions.”

The mayor and City Council President Thomas McCarthy, D-133, said the lengthy background checks required of all applicants are a problem.

The work is done by the police department’s internal affairs office, which is also busy doing checks on new police and firefighter recruits.

“They have an enormous amount of work to accomplish,” McCarthy said.

Although he would like to speed up the background reviews for appointees, McCarthy said they are important.

“I am a very strong supporter of having the information in front of the council. I don’t want to re-up someone on a commission that all of a sudden owes us $30,000 in back taxes or in the meantime got arrested for doing something awful,” he said. “Some commissions have significant power over how our city runs and we have to be clear who is filling those (positions).”

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37 Comments so far ↓

  • Joel Gonzalez

    For god’s sake don’t tell me Bill Finch doesn’t know the difference between Development and Weedevelopment. If a “hydroponic plant cultivation business”–a pot farm–can be classified as “Development,” what does he call a strip joint or a massage parlor? The people selling the type of marijuana called Purple Haze now have to worry with a competing brand Fairfield resident Rob Schulter is ready to introduce. What can he call it? Purple Hasting. After reading his rant, I get the feeling Bill Finch has already tried a sample of Purple Hasting. One of the effects of smoking weed is forgeyting things. “Asked why, Finch said, ‘I don’t know what terms have expired and what haven’t.’” Five years as mayor and he doesn’t know? As I recall Mary-Jane–here’s another brand name for Rob Schulter to consider–Foster was pretty clear and direct when she hammered him on the issue of appointment of commissioners. “… but I am looking for people … for all kinds of commissions.” Why would the mayor be looking for people to serve on commissions for which he has no knowledge of expired terms? Hmmm, I’m staying away from weed!

    “I’m always looking for good people … to bring new blood, new points of view,” Finch said. “I wouldn’t say there’s anybody I’m disappointed with, but I am looking for people .. for all kinds of commissions.”
    Don’t ‘forget’ to look in OIB. Give Lennie Grimaldi a call, he can reach out to those who use a handle when they post their comments here. I mean you’re not “disappointed” due to what they may have written on OIB in the past.
    New points of view, you say Finch? Here is one very interesting and not so funny one I wrote you may have missed or forgotten about already. I wrote it just days ago when the pot farm topic hit the blog:

    Joel Gonzalez // Nov 28, 2012 at 1:21 pm

    “But despite the serious intent of Ury’s proposal, zoning commission Chairman Mel Reilly couldn’t help but joke that if the place ever caught fire, crowds would be “gathering around and inhaling.”

    This is a funny one indeed. On the serious side, consider this scenario:
    One day, we wake up to the news of the discovery of seven people found shot to death in a medical marijuana growing facility in Bridgeport, Connecticut. The preliminary investigation only reveals that apart from the seven dead people in the facility, an undetermined amount of marijuana, a safe and the security video tapes are missing.
    “I just think in general zoning in every city takes too long. And people get way far afield.”

    “… and people are going to go way off topic into areas that they’re neither qualified nor empowered to get into.”

    Now if I were a zoning commissioner and raised the above deadly scenario as a legitimate concern of mine, would I be going into areas I’m neither qualified or empowered to get into? If the mayor of Bridgeport feels he is empowered and qualified to lay judgement as he feels that “zoning in every city takes too long,” what would stop me from expressing my views, opinions or concerns as a Bridgeport commissioner on a matter brought in front of the commission I serve? What commissioners of other towns do would be none of my business.

    • BOE SPY

      Joel,
      Although I do not support the legalized pot issue, your point about the ‘Seven people shot dead’ misses the mark. What if the same story came out and it was a bank, or pharmacy? Maybe we should kick banks and pharmacies out of town too. Business is business and jobs are jobs. Criminal enforcement is not the problem of the business owner. Right now I think BPT (or anyone for that matter) should take what they can get until things improve. A bad job is better than no job.

      • Joel Gonzalez

        You may feel I missed the mark but the fictitious shooter here didn’t. That’s the beauty of writing fiction–the writer can have the character say and do whatever comes out of their imagination. Just days ago, Bridgeport Police made a fourth arrest of an individual who played a role in the 2009 shooting death of a man who met with the four suspects on the grounds of Blackham School. It turns out the shooting was part of a small marijuana deal gone wrong–deadly wrong. I just want to make sure Rob Schulter and the public take the time to look at both sides of the coin.

  • Joel Gonzalez

    I almost forgot to keep commenting. “The city attorney’s office has said commissioners can conduct city business until their replacements are named.” Earth to Bill Finch. I think the city attorney was quoting the city charter. Remember the charter? The one the Charter Revision Commission was instructed to consider only changes to the BOE selection process? The CRC could have dealt with the process of appointing commissioners. Better yet, why don’t you just get the chief of police to appoint more Internal Affairs Officers. Oh wait, I forgot! The mayor appoints them. You said you are open to ideas? Why is the police departments internal affairs doing background checks on firefighters? How about fire department internal affairs officers assigned under the police department? This isn’t rocket science we’re talking about.

