by Jarret Liotta
((This story has been updated with additional comments))
WESTPORT — Several people in the Hiawatha Lane neighborhood have filed a verified complaint in Superior Court against developer Summit Saugatuck LLC, claiming the approved 157-unit development at the end of Hiawatha Lane Extension will “irreparably harm” them through increased traffic, impeded roadways and related health & safety risks.
In July the town reached a settlement with the developer, Summit Saugatuck LLC, after years of trying to stop the project.
According to the complaint, which was filed by three Hiawatha Lane residents — Christopher Gazzelli, Selma Miriam, and Leslie Ogilvy — the lots on which their homes were built, along with others in the neighborhood, “were all conveyed subject to the covenant, condition and restriction that only a one-family house shall be erected on each of said Lots.”
In short, the complaints said that the development is a violation of a one-family house restriction that’s “part of a common uniform development plan” which dates back to 1954.
“This new lawsuit is a reckless, baseless action that should be promptly dismissed,” was the only comment from Summit’s attorney Timothy Hollister on Friday morning.
“Neither the town of Westport nor the Planning and Zoning Commission are parties to this suit,” said Ira Bloom, Westport’s town attorney.
He noted, however, that private deed restrictions were beyond the authority of the town and that the issue would need to be decided by the court.
“The settlement stipulation approved by the P&Z in July remains in effect,” he said. “This new lawsuit by the Hiawatha homeowners is based upon older deed restrictions limiting properties to single-family homes.
“In fact, these deed restrictions were mentioned at the P&Z hearings,” he continued, “but the P&Z was advised that it had no authority over any such private restrictions.”
“This new private deed restriction will be decided in court at a future date,” Bloom said.
P&Z Chair Danielle Dobin said she had no further comment beyond Bloom’s remarks, noting he was commenting on behalf of the town.
The complaint goes on to identify Hiawatha Lane as “a narrow and winding road that is part of a network of other narrows streets, which network has only a single point of ingress and egress” onto Saugatuck Avenue.
“If not enjoined the Proposed Development shall violate the One-Family House Restriction to which the Summit Property is subject, and of which the Plaintiffs are beneficiaries as owners of lots that are part of a common uniform development plan,” the complaints says.
Along with reducing property value, the complaint says the development will impinge on health and safety through increased traffic, including service and construction vehicles, and “exacerbate existing traffic congestion and circulation problems.”
“Greater numbers of vehicles using Hiawatha Lane for on-street parking shall reduce on-street parking available for use by the Plaintiffs (and others) … and shall further narrow the roadway and impede traffic flow, creating further inconveniences to Plaintiffs and creating risks to their health and safety by impeding or preventing safe and efficient access by emergency responders,” the complaint says.