East Haddam Officials Push to Prohibit Marijuana Businesses, Vote to Deny Application for Retail Store

EAST HADDAM – Marijuana may be legal in Connecticut, but elected officials here are moving on two fronts that could potentially prevent it from ever being sold commercially in town. Tuesday, the Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously denied an application from a local developer to open what would be the town’s first retail marijuana store at one of its busiest intersections – citing concerns that the shop would bring even more traffic to the area.  At the same time, the new First Selectman is pushing for a public vote that could not only prohibit retail sale of marijuana, but ban

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Old Saybrook Police Commission to Seek Legal Advice on Powers, Add Email Contacts

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OLD SAYBROOK — The town’s police commission voted on Monday night to hire an attorney to provide a legal opinion on the extent of the commission’s authority in overseeing the police department. Alfred Wilcox, who chairs the commission, said that the idea to hire a lawyer was the suggestion of former chair Frank Keeney. According to Wilcox, Keeney said that the question of authority was an issue that he felt divided the commission along party lines. “Many of the Republicans thought that the police commission’s authority was limited to hiring, firing, promoting and disciplining,” said Wilcox. “And many of the

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Not a Year to Cut Staff, Says Clinton School Superintendent Despite Drop in Numbers

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CLINTON — Despite declining enrollment numbers in the district, Superintendent Maryann O’Donnell said that this was not the year to reduce staffing.  In a meeting of the Finance and Facilities Committee on January 18, O’Donnell said that despite expecting a decrease of 57 students next year, the majority from the middle school enrollment, she did not want to reduce the number of teachers at Eliot, which would increase in average class sizes from 18 to 22 students per class.    O’Donnell said that the pandemic was still preventing teachers from running their classrooms the way that they would normally. She also

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160 Additional Apartments Proposed for Jerome Rd. Development in Montville

MONTVILLE – The developer of Village Apartments in Uncasville is proposing to nearly quadruple the number of units in the apartment complex – three new buildings with 160 apartments and 268 new parking spaces. The proposal to expand the apartment complex on Jerome Rd. from 54 apartments and 108 bedrooms to 214 apartments and 407 bedrooms was submitted by Village Apartments, LLC, registered to Tomas Haendler of Stamford; and Connecticut Multifamily Equities II, registered to Louis Tallarini of White Plains, New York. The plans will need site plan approval from the Montville Planning and Zoning Commission, and approval from the

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A Second Try for a Big Y Gas Station and Convenience Store in Old Saybrook

OLD SAYBROOK – A proposal that would allow a Big Y gas station to be built near the corner of Boston Post and Spencer Plain roads is heading back to the Zoning Commission with changes aimed at addressing the concerns that led to its unanimous rejection earlier this month. The proposal to allow gas stations in Old Saybrook’s B-4 zone had already been approved by the Planning Commission by a 4-1 vote in December, but was then voted down unanimously by the Zoning Commission on Jan. 3.  Zoning Commission Chair Robert Friedmann said at the time that he believed gas

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Burst Pipe Causes Major Water Damage to Los Charros Cantina in Essex

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ESSEX – Cascades of water from a burst fire-sprinkler pipe were still raining down through all four floors of his Los Charros Cantina when chef and owner Colt Taylor arrived Sunday morning after getting a pre-dawn call from state police. “I saw a bunch of fire trucks and I went in the door with them and the water was just pouring down,” a despondent Taylor recalled Wednesday as he supervised clean-up of what he estimates could be $1 million in damage that will close the popular 3-year-old Mexican restaurant for at least a month. “It was heartbreaking.” A cold snap

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Afghan Family, U.S. Army Driver, Find Safety and New Home in Old Lyme

OLD LYME — The Popal family readied their house for guests on Monday night to the happy noises of children playing and the aromas of chicken, meatballs and kabuli pulao — a rice dish garnished with carrots and raisins. In the dining room, tablecloths were spread across the center of a rug. Visitors were invited to sit on floor cushions while husband and wife Hayatullah and Bibi Nebiah Popal, both in their late 20s, set out the feast. “Have some food,” said Hayatullah, as he handed plates piled high for each guest.  From the kitchen he brought more food — a

