Suit To Stop Town From Transfering Major Facility Fees Goes Before Judge Tomorrow

A case brought by two taxpayers seeking to stop the town from waiving major facilities fees for a developer building a senior citizen project on High Street will be heard in the Circuit Court tomorrow (July 13).

In April two attorneys for the municipality, arguing that the case did not have merit, filed a motion to have the suit dismissed.   Judge J. Owen Wise ruled that the question of whether the town exceeded its authority in putting aside $150,000 in charges in connection with a Cecil Bank owned building on Collins Street and allowing those credits to be transferred to another corporation building a project on High Street, could move forward. 

On other elements of the suit, the judge ruled that those arguments should be addressed within the framework of mechanisms provided in town ordinances.  Thus on the question of the approval of a satellite parking lot in an area where that use is not allowed, the town conceded in court that zoning does not permit that use.  The judge said this matter should be addressed by the Appeals Board.  On the argument that there was a conflict of interest by a commissioner, the judge ruled that the question should be sent to the municipial ethics commission.    

This matter started in February following a controversial decisions by the Mayor and Commissioners.  As a result Bob Litzenberg and Jimmy Nicholson asked the Circuit Court to issue an injunction.  That vote put aside $150,0000 in charges  in connection with a Cecil Bank owned building at 110 Collins Street and allowed those credits to be transferred to the Ingerman Group, a developer building a senior citizen project at 142-149 E. High Street.

In a  heated exchange with the public  that afterwards caused Mayor Fisona to remark “the meeting went off course” the board voted four to one to approve the bank’s request.  Commissioner Storke opposed the action, while the other four elected officials voted in favor of the credit transfer.

After the meeting went off-course, as the mayor characterized it, the town got busy and started amending ordinances related to the issues the citizens raised in this case.  Over the several recent sessions, the board and professional staff busily introduced and voted on zoning amendements and regulations that would allow transfer of fee waivers between parties.  These were items not allowed under the codes that existed at the time the decisions were made, the interested citizens point out.  We’ll have more detailed report on these new ordinances, which came about as a result of this case in a few days.  Also we’ll have a near real-time report on the court case.

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