Sanity Prevails, Zoners Reject Halfway House Proposal

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.”



  1. First Mr. Tiago had to go into the backroom and read the minutes of the previous meeting as he was absent from that meeting.
    Mr. Tiago’s vote in favor leads one to wonder what meeting he was listening to. Could it be that as a contractor and as a downtown restaurant owner he did not want to piss off the DiNardos?
    I have a question, as a contractor has he ever done any business with the DiNardos? If so then he must recuse himself just like Gail Solis should have if she bothered to attend this meeting. Great choice, Adam.

  2. Furthermore as he was going down in flames he was grasping at anything including a quote from Teddy Roosevelt (well at least it wasn’t a JFK quote).

    Chairman Reilly correctly banged his gavel and told Willinger that he was out of order several time on his Went Field crack.

  3. Here is the biggest problem, that decision was invalid. “Dollar Bill” sent his sphincter because he knew he should have sworn in the expired commissioners. This left open another avenue of legal challenges. Finch lacked the balls to alienate a large campaign contributor. His delusional dreams of a large financial war chest from DiNardo needed to be protected, albeit at our expense. This one-shot wonder will be gone after November. Somewhere I bet Mary Moran is smiling. She is no longer the worst mayor in the history of Bpt. History is always being rewritten, not always for the better. Pray for Bridgeport, Vote for Change.

    1. Antitesto // Mar 1, 2011 at 9:40 am
      To your posting

      More to the point of your rightness … your phraseology is superb!

      And here is my question to you.

      What’s the value to the Bridgeport taxpayer, what’s the value to the Bridgeport public school student, and what’s the value to everyone of the 139,000 (+/-) people of Bridgeport to pray if they don’t vote …

      Have lunch with me at Bloodroot Restaurant and let’s talk …

      1. Carolanne,
        First off, Thank You for your flattering comment.
        Secondly, prayer got Mario’s Rev. Stallworth into Caruso’s seat. Pardon that visual. Finch’s “Hail Mary” pass was thrown at the Black congregations for support in the future. They came out and voted their Pastor into office. Power to the people. This is no promise they will back Finch in November’s election.
        Lastly, I will call Bloodroot & leave my number. I have been looking forward to meeting you.

  4. There is hope for Bridgeport after all. If we can hire a leader and a manager to guide this city, prosperity is a viable result. We must keep the likes of Newton, Finch, Testa and Timpanelli out of power. It will take a concerted effort by the aspirants for office to instill an sense of civic responsibility into the well established voter apathy. It is ironic that real change can only come from those who traditionally do not participate in the vote. Foster or Gomes will only succeed if they can rally the oppressed and get them to the polls. Heed this well … it is too important to our future to ignore.

    1. yahooy // Mar 1, 2011 at 9:46 am
      To your posting

      I agree with you that prosperity could be a viable result.
      But even more so, the result could be a restoration of trust, there could be a resurrection of truth, there could be a reformation of the entire system of the way in which the City government of Bridgeport provides city services to her population.

      Would you agree?

  5. It may be of interest to some that Board member Tiago, the only positive vote in explaining his vote indicated that he did not see any “changed circumstances” in the neighborhood since his previous vote. He made no reference to the most recent Master Plan that might have provided guidance as to “changing” sentiment for the number or density of such programs in the City as a whole. One observer sitting near me indicated that he was an individual with unresolved zoning issues when appointed, the reason for the contentious appointment process. Does anyone know whether his personal zoning matters of multi-year duration with the City have been resolved yet?

    It is also interesting to read the quote from the Community Solutions vice president. It would seem they have the funds to appeal a Bridgeport decision on legal issues rather than to find a more balanced and appropriate location in the County with those same funds. Evidently the “solutions” they provide are for a strictly limited group, hardly representing the whole community.

    I wonder where last night’s large group of re-entry supporters reside and pay residential taxes. I certainly invite all of them who are Bridgeporters to consider the effect of most of these programs settling in Bridgeport, and that consideration is one part of the opposition to yet another facility, this one with 120 beds.

    Last night there were lawyers present on all sides of this question. No one preached ill for those who would be served by productive halfway houses. But the legal decision came down in favor of the larger community present and the arguments they advanced. And the legal minds attended to dotting the ‘I’s and crossing the ‘T’s so that the decision can stand with the force of law.

  6. Beacon; This zoning board as it is now made up is just another indicator as to how out of touch this regime is. Tiago did have unresolved legal issues with the city and zoning board decision against him. He resolved these issues by transferring his business to his brother’s name. I also wonder if he has done any contracting work for DiNardo enterprises in the past. Bet I and everyone else with a brain know the answer.
    Gail Solis who was also appointed by this regime made the original motion in 2008 to pass this proposal. She was not there last night. She was going to recuse herself if she did attend. Gail Solis is an employee with the chamber of Commerce and has a conflict with hearing members of the CC when they come before the board. Another brilliant appointment.
    I will bet the ranch these newer commissioners have not read the new master plan or the new zoning regs.
    Tiago did not see any changes in the neighborhood because he has never visited this or any other site. The only 2 commissioners who visit sites are Philips and Freddino.
    Seeing that most of these commissioners’ terms are expired it’s time to replace ALL of them.

    1. town committee // Mar 1, 2011 at 12:47 pm
      to your posting

      Right now we know the decision on the part of the Finch administration to not fill vacancies is absolutely part of their plan …
      Perhaps the last month of his administration will see Finch make these appointments so that the greed can continue …

  7. “You can buy any drug in Went Field Park.”

    I carefully watched Willinger’s mood and expressive face–Willinger was very nervous when he first started (I didn’t get this start on video). He was then cocky, combative, aggressive and implying his intent to appeal whatever ruling the Zoners made that night. It was as if Willinger had already been told the Zoners’ minds were made up against the extension. I was having trouble downloading the videos Lennie.


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