Present: Gerry Casiello, Chairman; Amy Atamian, Secretary; Commissioner Ted Ogonek; Commissioner Matt Lecher (7:36); Alternate Gary Miyashiro (7:36) seated for Paul Scholl; Alternate Steve Gagnon, not seated.
Also Present: Aimee Pardee, Zoning Officer, as well as applicants and members of the public.
The Chairman called the meeting to order at 7:32 with Mr. Casiello, Ms. Atamian, and Mr. Ogonek seated.
Application #2015-28Z – 29 Giles Hill Road (Map #31 & Lot #110), Owner/Applicant Candace Benyei. In accordance with Sections 4.2.3, 5.2, and 5.14 of the Redding Zoning Regulations, request for Site Plan Amendment for installation of a 22’ x 30’ run-in shed and a 14’ x 21’ single-story addition to an existing barn. Application received December 9, 2015; Public Hearing scheduled to be opened January 27, 2016.
Ms. Atamian read the call for the Public Hearing. On the motion of Mr. Ogonek and the second of Ms. Atamian, the commission voted unanimously to open the public hearing.
The Chairman invited Ms. Benyei to present her application. She stated that she has lived at 29 Giles Hill for 45 years and has always operated a farm on the property which is 6.4 acres. She explained that she wishes to put a run-in shed in one of her existing pastures that will be similar to a run-shed in another pasture, and that she also wishes to put a lean-to addition on an existing barn to be used for storage. She then spoke about the farm, stating that it has been named a “Farm of Environmental Distinction”; that it has been used by the DEEP for stormwater management training, and that both UConn and Sacred Heart University send animal husbandry interns to train at the farm.
At this point, Mr. Lecher and Mr. Miyashiro arrived. Mr. Casiello seated Mr. Lecher, and also seated Mr. Miyashiro for Paul Scholl. He asked Ms. Benyei if she would be willing to recap what she had said and she again stated her request.
Ms. Benyei went on to explain that her horses are not in barns all day, but are turned out. She explained how she manages and rotates her pastures saying that she needs the new run-in shed to protect the horses from the elements. She then continued to explain the farm’s mission as her husband, who is a veterinarian, serves on a board at Norwalk Community College and uses the farm to train vet-techs in the NCC program. Ms. Benyei said she also works with three agricultural high schools in the state, and also with the Department of Agriculture on the study of tick-borne disease. She also stated that she has done programs for developmentally disabled children at the Easton Country Day School. She summed up her presentation by noting that she has planted 200 trees around the perimeter of the property, and also that she has a composting facility that provides compost to the town’s “Parade Path” garden.
The Chairman asked Ms. Benyei several questions. He asked if there would be power in either the shed or the addition. Ms. Benyei stated that there is power in the pasture to keep a stock tank from freezing but it would not be in the shed itself. She said there is electricity in the barn where the addition is proposed. Mr. Casiello asked if there would be an increase in the number of horses or an increase in usage and Ms. Benyei replied that there would not. Mr. Casiello noted that, under most circumstances, a barn addition and shed would have been handled by the Zoning Office but the application was before the commission since the property is a riding academy.
The Chairman reviewed correspondence received from the Redding Planning Commission and the Redding Health Department, both of which gave positive referrals. The Chairman then opened the meeting to public comment.
Jean Thompkins, of 326 Newtown Turnpike, spoke and showed three photos of the view of Ms. Benyei’s property from her property. She stated that she has lived at 326 Newtown Turnpike for 21 years and that, when she moved into her house, she understood that it was next to a working horse farm. She described Ms. Benyei as a good neighbor and a role model, and said that the property is kept looking wonderfully; she described it as a place of peace and beauty and expressed her support for the application.
Lisa Toppum spoke; she stated that she lives in Redding and boards a horse at Ms. Benyei’s farm. She said that the farm is clean, run professionally and that the property is gorgeous and the care of the animals excellent. She stated that she was present in support of Ms. Benyei’s application.
Ellen Louer, of 330 Newtown Turnpike, also spoke in support of Ms. Benyei’s application. She said that she has lived at 330 Newtown Turnpike for six years and that the back of her property borders Ms. Benyei’s farm. She said the farm is beautiful and that she’s never had any issues with smell. She said that she came in to the Zoning Office, reviewed the proposed plans, and stated that it seemed reasonable. She said she would rather have a farm on the property than any number of other things that could be there.
Brian Wasko, of 33 Giles Hill Road, spoke, stating that he lives just uphill from Ms. Benyei’s property. He said that he does not disparage the role of the farm, but he is concerned about his property value. He said that there are no trees between his property and Ms. Benyei’s and that there is no visual protection from the view of barns. He noted that another property in the area put up a ten stall barn that is attractive and he stated that he felt Ms. Benyei’s structures are not architecturally consistent with the remainder of the neighborhood. He said it seemed like there were too many structures for a small property, and also suggested that buildings should be positioned to be less visible.
