Thom Harrow

Recent Articles

‘This Is Completely Inappropriate’: Sober House Operators, Neighbor Fail To Reach Accord

Though they had appeared close to reaching an agreement, the operators of a sober house on West Road home and a neighbor appealing the town’s decision to allow it have failed to reach an accord, representatives said during a public hearing last week. Now, the question of whether the sober house may continue to operate—or, more likely, under exactly what conditions it will continue—is entirely in the hands of town officials who heard attorneys from both sides make their cases at a June 5 meeting of the Zoning Board of Appeals. During an unusual ZBA hearing that featured spirited interruptions and apologies, appellant Thom Harrow told board members that the owners of The Lighthouse proposed a series of conditions under which they agreed to run a sober house living facility for men at 909 West Road. According to Harrow, just one point of disagreement remained at the time the ZBA hearing opened—a question of whether six or eight clients would be allowed in the 8,000-square-foot home at one time. Harrow, Lighthouse officials and various attorneys took a break following an initial part of the hearing—ostensibly to sort out that final matter. Continue Reading →

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‘We Will Come Together on Something’: Sober House Operators, Concerned Neighbor Near Agreement

The operators of the “sober house” on West Road and a next-door neighbor who has appealed the town’s finding that the business could run out of a residence there appear close to reaching mutually agreeable terms, according to correspondence on file at Planning & Zoning. Though no formal agreement yet has been finalized, the parties held an “amicable” meeting and “it’s clear to each side that we will come together on something along the lines of” a proposal brought forward by next-door neighbor Thom Harrow, he said in an email last week to the town planner. “The proposal we made incorporated the community contract you were working on with [The Lighthouse] co-founder Tony [Kiniry], plus material from the Pennsylvania statute,” Harrow said. He referred to recommendations that call criminal background checks and town notification within 48 hours in the event of a death, overdose or suicide attempt, physical or sexual assault, serious crime or outbreak of contagious disease. Originally scheduled to come before the Zoning Board of Appeals on April 3 and put off to May 1, the second hearing on Harrow’s appeal—if it’s not withdrawn—now appears as if it could be delayed again. Continue Reading →

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Town To Tap Bridgeport-Based Land Use Attorney for Advice on ‘Sober House’ Appeal

The town plans to tap a Bridgeport-based attorney with wide experience and expertise in land use to advise municipal officials on a closely followed appeal regarding the “sober house” operating on West Road. Patricia Sullivan of Cohen and Wolf is “a very good lawyer with issues related to zoning,” according to First Selectman Rob Mallozzi. “She is a very good land use lawyer and is familiar with the limitations of zoning with respect to federal and state law,” he said. Selected from among a number of candidates and with vetting and feedback from attorneys who serve on the New Canaan Zoning Board of Appeals, Sullivan is expected to advise on whether the town’s determination that the sober house may operate without a permit is a legally correct, tenable position. Opponents of the sober house’s “as-of-right” operation on upper West Road—including the appellant, next-door neighbor Thom Harrow—have said New Canaan should have a formal application process for such businesses seeking to launch in residential zones. Continue Reading →

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Judge Denies New Canaan Homeowner’s Motion To Quash; ‘Sober House’ Lawsuit Headed Toward Trial

In a closely followed lawsuit that appears headed to trial, a judge last week denied a motion filed on behalf of the New Canaan woman who owns a West Road property where a “sober house” is operating. An attorney representing the owner of 909 West Road had argued in a March 9 filing that his client should not need to appear and testify in court this week, as spelled out in a subpoena from a next-door neighbor who is suing her in order to halt the facility’s operation. The subpoena filed on behalf of neighbor Thom Harrow also is “unreasonable, oppressive and burdensome because it seeks production of documents that are plainly irrelevant,” according to the Motion to Quash filed by attorney Robert Maslan of Darien-based Maslan Associates PC. “The subpoena’s overly broad document requests for ‘any communications … concerning the use and/or occupancy of the subject premises’ go far beyond the scope of this purported private zoning enforcement and/or nuisance action, in which Plaintiff bears the burden to prove that defendants’ conduct constitutes an unreasonable interference with his use and enjoyment of his own property … or violates the Town of New Canaan’s zoning regulations … It is difficult to see how defendants’ communications regarding the property at issue are relevant to plaintiff’s allegations that defendants have already interfered with plaintiff’s use and enjoyment of his property (which allegations the evidence will show are entirely false) or violated the zoning regulations (which must, to the extent defendants’ proposed use of the property is inconsistent with them, be waived or modified pursuant to the federal Fair Housing Act).”

Judge Kevin Tierney of the state Superior Court in Stamford on March 9 denied the motion. The matter is scheduled to go to trial May 16, according to Connecticut Judicial Branch records. Continue Reading →

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Legal Counsel to Zoning Board: Back Up Town Planner on ‘Sober House’ Decision

After telling municipal officials that a “sober house” on West Road may operate without a permit in a residential zone, the town attorney is advising the volunteer body that will hear an appeal of that decision to uphold it. New Canaan must grant a “reasonable accommodation” under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act to the sober house “and cannot discriminate against handicapped or disabled persons,” town attorney Ira Bloom said in a letter filed Thursday with Planning & Zoning. “Even when the sober house reaches capacity of six or perhaps eight from time to time, the ADA requires a reasonable accommodation that would allow for such occupancy,” Bloom said in the letter. “[Town Planner] Mr. [Steve] Palmer has been working diligently with the proprietor of the sober house to craft a set of conditions for its ongoing operation, including provisions for inspections, reporting and supervision. His goal is to have such conditions become part of the official record—perhaps even part of the [Zoning Board of Appeals’] decision after the March 6 hearing. Continue Reading →

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