The Enfield Montessori School has been rescued from the clutches of the venal Planning and Zoning Commission and its fellow marionettes. Hartford Superior Court Judge Richard Rittenband smote the sledgehammer that has been pounding the school, its children and the Felician Sisters for several years, ruling Tuesday that an old dirt lot is just an old dirt lot.“The good ladies of Enfield of prevailed, absolutely,” said the lawyer for the Felcian Sisters, Ken Slater of Hartford’s Halloran and Sage.
“This is not a complex case,” Rittenband wrote in his decision, Docket No. CV 05-4008771, Enfield Planning and Zoning Commission et al vs. Enfield Zoning Board of Appeals et al. “This gravel is merely maintenance or repair of an existing use and not an expansion thereof.“The town of Enfield has spent tens of thousands of dollars harassing the school. A full accounting has yet to be made.“Is use of the parking area a legal pre-existing non-conforming use?” Rittenband asked in his 15-page decision. “The short answer to this question is yes …”…Was the addition of gravel in 1992 an illegal expansion of a non-conforming use? The short answer is no …”…The Court would add that common sense would indicate that since the school was in operation from the mid 40’s up to today but certainly up to 1966, it is logical to conclude that parents taking their children to the school and picking them up would have to have an area of off street parking in which to park …”…The plaintiffs have failed to specify any portion of the Zoning regulations that would require a special permit to apply the gravel to the parking area … There are no regulations requiring site plan or special permit approval to maintain and use an existing area. The parking lot of the defendants does not have new or expanded parking area. Suffice it to say that the existing unpaved parking area does not require a special permit.“Regarding assertions by Planning and Zoning that the Felician Sisters needed a permit because they had gravel dumped on a muddy lot, Rittenband wrote: “None of [the regulations] apply to the maintenance of adding gravel to the subject parking area in this case.“Rittenband affirmed a decision of the courageous Zoning Board of Appeals: The graveled parking lot is not in violation of the zoning regulations and that further approvals are unnecessary.The ZBA ruling led to the Planning and Zoning Commission to promptly sue the Felician Sisters and the ZBA. Anthony DiPace, chairman of the P and Z, said his commission would appeal any adverse ruling by Rittenband.The ongoing litigation and harassment has been on severe drain on operations of the school, its students, their parents and the Felician Sisters.Read the judges decision on at www.cooljustice.blogspot.com.NOTE: FOOTNOTE IN JUDGE RITTENBAND’S DECISION, Page 4, in which he cites misrepresentation by Planning and Zoning Commission counsel and asks, “Is this entire dispute about a load of gravel being placed on the area of which no one complained for eleven (11) years?” You have certainly scratched the surface, Judge. A.T.