    “I don’t want to re-up someone on a commission that all of a sudden owes us $30,000 in back taxes or in the meantime got arrested for doing something awful …” Come on, Thomas McCarthy! It was okay to have council members owing taxes and the people voted to elect a State Representative charged with a hit and run while her two children were in the car. You said nothing about that!

    “… Although he would like to speed up the background reviews for appointees, McCarthy said they are important.”

    Let me get this straightened out! Bill Finch is not aware of what terms are expired and those that are not. Still, Bill Finch is always looking for people to serve on commissions.

    Tom McCarthy wants to speed up the background reviews for appointees, but he can’t due to the fact internal affairs is too busy. Does this mean McCarthy has commission appointees waiting to be cleared by IA the mayor has no knowledge about?

    • Andrew C Fardy

      Joel, there are NO internal affairs officers in the fire department.

      • Joel Gonzalez

        I know there are no IAO in the fire department. The point I’m making is if they are short on IAO in the police department and can’t or won’t increase the manpower due to the same problem, put firefighter in IAO–if cops can investigate cops and firefighters can investigate arson … Here is an old classic I ‘rolled out’ for my OIB friends to enjoy:
        www .youtube.com/watch?v=YyDqoLimejg

        • Andrew C Fardy

          Joel: Cops do the investigating, that’s their job. The fire marshal is supposed to investigate fires not other firefighters. McCarthy’s tale of IA being too busy is BS. I doubt they have had any requests for new commission appointments.

          • Joel Gonzalez

            I agree the IAO aren’t too busy. They did manage to deal with the alleged drug use of some officer while the recruiting and training was taking place. I’m sure there aren’t any commissioners waiting for IA to clear them. Just based on this CT Post interview and the response given, I can say to Bill and Tom: UB lying!

  • Sylvester L. Salcedo

    “I’m against keeping those guys in business,” says Finch. “In fact I want them out of here.” June 12, 2008. cite:
    lists.greens.org/pipermail/ctgp-news/2008-June/002615.html

    What a difference four years makes!

    • Common Good

      Nowhere in the article does it indicate how many jobs are going to be created or some measure of tax revenue will be generated–so what is the benefit of this economic development–aside from increased water usage and some fertilizer. Treeland may want to use their new greenhouse for some of this action.

      • Joel Gonzalez

        The first CT Post article stated five jobs and 100 pounds of marijuana will be created. Water and fertilizer isn’t all. The amount of electricity usage and heating required. Trust me, they will tell the people about all the great benefits in their smoke-filled minds, but they won’t take a second to spell out the downside and the real way this whole idea will play out once they start their operation.

  • Bob

    To Dopey Bill … “Here, have a toke.”

  • Follow the Money

    Boston Baked Beans: City Council members using siphon, sifund or is it stipend for Boston run.
    blog.ctnews.com/connecticutpostings/2012/11/28/bridgeport-council-members-in-beantown-for-national-conference/

    • Andrew C Fardy

      They are going to another conference to learn stuff and be better legislators. What a bunch of BS. They have been going to these conferences for years and still suffer from terminal dumbass.

  • John Marshall Lee

    Thank you Brian Lockhart for writing (and the CT Post for authorizing) this article. It puts the spotlight on the weaknesses of the Finch administration for the public to hear revealed, right from the Mayor’s mouth.

    There is no evaluation mechanism in place relative to re-appointments to Boards and Commissions. Why did the administration not mention that one to the Charter Review Commission? Because it serves their purpose of letting old appointments run until someone dies, moves out of town, or suddenly votes in a matter important to the APPOINTER in opposition, and then they find themselves replaced!!! Real ethical isn’t it, but it’s legal! OIB!

    I write the above about re-appointments because that is one major thing wrong in City governance. But the appointment process, qualifications for same, including a willingness to get appropriate training to do one’s duty, should be more publicly presented. There is a ZOMBIELAND quality to the often-heard explanation that background review is time consuming. OK, spell it out! Tax office, criminal activity, perhaps a request for a resume outlining past activity (to sort out potential conflict of interest data), how long does this take if you are serious? And if the City cannot do this because all its employees are overcommitted, then do an RFP for a private firm to do these checks, confidentially, comprehensively and within a time certain. Done! No room for future excuses, or future manipulation either. Let’s speed things up, Mayor Finch! And what training, if any, is expected and monitored of people nominated for vacancies or expired positions on each City Board and Commission? Other than Ethics Training just initiated after a multi-year absence in Bridgeport!

