Building and Land Technology is expected to defend the 2011 demolition of a Stamford boatyard as it tries this week to overturn a cease-and-desist order from land-use officials -- an action that has blocked progress on the developer's application to build an 850,000-square-foot headquarters for Westport hedge fund Bridgewater Associates in Stamford's South End.
The logjam occurred in July 2012 when the cease-and-desist order issued by the city prevented BLT from proceeding with construction activity at a 14-acre site near Dyke Lane and Bateman Way, except for an approved environmental remediation of the land that costs $35 million.
Zoning Board Chairman Thomas Mills said until BLT brings forward a well-considered plan to replace the destroyed boatyard, a review of the proposed Bridgewater headquarters plan is premature.
The city's Zoning Board of Appeals is set to consider BLT's appeal of the order at a public hearing at 7 p.m. Wednesday on the fourth floor of the Stamford Government Center, 888 Washington Blvd. The stop-work order stipulates fines for failure to have a plan for a replacement boatyard field with land-use officials.
"We don't know any more than we did in July 2012 about where the boatyard is going," Mills said. "They've submitted a Bridgewater application, but it doesn't do any good without a working boatyard."
BLT General Counsel and spokesman John Freeman said last week disputed the city's basis for the cease-and-desist order in July 2012, which charged the developer with violating the state's Coastal Area Management Act and zoning regulations that preserved the property for maritime uses.
Freeman said the developer complied with city zoning official's request to submit plans for a new boatyard in September 2012, when it brought forward a plan to relocate the facility to a 3.5-acre parcel at 205 Magee Ave.
Mills said that proposal didn't meet the requirements for a boatyard, with the developer lacking water rights to launch or dock boats on the property.
The order issued in July 2012 came after the developer failed to provide a plan to redevelop the site after demolishing the boatyard.
About a month after the ban, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced the state was negotiating for Bridgewater Associates to come to Harbor Point as part of BLT's 80-acre, $3.2 billion redevelopment of the South End.
BLT first filed its appeal of the cease-and-desist order in October 2012, but the appeal has been tabled repeatedly by the city's Zoning Board of Appeals as then-Mayor Michael Pavia and his successor, recently elected Mayor David Martin attempted to negotiate plans to build a new boatyard.
After months of discussion, in October, BLT withdrew a proposed license agreement that would have relocated the boatyard to a 6-acre piece of land at 205 Magee Ave. and given the developer adjacent city land. In exchange for the 2.5 acres of municipal property, under the proposal the city was to receive $5 million in public improvements, including a new animal shelter.Read Full Article
During the public hearing process begun in August, dozens of boaters and residents pressed the city's planning board to reject the deal, raising concerns about the function of the proposed boating facility and the propriety of including city parkland as part of the boatyard's footprint. Residents also wondered whether $5 million in improvements would be compensation from BLT to the city.
Michael Pollard, chief of staff for Mayor David Martin, said the new mayor and other officials have met with BLT to discuss ways to facilitate the Bridgewater deal and also restore the boatyard.
In November, Martin said he would seek to convince BLT and Bridgewater Associates to drop their plans to build the headquarters on the site of the demolished marina in favor of another site, possibly adjacent to the Stamford train station.
Last week, Pollard said discussions between the mayor and BLT have focused on understanding the priorities of both sides rather than specific scenarios involving the development of Bateman Way.
"We've met with BLT and look forward to working very closely with them," Pollard said. "We're making sure we're aware of all the concerns they have and the concerns of citizens are, so that whatever actions are taken are carefully studied and considered."
It remains unclear whether any fines will be assessed against BLT for the boatyard demolition under the initial July 2012 order. The order stipulated that failure to present a boatyard or marina plan within 10 days would trigger city fines of $250 a day and a civil penalty of up to $2,500.
Maureen Boylan, president of Save Our Boatyard and a Shippan resident, said the city needs to assess the fines on BLT or signal to all developers that Stamford's zoning restrictions can be ignored. Boylan's group has maintained that BLT is obligated by the 2007 approval of the Harbor Point complex to restore the boatyard at the Bateman Way site.
"It's ironic that here we are, two years to the date of the boatyard being demolished, and there have been no fines or penalties until now," Boylan said. "I would like to see the fines enforced, because if not, this will give any developer precedent to disregard our municipal codes and state regulations."
Jackie Lightfield, executive director for the Stamford Partnership, a nonprofit economic development and urban renewal organization, said she views BLT's Bridgewater pitch to the city -- including efforts to restore Kosciuszko Park and include public-access walkways through the Bridgewater site -- as benefiting more residents than a boatyard would.
"From an economic development standpoint, young people want to do things and want to have fun enjoying the environment," Lightfield said. "Canoers, kayakers and other groups have as much interest in the waterfront as boaters and manufacturing, and land-use policy should recognize that."