Debate Over Newton Bear Cubs Illustrates Divide on Managing Connecticut Wildlife

The plight of two tiny bear cubs who climbed an 80-foot tree to safety after their mother was killed elevates a question for Connecticut residents. What should be the relationship between humans and wildlife? The orphaned 4-month-old brothers, one 11 pounds, the other 13 pounds, now live at the renowned Kilham Bear Center in New Hampshire, where they will be carefully raised in preparation for a return to the wild. But their fate, at first, was headed in a different direction, said wildlife rehabilitators and members of the state Legislature’s Animal Advocacy Caucus, who tracked the cubs through the woods

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A Developer and an Out-of-the-Box Suggestion for Affordable Housing in Stamford Suburbs

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Before he shared his suggestion, Richard Freedman warned Zoom viewers that it was “radical.” He offered it during a virtual public hearing on Stamford’s affordable housing plan, due to the state on June 1.  Freedman, a for-profit developer who also creates affordable housing through his family’s non-profit foundation, said Stamford provides about 40 percent of the below market rate units in the region. Amid a state mandate for housing accessible to all income levels, Stamford has done “more than its fair share,” Freedman told the Stamford Planning Board, host of the hearing.  Surrounding towns have not, he said.  Stamford exceeds

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Bullish on Revenues, Stamford Bumps up Mill Rate, Takes Aim at School Renovation Costs

Board of Finance members went through the city’s revenue lines Tuesday night, working to set a new mill rate for Stamford taxpayers. As they did, one thing became clear – Vice Chair Mary Lou Rinaldi is bullish on Stamford. Rinaldi, confident of the city’s prospects for the 2022-23 fiscal year, suggested half a dozen hikes in revenue projections. She proposed increasing the expected revenue from building-permit fees to $6.75 million, or $250,000 more. “People are still doing new construction and renovation, so I think increasing this projection slightly is a good move,” Rinaldi said.  The board passed her proposal unanimously. 

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Horseshoe Crab Protections Died in the Legislature, Now the Dwindling Population Arrives to Mate

The bill, which would have banned fishermen from collecting the venerable, vulnerable horseshoe crab from Connecticut beaches, passed the state House of Representatives in a vote of all yeses, and seemed to have similar support in the state Senate. But in the final hours of the legislative session, the bill failed to come up for a vote, and died. So the disappearing horseshoe crab, which breeds in sandy inlets for a few days during full and new moons this time of year, will take another hit, said Priscilla Feral, president of Friends of Animals, the Darien advocacy organization that helped

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Stamford Death Raises Dangers of Illegal Housing

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On May 2, the friends of a 46-year-old Stamford man could not reach him by telephone, so they went to the door of his basement apartment in a single-family house downtown. They heard the shower running. They knocked, but the man did not answer. They called police. Officers arrived, heard the shower – and that the man always responds to phone messages from his friends – and decided to force the door open. They found the man, identified for now only as a native of Morocco, dead in the running shower. There were no wounds, no signs of foul play,

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Stamford Releases $237k Study Detailing Local Housing Needs

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Stamford is fast becoming a city of high-earning renters, but home ownership, for many, is slipping out of reach. Low- and moderate-income homeowners are leaving Stamford, and renters at those salary levels are struggling to survive – if they can find affordable units in a market that falls far short of demand.  Though Stamford creates more affordable housing units, by far, than any municipality in Fairfield County, it is nowhere near enough. So concludes a 10-month study commissioned by Stamford officials to fulfill a mandate from Hartford to develop a housing affordability plan.  State lawmakers confronting the state’s strong demand

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Stamford Marijuana Dispensary Wins Local Approvals, Plans 12 Cash Registers

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It could be that Fine Fettle Dispensary will handle 40 to 50 recreational marijuana customers per hour when it opens in Stamford. To prepare for such a large number of transactions, Fine Fettle CEO Benjamin Zachs plans to install 12 cash registers. He expanded the number of parking spaces beyond what zoning regulations require for his Research Drive shop, and will ask customers to order online and visit only to pick up. If all goes as planned, Zachs thinks he can serve each customer in 2.5 to 4 minutes, he told members of the Zoning Board Monday. Board members approved

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Stamford Schools Face Wave of No-Confidence Votes

