Milford attorney seeks change to city’s site plan review process

Milford City Hall, Spring 2021

Milford City Hall, Spring 2021

Hearst Connecticut Media

MILFORD — Attorney Kevin Curseaden has shepherded numerous applicants interested in developing land through the city’s zoning process. What he has learned is that it’s time to change that process.

Curseaden has filed regulation changes to the Planning and Zoning Board to, he says, make the site plan review procedures more efficient. The P&Z board opened a public hearing on the proposal at its meeting Tuesday and has referred the revisions to its regulations subcommittee.

“I was looking at this from an organizational perspective, and what the organization could do to change,” Curseaden said at the hearing. “It’s not directed in an individual.”

He added that the regulatory process was daunting.

“I think the bureaucratic, just the regulatory process, in general, wears you down,” he said. “In looking at this and representing clients who, for a lot of them, time is money. They submit an application, Mr. (David) Sulkis makes his review comments, and you don’t hear the client for two or three months because something changed, they have to find funding, or their design professionals are busy.”

Many of the clients he works with would ask him why the review process is so lengthy, Curseaden said. State statutes specify a timeline for reviews, he said.

“It’s 65 days on a site plan from the time the applications are filed until you are supposed to have a decision on it, otherwise, the application is automatically approved, as long as it is just a site plan, and it doesn’t have a special permit or some other aspect attached to it,” he said.

Sulkis said he follows the facts where they go, and he does not discriminate against the applicants, but he demands they follow regulations.

“There are people who don’t like that,” Sulkis said. “There are people who are used to submitting applications in a particular way before I was here, basically on a napkin, that got approved.”

Curseaden explained applications are not considered filed until Sulkis, the city planner or reviewer, certifies them as complete.

“That’s one critical thing the board might want to consider and talk about,” he said.

Board member Etan Hirsch questioned what was driving the move to change the regulations.

“I’ve heard nothing to say that the causes are anything but your clients,” Hirsch said.

Curseaden replied that not getting comments back in a timely manner affected everyone, regardless of who their clients are.

Sulkis said he had received positive feedback about Milford’s submission process.

“I’ve been told by long experienced attorneys who work all the state, it’s a little unusual the way we do it, but they like it because it’s faster,” he said. “I always tell people is my job is to work with you to make you bulletproof. How do we make it bulletproof? We make sure we have a zoning-compliant application. You can call it a pre-application, but I work with them to make sure by the time we get an application to you (the board), you can approve it.”