Thom Harrow

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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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‘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. Continue Reading →

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Next-Door Neighbor Files Formal Appeal of Town’s Decision That ‘Sober House’ Is Allowed

Citing the definition of ‘family’ in the New Canaan Zoning Regulations, a next-door neighbor of the West Road home to be operated as a “sober house” has appealed the town planner’s finding that the property can be used as such in a residential zone. Describing the four-acre zone as “an area zoned for single-family homes” and noting that a sober house’s residents are not related to each other and include support staff, the appeal from Thom Harrow of West Road said the proposed use “is inconsistent with the definition of a family as set out in the Town Zoning Regulations, inasmuch as the proposed use provides housing for as many as eight people and related staff.”

“Pursuant to General Statutes Sect 8-7, this is an appeal from an order of a planning & zoning official which does not prohibit further construction or expansion of a use, and as such, the filing of this appeal stays the order and [The] Lighthouse is not permitted to occupy or use” the West Road home “for the stated purpose until this board resolves the appeal.”

The Zoning Board of Appeals is scheduled to meet Monday. It isn’t clear whether the appeal, received by the town Jan. 23, was filed in time to make that meeting’s agenda. Under the regulations (see page 18 here), ‘family’ is defined as “any number of individuals related by blood, legal adoption or marriage and up to two additional unrelated individuals living and cooking together on the premises as a single housekeeping unit, as distinguished from a group occupying a boarding or rooming house or hotel.”

Since the town planner, on advice from the town attorney, asserted that the sober house is a permitted use at the West Road address, neighbors have spoken out against that finding specifically and more generally about a for-profit business such as The Lighthouse being allowed to operate unchecked and without a public hearing or permit in a residential zone. Continue Reading →

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