Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Producers In Hartford; The Hysterical District Commission In Litchfield

Everything you've heard is true!

"Mel Brooks has put the comedy back into musical comedy. The Producers is the funniest, most fearlessly irreverent thing ever seen on stage!"

-- (USA Today)

And now you can experience the biggest Tony Award winner in Broadway history when it comes to Hartford. Direction and choreography by five-time Tony Award winner Susan Stroman (Crazy for You, Contact, The Music Man).

The New York Times raves "The Producers is a blissful spectacle that will leave you delirious!"

  • Bushnell Link

  • Reader Appreciates Springtime For Hitler Lyrics

  • But, How Can It Compare
    With The Following
    Ongoing Stage Production?

    Synagogue Hearing Rescheduled

    Proposal Is Smaller Than All But One Church
    ACLU & Anti-Defamation League Enter The Fray

    “It does not appear that there is anything within the jurisdiction of the Borough of Litchfield’s Historic District Commission that is sufficiently compelling to justify the restriction of Chabad Lubavitch’s right to the free exer­cise of its religious beliefs.”

    Chabad hearing continues
    Architecture expert, ACLU chime in on proposal


    LITCHFIELD — A hearing on a proposal by Chabad Lubavitch of Litchfield County to con­vert and enlarge a 135-year-old West Street house into a synagogue resumes Monday before the Borough of Litchfield’s Historic District Commission.

    Outside opinions, including those from an architectural his­torian hired by plan opponents and the ACLU, are joining the debate.

    The hearing — scheduled to reconvene Thursday but postponed by snow — began Nov. 15. It will start at 6 p.m. at the Litchfield firehouse. The commission has until Saturday to render a decision on the plan for 85 West St.

    Chabad Lubavitch, an Orthodox Jewish outreach organization, is pitching a historically accurate restoration of the Vic­torian house and construction of a two-story addition off its rear. The 21,000-square-foot building would include a synagogue, quarters for the Chabad’s rabbi, Joseph Eisenbach, and his family, an apartment for Chabad staff and a swimming pool.

    The proposed building would be roughly the same size as the United Methodist Church on West Street and smaller than the three churches in the center of town: St. Anthony of Padua, St. Michael’s Episcopal Church and the First Congregational Church of Litchfield.

    The proposal is one of the largest to come before the commission, which had to move the hearing to the firehouse because of the amount of public interest. The plan also has caught the attention of the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut and the Anti-Defamation League. Both have submitted letters to the commission outlining their positions.

    Opponents are fighting to have the building’s size re­duced so it would be in scale with the streetscape and not alter the character of the his­toric district. On the last night of the hearing, Dec. 6, opposition surfaced from residents represented by Danbury attorney Neil Marcus. Marcus was successful in getting the commission to schedule an extra session so he would have an opportunity to present a review of the plan by James Sexton, an architectural historian. In a three-page letter, Sexton both criticizes and praises the proposal and concludes it would not be the right fit for the historic district.

    “While the work proposed by the Chabad Lubavitch has many admirable qualities, it is not appropriate in size, scale and appearance with the historic and architectural aspects of this property,” Sexton wrote. “Because of this, the project as currently designed is incongruous with the historic fabric of the Litchfield Borough Historic District.”

    Sexton’s clients have included the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism, the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation, and towns and cities. He has assisted with the establishment of historic districts in Greenwich, Madison, New Haven and Norwalk.

    Sexton describes as laudable the Chabad’s plans to replace the foundation of the house with Roxbury granite, to return the main entrance to a central location of the facade, retain existing windows and restore a porch at the main entry.

    Troubling, however, is the intent to add a clock tower to the roof of the house and install new doors at the entrance, Sexton wrote. Both changes, he wrote, would alter the historic character of the house and contradict the federal Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation. The standards declare as “not recommended” changing the configuration of a roof by adding new features and recommend preserving entrances that are important in defining the historic character of a building.

    Sexton is more critical of the proposed addition, which he said would dwarf the house because it would be 18 feet wider and more than twice as long. He takes issue with the roofline of the addition being at the same level as the house’s, a feature he said goes against federal standards because it would affect the character of the house.

    In his letter, American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut Executive Director Andrew Schneider reminds the commission that Chabad Lubavitch’s right to use a building for religious purposes is protected by the U.S. Constitution, the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, the state Constitution and the Connecticut Religious Freedom Act.

    Since the proposed building would meet Chabad Lubavitch’s minimum space requirements, the commission doesn’t appear to have the ability to reject the plan based on its size, according to Schneider.

    “Where the religious institution has determined that the proposed building is the minimum necessary for the exercise of its religion, limiting or restricting the size of the proposed building would impose a substantial burden,” Schneider wrote.

    “It does not appear that there is anything within the jurisdiction of the Borough of Litchfield’s Historic District Commission that is sufficiently compelling to justify the restriction of Chabad Lubavitch’s right to the free exer­cise of its religious beliefs.”

    Editor's Note: Please see the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000, aka RLUIPA.

    Note Attorneys Fees section in this federal law:

    RLUIPA is a federal statute that was passed in 2000 to provide stronger protection for religious freedom in the land-use and prison contexts.

    RLUIPA has since been asserted in dozens of lawsuits, prompting widespread media coverage and scholarly attention.

  • Full Text Of RLUIPA

  • RLUIPA Web Site

  • Pending Tax Increase For Litchfield Courtesy Of Kuhne, Brickload et al

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