Commission denies special permits for farm stand

The Prospect Planning and Zoning Commissioned denied two special permits for a farm stand off of Straitsville Road Wednesday night. Whitney, seen above, and Christopher Caporaso, who operate a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) on the site, applied for the permits. –FILE PHOTO

PROSPECT — The Planning and Zoning Commission voted unanimously this week to deny two special permits for a farm stand off of Straitsville Road on the corner of Porter Hill Road.

At the Feb. 1 meeting, commission members cited a dangerous traffic situation coming out of the property’s driveway as their main reason for denying the application.

According to expert testimony presented during the public hearing last month, the line of sight coming out of the proposed parking lot is 125 feet, which is less than the 150 feet required in Prospect’s zoning regulations.

Tony Cretella of Collision Analysis and Reconstruction Services testified at the public hearing that the short sight line would mean that cars going slightly over the speed limit would not have time to stop before hitting another car coming out of the driveway.

Besides the sight line, the commission also cited testimony from a real estate appraiser contending that the proposed farm stand would lower property values for surrounding properties and negatively impact the character of the neighborhood.

Commissioners also mentioned that the farm owners have not complied with their original special permit, which required the construction of a fence or other barrier to screen between the farm and a neighboring property.

“They have not kept up their end of the bargain,” Commission Chair Gil Graveline said.

The 1.7 acre property is owned by Whitney and Christopher Caporaso. The couple operates a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) on the site, wherein members purchase a share of the farm pre-season and pick up a box of produce each week during the growing season. Some of those members picked up their shares on the farm until Land Use Inspector Bill Donovan issued a cease-and-desist order in August. The town asserts that the Caporasos violated their special permit issued in 2008 which specified that produce would be taken off-site for sale.

The cease-and-desist order prompted the Caporasos to apply for a new special permit and an amendment to their original special permit to allow for retail sales on their farm.

The commission’s denial of the special permit means the Caporasos will continue their fight against the Zoning Board of Appeal’s October ruling to uphold the cease-and-desist order in court. The Caporasos argue that their CSA does not qualify as retail sales since CSA members assume the risks inherent in the agricultural process.

Whitney Caporaso could not be reached for comment as of this post.

According to Donovan, the town’s lawyer is finalizing paperwork to submit to Waterbury Superior Court before the case will be heard. The court has not yet set a date for a hearing.