The Halfway House Truth–Has The Deadline Passed?

The city’s Planning and Zoning Commission Monday night (tonight) is scheduled to take up a request to extend approval of a halfway house located in the West End for male offenders, an issue that has galvanized neighborhood groups that question the burden on Bridgeport serving as the dumping ground for regional responsibility. The meeting is scheduled for 6:45 in City Hall Council chambers on Lyon Terrace. City Councilman Bob “Troll” Walsh questions the timing of the extension request coming after the deadline for this type of application.

A letter dated Nov. 26, 2008 and sent by the city’s Zoning Department to Chuck Willinger, the attorney representing the applicant Community Solutions Inc., states clearly “The expiration date of the Special Permit approval, as required under Sec. 14-4-5 of the Zoning Regulations of the City of Bridgeport, CT has been established as November 2, 2010.”

A revealing email thread over the past several days, triggered by Walsh, calls into question the validity of the P&Z hearing this request, City Council President Tom McCarthy querying City Attorney Mark Anastasi on the legality of such a hearing, and Connecticut Post scribe Keila Torres asking Mayor Bill Finch’s spokesperson Elaine Ficarra if any special treatment was at play because of the owners of the property, developer Sal DiNardo and his sister Nancy DiNardo, state Democratic party chair. To comprehend the email thread read from the bottom up starting with Walsh’s email to city development official William Minor.

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Anastasi, Mark T <>
Date: Sat, Feb 26, 2011 at 3:35 PM
Subject: FW: Zoning Matter 34 & 48 Norman St. and 828 Railroad Ave.
To: “McCarthy, Tom” <>, “Walsh, Robert”


From: Anastasi, Mark T
Sent: Friday, February 25, 2011 4:39 PM
To: Ficarra, Elaine K.; Schmidt, Edmund
Subject: FW: Zoning Matter 34 & 48 Norman St. and 828 Railroad Ave.

I think the answer is as follows:

“The reason that the decision ultimately rests with the P&Z is that the original one (1) year extension was granted by the Commission; and therefore, it would NOT be within staff’s authority to authorize or deny any further extension.”

From: Torres, Keila <>
Sent: Friday, February 25, 2011 4:25 PM
To: Ficarra, Elaine K.; Anastasi, Mark T; Schmidt, Edmund
Subject: RE: Zoning Matter 34 & 48 Norman St. and 828 Railroad Ave.


I thought it was the zoning office’s decision whether or not a project requires a new application or an extension. This is the first time in the three years I’ve been covering zoning that I have been told the board decides whether to accept an application for an extension that is clearly expired. Could it be that an extension is being made here because the property owners are Sal DiNardo, who in the past has donated to the mayor’s campaign, and Nancy DiNardo, Democratic state chair?

Keila Torres Ocasio
Staff writer
Connecticut Post
410 State St., Bridgeport, CT
(O) 203-330-6321
(C) 203-260-9168
Twitter: @ktorresbpt
Facebook: search for KTorresBPT

From: Ficarra, Elaine K. <>
Sent: Friday, February 25, 2011 4:12 PM
To: Torres, Keila
Subject: RE: Zoning Matter 34 & 48 Norman St. and 828 Railroad Ave.

Keila –

Please see statement below from Atty. Ed Schmidt.


From Assistant City Attorney Edmund Schmidt re: P&Z hearing

“The decision of whether or not to grant this request for a second extension will be made by the P &Z, after its consideration of all the relevant facts, including the timing of this request relative to the expiration of the initial extension.”

Elaine K. Ficarra
Communications Director
Office of Mayor Bill Finch
City Hall Annex
999 Broad St.
Bridgeport CT 06604
T: 203.576.7931
Cell: 203.275-6417
F: 203.576.3913

“Together we are making Bridgeport the cleanest, greenest, safest most affordable city, with schools and neighborhoods that improve each year”…. Mayor Bill Finch

From: Torres, Keila <]
Sent: Friday, February 25, 2011 9:42 AM
To: Ficarra, Elaine K.
Subject: FW: Zoning Matter 34 & 48 Norman St. and 828 Railroad Ave.

Elaine, see below.


From: []
On Behalf Of Bob Walsh
Sent: Friday, February 25, 2011 8:40 AM
To: Torres, Keila
Subject: Re: Zoning Matter 34 & 48 Norman St. and 828 Railroad Ave.