    “We’ve got to move things quicker,” says Mayor Finch. I agree. What about the Bridgeport Library positions funded by increased approved budgets in the past two years, but still not fully implemented because of multiple signatures by the current administration required (NOT MONEY) with no excuses from the administration as to the delays? So do you want everything to move “quicker” Bill, or just a few, for the few?

    Mayor Bill, you are the leader of the entire shebang, or didn’t you realize that? You have the bully pulpit (meaning you can talk to the CT Post anytime you wish) as well as other media. Perhaps you have to have something worthwhile to say that is congruent with previous statements, policies and/or activities of your administration. It’s about walking the talk … all of it, for the public that has a memory! Time will tell.

  • Andrew C Fardy

    I think McCarthy has been smoking some of that weed they want to grow legally in Bridgeport. Tom, if you can’t speak the truth then please don’t say anything. The PD has long been done doing backgrounds for police and fire candidates. You make it sound like rocket science. Please stop the BS. Hey Tom how about checks on council people and candidates; seems to me one of your own has owed back taxes for years. Tom I have another question for you, do you ever get tired of being the mayor’s butt boy?

  • Pat Fardy

    As a former Chairwomen on the zoning commission and Zoning Board of Appeals for many years under many different mayors, there are many faults by the current mayor.
    1. No training at all and that IS available to all.
    2. Not following Roberts Rule at meetings that I have attended.
    3. Commissioners not going to view the sites on the agenda which SHOULD be done to view neighborhoods.
    4. The Mayor not reappointing the current commissioners who have terms expired, FIVE years and counting now for many. Crazy, No Reasons given. “Ignorance is Bliss” by the mayor and staff (who will be unnamed).
    As far as the current item that is being disputed, I agree with the commissioners’ concerns, there are homes around the area and this should be in an Industrial zone only because of potential problems with persons wanting their dope!!!

  • John Marshall Lee

    Pat,
    Thank you. I had not gone out to see the site or look at the map to see Zone identification and neighborhood currently. You are the first to point out the obvious. But then you had the advantage of being a land use official and volunteer who bothered to educate people coming before you about process as well as educate yourself about your duties under CT Statutes.
    In previous reporting in the paper and on OIB, those two issues, important to land use officials, somehow did not get clearly communicated. They are important to coming out with a legal and supportable position in terms of the several issues involved. Perhaps other property, suitable for a business like that suggested, might be available? Maybe a swap might be engineered? Or other development creativity? Time will tell.

  • Bob Walsh

    Thank you Pat.
    Maybe you can fill in the bloggers about “highest and best use” of land which should be the guiding principal on land use decisions.
    The mayor seems to think it is more incremental benefit to the city.
    He seems to be saying if a Zone change or variance creates an additional dollar in city revenue or a single job, then the Planning and Zoning Commission should approve an item.
    It is obvious the city of Bridgeport does not have an economic development plan and a discipline to implement that plan.
    This has always been the problem and apparently continues to be.
    And where is our new head of Planning and Development? Asleep at the wheel? Playing follow the leader? Simply in over his head?

  • Bob Walsh

    Don’t forget the farm on Reservoir Avenue. The developer could not or would not fulfill his commitment to a mixed-use development so the city supported a vegetable farm in the middle of the city.
    What a joke this guy is!
    He is so desperate for anything, he will accept and support everything.

  • Bob Walsh

    Quick, somebody check to see if this guy donated to the Vote Yes Campaign. That would explain everything.

  • Bob Walsh

    Walsh to Finch, “Don’t roadblock our future!”

  • Joel Gonzalez

    Why the rush to secured the zoning approval and permits for one particular person? Anyone can have a business plan. Who is this Rob Schulter from Fairfield who sounds like an expert at growing marijuana in a state where doing so is illegal? Was Rob Schulter born and raised in Jamaica or Mexico? Who is financially backing this project? Any partners involved in this venture? Why is Schulter the only person considered for this one of only five facilities the state will allow? How about some RFQ/RFP and allow an open competitive process? Why can’t Lennie Greenmaldi LLC compete for one of the five spots? If one is allowed to operate a marijuana growing facility in Bridgeport, can we allow all five to base their companies in Bridgeport? Now that the State of Connecticut has announced cutting funding to the Beardsley Zoo, would it be okay for Lennie Greenmaldi LLC to contract its seeding process in the Green House at the Zoo? I hear Lennie Greenmaldi LLC is seeking copyrights for a brand named: Mean Green Machine.

