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2002-11-23
Windham, CT. Home Depot voted down--- but given a second chance.

Never underestimate the power of intimidation. On November 7th, the Planning and Zoning Commission in Windham, Connecticut voted 3-2 to reject a 115,000 s.f. Home Depot proposed for Route 6. End of case? No way. The P&Z was concerned about the impact of blasting on the water table for nearby homeowners, and the impact of a big box store on an Atlantic White Cedar Bog. During the hearing, one Commission member said: "I wouldn't be in favor even if there was another site. I've heard too many stories of big boxes moving in and destroying the character of the community." Home Depot's lawyers said these comments were inappropriate, making it obvious that these remarks could have legal ramifications for the company.(There is nothing wrong about mentioning impact on the 'character' of a community.) The Windham Chronical jumped on the comment also, and criticized the Board member for bringing up the impact on local businesses, rather than the environmental issues. The newspaper also suggested that the vote was anti-business, and asked if Windham could afford not to welcome in Home Depot? The P&Z Chairman subsequently announced that his Commission had discovered several "technical errors" in their review process, and they were putting Home Depot back on the agenda, giving them a second bite at the apple. The Commission said it had not properly addressed an anti-Home Depot petition from Joshua's Trust, which owns the Cedar Bog, the "possibly inappropriate" comments of one board member, and the failure of some Commmission members to listen to tapes from meetings at which they were absent.So on November 21, the P&Z voted 4-1 to give Home Depot a second try. The Commmission has scheduled the next hearing for December 19th.

What you can do: It seems from the outside that this P&Z process in Windham has been sloppy and confusing. This confusion has worked to Home Depot's advantage, and against the neighbors. In most cases, if local officials take a vote, and the developer doesn't like it, the issue could wind up in court. But here, lobbying from Home Depot has clearly unnerved some town officials, who are willing to give a second hearing for what shouldn't have had a first shot. Would the P&Z have reconsidered this case if the vote had been FOR Home Depot, and citizens complained? This case is just another example of how the threat of litigation works wonders for a developer. Now it may be the citizens or Joshua's Trust that have to take the city to court. And I'll bet you a bog that the P&Z vote will shift in the Home Depot's favor.










 
 
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