By a five to one vote Monday night the Planning and Zoning Commission rejected the application to extend approval of a halfway house for male offenders in the West End. The petitioner Community Solutions says it will appeal the decision. From Tim Loh, Connecticut Post:
The boiling point at Monday’s Planning and Zoning Commission meeting arrived when Charles Willinger stood at the microphone and rebutted residents who had railed against a proposed halfway house.
“You can buy any drug in Went Field Park,” the attorney said, hoping to undercut claims that the West End neighborhood where the facility would go has improved since 2008.
Seated in the front row, City Councilman Anderson Ayala, D-131, yelled out: “No you can’t!”
The six commissioners watched the exchange, as they had already watched dozens of others. They would later reject the one-year extension proposed by Community Solutions Inc.–by a 5-1 vote–for its 120-bed halfway house special permit for the corner of Railroad Avenue and Norman Street.
Community Solutions won the commission’s approval for the project in 2008. But the federal and state funding never materialized. So the nonprofit found itself before the commission asking for a second year-long extension in as many years.
Halfway house opponents waved placards reading, “Halfway No Way.” One angry resident lifted a poster saying: “Hey Mr. Willinger, How ’bout you put it in your backyard?” Those supporting the project were wearing stickers on their chests that read: “I support re-entry.”
The committee, however, addressed different issues: Has the neighborhood around Went Field Park changed significantly since 2008? And did Community Solutions apply for this one-year extension before the deadline?
Attorney Michael Voytek led the opposition, representing the city’s Neighborhood Revitalization Zones. He argued that Went Field Park has gotten safer and cleaner since Caribe Little League baseball moved in and Bassick High School started using it for after-school sports. He also cited several residential projects that have sprung up on neighboring streets.
The more technical question was whether Community Solutions had requested the second year-long extension before it was too late. The nonprofit first won approval from the commission for the halfway house project Nov. 24, 2008. Then it requested — and received — an extension in October 2009. That approval was granted through Nov. 2, 2010.
Community Solutions requested this latest extension last Nov. 12.
On Monday, though, Willinger argued that the commission, when granting its first extension, had really meant Nov. 24, 2010. And to prove his point, he showed that the commission had given an earlier item that October 2009 night a deadline of Nov. 2, 2010.
“That,” he said, referring to this recent halfway house deadline, “is a typographical error.”
However, except for Jose Tiago, a Democrat who voted to approve the extension, the commission members did not agree.
As the meeting neared its end, Sherry Albert, vice president for adult services at Community Solutions, said that, if rejected, her organization would appeal the decision based on legal issues. “The law is on our side,” she said. “And we would pursue the letter of the law.”