Peter Burns, of 37 Giles Hill Road, stated that his concerns are the same as Mr. Wasko’s. He said that, at times, he can smell the manure but a larger concern is regarding the value of his real estate being impacted. He also stated that he felt the structures were not consistent with the area’s aesthetic.
Laurie Richardson, of 23 Giles Hill Road, noted that she has submitted a letter and pictures to the commission; she reviewed those materials. She said that the existing buildings are too close to the property lines and clustered in a manner that is not in harmony with the area. She said that she felt that to add more square footage of buildings to the property would make it overly dense. In reviewing the submitted photographs, she pointed out the buildings on Ms. Benyei’s property, and also a driveway that she noted is very close to her property. She asked several of the neighbors how many acres of land that they had, and noted that they all maintain them as open land and again stated her concern about the density of structures and intensity of use of Ms. Benyei’s property, and also the inconsistency of the use with the neighbor’s.
Hearing no further comments, the Chairman asked Ms. Benyei if she would like to respond. Ms. Benyei noted that her farm has been present since before any of the speakers lived in the area and she compared the comments to people complaining about an existing airport. She stated that she has installed a 6’ fence between her property and Ms. Richardson’s property, and she has also planted pine trees in the area that are now 20’ tall. Ms. Richardson replied that she could still see farm buildings. Ms. Benyei noted that the buildings on her property are well below the amount of building coverage allowed by the regulations, then stated that she did not think Mr. Wasko would be able to see either the addition or the new shed. She also noted that she has installed new trees to block the view of her composting facility which, she said, was the first DEEP approved facility of its kind in the state.
Ms. Richardson again expressed her concern about the intensity of the use. The Chairman noted that the building coverage is well below the 10% allowed by the regulations and that the number of horses is not increasing. He clarified with Ms. Richardson that the commission was not reviewing the property in totality, but that the subject of the hearing was the proposed barn addition and proposed run-in shed and noted that both meet the required setbacks.
The Chairman read into the record a letter from Elizabeth Jensen, of 63 Sport Hill Road, in support of Ms. Benyei’s application.
The Chairman then asked if there were any other questions or comments noting that no further comments could be accepted after the close of the public hearing. Hearing no further questions or comments, Ms. Atamian moved that the Public Hearing be closed. The motion was seconded by Mr. Ogonek and the commission voted unanimously to close the hearing at 8:10 p.m
Immediately following the public hearing, the commission held the regular meeting, with the same commissioners seated as for the public hearing.
- Approval of Minutes: regular meeting of January 13, 2016.
On the motion of Ms. Atamian, and the second of Mr. Ogonek, the commission voted unanimously to accept the minutes of the meeting of January 13, 2016.
- Application #2015-28Z – 29 Giles Hill Road (Map #31 & Lot #110), Owner/Applicant Candace Benyei. In accordance with Sections 4.2.3, 5.2, and 5.14 of the Redding Zoning Regulations, request for Site Plan Amendment for installation of a 22’ x 30’ run-in shed and a 14’ x 21’ single-story addition to an existing barn. Application received December 9, 2015; Public Hearing opened January 27, 2016. If hearing is closed, for discussion/action.
The Chairman reviewed why this application is before the commission, and directed the commissioners to the site plan approval standards in the regulations; he reviewed the standards point by point. Mr. Lecher asked about the materials from which the buildings would be made and Ms. Atamian pointed him to the plans within the application. The commissioners looked at the pictures submitted with Ms. Richardson’s letter, but the chairman noted that whether the buildings were visible was not an issue, but that they could discuss impact on real estate values and harmony with the surroundings. Mr. Lecher commented that, since some of the surrounding houses were constructed well after the farm was established, he did not think that the farm was later impacting values. Both Ms. Atamian and Mr. Ogonek suggested that the new buildings were consistent with what was present and the Chairman noted that the overall building coverage is well below what is allowed by the regulations.
Hearing no further discussion, Ms. Atamian moved that the commission approve application 2015-28Z. Mr. Ogonek seconded the motion and it was carried unanimously. The Chairman noted the approval, and also mentioned that there will be a fourteen day appeal period after publication of the approval.
- Application #2016-06Z – 43 Lonetown Road; Owner Town of Redding, Applicant Redding Historical Society. In accordance with Section 5.11.2 of the Redding Zoning Regulations, request for a Limited Duration Special Use Permit to hold the “Redding Rock and Roll Revival 2016” on Saturday, July 2, 2016 (rain date Sunday, July 3, 2016) from 3:00 p.m. to 9:45 p.m. Event previously held July 4, 2015. For discussion/Action.
The Chairman briefly reviewed the application noting that this event, which was new in 2015, was very well received by the community and that there had been no problems with the event. On the motion of Mr. Ogonek, and the second of Ms. Atamian, the commission voted unanimously to approve application 2016-06Z.
4. Discussion: There was a brief review of the application to be reviewed on February 24th for earth moving on Pine Mountain Road.
5. Communication: There was no discussion under this agenda item.
6. Adjournment: On the motion of Ms. Atamian and the second of Mr. Lecher, the commission voted unanimously to adjourn the meeting at 8:20 p.m.
Submitted by Aimee Pardee