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For two months, votes of no-confidence in Stamford’s school superintendent have trickled in. They began in early March with Westhill, the city’s largest high school, where two-thirds of the tenured teachers cited a lack of confidence in the superintendent, Tamu Lucero, saying she leaves them out of important decisions – particularly one to switch to a block schedule in the fall. That was followed a week later by a no-confidence vote from the city’s smallest high school, the Academy of Information Technology & Engineering, where 42 of 51 tenured teachers cited the same reasons. In late March it was Turn

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Facing a Lawsuit, Developer in Darien Opts for 8-30g Housing

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8-30g is a Connecticut affordable housing law that was enacted more than 30 years ago, then largely ignored. Until now. It was written to help people afford housing in Connecticut, one of the most expensive states in the nation.  Within Connecticut, no places are less affordable than the small, wealthy towns of Fairfield County. But that’s where affordable housing projects are going up. It’s happening because demand for housing is high, stock is low, and developers are earning profits even with the 8-30g requirement that 30 percent of the units in a project are rented at rates deemed affordable. To

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City Reps. Vote Cuts for Mill River Park, Cite Unequal Funding of Stamford Parks

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In the final meeting to decide on Stamford’s $626 million budget for the coming fiscal year, members of the Board of Representatives spent an hour and a half talking about one park. The discussion can be summarized by paraphrasing a famous line from George Orwell’s 1945 novel, Animal Farm: All parks are equal, but some parks are more equal than others. It describes the thinking among city representatives who voted to cut $175,200 from Mill River Park, the jewel of downtown Stamford. Mill River is an expanding greenway with a sparkling stream visited by elegant egrets and surrounded by blossoming

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Police Avoid Traffic Stops for Unregistered Vehicles, Focus on More Serious Crimes

License-plate readers posted in busy parts of Stamford are detecting lots of unregistered vehicles on the streets. But officers are focusing on other things the automated plate readers detect, including vehicles that are stolen, those that may have been used in a crime, and those wanted in investigations by other law enforcement agencies. That’s fine with Ken Barone, a researcher tasked with helping to establish fair and effective public policies in Connecticut. Barone has been working on reforming the state’s motor vehicle code, which has hundreds of violations. “It’s been a belief for a long time within some police circles

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Safety, Crowding, and Policing a Concern in Stamford Parks, as Child Recovers in Hospital

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For most of the five years Jeff Stella has been a city representative, he has raised the prospect of danger at Lione Park. On Sunday, something perilous happened. An 11-year-old on a swing was struck by a car that careened through the playground fence. The child, at last check, was in stable condition. “When I heard, I prayed his injuries weren’t serious,” said Stella, whose district on Stamford’s West Side includes the busy park. “Then I thought, ‘This has been one of my fears, and now it happened.’” The woman behind the wheel, 54-year-old Mikel Lyneel of Stamford, was charged

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Study in Science Finds Personality For a Dog is Not a Matter of Breed

Beagles are scent hounds, prone to wander as they follow their noses. But Bonnie the beagle is a couch potato. Beagles are known for chumminess. Clyde the beagle, however, enjoys his independence. Beagles are noted for their gentleness, but gentle would not describe Mikey the beagle’s rapid-fire high-jumps. Beagles, reportedly, don’t make good watch dogs. But Rocky the beagle alerts his family to the slightest disturbance. Such discrepancies are explained in a sweeping study published Friday in the journal Science. It found that, despite conventional wisdom, breed doesn’t much predict personality traits in an individual dog. The research on the

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Below-Market-Rate Housing in Stamford, a Model, and ‘a Mess’

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Housing was a hot topic in this year’s almost-ended legislative session at the state capitol. Advocates pushed for measures to increase the amount of affordable housing in Connecticut, one of the most expensive places to live in the country. Towns pushed back, saying they will fight to preserve their character, particularly since developers are taking advantage of a law that allows them to bypass local zoning regulations if they build projects with a certain percentage of affordable units.  Each municipality now is working on a plan – due to the state on June 30 – for how it will boost

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State Reps Rally to Protect Dwindling Horseshoe Crab Population

The entire Connecticut House of Representatives came out this week for the horseshoe crab – the silent, slow-moving “ancient mariner” that has lived on earth’s shores for 445 million years. In a time when politicians keep to their camps, red vs. blue, and battle over the veracity of election results and other basics of democracy, state representatives voted 144-0 for An Act Concerning the Hand-Harvesting of Horseshoe Crabs. The unanimous vote sent a signal that state lawmakers want to ensure that the dwindling population of horseshoe crabs does not disappear from Connecticut beaches. “The whole chamber agreed that we should

