WINSTED — More than a year after Educated Canines Assisting with Disabilities (ECAD) submitted a special permit application, and four months after a public hearing on the application was opened by the town’s Planning and Zoning Commission, the commission finally closed the hearing on Monday, April 26.
The mission of the nonprofit organization is to train dogs to help people with disabilities.
The special permit, if approved, would allow ECAD to construct a 7,100 square-foot building that would be used as a kennel and an office space.
In the special permit application, a representative from ECAD wrote that the project is Phase 3 of a site plan that was previously approved in April 2016.
However, during several commission meetings, residents who neighbor ECAD’s property have strongly come out against the organization’s plan to expand.
Meanwhile, in a previous interview with The Winsted Phoenix, Dale Picard threatened to take legal action against the town if the special permit is not approved.
At the April 26 public hearing, project engineer Jason Dismukes said that, as requested by the commission, ECAD went to the Inland Wetlands Commission and received approval for widening a driveway on the property where a culvert exists.
“We already received their approval to widen to the 20-foot minimum that is required everywhere else, except where the culvert was,” Dismukes. “One of the hang-ups was a percent impervious [on the driveways], which we resolved by increasing the amount of permeable pavement on the site.”
Architect Mike Boe, representing ECAD, proceeded to speak about the overall proposed project and encouraged the commission to approve the special permit.
“We believe that the proposal for this new kennel will be in harmony [with town regulations] and is appropriate [for the site and area],” Boe said. “The building is adjacent to the existing training facility and will not be viewable from Newfield Road.”
Later on in the meeting, just as in previous meetings, residents who own neighboring properties criticized ECAD’s plans.
Attorney Robert Fisher, a partner in Cramer & Anderson of Washington Depot, spoke on behalf of Dan and Amy Reeve who own property neighboring ECAD’s location.
“We’ve heard a lot in previous public sessions about the driveway, runoff, and a lot of things, but I have not heard a single word from the applicant or his team about the plan of conservation and development, which describes this part of Winchester as rural and residential,” Fisher said. “Your regulations say that this area is rolling wooded hills with low intensity. Section F in your regulations say that maintaining the natural and low-density character of these areas is the focus of these districts.”
Fisher said that the commission is required to consider the plan of conservation and development when it is reviewing any applications.
“What is being proposed here would be suitable in a commercial or industrial zone, but not a residential zone,” Fisher said.
ECAD is located in a Rural Residential Zone.
Neighboring property owner Amy Reeve also spoke at the meeting.
“With respect to the most recent newspaper article indicating that all of the decisions have been made out of emotion and fear, I would just like to interject my personal experience,” Reeve said. “A phone call was placed to my husband’s employer the morning following a Planning and Zoning Commission meeting. The call was placed to file a formal complaint against my husband for making a clarification at a public hearing. I consider that to be a fear and intimidation tactic directly. I consider it to be way out of line. And I am sorry, but my family takes that very personally. None of us neighbors has ever threatened ECAD in any way, shape or form, by calling the police, or publishing threats of lawsuits in newspaper articles. That is the kind of treatment we are subjected to from this organization, and it’s wrong.”
“Those are issues that are beyond anything this commission can deal with,” Chairman George Closson said.
In the end, after the public hearing was closed, the board voted to consider deciding on the special permit application on Monday, May 10.