After a barrage of lawsuits, public attacks, conspiracy theories and lawn signs posted around town claiming town officials were trying to stop development on his property, resident Wayne Cooke has now filed a lawsuit to prevent potential development uses at exit 53.
Cooke has filed a lawsuit to prevent property owner Kris Shapiro from seeing new options to develop a parcel near Wal-Mart off exit 53, naming both Shapiro and the Branford Planning and Zoning Commission as defendants.
Shapiro came forward to the Planning and Zoning Commission last year to seek an increase in potential uses for his property. He stated that while he has attempted to see retail development on his site, there is little interest due to the lack of a full highway intersection at the exit 53 ramp. Retail outlets that pull from beyond the local area would see traffic coming from points eastbound need to get off exit 54, and return in the same manner.
Shapiro sought to increase the potential uses of the site to include some industrial and warehouse uses.
The Commission agreed, seeing the unique hardship in existence at the exit 53 area.
Cooke has filed a lawsuit to block the new potential uses for the site.
The Cooke filing state that the Commission acted “illegally, unlawfully, arbitrarily, capriciously, and in abuse of the powers vested in it.”
The are then a boilerplate list of claims, stating that the approval was against state states, violated the Plan of Conservation and Development, that no new condition was presented to support the change, and there were reasonable alternatives.
However, the Plan of Conservation and Development, which was updated as of February 1, 2019, specifically acknowledges the hardships at exit 53 due to the lack of a full interchange, and encourages the town to work with the state and property owners to try to get a full interchange.
First selectman Jamie Cosgrove, along with the South Central Regional Council of Governments (SCROG), funded and presented a plan to create a 4-way interchange. But the costs associated with the plan were over 25 million dollars, and are not available and not likely to be available anytime soon.
In the meantime, property owners are funding it nearly impossible to develop the property, and are paying tens of thousands in taxes despite no actual revenue.
Conversely, Cooke, who is attempting to develop his property at exit 56 and has it listed for 6.7 million dollars, has a favorable farm tax status on the parcel, and pays just a small fraction of what other property owners pay.
We could not find any record that shows Cooke owns property in the exit 53 area.
The new lawsuit joins 2 other Cooke has against the town, both against former town employees, relating to a Costco application.
Interestingly, as part of the presentation to Planning and Zoning, Shapiro detailed that he had met with Costco on the exit 53 parcel, and Costco was interested to the point of visiting the site. That visit debunked one of Cooke’s frequent claims that Costco was not coming due to the current town administration.
Despite Costco’s interest in Branford, the exit 53 parcel would not work due to the lack of a full interchange.