(This is reeaallly painful to watch again, but somebody has to do it....)
If you missed the August 8th Planning Board meeting, you're in luck, because here's the link to the video! (Isn't technology great?)
Scroll the slider bar to the 2:56:40 mark (2 hours, 56 minutes, 40 seconds) for the start of the Ahuja application. Note that, when the meeting began at around 6:30 PM, the cafeteria was nearly full. Unfortunately, after enduring nearly three hours of Life Time Fitness's application, most people had gone home before Atty. Ahuja stepped to the podium. (In this respect only, he was lucky.) If you have 43 minutes to spare, it's worth watching his whole presentation. But, if you don't, here are some highlights:
2:59:00 - The Planning Board Chair, Theresa Dell, talks about the letters, emails, the Change.org petition, etc. that the Board received from all of us about the application. She states that these documents were all entered into the record and can be viewed at the Planning Board. (That's got to be one heckuva thick file!)
3:00:05 - Atty. Ahuja formally begins his presentation.
3:03:38 - The Board asks Atty. Ahuja to rotate a displayed drawing so it is properly oriented (i.e., facing north-up).
3:06:42 - The Board AGAIN asks Atty. Ahuja to rotate another displayed drawing so it is facing north-up.
3:07:30 - Atty. Ahuja realizes that he has yet another drawing improperly oriented, so he mutters something and corrects it himself.
3:08:44 - When a Board member exclaims, "I can't see!" [the drawing], Atty. Ahuja fumbles and drops it.
3:12:05 - After Atty. Ahuja says that he wants to move the mouth of Donata Lane to line up across from Bradley Place, Chair Dell asks, "Has that been cleared with the City, or is that just a supposition that you want to move a City road?"
3:14:18 - Chair Dell asks, "You haven't brought this [moving Donata Lane] to the Traffic Bureau, have you?" (Of course not.)
3:15:10 - Chair Dell notes that the Traffic Bureau basically stated that "this [traffic light] is not happening."
3:19:14 - After Atty. Ahuja says that he is finished speaking, Chair Dell asks, "That's your full presentation?" (Apparently Atty. Ahuja believed that he could convince the Planning Board to approve a text change for single-family R-10 zones all over the city, AND approve a change in the board that has jurisdiction over them, AND grant him a special exception to build a clinic in a single-family zone...all in less than 20 minutes!) (I know, I know: "What is this guy, on drugs???")
3:20:51 - Chair Dell correctly notes that, in Atty. Ahuja's previous application, "there was to be no access to Donata Lane...," "the parking was supposed to be in front of the building...," and "now it's been totally turned around...".
3:22:33 - The City's Principal Planner, David Woods, PhD, AICP/PP (yeah, that's a lot of initials) correctly notes that R-10 zoning is one of the most prevalent uses in Stamford, and that it is present virtually everywhere in the City.
3:23:40 - Atty. Ahuja attempts to argue that R-10 is not found all over the city, and Dr. Woods has to point out the R-10 zones all over the Zoning Map to convince Atty. Ahuja otherwise. (Can you tell by now that this is not going to end well for Atty. Ahuja?)
3:24:10 - While Dr. Woods is speaking, Atty. Ahuja suddenly interjects with "Can I respond to that?" At which point, Dr. Woods says, "No--not until I'm finished." Atty. Ahuja then responds to Dr. Woods by saying, "It's not a change to a residential zone." (Are you cringing yet? Wait...it gets better.)
3:25:50 - Dr. Woods states that "Staff strongly recommends denial of this text change...".
3:28:45 - Dr. Woods states that "Staff recommends denial of this application...".
3:29:45 - Dr. Woods states that "all three Staff recommended denial of all aspects of this application...".
3:30:20 - Chair Dell notes that the parking lot being relocated off Donata Lane is "totally off base." She also notes that the Planning Board had previously recommended no interference at all with the residents on Donata Lane.
3:35:50 - Chair Dell notes that Atty. Ahuja's current application is 180 degrees different from his previous application.
