Neighbors appeal two-family house in Milford

The single family house at 17 Maddox Ave., which has now been demolished.

The single family house at 17 Maddox Ave., which has now been demolished.

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MILFORD — An unpushed “Record” button means that the Zoning Board of Appeals will re-hear an appeal against construction of a two-family house on Maddox Ave. The board has scheduled a special meeting at 7 p.m. on Dec. 17 to continue a public hearing on the appeal. The Planning and Zoning Board unanimously approved the plans Aug. 18

Attorney Max Case, who filed the appeal on behalf of two neighbors, Robert McCloud of Scott St. and Evdoxia Picarazzi of Maddox Ave., has also filed suit in Superior Court seeking to overturn the approval.

“The board had no basis upon which to approve coastal site plan review that would permit the construction of a two family house in a single family zone,” Case wrote in his appeal. “As such, the decision of the board was contrary and inconsistent with Milford Zoning Regulations.”

Controversy erupted at the ZBA’s previous hearing on the matter Dec. 8 when Case was wrapping up his presentation. That was when Zoning Enforcement Officer Stephen Harris informed the board that the Record button on the Zoom meeting had not been pushed. Harris recommended the board rehear Case’s presentation at the board’s next regularly scheduled meeting, which would be Jan. 12, 2021. Case was already nearly an hour into his presentation when Harris noticed the error.

Picarazzi protested the idea.

“How is that fair to us? How is that he is allowed to build a two-family house in a one family zone,” he said. “It’s not fair to put us off.”

In response, ZBA Chairman Joseph A. Tuozzola, Sr. said there simply wasn’t enough time that evening to restart the presentation. The board then voted unanimously to table the hearing until Jan. 12. Following further discussion, Case was asked if he could summarize his presentation in about 10 minutes to allow the board to make a decision that evening.

In response, Case said, “I need to create a record. I can’t do in 10 minutes.”

The discussion concluded with the board voting to schedule a public hearing on Thursday, Dec. 17 at 7 p.m.

The two family house is intended to replace two individual single-family houses on the property. The new house will have parking under the elevated house.

Ish Anand of AR Housing LLC is having the new house constructed. AR Housing lists Ish Anand and Sachin Anand of Orange as members. Sachin purchased the 0.11-acre property on March 1, 2019 for $125,000. The Anands demolished the two three-bedroom houses that had been on the property, a 954 sq. ft. two-story house from 1920 facing Maddox Avenue and a 943 sq. ft. one-story bungalow fro 1930 facing Scott Street.

Case said having a two family house in an R-5 zone is a non-conforming use. He said that in an April 22 email, Harris wrote to Griffith to state that this was an increase in a non-conforming use, which required a ZBA permit.

“We didn’t learn about this email until Nov. 24. What is the reason for the delay?” asked Case. He said he filed a Freedom of Information request on Oct. 19 after he made repeated requests for copies of emails, requests that the city did not fulfill.

Case said he asked the board to conduct a public hearing on the Anands’ application, saying the board had agreed to conduct a public hearing on a proposed project at 125 Broad St., neither of which was a required public hearing. He said that board chairman Jim Quish had an opinion from the city attorney that conducting a public hearing was permissible, but that Quish denied the request.

“I think it will become a slippery slope if we keep allowing public hearings,” said Quish at the Aug. 18 meeting.

Case said non-conforming uses can continue, provided the zoning enforcement officer issues a certificate of zoning compliance. He said there is no certificate in the file, so the two family house could only be built if the board changed the zoning regulations, following a public hearing.

“There’s no provision in the zoning regulations for this provision to be sidestepped, to be eliminated, but that’s exactly what happened when Mr. Griffith sent the April 22 email to Mr. Harris,” said Case. In that email, Griffith wrote that this project continues the existing non-conforming use of two dwellings on the property.

Commenting on the emails, Harris said, they often have internal discussions in the office about what certain zoning regulations mean, and said the director has final say on what the regulations mean.

“The final decision was that this was a legal non-conforming use,” said Harris. “There was no expansion of that legal non-conforming use.”