STAMFORD, Conn. — To the dismay of about 100 people, a lengthy legal opinion and a full agenda forced the Zoning Board to delay its decision on a hotel proposed for Stamford’s South End for another few weeks so it can continue the public hearing process.
Harbor Point went to the board to ask for architectural changes to the plan, which was originally approved in 2008. But the Downtown Special Services District has recently contested the project because zoning regulations do not allow full hotels to be built anywhere except in the downtown area.
“The board without question made a mistake,” board member Audrey Cosentini said about the original approval during Monday’s public hearing.
John Freeman, executive vice president of Building and Land Technology, which developed Harbor Point, said boards are not allowed to reverse decisions after the 15-day appeal period. He said the hotel does not violate the regulation because, with 124 rooms, it is small enough to qualify as a “boutique hotel,” rather than a full-service hotel.
“How could any property owner know when any approval is good?” Freeman said, questioning how the board could reverse its decision from several years ago.
Michael Cacace, the attorney representing the downtown district, disagreed, citing several cases in which the state upheld decisions made by cities to reverse approvals to maintain regulations.
“It’s pure and unadulterated poppycock,” Cacace said of Freeman’s opinion that the approval can’t be reversed.
The Stamford attorney also said that because the hotel would have a ballroom, it would not be a smaller “boutique hotel,” as Freeman said. Cacace also said that because of the proposed changes to the hotel — which include making portions of the building seven stories higher and moving the ballroom from the second floor to the ground level — it is a whole new proposal.
The public hearing will continue Monday, Jan. 30, at 7 p.m. in the cafeteria of the Government Center. It will be the only item on the agenda, said Tom Mills, chairman of the board.