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Fiscal Committee Messages Priorities with $940,000 in Cuts From Stamford Budget

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City Rep. Monica Di Costanzo ticked off page numbers to the sound of Fiscal Committee members flipping through the budget book.  “Sixty-one, sixty-two, sixty-three,” Di Costanzo said, reading through the 555 pages and checking to see whether Board of Representatives committee members at city hall – and those watching on Zoom – raised a hand to propose a cut. “Page 88, Department of Operations, road maintenance,” Di Costanzo, the committee co-chair, continued. No hands went up. “Page 129, beaches … page 149, traffic analyst position …” Representatives Monday night proposed few cuts at first, even for the big-ticket items –

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Stamford Debates Housing Reforms Aimed at Connecticut’s Suburbs and Small Towns

In some places they’re called mother-in-law suites, in others illegal apartments. Whatever the reference – zoning officials say ADU for “accessory dwelling unit” – they’ve come to be called controversial in the hot debate over how to alleviate the state’s affordable housing crisis. Housing advocates say ADUs are a vehicle for creating more affordable rental units and greater access to Connecticut’s wealthy towns, where crime is low and quality of education is high. Last year legislators passed a law legalizing ADUs statewide. It allows them to be built in single-family houses as of right, meaning without a zoning variance, special

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Stamford Reps Question How a Score of 55 Beats a 74 for Firefighter Testing and Promotions

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The test is scored precisely, down to decimals. Yet results can be rounded. A grade may be set to define passing and failing. But not necessarily. Earning the highest score could mean a promotion. Or not. Members of the Stamford Board of Representatives said this week they are confused about how firefighters and police officers are evaluated on exams they take when they want a promotion. During the board’s Personnel Committee meeting, representatives requested an explanation of the rules after a firefighter was promoted March 28 to deputy fire marshal even though he scored 19 points lower than the runner-up.

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Hit and Run Puts Stamford Man in Hospital, Police Searching for Driver

It’s hard to understand how, in the age of the camera, motorists think they can strike a pedestrian on a busy boulevard, take off and get away with it. But that’s what happened Wednesday evening in downtown Stamford. Now a 52-year-old Stamford man is hospitalized with life-threatening injuries, and police are on the trail of the driver of a gray Acura, even though the driver took an extra step to conceal himself by abandoning the car and removing the license plates. But a witness to the accident at Tresser and Washington boulevards captured the plate number and gave it to

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Ghost Fishing, Nitrogen Pollution, Rubber Debris Targeted in Local Efforts to Clean Up the Sound

Twenty years ago, rising water temperatures, nitrogen pollution and disease wiped out the lobster population in Long Island Sound. Lobstermen picked up and left, in many cases leaving their traps behind. But on the floor of the Sound, tens of thousands of traps are still working, catching the few remaining lobsters along with other species. It’s called ghost fishing. Scott Curatolo-Wagemann, a marine biologist with the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Long Island, N.Y., explained the phenomenon Thursday during a webinar hosted by the Long Island Sound Coastal Watershed Network. His program, which has removed 20,000 abandoned lobster pots on the

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After Planning Approval, Finance Blocks Glenbrook School Sale for Housing

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The old Glenbrook School offers a primer on why the affordable housing issue is contentious. Stamford officials made a plan to sell the vacant school-turned-community center to a contractor to convert it into much-needed housing for working people. Officials had a long list of demands for the developer of the century-old building on Crescent Street:  create a good number of affordable rental units ensure density won’t overwhelm the neighborhood provide enough parking for the number of units generate revenue for the city work within existing zoning regulations preserve the historic stone and stucco facade offer space for community use A

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Ukrainian Community in Stamford Lives in Two Worlds

Svitlana Cano lives in two worlds. The first is safe and normal in Stamford, where Cano goes to work each day and raises her son, who is nearly 4, with her husband and help from her visiting mother.  The second is far away, reachable only by signals in the ether that allow intermittent cell phone connections, text messaging and Facetime videos. It’s a world full of suffering, and completely horrifying. It’s Cano’s native Ukraine, where her father, brother, sister-in-law, grandmother and other relatives and friends live day to day on prayers that invading Russians will not kill them. “It was

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Stamford Expected to Set Stricter Limits on Parking Commercial Vehicles

