Norwich soup kitchen continues fight to stay open

Norwich - St. Vincent de Paul Place has filed a second appeal to the city Zoning Board of Appeals, and the soup kitchen's attorney on Thursday asked that a court injunction hearing seeking to stop the city from closing the facility at St. Joseph School be postponed to March 25 to allow the local agency to hear the case.

The soup kitchen and school building owner St. Joseph's Polish Roman Catholic Church have filed suit in federal court challenging the Norwich Commission on the City Plan's Dec. 18 denial of a special permit to occupy the former school permanently.

As part of that appeal, U.S. District Court Judge Warren W. Eginton ordered that the city not enforce violation orders to close the soup kitchen until a Feb. 25 injunction hearing in Bridgeport.

In addition to the lawsuit, Diocese of Norwich attorney Timothy Bates filed two appeals to the ZBA, the first seeking reversal of Zoning Enforcement Officer Tianne Curtis' violation order and the second seeking a variance to allow the soup kitchen and food pantry to occupy the school as a missionary function of the diocese.

The ZBA will hold public hearings on both of Bates' issues March 12 at 7 p.m. The board cannot vote on the use variance that night, because it would have to be forwarded to the Commission on the City Plan for a recommendation. The planning commission would review whether the use variance request is consistent with the city plan of development.

Bates had asked the city agency to hold a special meeting prior to the Feb. 25 court hearing, but Curtis said Thursday that the city's attorney, Michael Zizka, has advised the ZBA to follow its normal schedule for appeals.

Thursday, Bates asked Eginton to postpone the injunction hearing to March 25, saying if the ZBA approves the diocese's applications, the hearing would not be necessary. He called the postponement "the most efficient use of judicial resources."

c.bessette@theday.com

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