January 28, 2014 05:39PM
By LESLIE ROVETTI
Sun Staff Writer
STONINGTON — Toll Brothers, a developer of high-end homes, is appealing the Planning and Zoning Commission’s recent decision to reject its plan to fix ongoing drainage problems. The eight-page appeal was filed on Jan. 22 in New London Superior Court.
Tom Collier, the lawyer who represented Toll Brothers before the Planning and Zoning Commission, told the Conservation Commission Monday night that Toll Brothers is pursuing another option for the drainage problem, but filed the appeal to keep its options open.
“Toll doesn’t want to be in the business of suing municipalities,” Collier said.
The appeal, filed by attorneys Joseph P. Williams and Beth Bryan Critton of the Hartford firm Shipman & Goodwin, claims that the Planning and Zoning Commission’s denial earlier this month was “unreasonable, arbitrary, illegal, and an abuse of its discretion.”
The luxury home builder purchased the property, located between Whitehall Avenue, Jerry Browne Road, and Pequot Trail, from Clairemonte Estates in 2010. The subdivision plan for the 48-lot Clairemont development had been approved six years earlier. Neighbors had challenged that decision, but their appeal was dismissed in Superior Court in 2006. After Toll Brothers bought the property, the company changed the plans to a 46-lot development to be called Old Mystic Estates at Stonington.
However, town engineer Larry Sullivan noticed a problem in the drainage plan that had previously been approved.
The error included an inlet pipe on Whitehall Pond that was thought to be an outlet pipe. And neighbors downhill from the southwest side of the subdivision suffered from mudslides that ran from the empty lots.
Toll Brothers contracted with an engineering firm, Cheshire-based Milone & MacBroom, to create a new drainage plan for the property. The plan involved the use of three retention basins, changed some lot lines, and took up one building lot.
The plan received the approval of the Inland Wetlands and Watercourse Commission in June, and Toll Brothers presented it to the Planning and Zoning Commission shortly afterward. Because of concerns expressed by neighbors, the commission decided to hold a public hearing on the application. Sullivan, the town engineer, supported the plan at that time.
According to the company’s appeal, an engineer retained by opponents of the plan, Geoffrey L. Jacobson, raised questions about the plan and provided information to the Planning and Zoning Commission after the public hearing. Toll Brothers asserts that a letter submitted by Jacobson was based on “assumptions that lack a substantial basis in fact,” and that it was denied the opportunity to respond to the letter.
Without an approved drainage plan, Toll Brothers said it cannot build on any of the sites in the pond’s watershed. The commission’s denial “effectively prohibits the development of twenty-three (23) lots that were approved by the commission in its 2004 subdivision approval.”
The appeal asks the court to reverse the decision and have the town pay unspecified costs. Stonington has until Feb. 25 to respond.