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Investigation of Montville Crash that Sent 7 to Hospital Still Pending Since August

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MONTVILLE – An investigation into a crash last summer involving a Montville Police Officer that sent seven people to area hospitals for treatment remains unfinished nearly five months later according to Connecticut State Police. The police officer collided with two cars pulled over to the side of Route 32 on Aug. 12, 2021. CT Examiner requested a copy of the full accident report from the State Police headquarters in Middletown on Aug. 25 to confirm details in a preliminary report on the crash. That report has not been provided, and CT Examiner has been told on a number of occasions

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Private Road Nixes Open Space Deal in Old Lyme

OLD LYME — “It simply got down to the point where the restrictions on the road and the properties were obstacles that we could not overcome,” said Evan Griswold, co-chair of the Open Space Commission, on Tuesday, about the end of a deal to purchase two parcels of the Ames property for town open space.  Last year the commission signed a $400,000 contract with owner Steven Ames for two lots on Whippoorwill Road. The properties, totaling 35 acres, would have connected with the town’s 195-acre Ames Open Space and provided space for a parking area and access points to the

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Ledyard Opts for Hosted Short Term Rentals with Stronger Regulations

LEDYARD — After extensive discussion at a public hearing, the Zoning Commission unanimously approved a zoning regulation for short term rentals that will require the owner of the building to live on the premises, a practice known as hosting. “We didn’t think the ordinance was terrible, it just didn’t have the teeth necessary in zoning,” said Juliet Hodge, town planner at the commission’s Jan. 13 meeting.  She said the new zoning regulation is more specific than the ordinance and will give the town opportunities to stop nuisance short term rentals using faster methods than taking legal action.  “You can always

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Solnit Youth Psychiatric Center Struggles with Staffing Shortages, Downsizing

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MIDDLETOWN — When Akashdeep Aujla, a psychiatrist at the Albert J. Solnit Children’s Center in Middletown, began working at the center 20 years ago, he said that the center had 100 hospital beds. Now, he said the facility has a maximum inpatient capacity of 44, and it is struggling to bring in workers.  “The last psychiatrist we recruited at Solnit was 17 years ago,” Aujla said during a virtual panel discussion on the availability of mental health services to children in Connecticut.  Solnit, the only state-run long-term psychiatric facility in Connecticut, houses children between 12 and 18 years old with

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Haddam First Selectman Pitches Redevelopment Plans for Higganum Center

HADDAM – A $1.8 million state grant to clean up a late-19th-century manufacturing site in Higganum Center for redevelopment is just the start of plans for the area, according to Haddam First Selectman Robert McGarry, if the town can secure another grant for a diverse list of projects along Saybrook Road. Haddam secured the Brownfield remediation grant from the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development last Friday to clean up the Scovil Hoe Company complex at 11 Candlewood Rd., to allow a developer to repurpose the two long, brick buildings on site. McGarry said the town has lined up

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Draft Guilford School Budget Calls for 6 Percent Hike

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GUILFORD — School Superintendent Paul Freeman is requesting a nearly six percent increase for next year’s budget, a rise which he said was driven mainly by a spike in the cost of staff medical benefits.  The increase of six percent, or $3.6 million, would bring the district’s total budget to $66,076,234.  Freeman said in a board meeting on Monday that the cost of medical benefits are increasing from $8.5 million in 2021-22 to $10 million in 2022-23. This alone, he said, would constitute a 2.4 percent increase to the budget.  Freeman told CT Examiner he believed the increase was in

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Winery Plans Meet with Questions, Opposition at Middletown Hearing

MIDDLETOWN – At a public hearing Wednesday night, neighbors of the first proposed farm winery in Middletown questioned why a commercial business, and the traffic and noise that would come with it, would be allowed in their quiet, residential neighborhood. Joe DeFrancesco – who is proposing to turn his 7.3 acre property on Miner Street in the Westfield neighborhood of Middletown into a farm winery that he said could host small events – said he was willing to work to address the concerns raised by his neighbors and members of the Middletown Planning and Zoning Commission.  But his promises did

