EAST HADDAM — For the second time, the owners of Banner Country Club Estates have withdrawn a zoning amendment application that would have allowed them to convert a large, empty banquet hall into a residential apartment building.
At the Planning and Zoning meeting Tuesday night, James Ventres, zoning enforcement officer and land use administrator for the town, read aloud a letter from attorney John S. Bennet, which stated that issues between his client, property co-owners Anthony and Frank Longhitano, and the existing condominium association of Banner Country Club Estates had not been resolved and that the application was officially withdrawn. No further explanation was given.
If passed, the amendment would change the town’s Planned Recreational/Resort Zones, a floating zone established in 1973, to allow buildings exceeding 6,000 square feet and built prior to 1973 to contain more than four residential units. The Longhitano partners, who own Banner Resort Development LLC, have proposed converting the 28,000 banquet hall, which was built in the 1930s, into about 20 residential units.
After a contentious public hearing on Jan. 28 for the first submittal of the application, the Planning and Zoning Commission agreed at its Feb. 11 meeting to ask the town attorney to craft a denial of the application in order to avoid potential litigation. However, at the Feb. 25 meeting, the Longhitanos withdrew the application before the commission could vote on the denial.
Because the application was not denied, the Longhitanos were able to resubmit the application, and they did on August 25. The public hearing for the new application was scheduled for Sept. 8, which was postponed until Oct. 13. The Oct. 13 public hearing was extended until Oct. 27 when Bennet requested a continuance to Nov. 10, citing a lack of resolution between his client and the condominium association, the same reason given for the withdrawal on Tuesday.
The Longhitanos, of New Rochelle, New York, purchased what was known as Banner Lodge in 2004 for $6.15 million. In the 1980s, the 400-acre property was approved for 86 units and about 75 were constructed. After receiving reapproval for 33 units in 2005 and 53 units in 2006, the Longhitanos rehabbed 48 units that are currently occupied. The remaining 20 or 30 units have sat empty and have deteriorated.
Residents of the complex have opposed the residential units proposed for the banquet hall, citing poor maintenance of the existing buildings, infrastructure and recreational facilities.
If the commission were to approve the amendment, three other buildings besides the banquet hall in the resort district would qualify for adaptive reuse, including a 6,144-square-foot maintenance building owned by the Longhitanos. The 9,000-square-foot main building at My Father’s House and the 10,434-square-foot building at Klar Crest Realty would also qualify.