January 29, 2014 02:01PM
By Dan Brechlin
MERIDEN — The chief executive of The Carabetta Cos. is considering taking legal action against the city to challenge a recent zoning amendment that will allow for a community center of up to 25,000 square feet to be constructed by nonprofit entities within an R-2 residential zone.
Joseph F. Carabetta submitted a letter to Mayor Manny Santos last week urging him to discuss reconsidering the recent amendment at the Jan. 21 City Council meeting or to call for a special meeting by Jan. 24. The letter was received Jan. 21, although that night’s meeting was canceled and no special meeting has been held.
Santos had sent a memorandum to the council Jan. 13 also urging the council to reconsider the amendment and its “potential deficiencies.” In the memorandum, which included mostly concerns from city resident Bijan Bahramian, there was mention of a “for-profit multifamily property owner in Meriden” that would “initiate legal action in light of the foregoing issues unless they are remedied by a proper process and an amendment that allows all multifamily property owners an equal opportunity” to offer a community center.
In the letter Carabetta sent to Santos, which was delivered to the Record-Journal on Friday, Carabetta discusses wanting to construct a community center that would be a “park-like setting” in the vicinity of Harbor and Hanover Towers off of Hanover Street.
“I have tried with previous administrations to develop the parcel but have failed,” Carabetta wrote, referring to an area to the south of the towers.
But City Planner Dominick Caruso said he has no record of Carabetta’s interest. Caruso has been in the office for more than 30 years and succeeded Bijan Bahramian, who was fired by the city.
In his letter, Carabetta proposed renovating and remodeling a vacant boiler house on city property south of the towers and to the east of the Factory H site. Carabetta said he “would like to acquire all of the land on the east side of the brook, so we can have ample space to create walking trails, benches, and sitting areas where people can meet and get to know each other.”
As mayor, Santos has no zoning authority and cannot vote on zoning regulations, nor can he veto any decisions. Santos has also been connected to the Carabetta family, having received multiple donations from members of the company that totaled the maximum donation in the mayor’s race of $1,000.
City Council Deputy Majority Leader Brian Daniels said Santos’ dealings with Carabetta and a zoning issue appeared to be “highly suspect.” Daniels added that he had not received a copy of the letter from Carabetta and was not informed about it.
Santos said in a recent interview that he is aware that he has no say in zoning matters, but because he was contacted by Bahramian about a potential lawsuit he felt he would reach out to the council. While he considered pushing for a special meeting he said there was “not an appetite to do that.”
“That’s why I sent out a memorandum to try and convince the City Council and corporation counsel to look at what has happened and maybe try to stop it or reverse it,” he said.
Since a meeting earlier this month in which Bahramian was critical of the way the zoning amendment was being brought forward, Daniels said he reached out to a member of the Carabetta Cos., but has not heard back.
“The proper way to proceed is with a productive conversation,” Daniels said, noting he would sign on to any resolution from somebody looking to develop a community center that required a zoning change.
The amendment was petitioned for by the Meriden Housing Authority. MHA officials have planned a 25,000 square foot community center building with a pool, gymnasium, daycare, and other amenities, for the 162-unit Yale Acres housing complex.