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: McCarthy, Tom <>
Date: Thu, Feb 24, 2011 at 7:32 PM
Subject: Re: Zoning Matter 34 & 48 Norman St. and 828 Railroad Ave.
To: <>,
“Anastasi, Mark T” <>
Cc: <>,
“Wood, Adam” <>,
Mayor Finch <>

Mark, I am not fully versed on the legal issues, but on its face it looks like this should be “timed out”. I think we need a detailed legal opinion on why this is still viable. Tom Mc.

On Thu, Feb 24, 2011 at 6:56 PM, Torres, Keila <> wrote:

Bob thanks for letting me know. I had no idea. I’ll make sure to get an answer from the city attorney tomorrow. I’ll call you in the morning as well.

Sent from my iPhone

On Feb 24, 2011, at 5:43 PM, “Bob Walsh” <> wrote:


Give me a call after you read this.

This is total BS.

The first extension was granted.  When it was granted, the P & Z wrote: “the expiration date of the Special Permit approval, as required under Sec. 14-4-5 of the Zoning Regulations of the City of Bridgeport, CT has been established as November 2, 2010.”

Now that Willinger missed the deadline to file for a second extension they are somehow saying that it is OK to extend and expired extension.

Tell me that they are not playing favorites with this.

From: Minor, William []
Sent: Thursday, February 24, 2011 4:38 PM
To: ‘Bob Walsh’
Subject: RE: Zoning Matter 34 & 48 Norman St. and 828 Railroad Ave.

I have read your email and I must let you know that Ed Schmidt, Associate City and Dennis has discussed the date discrepancies and Ed feels the request is valid. Should wish to know more, you contact Attorney Schmidt.

From: Bob Walsh []
Sent: Thursday, February 24, 2011 2:49 PM
To: Minor, William
Subject: Zoning Matter 34 & 48 Norman St. and 828 Railroad Ave.

The following was faxed to you this afternoon.  Please review and advise.

Bob Walsh

William Minor
LUCR Director
Land Use Construction Review
Bridgeport City Hall
Room 212
45 Lyon Terrace
Bridgeport, CT 06604
By Fax: 203-576-7213

Dear Mr. Minor

I am writing in regards to item an item on the February 28, 2011 Planning & Zoning Commission’s agenda.  Specifically I am referring to:


(D-1) 4 aka 34 & 48 Norman St. and 828 Railroad Ave. – Petition of Community Solutions, Inc – Seeking a Coastal Site Plan Review, and a 2nd extension of time for a Special Permit granted on November 24, 2008, to establish a 120 bed group living facility in a R-C zone, and I-L zone.

It has come to my attention that the original extension of time was granted on October 26, 2009 with the understanding that “the expiration date of the Special Permit approval, as required under Sec. 14-4-5 of the Zoning Regulations of the City of Bridgeport, CT has been established as November 2, 2010.”

In order to file for an extension of time, this item should have come before the commission at its October 2010 meeting.  An extension of this expired extension is out of order at this time.

I am requesting that you immediately rule the item out of order and that it be stricken from the agenda.  In light of the decision by the acting chairperson at the last meeting which would limit the scope of testimony to the extension of time only, the petitioner should at this point be required to start anew.  Any further attempt to alter, change, revise or amend the item before the board would cause additional confusion with the public and could discourage their participation if the is any indication that this item is an extension.

I will personally contact you after you have had a chance to review this to determine your decision.  If you have any questions you can contact me on my cell at (203) 623-6215.


Robert S. Walsh
Bridgeport City Council
132nd District



  1. Anyone who thinks the DiNardos care anything about Bridgeport must live in a dream world. They are no different than the two AH’s from Hartford who advise Finch and Wood and have made a laughing stock of this damn city.
    Bill Finch does not care one iota about Bridgeport, neither does that arrogant Adam Wood. I will be one taxpayer/voter who will work tirelessly to see them defeated come September & November. Enough is enough.
    I don’t begrudge developers who come to Bridgeport making a profit for their endeavors as long as the projects are beneficial to its citizens.
    This latest project for a halfway house does not benefit Bridgeport and its citizens. It’s a slap in the face of the working-class families that live in this neighborhood. It’s a complete disregard for their children who walk to school and play in this area. Take this project to some other town where in effect 60% of the clients come from. Believe it or not there are criminals from the suburbs.
    Briggeport and its residents have taken care of their social responsibility with all the halfway houses, drug and alcohol treatment facilities. We have taken care of our veterans male and female. Damn it Sal is building this piece of crap in your sister’s neighborhood. Oh yeah I forgot it will never pass there. Okay let’s build it on your ex-cranberry bogs in Fairfield. Oh yeah won’t pass there either. I have a better idea, why not build something that would improve Bridgeport? Damn I must have had too much coffee and I was just dreaming.

