Ira Bloom

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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 “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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Town Officials: No Permit Needed To Operate West Road Home As ‘Sober House’

Responding to concerns voiced by neighbors, town officials said this week that no special or health permit is required for a single-family home in northern New Canaan to be used as a residence for men recovering from addiction. After consulting with legal counsel as well as New Canaan’s chief building official and health director, the town planner said in a memo issued Wednesday that a “sober house” at an upper West Road home “is a permitted use and may operate at that location.”

A two-year lease has been signed on behalf of a group called The Lighthouse, effective this month, to operate out of an 8,000-square-foot home that sits on more than four acres, officials said. According to its website, The Lighthouse “is a premier residential facility for male executives and professionals who are transitioning from addiction treatment into a life of sober living.” It’s not an addiction treatment or rehab center, according to its brochure, and residents must be “completely detoxed and medically cleared by a doctor” to live in a Lighthouse residence, and typically stay 90 days, the website said. According to its brochure, eight men may live in a sober house at a given time. It isn’t clear whether The Lighthouse is a for-profit or nonprofit agency, or whether it operates as part of a larger organization. Continue Reading →

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‘Scary and Slippery Slope’: With Reservations, Selectmen OK New Counsel for FOI Request

Saying they hoped it wouldn’t set a bad precedent or promote lack of transparency in town government, officials on Wednesday approved an appointed body’s request to engage a lawyer regarding an unexpected Freedom of Information Act request. The FOIA request, filed by a town resident, seeks to know just who said what to members of the Charter Revision Commission, a volunteer group that convened one year ago to study and recommend changes to New Canaan’s major governing document. As the full commission worked toward forming its Town Charter recommendations —to be put before New Canaan voters on Election Day, following approval from the Town Council—a subcommittee gathering information to inform the full commission conducted interviews with municipal employees and leaders on the boards that help govern the town. Those interviewees had been told their identities would be kept confidential—an assertion now in question. According to Town Council Chairman Bill Walbert, the Charter Revision Commission after receiving the FOIA request checked with the town attorney and others about its position and “the advice they were getting did not jibe with what they felt in their hearts—I guess is probably the best way to say it.”

“And they felt they would like to have different counsel whose thought process was more in line with that they felt their proper stance was,” Walbert told the Board of Selectmen during its regular meeting, held at Town Hall. Continue Reading →

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