Bias At The Zoning Board Of Appeals? It’s Like Claude Rains In Casablanca Shocked to Find Gambling At Rick’s

Following Monday night’s Zoning Board of Appeals meeting, several people wandered by Gaffney’s restaurant on Caroline Street at about 11:00.   Looking in the window they saw Gary Hasbrouck, a member of the Zoning Board of Appeals, drinking with Sonny Bonacio and Richard Higgins.  Only a short time before the  three of them had been sitting at the Council table with Hasbrouck on the side among the other ZBA members and Bonacio and Higgins facing them.

If you watch the video of the meeting you can observe Mr. Hasbrouck’s performance.  He told the other members of the board that he had originally had reservations about the project due to the potential impact that the project might have on the availability of street parking.  He went on to say that he made multiple visits on different days and different hours in the neighborhood and was now sure that there was ample parking for the project indicating his support for the proposal.

Mr. Hasbrouck owns and operates Loudon Oaks which appears to be a trailer park in Wilton.  Here is a link to his Facebook page.  Link to his Facebook Page

Mr. Hasbrouck is not unique in terms of his close relationship with the development community as regards our land use boards.  The extraordinary bias of these boards on behalf of developers is common knowledge to anyone that has dealt with them.

Every member of the City Council is fully aware of this.  They know that Scott Johnson stacked these boards.  I have had conversations with the majority of the council who have lamented to me privately about the situation but in public continue the charade that these boards are a source of fair and independent evaluations of projects.

I am still working on a review of the full meeting which I will publish shortly.

13 thoughts on “Bias At The Zoning Board Of Appeals? It’s Like Claude Rains In Casablanca Shocked to Find Gambling At Rick’s”

      1. so would openings occur only if and when someone decided to step down? There must be a process for removing someone with a conflict of interest, no?

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  1. I’m not necessarily suggesting that anyone start a process in regard to one person in particular. But definitely, no board member should have the feeling that since (if) they’re connected they should be able to act arbitrarily or with a contempt for the public. And certainly, board members should know that everyone is accountable and replaceable. I think that’s the way civic leadership is supposed to work.

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  2. It’s a difficult process. Appointed members to land boards will most always have petitions before them whose applicants are not only members of the community but who they will personally know. It is the responsibility of the chair and the learned support staff to review these applications accordingly – outlining and assessing the merits or not, of each petition and providing their review as a guide. One’s good taste and opinions have less merit than good design or adherence to the rule of zoning law. In some cases, these panels have found themselves in the positions of asking for too much irrelevant information and over reaching their powers of authority vested in the City Code. The city’s own oversight staff should recognize when this happens and provide guidance for future applications. Hardship for instance, is only to be heard at the ZBA not the DRC.

    Concerns regarding recusal are not new, but they should be addressed to both the chair, and or the mayor with concise reasons and supporting evidence. Simply knowing someone is not a litmus. In a perfect world, these community members should also not be put in the position of ‘helping’ an applicant attain approvals if the application is not complete or if it does not reach the level of acceptance by both the tenants of zoning or the published guidelines prescribed by the city. In other words, they don’t have to be the ‘bad guys’ if the effort is denied, they are only the messengers. Notwithstanding, the applicants and their agents will always try to prepare for all responses, having first reviewed their application with city staff. The wild card will always be that new information that is clearly brought to the review table (from the public ranks of the Council Chamber) that will require deliberation. Zoning most always is about neighborhoods and their feedback while Design Review is most always about adherence to the city’s published guidelines promulgated from State and Federal standards. They are thankless jobs, not for the faint at heart.

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