  • Mojo

    *** Finch is right, in general it does take too long to get a final definite vote either way on many zoning issues! But at the same time, if most of your Mayor appointed commissioners’ times are expired and you really don’t have control over them, how did he think it would be different with the BOE? Also having the political relationship he has with the P/D chief, would it really be that hard to get all the police background checks done on the commissioners to get them current again? It appears to be nothing more than more excuses for not doing things the right way and on time and then complaining when things don’t go your way! Besides, the Mayor is so busy with meetings and credit and picture taking, he sometimes seems to be out of touch with what’s happening in city hall and in Bpt. *** OUT TO LUNCH ***

  • Joel Gonzalez

    It appears OIBers are done with this topic. I’ll try to close it with this final–hopefully–comment. For almost two years we have read the term Plantation, Plantation owners, and Plantation mentality. Here is a link for one of the topics for example (don’t click on it yet):
    /the-party-plantation-owners/

    For two years I’ve been wondering who is the owner or the author of the Plantation and its mentality. Thanks to Brian Lockhart, I can rest assured I know who he is. I suspected it was someone who talks a lot about anything green. After five years of questions and suggestions from OIB posters and never given a clue–let alone a response, one question from a Housatonic Community College student lead me to the answer. Bill Finch is the owner of the Plantation and author of its mentality. If the Plantation owner has a warehouse and he wants to allow someone to grow marijuana in it, who the hell are we or zoning members to object? I’ll smoke (a Newport) to that!

  • Steven Auerbach

    I just need to weigh in on the marijuana farm. Honestly, really? With nearly 1 million square feet of obsolete manufacturing space in this city we are entertaining a marijuana farm. Really? This is the type of facility best suited for a rural area like Bloomfield Connecticut. Not an urban center with problems. I fully support the legalization of marijuana and even more, medicinal marijuana. That is such a ridiculous proposal for anyone to support in Bridgeport. That will help attract other development? Is someone really serious. This cannot be good in any way shape or form. Mayor, Why Why Why Why would you support this in Bridgeport?

  • Zena Lu

    We already don’t have enough cops on the streets. We absolutely DO NOT have any spare police muscle to allocate to this effort. The security that having a marijuana farm in Bridgeport would command is of the 24/7/365 nature. Private security is not appropriate nor will it suffice. In short if the Mayor is seriously entertaining this business prospect, he is pretty far gone. I do, ever so slightly, admire the creativity.

  • Andrew C Fardy

    One more thing on this marijuana farm, who is BS’ing whom here. They are only going to grow 100 lbs of MJ. Let’s do the math. There will only three of these operations in Connecticut so they will only grow 300 lbs. Really??? BS.
    By the time this starts, the medical community will have half the population of Connecticut on pot so 300 lbs is just a drop in the bucket.

    • Joel Gonzalez

      PA 12-55 states a minimum of 3 and a maximum of 10. If it makes you feel better, we can have all 10 of the marijuana growing facilities in Bridgeport. I say we have one per district and every year at the Vibes concert the City can have an election to see who grows the best marijuana.

  • Mojo

    *** Not only do these conferences help built ties with fellow towns and cities in other states; they help our city council members relieve city government “stress” and make them “smarter” and more in touch with nature, good wine and tender steaks! (wink) In all fairness, there are lots of good speakers, informative seminars and materials available that can be very helpful but like anything else, it’s what you put into it that counts! *** BRUINS TICKETS? ***

  • Bridgeporteur

    The stereotype of marijuana as a criminal activity does not apply here. Wake up! This is medical marijuana. It’s not going away. Marijuana will eventually be legalized and this is the time to take advantage of it, unless you prefer organized crime or the big tobacco companies to profit.

    • Joel Gonzalez

      Bridgeporteur, I for one have not stated I am against the outright legalization of marijuana including the medical use of it. What I’m against is government officials attempt to give one particular person the advantage or endorsement to be the first or only one to grow and distribute it, as is obvious in this case. Another concern I have is the only reason and real reason the state passed the palliative use of marijuana was to raise revenue. Section 12-55 (Palliative use of Marijuana) does not allow personal cultivation of marijuana regardless if a person has Cancer or HIV and is too poor to afford the high cost for the marijuana that’s going to be made available to them through the state program and process. Heck, already it’s set up like a membership to BJ’s. Participants have to pay $25 to get certified to be able to buy the marijuana. If the state wanted to help the people needing or desiring to use marijuana to help them deal with the symptoms of their illness, give then the choice of growing their own. The people illegally selling and growing marijuana aren’t a bit concerned with the Palliative use of Marijuana bill. You should expect those who have a license to grow, to grow and move some weed in the black/illegal market, if anything. How many stores with liquor licenses sell liquor or beer after hours?

  • Joel Gonzalez

    Paging Bob Walsh. Before you continue to attack Bill Finch or PA 12-55, you should be aware that your good friend Senator Ed Gomes was the only co-sponsor of this bill from the entire Bridgeport delegation. An attack on Bill Finch or PA 12-55 should be construed as an attack on Ed Gomes. Before anyone continues to post comments or question regarding this issue, I suggest you click on the link and become better educated on this matter.
    www .cga.ct.gov/2012/ACT/Pa/pdf/2012PA-00055-R00HB-05389-PA.pdf

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