Chabad withdraws plan to make changes
GUILFORD — Chabad of the Shoreline is going to modify its building plans for a synagogue and community center at 181 Goose Lane.

To that end, Chabad withdrew its inland wetlands application for the 1.28-acre residentially zoned parcel, which was to have been heard Wednesday night.

The group also plans to withdraw its special permit application, which the Planning and Zoning Commission had been scheduled to take Wednesday.

Chabad’s leader would give no further details about changes.

"We plan to resubmit our application after making modifications in response to the recommendations of town agencies," Rabbi Yossi Yaffe said Thursday. He referred all further questions to Chabad’s attorney, Marjorie Shansky, who could not be reached for comment.

Although the town permits houses of worship in residential zones, the Chabad proposal has generated opposition from neighbors, as well as other residents of town, who say that Goose Lane already has too much traffic from the commercial developments that have been allowed near the Interstate 95 interchange.

A synagogue/community center with activities seven days a week would destroy the small residential neighborhood nearby, critics say.

Perhaps most affected by the project would be Donna Criscenzo of 199 Goose Lane, whose home would be shadowed by the 19,000-square-foot facility that was detailed in the initial application. Criscenzo and others have hired a lawyer to fight the plan, which she described as "incredibly out of scale" with the neighboring homes.

Asked if a smaller facility would make the Chabad project palatable to her, Criscenzo said, "Given Chabad’s well-publicized commitment to growth and expansion, I doubt that a smaller project would be permanent. I don’t want to have to go back (to town agencies) every two or three years fighting (expansion)."

Criscenzo said town permitting agencies should ask "serious, serious questions about changing this residential neighborhood, disrupting something that already exists, disrupting our harmony."

Chabad of the Shoreline operates out of a storefront on Main Street in Branford. Asked how many members there are in the congregation, Yaffe said, "We’re here to serve everyone," but would not offer a specific number.

The synagogue/community center would offer not only Friday night services and dinner from 6 to 10 p.m., but also activities from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Weekdays it would operate a day-care center from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. and adult education from 6 to 10 p.m. It also would offer a children’s summer camp.

Town Planner George Kral said Thursday it is his understanding the day-care center — which also is allowed in a residential zone — would be for the children of synagogue members, not the general public.

The original plan called for 35 parking spaces on the 1.28-acre parcel, plus another 35 spaces on a rear lot, where a 4,000-square-foot home for the rabbi is planned.

Police Chief Tom Terribile, filing a required report to the PZC, said there is not enough on-site parking planned. Chabad representatives said they would use the commuter lot near I-95 for overflow parking, according to the report. That, Terribile wrote, would violate state law, which limits use of commuter lots to those carpooling or using mass transit.

"Goose Lane is very heavily traveled and not wide enough to accommodate parking on the sides," Terrible wrote.

Cynthia Baran can be reached at [email protected] or 458-5768