Darien residents file lawsuit against town, developer over controversial Parklands project approval

DARIEN — Several residents who live near a major redevelopment project in town have filed a lawsuit against the Darien Planning and Zoning Commission and are seeking a restraining order to halt the project from moving forward.

In February, the Planning and Zoning Commission approved the redevelopment of a mostly vacant office park at 3 Parklands Drive to a multi-residential complex by a 3-2 vote, ending a contentious decision process that spanned months.

Now, six residents whose properties abut the site of the proposed redevelopment have filed a lawsuit aiming to rescind that decision.

The lawsuit, filed in state Superior Court in Stamford on Monday, names as defendants both the town Planning and Zoning Commission and Parklands Darien LLC, the owner of the office park.

The town attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment but attorney William Hennessey — who is representing the Parklands project — said he was confident the commission’s decision would be upheld by the court.

“We were pleased with the Planning and Zoning Commission’s decision and believe it was considered and completely appropriate,” Hennessey said in a statement.

Parklands LLC is owned by developer Bob Gillon, who previously said he considered pushing a much larger complex through under the state’s 8-30g statute had the 60-unit complex been denied. An 8-30g housing development carries much less stringent requirements than a regular development.

Residents and plaintiffs Sandra and Thomas Conway, Pamela Maffucci, Margaret Conrad, Trisha Charland and Manohar Pasumarti are alleging that the commission acted “unlawfully, arbitrarily, capriciously ... in abuse of its discretion and exceeded its authority” in approving the redevelopment project.

“The Plaintiffs are aggrieved by the decision of the Commission as they own the real property that either abuts or is within a radius of 100 feet of any portion of the land involved in the decision of the Commission,” the lawsuit states.

Residents are alleging, among other reasons, that the size and height of the building along with the screening and lighting on the grounds hinders development on neighboring properties as well as impairing their value, according to the lawsuit.

The complex would include 60 apartments, encompassing studios, one-bedroom and two-bedroom units.

Residents allege the project fails to comply with Darien’s zoning regulations, the nearby streets cannot adequately accommodate the volume of traffic, and “no consideration” was given to the protection of the nearby nature preserves, Selleck’s Woods and Dunlap Woods.

Residents also claim that one or more members of the commission had a conflict of interest, though the lawsuit does not name which member or members it is referring to.

They are asking the court to determine that the zoning commission acted “illegally” and to declare its Feb. 15 approval as invalid.

Residents also ask the court to, “if needed, issue a restraining order ... against Co-defendants Parklands Darien, LLC and its contractors prohibiting them from conducting any construction at the Property based on the Commission’s February actions until such time as this appeal is finally resolved,” according to the lawsuit.

The Planning and Zoning Commission and the Parklands developer have until May 3 to file an appearance with the court, according to court documents.

raga.justin@hearst.com