In Norwalk, a car-service operator regularly parked five limousines along the curbs in front of his house. In Milford, someone repeatedly parked a huge oil-leaking truck in a residential neighborhood. In Monroe, officials declared that public property cannot be used to subsidize private companies. The frustration is documented in news stories from multiple towns for a dozen years – officials are struggling to find ways to stop commercial vehicle owners from parking on residential streets. Now Stamford is close to passing a beefed-up ordinance designed to do a better job of it. The ordinance, slated for a public hearing later

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Stamford Officials Express Shock as Receding Water Table Blamed for Structural Collapse

STAMFORD – Members of the Board of Representatives said they were taken aback when they heard that Harbor Point’s signature building, The Lofts at Yale & Towne, is falling apart. The owner told a city commission this week that The Lofts, a 225-unit apartment building converted from the century-old Yale & Towne lock factory, must be demolished. The wood pilings that support the building are rotting, the structure is tilting and sinking, the facade is shifting vertically and horizontally, walls are cracked, floors are slanted, and window and door frames are bowed, the owner said. The Lofts, which opened in

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‘A Disaster,’ Says Architect, As Owner Moves to Demolish 225-Unit Lofts at Yale & Towne

STAMFORD – The 225-unit Lofts at Yale & Towne, the first building to go up in the Harbor Point luxury apartment development, must be torn down, the owner told a city commission Tuesday night. The 800-foot-long building, converted from the historic Yale & Towne lock factory, is tilting and sinking, and the facade is “moving” vertically and horizontally, said Mor Regensburger, vice president of project management for the owner, Gaia Real Estate of New York. The situation is “a disaster,” an architect for Gaia told the Historic Preservation Advisory Commission, which would weigh in on whatever Gaia would build to

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Stamford Reps Grill Public Safety Officials, BLT About Feb. 1 Collapse

STAMFORD – Board of Representatives President Jeff Curtis did some quick math during a heated meeting about the concrete slab that collapsed into the garage of Allure, a newly built South End luxury high-rise. Curtis figured that the 15-by-20-foot slab, 12 inches thick, weighed about 57,000 pounds. “Good thing it didn’t fall on anybody,” Curtis said. But it could have, which is why Curtis and other city representatives grilled public-safety officials and the owner of the high-rise, developer Building & Land Technology, about their response to the Feb. 1 collapse. City officials have determined that the collapse occurred about 1:10

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Small Steps Toward Quieting Train Horns Along the New Canaan Branch Line

For people living near Metro-North Railroad’s New Canaan branch line, dinner can be difficult. It’s because of the warning horns, said Chris Reid, who lives near the rail line. The engineer sounds one long blast as a train arrives at a station, and a series of blasts as it approaches a street-level crossing, according to information from Metro-North. That’s a lot of horn noise, since the 8-mile New Canaan line has five stations and multiple street-level, or “at-grade,” crossings.  In Stamford’s Springdale and Glenbrook areas, there are five at-grade crossings within one mile, said Reid, former president of the Springdale

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On Housing and Beaches, Stamford Reps. Tell State, ‘Mind Your Business’

STAMFORD – City representatives have a message for the state: Mind your business. Members of the Stamford Board of Representatives this month reacted to two bills before the state legislature that would dictate to towns how to regulate parking near beaches.  The bills now are likely dead, but city representatives said they want the state to stop poking its nose into local authority over zoning matters, too. State legislators said the reason for the beach bills was that towns use parking policies and fees to block non-residents from visiting. Public beaches should be more accessible, legislators said, since most towns

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Connecticut Marks ‘Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day’

Frank LiVolsi’s obituary pegs him as Greatest Generation. Its members are known for hard work, sacrifice, personal responsibility, integrity, community service, faithfulness to family, loyalty to friends, and a love of country that propelled victory in World War II. True to the model, LiVolsi’s childhood friends were lifelong. He was a standout football and baseball player in high school. He was a distinguished graduate of a military college, commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army.  He graduated law school then reported for active duty and was assigned to the 11th Armed Cavalry Regiment. Once deployed, he served as

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City Expands Probe to Target 6 or 7 Stamford High-Rises For Possible Safety Violations

STAMFORD – The city’s concerns about the safety of apartment high-rises in the Harbor Point development have expanded to include several more buildings. On Friday evening Mayor Caroline Simmons posted on the city’s website a letter to the co-president of Building & Land Technology, the development company that owns the buildings, seeking access to Allure – where a slab of concrete collapsed last month – and six or seven other high-rises. “The city will require access to inspect the … locations to determine whether additional inconsistencies exist between submitted documentation and actual conditions that might implicate public safety concerns,” Simmons

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