Farmington Center Property Added to Blight List Is Subject of Lawsuit

Property owners filed suit against Town Plan and Zoning Commission a year ago; say they're hopeful development plan can go forward.

The blue tarp draped over the 820 Farmington Ave. property may not have been so bad, but a trailer covered in graffiti and waist-high grass were too much, members of the Town Council agreed Tuesday in putting the property on the town’s Blight List.

The property, along with land stretching to Canal Path with the jewelry and frame stores, is the subject of a lawsuit filed by property owner, 1 Waterville Road LLC, against the Town Plan and Zoning Commission a year ago.

Putting the property on the blighted building list has nothing to do with the suit, town officials said, at least not on the town’s side.

“Because he’s unhappy with TPZ he’s not going to maintain his property,” said Town Manager Kathy Eagen. “We had put off putting it on the blighted building list because we were hopeful we could work something out, but it’s becoming evident that’s not the case.”

Council members agreed.

“It’s right at the entrance to our town and to me it’s more than unsightly — it’s blighted,” said Town Council Chairman Mike Clark. “This is the reason for this ordinance and we have to make it very clear that we have a lot of pride in our town… we’ve tried to work with this owner.”

For each day the property remains in its current condition, owners are fined $100 a day. In addition, the town sent a cease and desist order on the trailer, which commands another $150 a day. 

But the owner filed a permit for some demolition work on the property and intends to use the trailer as a dumpster, which makes the trailer allowable until the demolition project is complete, Eagen said.

The original proposal for the 2.2 acres spanning from 1 and 2 Canal Path to 820 and 830 Farmington Ave. and 1 and 3 Waterville Road included demolishing the two buildings on Canal Path and adding retail and office space, including a bank.

Traffic concerns were the major reasons the zoning commission denied the application, said Town Planner Jeffrey Ollendorf.

“The suit is an effort to overturn the P&Z denial and allow them to construct the plan as denied,” Ollendorf said. He said they had been working with the plan’s developers, Reno Properties Group LLC, to make changes to the plan.

Since September 2010, the zoning commission has held executive sessions on the project, including one last week.

“My guess is we’ll huddle again at the end of the month,” Ollendorf said. “It was a 3-3 vote so it wasn’t overwhelmingly rejected.”

Dan Garofalo of Reno Properties Group wouldn’t say much about the plan or the property’s maintenance but said the company is interested in going ahead with the plan and he’d be freer to discuss the issue on Wednesday.

“We’re hopeful we can resolve it,” he said.

Cornelius (Neil) Lynch July 20, 2011 at 01:36 PM
TPZ: Good decision; Town Council: Good decision! Now, let's do something with the "gateway" to the Highlands where Knollwood Rd. spins off from Farmington Ave. (Note to Farmington school system: Have English teachers spend a little time having students learn difference between "its" and it's". I see that its--oops, I mean it's--a problem with some of those commenting in Farmington patch.)
Brian Dexter July 20, 2011 at 02:09 PM
This is one of the worst decisions TPZ has made. This IS the center of town with a four way traffic light intersection. Of course traffic can be handled here for this application. As to the "gateway" to the Highlands, sounds like you are an advocate for spot zoning. Also - let's not ridicule posters rudely here - stick to the story content, please. Be RESPECTFUL to Skip Mason...and others.
Keith Slater July 21, 2011 at 06:12 PM
Mr. Lynch, there's no need to bash someone for making a mistake. If everyone was perfect, the TPZ would have passed this project already.
Aileen Keays July 24, 2011 at 01:26 PM
I am sorry but I must disagree with the argument that this section of Rt. 4 could handle more traffic. As someone who sits in that traffic daily, it can not handle any more! I would certainly support further development in that area but the traffic on Rt. 4 needs to be better dealt with. When the town widened the bridge, why did they not add a lane on both side of Rt. 4? Does anyone know?! Seems like a waste to not do it right the first time.
Gerald J Burkland May 19, 2012 at 12:05 PM
These homes were built in the Middle 1600,s and are National Treasures and should be treated as such!!


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