  2. Halfway houses are a necessary and important part of the transition process from a cell to the street in our current legal system. With efforts to decrease the number of and time spent fully incarcerated, they likely will become an even more important part of that system, with the purpose of lowering costs to State government.

    Community Solutions, through its spokesperson Chuck Willinger last week shared the success of this program in relocating offenders back into their community with significant less recidivism.

    What Willinger failed to share with the audience at St. John’s (after sharing with NRZ representatives how their NRZ long range plans contemplated serving the needs of the community) was how locating yet another halfway house program in Bridgeport served either the local needs for taxpaying real estate or Governor Malloy’s target of “sharing the pain” or economic burden of this City. It’s a great phrase, and it needs to be stated as a challenge to the Governor, whose home town of Stamford, the fourth largest in the State, has no facilities of this type.
    And maybe it is time to research and document the non-profit service agencies that are doing the contracted work of State agencies and departments and bring them under some variant form of PILOT since while serving people of this State, they likewise call upon local public safety services among others. Our current financial malaise will force a review of many plans, processes and functions of the status quo.

  3. Personally, I am glad that Assistant City Attorney Ed Schmidt wants the Commission to hear the matter and decide on the Community Solutions petition for a second extension of their Special Permit and CAM. The site plan for this development was approved under the old zoning regs in 2008 and runs three more years. The old zoning regs were plagued with ignored expirations and deadlines as well as actions by the staff and the Commission that were not consistent due in part to poorly written regs. Section 15 of the new Master Plan goes into a lot of detail on how to straighten out a very inconsistent land use approval system. If the Commission denies this petition to extend the special permit and CAM without hearing it, my fear is that the attorney for the petitioner will appeal the denial based on inconsistent practice by the Commission and zoning office under the old zoning regulations.

    It is a much more prudent and conservative approach to have the matter heard; attorney for the petitioner present; attorney for the opposition present; those who are opposed get up and state there are changed circumstances in the neighborhood since the special permit was originally granted and the first extension of the special permit and CAM have expired; both sufficient reasons for Commission to deny. Then, based on the record, the Commission can act. The Commission’s decision will have a better shot at withstanding the inevitable appeal. I honestly thing Ed Schmidt is recommending the best professional course, not something related to the influential cloud of the DiNardo family. There is too much at risk. The land use arena is a very litigious process. In this case, the 2008 site plan approval runs for five years. The only matter at hand is the narrow extension of the special permit for a group living facility and the CAM permit. It’s tricky. It has to withstand the scrutiny of the Courts. Come out tomorrow night and voice your opinion.

    1. If I have received a variance or approval from ZBA or P & Z there is usually a time-line for performance. If I do not perform within that time period I must come in for a new application. What are the potential legal liabilities to the city from those who have been denied the same courtesy?

      This should not be about the DiNardos, but about proper zoning policy and procedure.

      Like this application my time is up!

  4. I demand that Bill Finch immediately swear in the commissioners of the P&Z board at the very beginning of this hearing. We must close any loophole Willinger will try to slither through regarding this issue. Furthermore, call for an immediate moratorium on any & all future tax exempts such as this Halfway House. Bridgeport has done more than its fair share with these criminal endeavors. This proposal is the equivalent of opening up a whorehouse across the street from St. Patrick’s Cathedral. We already have an image problem in Bridgeport. Put it in the suburbs. Share the pain.

  5. Hadley is about as transparent as uncooked calamari.

    Look at it this way. If it were any other lawyer who missed a filing date, the client would be screaming malpractice. The agency would rigidly apply the rules … expires on a certain date … no extension request filed in a timely manner … no extension … period.

    The city attorneys are acting shamefully. They are giving DiNardo special preference that would otherwise be unavailable to someone not so politically connected.

    The matter should be presented to the bar association to examine how and why Willinger failed to act properly.

  6. Willinger & the DiNardo’s will (Chuck up the sponge) tonight, the numbers are too great.
    This is what’s going to happen tonight:
    1. There will be no quorum.
    2. CAM needs more info.
    3. Let’s put it off ’til July.
    Did anyone petition for a 2/3 vote yet?


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