Stonington may settle with woman who sued town over zoning reversal

Stonington - The Board of Selectmen is scheduled to meet tonight to possibly approve a settlement with Carol Holt, the Lords Point woman who sued the town after former Zoning Enforcement Officer Joe Larkin told her she could build a home on a lot and then reversed his decision after she had purchased it.

At its meeting at 7 p.m. at the police station, the board is slated to meet in executive session with Town Attorney Tom Londregan, Town Planner Keith Brynes and the attorney representing the Connecticut Interlocal Risk Management Agency, Michael Tighe. CIRMA is the town's insurer.

First Selectman Ed Haberek said Tuesday the board will discuss the possible resolution of four related legal actions that Holt has filed against the town. Two lawsuits are pending in federal court and two zoning appeals are pending in state court. The board has to give CIRMA the approval to settle the cases.

On Tuesday night, the Zoning Board of Appeals, which is a defendant in some of the cases, also discussed the case in executive session. Holt, who now lives with her family in Fullerton, Calif., and spends summers on Lords Point, declined Monday to discuss a possible settlement.

She has alleged the actions of the town and Larkin have resulted in a condemnation of her property and destruction of its value. She is seeking damages in excess of $750,000 along with payment of her attorney's fees.

Last fall, a U.S. District Court judge ruled that the town cannot stop Holt from building a guest house on the lot as long as she meets other zoning requirements. The town then said it would appeal the ruling. In that decision, the judge said Holt was not entitled to any damages or payment of her legal fees.

The judge also stated in her decision that the lot is now worth $40,000 because it is classified as unbuildable, and the town has decreased its assessment.

The case stems from letters Larkin sent to the lot's previous owners in 2003 and 2005 that said the parcel at the intersection of Boulder and Hampton avenues was a "lot of record" and could be built on if zoning requirements he listed were met.

In May 2005, three months after Larkin's second letter, Holt purchased the lot for $140,000 so she could build a guest house. Holt said she based her decision to buy the property on Larkin's assurance that she could build a house on it. That same day, she and her husband, Thompson Wyper, bought an adjacent home at 57 Boulder Ave.

When Holt sought a permit for the guest house later in 2005, she learned Larkin did not plan to approve it. In 2008, Larkin finally sent her a letter saying he had revoked his 2005 opinion based on new information he unearthed in November 2005 about how the lot had been altered in the past. He said that information now made the lot unbuildable.

Holt's suit alleges that various neighbors who stood to lose ocean views if the home was built influenced town officials and the ZBA to overturn Larkin's decisions.

j.wojtas@theday.com

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