Court dismisses challenge to Trumbull senior housing development

Photo of Amanda Cuda
The plan to build a senior housing complex at 48 Monroe Turnpike has cleared another hurdle, as a judge trial referee has dismissed an appeal of an Inland Wetlands Commission approval that would have allowed the project to move forward.

The plan to build a senior housing complex at 48 Monroe Turnpike has cleared another hurdle, as a judge trial referee has dismissed an appeal of an Inland Wetlands Commission approval that would have allowed the project to move forward.

Donald Eng / Hearst Connecticut Media file photo

TRUMBULL — The plan to build a 55-and-older complex at 48 Monroe Turnpike has cleared another hurdle, as a judge trial referee has dismissed an appeal of an Inland Wetlands Commission approval.

Converting the Monroe Turnpike property — formerly the site of the regional headquarters of United Healthcare — into a senior living and adult care community is a plan that has been in the works since 2018, since the property was sold to local developers. However, the project has faced multiple legal challenges from both by the owners of the adjacent Home Depot property, and three residents of the nearby Woodland Hills condominiums.

The case, filed in the Superior Court of the Judicial District of Fairfield in Bridgeport, was brought by Old Mine Associates LLC, which owns the Home Depot property, and sought to appeal a decision made last July by the Inland Wetlands Commission, involving detention basins and paved access driveways on the Monroe Turnpike property.

Though there is one more appeal pending regarding the project, the recent decision is good news for the project, said Trumbull economic and community development director Rina Bakalar.

“The project is important to the town from many perspectives,” Bakalar said. “It adds housing and services for seniors. It reuses a 250,000-square-foot obsolete building. It add millions in tax revenue. It brings more people to the area to support the businesses and it is more environmentally sensitive than the current configuration. Win, win, win, win.”

According to the decision, which was issued May 5 by Judge Dale Radcliffe, “there are two man-made drainage areas, and the Pequonnock River flows alongside the parcel. The application sought to remediate two detention basins, and to repair the paved access driveways. No new activities within the upland review area were contemplated ... and the activities would have no impact upon the Pequonnock River.”

The original Inland Wetlands decision last July involved three wetland areas on the 17.6 acre land parcel.

The application appeared on the agenda of the commission’s June 1 meeting before being approved at the July 6 meeting. On August 18 2021, Joel Green, attorney for Old Mine Associates, brought a complaint stating that “the Decision was not in accordance with and pursuant to the procedures, standards and requirements set forth in the Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Regulations of the Town of Trumbull and in the Connecticut General Statutes.”

The complaint alleged, among other things, that no notice was given to the plaintiff about either of the meetings discussing the application.

The commission moved to dismiss this appeal, claiming “lack of subject matter jurisdiction.” The commission also argued that the appeal wasn’t filed within 15 days of the decision being published in the Trumbull Times, which is a violation of General Statutes.

The plaintiff argued that the window to file the appeal was extended because of another statute stating that the deadline could be extended up to a year if “a board fails to comply with a requirement of a general or special law, ordinance or regulation governing the content, giving, mailing, publishing, filing or recording of any notice either of a hearing or of an act taken by the board.”

But Radcliffe ultimately dismissed the appeal.

“This claim, although creative and ingenious, is not persuasive,” the decision read. “No provision of the General Statutes requires a municipal wetlands authority to provide notice, actual or constructive, of its intent to issue a wetland permit without conducting a public hearing.”

Trumbull Town Attorney James Nugent claimed in an email that “there is no justifiable reason for these many appeals to have been filed.”

He said this is the second appeal filed on the application. A third appeal is scheduled for a hearing next month.

“This is an excellent project for the Town, and it has been delayed for an excessive period of time for no good reason,” Nugent said.