ZBA denies Naugatuck Avenue recycling plant appeal

The Zoning Board of Appeals recently denied reopening a recycling facility at 990 Naugatuck Avenue, stating that the prior use of the property had been abandoned.

City Zoning Enforcement Officer Stephen Harris issued a certificate of zoning compliance on May 22 to allow a “limited processing recycling facility,” and then revoked it on July 14, when he learned that the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) revoked Recycling Inc.’s permit to construct a volume reduction facility on the property. It was Harris’ decision to revoke the certificate of zoning compliance that The Housatonic Terminal had sought to appeal through the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA).

The certificate of zoning compliance would have allowed the company to “receive, store, and process only recyclable materials in accordance with the limits of the DEEP permit” of Aug. 16, 2010 that has since been revoked.

At a July 14 ZBA meeting, Attorney Brian Stone of the Pellegrino Law Firm asked the board to overturn the decision by Harris and grant the certificate to the Housatonic Terminal LLC, which Stone was representing. Stone said the certificate is necessary to reestablish non-conforming use of the property.

In response, Harris told the ZBA that he revoked the certificate because he learned that the DEEP had revoked the certificate in 2014 for Recycling Inc. to operate a recycling facility.

Joseph Barrett, who is listed as the member and agent of the LLC, told the board that he held a mortgage on the property and regained ownership from Recycling Inc. through foreclosure and forbearance.

The application for the CZC stated that Housatonic Terminal LLC has a contract to purchase the property from Recycling Inc., and that Joseph Barrett is the sole member of the LLC and has, along with other family members, owned the parcel since 1955, until the sale to Recycling Inc. on Oct. 22, 2008.
Barrett family
According to the application, Barrett has operated a variety of businesses, including salvaging and recycling, heavy trucking, manufacturing, owning and maintaining heavy equipment, and selling light and heavy oil and asphalt.

The application was challenging a July 16, 2009 regulation change by the P&Z, which prohibited waste processing, construction demolition debris storage and processing, recycling plants, and volume reduction facilities in the Housatonic Design District (HDD) along the Housatonic River. The application states, “The Barrett family never had any intent to abandon the above uses.”

According to the Connecticut Secretary of State’s Office, the Housatonic Terminal Corporation was registered on May 11, 1955, and the last year it filed with the state was in 1985. The state records list that corporation as “dissolved.” It listed Edgar W. Bassick III of Bridgeport as the agent.

The state has Housatonic Terminal LLC listed as registered on Dec. 19, 2014, with Joseph Barrett of 150 Johnson Lane, Stratford, listed as the agent.

Gus Curcio Sr. of Stratford is listed as Recycling Inc.’s president, vice president, secretary, treasurer and director.
State Legal Proceedings
Janice Deshais, hearing officer for the DEEP, conducted a hearing in 2014 and issued a 45-page finding on Aug. 25, 2014, in which she recommended the DEEP revoke the permit for Recycling Inc. because the application did not identify Curcio as being associated with the company. DEEP regulations require that officers and stockholders be listed on a permit application.

The DEEP had concerns about Curcio’s involvement with the company, in part due to enforcement action it took against him and his son Gus Curcio Jr. for operating a waste processing facility at 990 Naugatuck Avenue in 2007 without a permit.

According to the DEEP hearing, Darlene Chapdelaine of Eastford prepared the application in 2008, and listed James Barrett as RCI’s stockholder and sole corporate officer, an application that he signed.

Chapdelaine operated the company from 2009 to 2012 under Curcio’s direction, while simultaneously asserting she was the sole owner. However, in 2012 Curcio took civil action and asserted his ownership of the company.

In the decision, Deshais wrote, “RCI’s myriad representations, falsehoods and inaccuracies, the histories of non-compliance of Curcio and RCI, including RCI’s failure to submit correct and complete quarterly reports, evidence a pattern or practice of non-compliance, which demonstrates RCI’s unwillingness or inability to achieve and maintain compliance with terms of a permit that might be issued and the terms of the existing general permit.”

Following an appeal from Recycling Inc., DEEP Deputy Commissioner Susan K. Whalen reviewed the evidence, and on Feb. 5, 2015 supported Deshais’ decision.

Whalen issued a final 16-page decision to deny Recycling Inc.’s permit application and revoke its general permit registration. In her report, Whalen wrote, “RCI submitted false, incomplete, and incorrect information in its permit application and in its application to register under the general permit.”
Latest action
At the Sept. 8 ZBA meeting, Stone addressed the board, telling members that Joseph Barrett and James Barrett were involved in the prior use of the property as a salvage operation.

According to minutes from the meeting, Stone described the history of the property as a recycling/salvage facility and said the Barretts want to use the property in the same manner again. He acknowledged a lapse in the recycling/salvage use for about 10 years in the late 1990s into the early 2000s.

Stone said that in 2006 the property was leased to Recycling, Inc.

Stone said the primary aim of his presentation was to establish that a valid nonconforming use of salvage and recycling has been in effect in some form since 1955.

Joseph Barrett said he retired in the mid-1980s, but his younger brother ran the operation from 1994 to 1995. James Richard Barrett of Bethel said he is Joseph Barrett’s nephew and he described growing up working in the family business. According to meeting minutes, he described helping to unload and sort the materials from demolitions.

Zoning Enforcement Officer Harris addressed the board and said that when someone makes a claim of a nonconforming use, the burden is on the user to prove the use existed. According to detailed meeting minutes, he said the claimant also had the burden to show that all efforts were being made to continue the use. He referred to the regulatory requirement of Section 6.2.7 to continue the uses. He read the regulation on abandonment and said it was the city’s position that the use had been abandoned. He said no evidence had been submitted showing an effort to continue the use, such as advertising, as required by the regulation, minutes from the meeting state.

Attorney Amy Souchin of Hurwitz, Sagarin, Slossberg and Knuff said there is no valid legal ability for an applicant to operate a recycling facility at 990 Naugatuck Avenue. She also said a judgment of foreclosure existed on the property based on back taxes of $345,000 due early next year, or the city will take ownership of the property.

Joseph Tuozzola, ZBA chairman, closed the hearing after saying that the operation was extensive at one time, but felt there was little proof of operation after 1995. The board voted to uphold the ZEO’s decision and deny the appeal.