By Andreas Yilma, Staff Writer
BEACON FALLS — A clerical error in 2017 sparked a chaotic debate Feb. 11 over a proposed housing development in town.
Hopp Brook Developers, LLC, which is based in Shelton, wants to build 109 three-bedroom homes on a 135-acre, undeveloped parcel of land it owns off Oakwood Drive near the Bethany border. The project is dubbed Hopp Brook Estates. Forty acres of the land would be designated for open space.
Some residents have raised concerns about the proposed development, namely how the new homes and residents could strain town services, and the town’s educational costs could increase if an influx of families with children move into town.
In 2017, the Planning and Zoning Commission approved changing the zone of the land from Residential 1 to a Planned Residential Open Space District. The legal notice announcing the change in 2017 incorrectly stated the area for the change as Burton Road and Fairfield Place instead of Oakwood Drive, according to officials.
Last September, Hopp Brook Developers submitted two new applications — one for the zone change and another for a special exception for the project. Developments within a Planned Residential Open Space District require approval for a special exception.
The commission held hearings on the applications last Thursday. Over 80 people logged into the virtual meeting, many were members of the public signed in to oppose the project.
Ultimately, nothing was resolved after more than two and a half hours of often heated discussion.
Stephen Bellis, an attorney and principal with Hopp Brook Developers, said the hearing for the zone change was only due to the clerical error made in 2017.
Commission Chairman Don Molleur said Hopp Brook Developers submitted a new application to mirror the one from 2017 and correct the publication of approval. He said the purpose of the application is to amend the legal notice and approve the application, so the new application number will supersede the old one and become a legal document with no changes to the stimulations of agreement.
“This new application does not null and void the original application. The zone change stays in place. It’s been approved by the town. We can’t unapprove it,” Molleur said.
Attorney Barbara Schellenberg, a land use lawyer for the town, said when the commission approved the change in 2017 it wasn’t confused about the property.
“The commission did not make a mistake. It was the clerk who made an administrative mistake,” she said. “This really doesn’t fall on the commission back in 2017. They knew which property they were dealing with. They made their decision based on proper information.”
The commission has several different members, including the chairman, now.
Residents expressed frustration about the commission holding a hearing on the zone change if it can’t be changed and why it took months to address the clerical mistake.
Some members of the public questioned whether the commission can simply deny the zone change application.
Schellenberg said a clerical error is not a basis to now deny the application.
The commission closed the hearing on the zone change application, but when Molleur called for a motion to approve it no one moved the motion. The commission tabled the matter and is expected to discuss it at its Feb. 18 meeting.
Without the notice of the zone change approval, the hearing for the special exemption can’t move forward. The commission opened the hearing for the special exemption and tabled it. It’s unclear when it will be held.