‘Sober House’ Neighbor Files Lawsuit, Seeks Temporary Injunction To Halt Operation

Saying the operation of a post-rehab facility next door violates zoning regulations, devalues area properties and brings unwanted density, noise and traffic, a neighbor of the “sober house” running out of a northwestern New Canaan home last week filed a lawsuit seeking to halt its operation.

The use of an 8,000-square-foot home on West Road as a non-medical facility for men has and, “if not restrained, will continue to create a danger to the public health, safety and/or welfare,” according to a complaint filed Friday in state Superior Court in Stamford on behalf of Thom Harrow.

Unless it’s stopped, the sober house “will continue to unreasonably interfere with the peaceful use, occupancy and enjoyment by the plaintiff of the Harrow property and other neighboring residents of the town of New Canaan from the peaceful use, occupancy and enjoyment of their properties,” according to the lawsuit, filed by attorney Linda Pesce Laske of Bridgeport-based Green & Gross PC.

The Feb. 10 filing includes an application for temporary injunction and order to show cause.

Naming as defendants the owner of the 4.33-acre property next door as well as the company that’s operating the sober home on it, The Lighthouse, and its two founders, the complaint said the facility “shall continue to create and constitutes a nuisance that will cause the plaintiff irreparable injury.”

Asked about the lawsuit, one of The Lighthouse’s founders, Tony Kiniry, said that he looked forward to working with the town to address community concerns and to agree on guidelines promoting safety and health.

“We have consistently made ourselves available to address concerns raised by our neighbors,” Kiniry said. “We are grateful to many who have accepted or availably and those that have both welcomed and encouraged us. Mr. Harrow and his group have repeatedly refused to avail themselves of our offer to communicate. This most recent legal filing makes it abundantly clear that they never intended to make a good faith effort to come to a resolution. We are disappointed he has chosen this course of action.”

The filing of the lawsuit comes even before New Canaan’s Zoning Board of Appeals hears Harrow’s appeal of the town’s finding that the sober house is an allowed as-of-right use of the West Road home.

On the advice of the town attorney, the town planner responded to inquiries from some neighbors that no special or health permit is required in order to operate a sober home at 909 West Road.

In the complaint, Laske argues that because more than six people will reside in the sober house—a deduction based, in part, on The Lighthouse’s own promotional materials—the home is not to be treated, under state law, as other single-family residences are.

After asserting that the sober house use violates local regulations, the complaint seeks to render baseless the town planner’s finding: “The New Canaan Town Planner lacks the power or authority under the Connecticut General Statutes and the Zoning Regulations to permit uses of land that do not conform to all standards required by the Zoning Regulations.”

State legislators in the session now underway have proposed new bills that, if passed, would require sober houses to register as businesses in their municipality and for new such facilities to obtain certification from local health authorities, among other measures.

In addition to The Lighthouse and Kiniry, the defendants named in Harrow’s lawsuit are Anne-Lie Sparks and Trey Laird.

3 thoughts on “‘Sober House’ Neighbor Files Lawsuit, Seeks Temporary Injunction To Halt Operation

  1. We are glad to see Mr. Kiniry’s response to this article. Just for clarity, our action was the filing of a claim that the owner of 909 West Road has violated the Town’s zoning statutes regarding use and number of occupants in a residential structure. This isn’t a lawsuit and there are no defendants. It’s a request of a judge to halt the ongoing use of 909 until the Town can take appropriate zoning action.

    The Town became aware of the Lighthouse because a member of our group told them about it– not Mr. Kiniry. The Lighthouse leased the property and began working on it in the dead of the night– act first and ask for forgiveness later.

    There has never been an “offer to communicate” by Mr. Kiniry. His suggestion that there has been and that he wants to communicate now comes only after we have begun to take legal action. There has never been any discussion of “coming to a resolution” and thus no reason to suggest we’ve not been acting in good faith. If there is a lack of good faith it was on the part of the Lighthouse for starting this project with notice to no one.

    Finally there is no reason to communicate with him now. His desire to discuss “guidelines” is misdirected. If there are limits to be placed on his operation, the Town should negotiate them with him after they take zoning action. It’s the lack of such action that prompted our complaint.

    The property owner is in violation of existing zoning statutes right now. We aren’t looking to negotiate a “resolution” because we believe the Lighthouse, a for profit business. doesn’t belong in a residential area. We are only asking that the Town undertake the appropriate zoning process regarding a non conforming use.

  2. Mike, my apologies, you are correct, they are referred to as defendants and the action is a suit.

    My purpose in saying there weren’t defendants and no suit was to be clear we’re not suing for money, but requesting an injunction to stop the use.

    My apologies.

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