3:36:54 - Chair Dell has to admonish Atty. Ahuja by saying, "I'm not going to argue with you."
3:37:40 - A Board member states, "The only thing this [application] has in common with the previous application is the address!"
3:37:46 - Chair Dell, in response to Atty. Ahuja's interjections, finally says, "I think we're pretty much done with our discussion."
3:38:20 - The Planning Board begins to vote on Atty. Ahuja's proposed text changes. (The changes are unanimously denied.)
3:38:38 - In the middle of the Planning Board's vote, Atty. Ahuja asks, "Can I still make a request?" (Chair Dell replies, "No.")
3:39:10 - The Planning Board begins to vote on Atty. Ahuja's proposed special exception. (It is unanimously denied.)
3:39:12 - While the Planning is still voting, Atty. Ahuja packs up his exhibits and walks out of the cafeteria!
3:39:40 - The Ahuja presentation formally ends (probably for GOOD!!!).
NICK'S TRIP TO "DEVELOPER HELL"
Remember the USDA orange-crop report in the movie Trading Places, and how it was used to influence trading decisions? Well, there's a report that Atty. Ahuja should have used to influence his decision about proceeding with his presentation. It's called the Land Use Bureau Staff Report. (Pretty neat, huh?) Unlike the crop report, you don't have to steal it; the Planning Board gives it to you. This particular report was released on July 31st, over a week before the Planning Board meeting. As you will see, it gives a thumbs-down to nearly every aspect of the proposed Ahuja clinic. Here are a few highlights:
PDF Page 2 reveals that the Ahuja family has been trying to over-develop their single-family properties since at least the 1990s! The difference between these properties and, say, the Vine Meadow condo's at Merriman Road is that Vine Meadow is bordered by commercial property to the north, while the properties north of the Ahujas' lots are single-family. So the "buffer excuse" clearly doesn't work here.
PDF Page 3 talks about the Ahujas' numerous failed attempts to build a day-care, then a clinic, on the properties. In 2016, they submitted a plan that heeded a lot of the Planning Board's advice by moving the proposed driveway from Donata Lane to High Ridge Road and reducing the parking lot from 35 to 25 spaces. The Board might have approved that application, but it was missing several pieces of critical info. (Also, this was before anyone knew about Dr. Ahuja's "DEA Debacle," which pretty much kills the prospect of him ever opening another medical clinic anywhere. At least one would hope that it does....)
PDF Page 5 contains this important statement: "Staff, therefore, recommends denial of this Text Change as it does not seem warranted and has the potential for far-reaching, unintended and not sufficiently analyzed consequences." (That's straightforward, isn't it?)
PDF Page 6 contains this statement: "Staff, therefore, recommends denial of this application." (Are you sensing a pattern here?)
PDF Pages 10-11 sound what should be the death knell for Atty. Ahuja's application:
"Staff recommends that the Planning Board recommend denial of the proposed Text Change..."
"Staff recommends that the Planning Board recommend denial of the second proposed Text Change..."
"Staff recommends that the Planning Board recommend denial of the Special Exception ..."
Now, most people, after reading these negative comments (along with 12 pages of detailed explanations for them) would conclude that the only rational thing to do would be to withdraw the application. Why would anyone want to waste the Planning Board's (and the public's) time on this loser? But perhaps Atty. Ahuja didn't get the staff report...or maybe someone nefariously substituted a positive report in its place (a la "Trading Places"). In any case, Atty. Ahuja decided to throw rationality to the wind and present his application to the Board anyway. (Right about now, you're probably asking, "What is this guy, on drugs???" See the main page for the answer.) Which leads to:
The Staff Report
Perhaps you were at the five-hour (!) Stamford Planning Board meeting at 9:30 PM on Tuesday, August 8, 2017. If so, you shared an experience that probably made you want to laugh, curse, and cringe. I'm talking about Attorney Nicholas Ahuja's pitiful attempt to convince the Board that his ill-conceived clinic was really "A Good Thing." But, before we get to that, lets start with....
(a.k.a., a lesson in how NOT to make a presentation to a land-use board)