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ARS Flip Flops on Paying for Test
They want the cheaper one

By Jen Connic

Printed in the Norwalk Hour

ARS Partners is still agreeing to pay for an independent environmental consultant, but it wants to pay for a proposal less expensive than the one made by the Planning and Zoning Department staff. Planning and zoning officials have proposed hiring an independent consultant for $33,000 to test the former F.D. Rich site, which is located between Newtown Turnpike and Partrick Road, for contaminants that neighbors claim are on the site.

The test is part of the proposal to build 22 homes on the site by ARS Partners. The plan also calls for the extension of a Norwalk sewer line down Newtown Avenue to the site.

The application was rejected “without prejudice” earlier this year in order for the independent environmental tests to be completed.

Larry Weisman, ARS Partners attorney, filed a letter with Planning and Zoning Director Katherine Barnard stating his client is willing to “bear the cost of independent testing by one of the qualified firms who responded to your (request for proposals), but not necessarily the one which was chosen in accordance with the criteria established by your office, which were weighted in a manner with which it would be easy to take issue.”

Weisman, who had told The Hour last week his clients would be willing to pay for the testing, said Thursday that there are two other bids that are cheaper and have a quicker turnaround time.

Barnard said she had reviewed the consultants’ proposals, and her decision on the consultant that best met the standards set by the Planning and Zoning Commission will stand.

Testing, however, will have to wait until ARS Partners files a second application with the commission, she said.

“That is consistent with the ordinance” that allows the commission to charge an applicant for independent consultants, she said.

First Selectwoman Diane Farrell, who had urged the commission to reject the application so environmental testing could be performed, said ARS Partners needs to file an application before any testing is completed.

“Then they will use the new ordinance to hire an expert so the commission can do the testing it needs to make a responsible decision,” she said. In his letter, Weisman states that the ordinance, which was passed by the Representative Town Meeting recently, should not “rightfully apply to this circumstance, which played out in public before the ordinance was adopted and became effective.”

The ordinance is set to take effect today.

Weisman said Thursday that he had not been told yet that his clients would need to file an application before any testing would be completed. “That is new information, and I need to talk to my clients about it,” he said. “(Town officials) need to answer my letter.”

Town Attorney Ira Bloom said he had no comment on the matter. Weisman said he also believes Farrell is overstepping her bounds by expressing an opinion on the matter. “Mrs. Farrell has no place to express her opinion on a matter that is pending before the Planning and Zoning Commission,” he said. “She has already done enough damage.”

Farrell said she believes she is guaranteed the right to speak before the commission and comment on its actions by the U.S. Constitution. “I have followed the same process and procedure as any resident would,” she said.