Thomaston sets hearing date to repeal controversial zoning law passed in July

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Thomaston sets hearing date to repeal controversial zoning law passed in July

The Village of Thomaston set a public hearing date to repeal a local zoning law that was set in place earlier this year relating to a proposed five-story apartment complex, the application for which was recently withdrawn.

Village officials, during Tuesday night’s virtual Board of Trustees meeting, set a date of Dec. 20 at 7:30 p.m. for an official public hearing to repeal zoning law 3-2021, which provided certain incentives for adjoining zoning districts that applied to the proposed apartment located on 124 S. Middle Neck Road, the site of the former Tower Ford building.

The law was passed during a July meeting and, along with the proposal, has been heavily criticized by the public. The law allows the Board of Trustees to have “sole and unfettered discretion” on what conditions and incentive use permit may be granted to certain applicants. The new law applies to applicants that have a property located partially in the Apartment B and Residence 10 zoning districts, a total area of at least 0.75 acres but not exceeding one acre, a depth at its greatest point of at least 200 feet and street frontage on Middle Neck Road of at least 230 feet.

The property at 124 S. Middle Neck Road lies partly in the Apartment B and Residence 10 zoning districts, has a total area of 0.96 acres, and has a depth of 234 feet, according to village documents.

A statement from the village to the public on Tuesday addressed how the law was passed and said even if it was not approved, the applicant would still be able to file the application. 

“In this instance, following all applicable state and local law requirements, the village enacted a local law to establish a particular procedure by which certain applications could be made,” according to the statement. “Even if that law had not been adopted, the property owner could have made the application under other procedures already available under state law, but under which the village would have less flexibility in reviewing the application.”

Village officials announced last week that the application was withdrawn by the applicant, 124 Middle Neck Realty LLC, after the applicant did not send out the required legal notice for a previously scheduled public hearing on the proposal and did not pay a $25,000 deposit to the village for an engineering consulting firm. Officials also said the applicant intends to modify the proposal.

On Nov. 1, the village received a letter from attorney Stephen G. Limmer, the applicant’s legal representative, asking the village not to schedule a hearing on Nov. 15 because revisions to the application were still being reviewed. 

Limmer also cited the potential for the property to be listed as a landmark by the state. The state’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation declared the site eligible to be considered as a historic place on Oct. 29. Efforts to reach Limmer or the applicant for comment were unavailing.

The village’s Landmark Commission will hold a meeting on Nov. 30 via Zoom “for the purposes of organizing and discussing procedures, including retaining services of a consultant,” according to the village website.

Last month, a group of residents identified as “The Galleria at Great Neck Condominium” filed a lawsuit against the village, the Board of Trustees and 124 Middle Neck Realty LLC. The legal documents claim that negotiations on the project were conducted between the village and the project’s developer under inappropriate pretenses and the village did not properly evaluate its environmental impact on the rest of the community.

Evidence provided by the petitioners who filed the complaint included emails among the applicant, Limmer and Thomaston Mayor Steven Weinberg dating back to last year.

Limmer, in emails to Weinberg, asked what details would be sufficient for an initial presentation of the project, according to the court documents. The complaint calls for the village’s negative declaration for the environmental impact study to be declared null and void.

Trustee To-On Pang, in a statement, said he asked Weinberg what the benefit and incentive of passing the new law were, and Weinberg allegedly refused to tell him or any other trustees what those would be until after the vote. Pang said he “felt the peer pressure” from Weinberg and other board members not to probe what the benefits of the new law would be and simply to vote in favor of the law during the July 12 meeting.

“Since the public has become aware of the new zoning law and the proposed project I see the tremendous opposition to both,” Pang said in the statement. “I share these concerns and I feel that had the mayor disclosed the information regarding the law and project … I would have voted differently.”

Weinberg, in the village’s statement, addressed public claims that illegal procedures and backdoor deals were involved.  

“It saddens me to have to specifically address certain reckless falsehoods, especially for those of you who know me personally,” Weinberg said in the statement. “I and your entire village Board of Trustees did not, have not and will not take anything of any value and did not, have not and will not make any deals with the applicant or any applicant.”

Weinberg also assured the public that the village will continue to proceed with its business in a manner that satisfies state and local requirements.

“The village cannot, and will not, act precipitously and intends to follow all legal due process requirements,” he said. “Let’s be respectful and maintain decorum, so that everyone has an opportunity to be heard, so that the process complies with legal requirements and is as fair as reasonably possible for everyone.”

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