City Attorney R. Christopher Meyer on Friday declared in a legal opinion that Fairfield University’s proposal to locate a two-year college on property owned by the Diocese of Bridgeport in the North End is not a permissible use under zoning regulations.
A previous legal opinion by his office said it was okay.
Neighborhood leaders, including City Councilwoman Michelle Lyons, oppose the plan citing traffic and congestion concerns that would devalue area properties. Former State Rep. Chris Caruso has also been a key voice at neighborhood meetings against the proposal..
Mayor Joe Ganim issued this statement Friday afternoon
In light of the concerns raised by neighbors over this use and our City Attorney’s opinion which states that the subject property cannot be used for a college or university, I’m asking our Economic Development Office to work with The Diocese of Bridgeport on other possible locations within the City.
I have suggested, for example, that they revisit the University of Bridgeport campus and look at the progress that has been made there over the past year. This would give Fairfield University the best opportunity to build out their vision for an Arrupe model in Bridgeport. While I really like the concept by Fairfield University and the positive impact it will make in the lives of Bridgeport youth, I do believe we should protect our neighborhoods from such intense use.”
Just days ago retired Superior Court Judge Carmen Lopez, on behalf of two city residents including Lyons, submitted a notice of appeal to the Zoning Board of Appeals challenging Zoning Administrator’s Dennis Buckley’s decision citing permissible use. Buckley’s decision was based on an initial opinion by city legal counsel Russell Liskov calling for a permitted education use because 238 Jewett Avenue was once the site of Notre Dame Girls High School.
As Lopez noted, “This use of the property ceased in the early 1970s and the building has not been used as a high school for nearly fifty (50) years.”
In a legal opinion issued on Friday and addressed to Buckley, Meyer writes:
“Earlier this month, Attorney Liskov was asked whether the property at 238 Jewett Avenue could be used for “educational purposes.” He answered that it could.
“This office has now been asked for an expedited opinion on a different question, specifically whether a “college is a specially permitted use or permitted as of right in a Residence Zone A zone. We conclude that the subject property cannot be so used under its current zoning.”
For some, Liskov’s legal opinion was befuddling. That area of the North End 50 years ago was a heavily farmed area dramatically different from today’s residential configuration. In addition, the zoning application clearly stated “Bellarmine College.”
How did that clearly stated college application become conflated for the broader educational purpose?
Lopez, in her appeal, wrote: “What is proposed for 238 Jewett Avenue, consistent with any reasonable reading of the Regulations, is a college, not a school.”
Meyer, in an interview with OIB, stated a college must be treated differently than a broadly termed education facility because of its intense use.
What will Fairfield U and the Diocese do now? Was this simply a land grab for the Diocese? If FU is really interested in bringing a two-year urban model to Bridgeport, won’t it search for another Bridgeport location?
Lopez issued this statement to OIB after reviewing Meyer’s legal opinion:
“This opinion is a surrender dressed up as an explanation. This face-saving verbiage will fool no one.
First, the Mayor says he can’t get involved in Zoning matters.
However, once it became impossible to defend the indefensible, Mayor Ganim said ‘find a new site.’
This is called leading from behind.
When will the Bridgeport’s City Attorney’s Office start representing the interests of the taxpayers, who pay their salaries, instead of running errands for well-connected lawyers like Attorney Ray Rizio.”
Judge Lopez, again thank you for your service for the taxpayers of Bridgeport, again you should be the mayor of Bridgeport, if not then you should be the head City Attorney.
The definition of school vs college or university is ambiguous indeed.
Regulations applicable to the R-A Zone (Ex.4).
As the April 4 letter states, a “school” is a permitted use in an R-A Zone, subject to the issuance of a Special Permit. Section 6.4.6 of the Regulations, defines schools to mean:
“Facilities which provide a curriculum of elementary and secondary instruction, public and private kindergartens, elementary schools, and high schools, including magnet schools.”
The applicable Bridgeport Regulations, define “Colleges and Universities,” in Section 6.4.1:
“Colleges and other institutions of Higher Learning, which offer
Courses of general or specialized study leading to a degree.
They are certified by an accreditation agency.”
Liberal Arts Colleges
Nursing and Medical Schools not accessory to a hospital
Does this mean that “schools” specifically High Schools are prohibited from teaching or providing college level curriculum/courses (college credit courses) in a school/s located in a R-A zone? The schools would have to apply for a special permit? PAGING CARMEN LOPEZ.
Shades of the Little League complex at 90 Acres in the ‘80s.
Bob Fredericks, now that you bought the subject “Shades of the Little League complex at 90 Acres in the ‘80s,” tell me what were the reason beside traffic?
The next Bridgeport mayoral election will be won by way of tapping into voter ire with the complicity of G1- and G2- City Hall in the utter decimation of neighborhood life in our city. An inventory of contraindicated, neighborhood-destroying projects that were unopposed or green-lighted by City Hall during the G1 and G2 periods — especially SHU-related projects — is indicting and will sway thousands of voters to another candidates(s) with a record of neighborhood protection. Indeed, programs that helped to maintain the integrity of Bridgeport neighborhoods during this period(s) were deliberately undermined and abandoned… AND, projects on our border (especially with Trumbull) that present safety hazards and that have contributed mightily to the destruction of the quality of life in North End neighborhoods (such as Lake Forest) have been unopposed and green-lighted by City Hall and our state delegation during this period (think, the massive, multi-unit housing developments adjacent to North End neighborhoods on Old Town Road and Main Street (more, de facto SHU dorms, with literally nearly 1000 units(!), in all…). Neighborhood destruction is fine with Ganim City Hall, as long as it pleases $/power institutions, persons, and municipalities that provide political and financial momentum to the Ganim Machine… (So much for my vote for “redemption” in 2015. Mea culpa!)
You know as well as l do Ron: race-baiting hacks spewing shit about kids from the Terrace with baseball bats supposedly terrorizing the populace. And Bucci folded like a cheap lawn chair.