By TAYLOR HARTZ
Members of the Save Hatton Meadow Coalition crowded into a New Britain Superior Court room on Monday afternoon, where attorney David Rosenberg planned to request an extension for the injunction that prevents Greenskies, LLC, of Middletown from beginning construction of a solar panel array at Hatton Meadow.
Instead, they will have to wait another week. On Friday, July 31, a motion to dismiss the case was filed jointly by the Town of Southington and Greenskies, LLC. Rosenberg, representing plaintiff Richard Panek, was made aware of the motion on Monday morning, and he requested one week’s time to prepare a written dissertation.
“The town will be at a severe disadvantage by postponing construction” said Southington Town Attorney Mark Sciota in court. “This is something that needs to move forward as soon as possible.”
Rosenberg told the judge that he was unsure what damage would be caused by postponing construction another week, citing a Solar Power Purchase Agreement between the town and Greenskies that showed a planned start date of September 2016.
Judge Abrams granted the requested time and scheduled the case to return to court on Monday, Aug. 10.
More than a dozen residents of the Berlin Street neighborhood joined Rosenberg, and Panek in a library meeting room at the courthouse afterward, where Rosenberg explained what steps will be taken to prepare for the hearing. State Rep. David Zoni (D-Conn) was there to observe the proceedings.
“This is another form of what the town has been doing,” said Rosenberg. “They’re arguing form over substance.”
Rosenberg said that the motion claims that the town has done everything properly in the process of planning for the solar installation, and the court does not have jurisdiction to hear the case.
“There is a process in place. The process is prescribed by the town in the zoning ordinances,” said Rosenberg, “I don’t believe that the town followed it, and that’s why we’re here.”
The coalition held a press conference in July, where they discussed concerns of a Code of Ethics violation concerning town councilor Tom Lombardi’s professional association with Greenskies Board of Directors Chairman Robert Landino.
Rosenberg said that this case puts any consideration of ethics violations or conflicts of interest aside. Rosenberg said that the case is focusing on procedural errors made by the council.
The process through which the town made the agreement with Greenskies was done under Connecticut State Statute 8-24, which allows a procedural shortcut for municipal improvements without a public hearing or referendum, but Rosenberg said that he questions whether this shortcut applies without violating the town’s zoning regulations.
Referencing Southington Zoning Regulations Section 3-01.2 pertaining to residential zones, Rosenberg said he thinks the town may have violated “their own rules” by not applying for a special permit.
He then said that the process of applying for the special permit would have required a public hearing and notification of residents—the lack of which has been a major concern of coalition members.
Judge Abrams will review Rosenberg’s response to the Motion to Dismiss on Monday afternoon.
“There are no other legal avenues if the judge approves the motion to dismiss,” said Rosenberg, who expects Judge Abrams to provide a written decision a week or two after next week’s hearing.
Attorney Sciota declined to comment on how the town will proceed if the motion is denied.
The temporary injunction preventing Greenskies from beginning their construction will remain in effect until Monday.