Litchfield News

Chabad and historic district commission still at standstill (03-04-18)

The Chabad Lubavitch of Litchfield County vs. the Borough of Litchfield’s Historic District Commission soap opera has taken a new turn but still isn’t going anywhere.
Chabad has yet to submit a proper modified plan to expand a Victorian at 85 West St. into a synagogue and Jewish community center, which a federal judge on Nov. 1 said it could do.
Chabad did submit a plan by the Dec. 15 deadline set by U.S. District Court of Connecticut Judge Janet C. Hall but it was incomplete and not accepted by the historic district commission, the commission’s attorney, James Stedronsky said last week.
Hall in her Nov. 1 ruling said Chabad could build a modified version of the 21,000 square-foot building it originally sought approval for but was denied in 2007. The second story of the massive addition would have to be eliminated, Hall ruled. On the second story were quarters for Chabad’s leader, the Rabbi Joseph Eisenbach, and his family, a swimming pool and other amenities.
Hall declared that the second story wasn’t necessary for the building to function as a synagogue. The judge said the commission would have to approve the modified plan within 30 days after it was submitted.
Instead of coming in with the modified plan, Chabad presented a series of drawings showing elevations of a two-story building designed by an architect hired by the HDC, Wayne Garrick. The commission two years ago supported Garrick’s plan as a potential compromise with Chabad.
Garrick’s design was much smaller than Chabad’s original plan but shows a second floor. Hall said Garrick’s plan could be presented but ruled that the commission did not have to approve it.
With Chabad’s submission having been declared incomplete, the legal struggle between Chabad and the commission remains unresolved.
Chabad, however, is asking the U.S. District Court to order the Borough of Litchfield to pay the $1.6 million in legal fees Chabad has rung up fighting the commission over the past decade. Chabad has used several lawyers in the fight but hasn’t paid them, instead waiting for the court to order the fees to be paid by the borough.
Stedronsky and other lawyers for the borough have countered Chabad’s claim, saying the borough does not have to cover Chabad’s legal costs beyond some basic fees related to the case.