Zoning to discuss Chabad

"We've been looking for a permanent home now since we moved here seven years ago," says Rabbi Yossi Yaffe
News Channel 8's Carolee Salerno

Guilford-WTNH, July 20, 2006 12:40 PM) _ A Branford synagogue is attempting to relocate to neighboring Guilford, but people living around the proposed new location aren't happy about it. Some folks say the area is already too congested.

"We've been looking for a permanent home now since we moved here seven years ago," says Rabbi Yossi Yaffe, Chabad of the Shoreline.

Rabbi Yaffe says the 1.3 acre lot in Guilford is the perfect location for a new synagogue. He says it's convenient right across from the entrance to 95 on Goose Lane.

"We'll have the opportunity for different portals and doorways of the Jewish experience. That would include library and educational events," he said.

Even though it is a busy street this property is zoned as residential and some neighbors who live here say the last thing they need is a 19,000 square foot facility and the traffic that will go with it.

"I'm opposed to having any commercial activity next door," says Dr. Donna Criscenzo, who lives right next to the property.

Dr. Criscenzo says when she moved in the industrial park across the street wasn't there, neither were many other businesses that have moved in over the years. She says she's worried about even more traffic on this road.

"If you can imagine that driveway. I'm going to have every light coming in whatever time of the day going right into my living space. I don't care what kind of building it is. I want it to stay residential."

Rabbi Yaffe still needs a special permit from the town before he can break ground, but he says he's hopeful and wants to work with the neighbors.

"I appreciate people's concerns and I'm willing to work with them for the best of my ability," Rabbi Yaffe said.

There will be a public hearing August 16th and the Board of Planning and Zoning could make a decision on the matter that night.

Shore Line Times

Most of the opponents live in the Goose Lane area and object to potential noise and traffic that would be generated by the facility, according to a letter on file at the town's planning and zoning office.

Chabad of the Shoreline applied to the Planning and Zoning Board on June 30 requesting a special permit to build the synagogue and community and cultural center at 181 Goose Lane. The site is occupied by a house, and a special permit is required because the area is zoned as residential.

The planning and zoning file contains letters from neighbors along Goose Lane that ask land use officials to deny the special permit. They say the proposed project is too large for both the 1.28-acre lot and the surrounding neighborhood. They fear that that the potential for noise and increased traffic will harm the quality of life and their property values. One letter, received by the town July 12 and signed by six residents, invites board members to inspect 181 Goose Lane from their properties in order to get a better idea of the potential impact.

The letter makes reference to wildlife, such as birds, rabbits and deer, that frequent their properties. It also acknowledges that so-called "white noise" does emanate from nearby Interstate 95.

"But you can still hear birds," the letter states, "Not so with a basketball game going on, or with 20 to 200 people" attending center functions. "Not so with a kitchen exhaust ... 50 feet from our bedrooms."

Rabbi Yossi Yaffe of Chabad of the Shoreline said they want to be a good neighbor. He believes that most of the neighbors' concerns are baseless, and that the congregation and its architect can work with them to alleviate anything that might pose a potential problem.

"This is not smack in the middle of meandering country road," Yaffe said.

There are commercial and industrial properties across the street, including the new Yale-New Haven Hospital Shoreline Medical Center.

"We are open to anything we can do to alleviate noise and visual elements in the neighboring territory. This is a synagogue, not a mall that is open seven days a week with hundreds of cars," Yaffe said.

The file refers to a report from Chabad's traffic engineers, Barkan & Mess of Branford, which states that the project would not cause a disruptive increase in traffic. Yaffe also said they have proposed alternatives up front, such as accommodating overflow parking on site to the rear of their property.

Town Planner George J. Kral Jr. said that the property is in an R-5 zone, which allows a house of worship and other nonresidential uses upon granting of a special permit.

But he also said houses of worship have some protections in the process under the freedom of religion provisions of the U.S. Constitution.

Sherrye McDonald and Jerry Buonanno, two of the people who signed the July 12 letter, declined to comment