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Norwich soup kitchen hearing to be held Tuesday

By Claire Bessette

Publication: The Day

Published March 11. 2013 4:00AM

Norwich The controversial relocation of the St. Vincent de Paul Place soup kitchen moves to the Zoning Board of Appeals Tuesday for public hearings on a variance request to allow the soup kitchen and food pantry to operate in the former St. Joseph's School and a request to overturn the zoning officer's violation notice.

The ZBA has moved Tuesday's 7 p.m. meeting to the Council Chambers in City Hall to accommodate the expected large crowd.

St. Vincent de Paul Place filed the ZBA applications in February after the Commission on the City Plan in December denied a special permit for the soup kitchen to remain at St. Joseph's after a six-month temporary permit expired Jan. 12. The commission cited testimony by neighbors that the temporary operation was a detriment to the neighborhood, with trespassing, littering and foul language directed at homeowners.

With that denial, Zoning Enforcement Officer Tianne Curtis issued a notice of zoning violation to the facility for operating in the former school.

St. Vincent and St. Joseph's Polish Roman Catholic Church, which owns the former school, initially filed a lawsuit in federal court in Bridgeport challenging the planning commission's permit denial, arguing that the soup kitchen was part of the Diocese of Norwich's religious mission and protected by the U.S. Constitution.

City attorneys argued that the case should be dismissed, in part because St. Vincent at the time had not filed an appeal to the ZBA for a variance to allow the operation. U.S. District Court Judge Warren W. Eginton is considering the dismissal order.

Last month, Eginton postponed an injunction hearing on a request by St. Vincent to stop the city from forcing the facility to close until the court case has been decided. The city has issued violation orders, but has taken no action to force the soup kitchen to close.

c.bessette@theday.com

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