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.

Letter: ‘Sober House’ Issue Needs Civil Dialogue, not Diatribes

Dear Editor:

One’s opinion is largely shaped by one’s perspective. Many of the objections I’ve read recently in regards to The Lighthouse’s opening of a ‘sober house’ on West Road come from the perspective of homeowners and parents. They cite neighborhood property devaluing and safety concerns as reasons to why the commercial operation and its cause should not be able to take place there. As a longtime resident of New Canaan (albeit a former one), I know what the price ranges of houses on West Road are. And any family who decides to make their home there works very hard to do so—and with that should come a sense of security.

‘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.

‘We Want To Have Some Oversight’: State Legislators Take Up Proposed Bills Regulating Sober Houses

State lawmakers are developing a series of bills that advocates say are designed to regulate “sober houses,” the introduction of which in New Canaan has sparked wide community discussion as well as neighborhood opposition. Referred to the Connecticut General Assembly’s Joint Committee on Public Health, one proposed bill calls for an amendment to state law that would require new sober houses “to register with the municipality in which they are located and become certified by their municipal health authority or district department of health prior to operation and in order to be eligible to receive state funding.”

The same “Act Concerning Sober Living Homes” also would require existing facilities to register and obtain certification locally in order to receive state funds. That proposed state law and others seeking to regulate sober houses are to get hearings in the Public Health Committee and from there could go to both houses of the legislature and, with support, to the governor. They could become law at the end of the session in early June if not sooner, according to state Rep. Michelle Cook (D-65th) of Torrington, who sits on the committee and proposed another bill. Under Cook’s bill, sober houses would be required to register as businesses in the towns in which they’re located as well as with the state Department of Public Health, and to have Naloxone or “Narcan”—a life-saving drug in cases of opioid overdose (such as in New Canaan recently)—on premises, with tenants trained in its administration, if anyone in the facility has a history of opioid addiction.