Ira Bloom

Recent Articles

Editorial: A Disputed FOI Question Regarding ‘Illegal Meetings’

In February, the Board of Selectmen appointed a seven-member committee and tasked it with one of the most consequential jobs assigned to a municipal body: Study the physical condition, uses and capital needs of all 56 town-owned buildings in New Canaan (except the school district’s) and report back to the town. As a one-person news operation, I often make difficult decisions about what to cover, and forgo coverage of entire boards or commissions—I rarely covered the Charter Revision Commission, for example, never go to Deer Committee meetings and did not cover the Playhouse Committee after its second meeting. But the Town Building Evaluation & Use Committee—an advisory body—was to make recommendations (in a report originally scheduled for September delivery) with wide implications for the town, including whether to raze, sell, invest in or use differently buildings such as Waveny House, Vine Cottage, the former Outback Teen Center and Irwin House. I decided to attend every meeting I could and report back to our readers on what they were discussing. My goal was to clue people in as to the committee’s thought process as its work unfolded. Continue Reading →

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Town Attorney Seeks To Address ‘Alleged Procedural Defects’ with Grace Farms Approval through Re-Filing

Seeking to address part of a lawsuit filed by neighbors of Grace Farms, New Canaan’s town attorney is asking the Lukes Wood Road organization to re-file its applications for an amended permit and changes to the New Canaan Zoning Regulations. The Planning & Zoning Commission approved the applications in September on a record-high number of conditions following months of public hearings. However, according to a lawsuit filed on behalf of Smith Ridge Road residents Timothy Curt and Dona Bissonnette, the post-hearing legal notices of P&Z’s decision were “defective, incomplete and misleading” and also failed to meet the requirements of state law or the town’s own zoning regulations. According to the complaint filed by attorney David Sherwood of Glastonbury-based Moriarty, Paetzoid & Sherwood, P&Z also failed to file a copy of the regulation change with the Town Clerk prior to the effective date of the amended regulation, according to the complaint. Though the town would “contest these claims in court,” one way to address “the alleged procedural defects now and thereby reduce the risk of a court later overruling our position and requiring re-filing and new hearing, after the full effort and expense of the administrative appeal process” will be to re-file, according to a Nov. Continue Reading →

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Aquarion: Cellular Antennas Will Come Off Water Towers at Waveny

Officials with the company that owns the water towers at Waveny—tall structures that double as a site for wireless equipment from five cellular companies as well as New Canaan’s emergency radio gear—say that though the antennas ultimately must be removed, they’re working with the town to ensure that there’s no gap in service. Aquarion has “already verbally offered to the town that we will leave the antennas on the tank for an additional year,” meaning New Canaan will have until November 2019 to see through an early-stage plan to erect its own tower at the park for the wireless infrastructure, according to Peter Fazekas, the company’s director of public relations. “That will be adequate [for New Canaan] to build a tower and transfer the antennas,” Fazekas told NewCanaanite.com. “The goal here is to find a good solution. We cannot keep them on our tank, so we are looking for a good solution.”

Asked just why the equipment needs to come off of the water towers, Fazekas said, “It is causing problems with maintenance on the infrastructure.”

“We are supposed to do a complete repaint of the tank and we had to cancel that because we could not get all the cell companies to get their equipment off the tank, so we had to cancel that,” he said. Continue Reading →

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Sober House Operator Proposes ‘Community Agreement’ in Advance of Hearing on Appeal

Officials with the company running a widely discussed “sober house” out of a private home in northwestern New Canaan, after meeting with the town, are proposing a set of conditions regarding those who will staff and operate the facility, as well as those who will live there as clients, documents show. The conditions—some of which reflect bills now before the state legislature—include that staff at The Lighthouse-operated home on West Road will provide the town with contact information for an on-site point person, will be trained in administering the life-saving drug Narcan, which is to be kept on premises, and will themselves be recovering addicts with five or more years’ experience supporting those with substance abuse disorders, according to a copy of the proposed “Community Agreement,” date-stamped March 28. Further, those with active arrest warrants or who are registered as sex offenders will not be permitted to participate in the non-medical sober living program, and residents at The Lighthouse home will be limited to eight total and required to abide by “House Rules” that include submitting to random drug and alcohol tests, requesting 24 hours in advance permission to have a visitor and participate in “self-directed recovery program activities,” according to the proposed agreement. The Zoning Board of Appeals on Monday night is expected to issue a decision on an appeal brought by one next-door neighbor who is objecting to a decision by the town that The Lighthouse needs no special or health permit—as otherwise required by the New Canaan Zoning Regulations—to operate the sober house in a residential zone. The meeting comes on the heels of an emotionally charged initial public hearing on the matter, after which the ZBA decided to postpone its decision on the appeal until after hearing from additional legal counsel. Continue Reading →

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After Contentious Hearing, Town Officials Call for Fresh Legal Advice on ‘Sober House’ Appeal

During an emotionally charged, at times contentious public hearing that saw a line of lawyers paint vastly different pictures of what’s required of the town, officials on Monday night said they would obtain yet another legal opinion prior to deciding whether a “sober house” may operate in a single-family home in northwestern New Canaan without obtaining a permit. Those opposed to a sober house operating out of a West Road residence criticized the town’s finding that the for-profit facility needs no permit to do so, saying New Canaan should have a formal application process for the business and pooh-poohing legal advice that imposing such would trigger liability for discrimination. Those who have found that The Lighthouse may operate at 909 West Road without a permit point to federal laws that govern treatment of the disabled and fair housing practices. During a public hearing on next-door neighbor Thom Harrow’s appeal of the town’s finding before the Zoning Board of Appeals, what emerged were competing legal interpretations of what would constitute a “reasonable accommodation” for the sober house on New Canaan’s part. According to Town Attorney Ira Bloom, whose advice led to an assertion that The Lighthouse may operate its facility in the 8,000-square-foot home, New Canaan is required “to reasonably accommodate” the sober house within its own regulations. Continue Reading →

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