Jehovah’s Witnesses sue for Kingdom Hall

BRIDGEPORT — Rebuffed twice by the Planning and Zoning Commission, Jehovah’s Witnesses have sued the city to build two connected meeting halls on a Huntington Turnpike lot.

The suit was filed in early December by lawyer Timothy Hollister, of Shipman & Goodwin in Hartford, according to Jeff Gordon, a volunteer for a regional Jehovah’s Witnesses building committee.

The lawyer was unavailable for comment. Greg Conte, an associate city attorney who handles zoning issues, was also unavailable.

But Patricia Fardy, the P&Z chairwoman, stood by the board’s reasons for denying the Kingdom Hall proposal at 257-269 Huntington Turnpike.

“I’m familiar with the area and the sight line is in question” for the property and passing traffic, she said.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses’ traffic studies underestimated the speed at which traffic travels through the area, she said, adding that the project was denied out of concern for the “safety of parishioners and the public.”

“Exiting and entering that driveway would have been very, very hazardous,” she said.

The commission unanimously rejected the application in September, citing traffic concerns as a primary reason. Two City Council members at the time pointed out that the site is a few blocks from so-called “Dead Man’s Curve,” an 0.8-mile-long stretch bordering on Beardsley Park named for numerous serious motor vehicle accidents that have occurred.

But a revised application, presented at November’s P&Z meeting, proposed the
elimination of walls and trees to improve the sight lines for an unobstructed 1,000 feet.

The vote then was 4-3 in favor of the plan, but it was a rejection by default because the proposal failed to win a two-thirds majority, or five of the seven P&Z members.

Jehovah’s Witness congregations that would have met in the proposed Kingdom Halls worship in Spanish, French and American Sign Language. They now meet in Monroe and Orange. There’s also a Kingdom Hall on West Avenue near State Street.

Gordon said despite the rejections, the Jehovah’s Witnesses still plan to buy the second of two homes on the property. They own the first one.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Friday December 28, 2007.
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