Norwich - The new state-funded program providing services to teenagers in foster care throughout the region opened in the former River Run Nursery without securing building, zoning and fire marshal approvals and will have to scale back operations, at least temporarily.
City building, zoning and fire officials learned of Our Piece of the Pie's new facility in the main house and metal-framed glass greenhouse on the property Wednesday in a news story about Tuesday's open house celebration.
Our Piece of the Pie officials said at Tuesday's open house that they have been renovating the house and greenhouse at 309 Otrobando Ave. since June for the agency's program, funded by the state Department of Children and Families, to provide career education and counseling to foster care youths ages 14 to 19.
City Director of Inspections James Troeger, Zoning Enforcement Officer Tianne Curtis, Assistant Building Official Joe East and Fire Marshal Jim Roberts inspected the facility Wednesday afternoon and on Thursday issued a violation letter to property owner Hugh Schnip.
The violation letter, hand-delivered Thursday to Our Piece of the Pie officials on site, ordered the agency to cease using the greenhouse immediately, saying "illegal non-permitted electrical and heating equipment" had been installed there. Our Piece of the Pie was using the greenhouse as an arts and crafts workshop and hopes to open a gift shop for student works in early December. Tuesday's open house reception was held there, and student ceramics and artwork were on display.
"If you would like to pursue legal use of this structure," Troeger's letter stated, "I strongly suggest that you engage the services of a professional architect to examine all of the building code issues including energy code compliance and plumbing code issues, i.e., toilet room requirements and fire code issues."
City officials will allow the agency to remain in the main building for 45 days to give them time to apply for proper permits for that facility. Issues there are less serious, Troeger said Thursday.
Schnip could not be reached for comment Thursday afternoon.
Bob Rath, president and chief executive officer of Hartford-based Our Piece of the Pie, said late Thursday he had not yet seen the violation letter.
"We're going to work with the city of Norwich and figure out how to make things work," Rath said. "That's all I know to say."
Building Department records show the two-story house was converted from residential use to mercantile use for the first floor only in November 1985. The second floor was to remain residential. Our Piece of the Pie is using both floors.
"You are hereby notified that you are in violation of the City of Norwich Zoning Regulations and Connecticut Building Code," Troeger's letter said. "You are instructed to apply for zoning approval of the new occupancy and apply for a building permit to convert the first floor from mercantile use to business use and the second floor from residential use to business use. Plans must be submitted identifying the size and use of each room in the structure."
If the agency does not apply for and obtain proper permits, the agency could be ordered to vacate the building, Troeger wrote.
Curtis said Thursday that the zoning and conversion permit must be obtained first. The building department cannot issue building permits or certificates of occupancy without zoning approval.