Monday night’s zoning commission hearing turned rowdy with opponents to opening up more liquor store applications frustrated by process and a lawyer for the city promising police presence at the next meeting.
The genesis of the controversy centers on Michael DeFilippo who tends bar at Democratic Town Chair Mario Testa’s restaurants trying to open a liquor store. DeFilippo received the most votes in the September 12 Democratic primary for City Council in the North End 133rd District. He goes on to the general election. Incumbent Jeanette Herron also won in the district by one vote, but faces a legal challenge from former State Rep. Bob Keeley.
From CT Post reporter Brian Lockhart:
There will be a “bouncer” at the next debate over changing the zoning rules for liquor stores.
“The next time we will have a police officer there to escort people out if they break the rules,” promised Russell Liskov, the city attorney who presides over zoning commission meetings.
… Concluding that Bridgeport is the “most restrictive community” when it comes to determining where package stores can open, City Planning Director Lynn Haig wants zoning commissioners to approve two key changes: Reduce the required footage separating liquor sellers from “sensitive uses”–schools, day cares, houses of worship, hospitals–from 1,500 feet to 750 feet; and eliminate the requirement that liquor stores must be at least 1,500 feet apart.
Full story here.
Bridgeport liquor store owner Rich Augustynowicz who’s among those leading the charge against issued this email to select city officials and OIB following the meeting.
It was so unprofessional, mean-spirited, and I would say bordering on corrupt behavior considering that other issues were allowed whatever time it took to state their individual cases. Proposing an extra parking spot for a 3 family home would take precedent over an issue that could negatively effect the business community as well as the quality of life in this City. What a shame and an embarrassment last night was, for members of the board and for Lynn Haig who is supposed to be a professional certified planner. This is what the taxpayers get for their money!
Her presentation was so weak, proving that either she does not have the capacity to have this position, or was presenting “evidence” given to her by Attorney Willinger, which is why she stumbled around several questions. She stated that she had done “extensive” research on this issue and she was obviously proven wrong even though we were not allowed to present our case in a fair manner. Sadly, I believe she hurt whatever credibility she may have vis-a-vis holding such a position. It was very clear that Willinger provided her with the “extensive” research material as it was the same language and “facts” he used during all those many ZBA meetings when he attempted to get his “client” approval for a liquor sales location where one is not allowed by law.
Our evidence directly and honestly proves her statements wrong, or at least skewed for personal reasons and as I said, she only told the board what she felt they needed to hear to aid Willinger’s case.
Going forward, his client may become a Common Council member and many have said that if he doesn’t get what he wants before he sits on the Council then a greater possibility exists that he would get it once on. Others have commented that it’s just a shame that there are no debates or even background checks done for potential candidates, not to prevent anyone from running for office but to have full disclosure. This way the public could make smarter decisions. Welcome to Bridgeport! Business as usual. … Sad.
Someone should take issue with the fact that an Attorney who is not even a resident of Bridgeport, representing a private “client,” is the driver of a policy change such as was proposed, and is using the City’s own Office of Policy and Development Office to do it.
People tell me that “it’s a done deal.” My response is always, yes, you said that 2 years and about 9 ZBA meetings ago on this issue! To use an adage from John Marshall Lee: “time will tell.”