Following a hearing Tuesday, Superior Court Judge Dale Radcliffe refused to order Stratford's zoning enforcement officer to raze the 1,000-foot-plus gravel driveway that runs across city-owned airport property to Moutinho's waterside mansion and the homes of two neighbors.
Sikorsky Memorial Airport is owned by Bridgeport but is in Stratford. The city hired Moutinho's Mark IV Construction in the spring to install the driveway.
John Kucej, who owns a unit in the adjoining Breakwater Key condominiums, asked the judge for the demolition order based on a July 2 ruling the judge had made in a zoning appeal filed by Breakwater. Radcliffe concluded Moutinho had not proved a hardship when he convinced the Stratford Zoning Board of Appeals last summer to allow the driveway to be built through a wetland behind the condominiums.
At some point between last summer and the driveway's completion in June, Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch's administration quietly decided to take over the project as part of a $40 million runway safety upgrade the federal government wants completed by 2016. The city assumed Moutinho's permits and, despite Breakwater's then-pending zoning appeal, hired the controversial developer to install the driveway for $400,000.
Now the city is trying to reach a settlement with Breakwater Key that will keep the driveway in place -- something Kucej opposes.
Radcliffe pointed out Tuesday that the Breakwater zoning appeal was over and he has no standing to make any more rulings in that case. Besides, he continued, "The zoning enforcement officer is not a party to the case, so the court can't order him to do anything."
Instead, the judge suggested to Kucej, who is a lawyer, that he might make an application to the zoning enforcement officer to order a cease and desist order on the driveway which could then be enforced or appealed to the zoning appeals board.
Meanwhile, Richard Saxl, who represents the condominium association which had sued Stratford and Moutinho over the driveway, said progress is being made in negotiations with the Finch administration. Saxl said the association hopes to have a deal soon that would allow the driveway to remain but still provide some privacy for condominium residents.
Despite repeated invitations by the judge, city officials wouldn't join the case, so Radcliffe did not take the runway safety work into consideration when he issued his original ruling favoring Breakwater's appeal.
During a recess, numerous calls were made to the Bridgeport city attorney's office asking a representative to attend Tuesday's hearing. Eventually, Assistant City Attorney Russell Liskov showed up, apologized to the judge and said he had nothing to do with the driveway situation, but had been sent over by City Attorney Mark Anastasi to ask for a continuance.
"If he wants to say something, Mr. Anastasi can come here and say it himself," the judge retorted. "Why did Mr. Anastasi make the decision to put in the driveway when the appeal was pending?"