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.