Wednesday, September 27, 2006


Breaking News & Commentary

Finds Commission Cited Rules That Do Not Exist
Montessori School Safe - For The Moment

The Cool Justice Report
Sept. 27, 2006

[For background,
see post immediately following,

EDITOR'S NOTE: This column is available for reprint courtesy of The Cool Justice Report,

The Enfield Montessori School has been rescued from the clutches of the venal Planning and Zoning Commission and its fellow marionettes. Hartford Superior Court Judge Richard Rittenband smote the sledgehammer that has been pounding the school, its children and the Felician Sisters for several years, ruling Tuesday that an old dirt lot is just an old dirt lot.

"The good ladies of Enfield of prevailed, absolutely," said the lawyer for the Felcian Sisters, Ken Slater of Hartford's Halloran and Sage.

"This is not a complex case," Rittenband wrote in his decision, Docket No. CV 05-4008771, Enfield Planning & Zoning Commission et al vs. Enfield Zoning Board of Appeals et al. "This gravel is merely maintenance or repair of an existing use and not an expansion thereof."

The town of Enfield has spent tens of thousands of dollars harassing the school. A full accounting has yet to be made.

"Is use of the parking area a legal pre-existing non-conforming use?" Rittenband asked in his 15-page decision. "The short answer to this question is yes ...

" Â… Was the addition of gravel in 1992 an illegal expansion of a non-conforming use? The short answer is no Â…

" Â… The Court would add that common sense would indicate that since the school was in operation from the mid 40's up to today but certainly up to 1966, it is logical to conclude that parents taking their children to the school and picking them up would have to have an area of off street parking in which to park ...

"Â… The plaintiffs have failed to specify any portion of the Zoning regulations that would require a special permit to apply the gravel to the parking area Â… There are no regulations requiring site plan or special permit approval to maintain and use an existing area. The parking lot of the defendants does not have new or expanded parking area. Suffice it to say that the existing unpaved parking area does not require a special permit."

Regarding assertions by Planning and Zoning that the Felician Sisters needed a permit because they had gravel dumped on a muddy lot, Rittenband wrote: "None of [the regulations] apply to the maintenance of adding gravel to the subject parking area in this case."

Rittenband affirmed a decision of the courageous Zoning Board of Appeals: The graveled parking lot is not in violation of the zoning regulations and that further approvals are unnecessary.

The ZBA ruling led to the Planning and Zoning Commission to promptly sue the Felician Sisters and the ZBA. Anthony DiPace, chairman of the P&Z, said his commission would appeal any adverse ruling by Rittenband.

The ongoing litigation and harassment has been on severe drain on operations of the school, its students, their parents and the Felician Sisters.

Read the Judge's Decision - PDF File.

NOTE FOOTNOTE IN JUDGE RITTENBAND'S DECISION, Page 4, in which he cites misrepresentation by Planning & Zoning Commission counsel and asks, "Is this entire dispute about a load of gravel being placed on the area of which no one complained for eleven (11) years?" You have certainly scratched the surface, Judge. A.T.

Andy Thibault, author of Law & Justice In Everyday Life and a private investigator, is an adjunct lecturer of English and a mentor in the MFA writing program at Western Connecticut State University. He also serves as a consulting editor for the literary journal Connecticut Review. Website, and Blog,


Anonymous said...

It should be noted that not all members of the Enfield Planning & Zoning Commission were on the commission when this case started. I know of at least one member who was not on when the suit started and felt strongly against the PZC's position and lawsuit.

In any event, I am glad this is over! Congrats.

Anonymous said...

Why do I get the feeling that it is the same person defending the corrupt officials,no facts in defense are offered instead just immature name calling. How can you defend trying to run nuns and their school out of town? Enfield needs to wake up, and rein in their corrupt leaders and residents. It has been a widely known fact for years that this exists, and thank god Andy has devoted his time, and courage to finally expose it. I just wonder why the republicans sit by complicitly and watch it happen, those who know and do nothing to stop it are just as guilty.

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