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Madison Multifamily Housing Raises Concerns at Inland Wetland Hearing

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MADISON –  An environmental scientist hired by a neighboring condo association warned that a proposed 18-unit apartment building near Hammonasset State Park would likely pollute a pond on the property without enough trees to filter out nitrogen from septic tanks. The proposal for Cottage and Mill Apartments at 35 Cottage Rd. has drawn opposition from neighboring residents, who say the 7,800 square foot, 18-unit building would harm the wildlife in a pond on the site – which is home to frogs, salamanders, and neighbors say hosts migratory birds. The developers behind the proposal – 35 Cottage LLC, registered to Michael

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$7.5 Million Borrowing up for Vote After Durham-Middlefield Opts ‘No’ on Closure

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MIDDLEFIELD/DURHAM — After rejecting the closure of John Lyman Elementary school in November, residents of Middlefield and Durham will be asked to return to the polls in February to vote on $7.5 million in bonding for renovations to the school.  After the Nov. 2, 2021 referendum to close the school failed despite gaining majority support in Durham, the district contracted the firm Silver Petrucelli to produce an up-to-date report on what upgrades and repairs needed to be made in order to keep the school functioning.  The report broke down the upgrades into four priority levels. The most urgent changes, levels

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Old Lyme Property Owner Asks to Reconfigure Stalled Storage Unit Project

OLD LYME — Eighteen months after receiving approval to build four storage buildings at 224 Shore Road that included an office and maintenance shop, Mar Holdings, LLC has asked to change the size of the project to two larger buildings on a slightly smaller footprint, citing increased costs of materials due to the pandemic.  At the Zoning Commission public hearing on the project Monday night, neighbors raised concerns about the hours of operation, permitted uses, environmental damage, lighting and noise — echoing their concerns from the original permit approval on July 13, 2020.  Robert Doane, an engineer who represented Mar Holdings,

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Old Saybrook Police Commission Debates Evaluations, Approves $5.5 Million Budget

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OLD SAYBROOK — The town’s police commission approved a $5.5 million draft budget for the Department of Police Services, including a scheduled $3,300 increase in Chief Michael Spera’s salary. The vote, which amounted to a 4 percent increase in total spending, came after a lengthy debate about whether that raise should be contingent on a performance evaluation.  “Again, my concern this year is that there is a raise in here for the chief and we have yet to do any kind of an evaluation,” said Commissioner Renee Shippee during a meeting of the commission on Friday. “I find that a

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Developer Takes Madison to Court Over Pared-Down Affordable Housing Approval

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MADISON – The applicants behind an affordable housing proposal in Madison told CT Examiner they plan to appeal a Planning and Zoning Commission’s decision to reduce the size of the housing project as a condition of approval. The commission revised the proposal after it drew opposition from neighbors voicing concerns about traffic on the narrow street, and with the risk of six septic systems in such a small area.  The developers, 92 Scotland LLC, applied for the project under the state’s 8-30g affordable housing statute which  allows developers a workaround from typical zoning constraints like density and setbacks.  The commission

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Madison Parents Voice Concerns About Consistency, Effectiveness of COVID Measures in Schools

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MADISON — Parents at a Board of Education meeting on Tuesday called for a Question-and-Answer forum to discuss the district’s COVID-19 policies — policies that parents complained were inconsistent across schools and ineffective, but that Board of Education members and school administration said were critical to keep students safely learning in person.  About nine parents brought up concerns at the meeting ranging from differences in policies for vaccinated and unvaccinated students, the use of plexiglass shields, and the need to continue wearing masks.  Several parents also said they were upset about the difference in policies, particularly around masking, between the

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Quick Decision on $40+ Million School Renovations Meets Caution from Lyme-Old Lyme Board

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LYME/OLD LYME — The Board of Education voted on Wednesday to exclude from consideration any district-wide construction projects that would involve moving fifth graders to the middle school.  The vote eliminated two of the six options that Rusty Malik, a principal at the architectural firm QA + M, presented to the Board of Education in November to upgrade four of the district’s five school buildings.  At the meeting, Board of Education members said that they had heard opposition from community members to the idea of having the fifth graders together with the older students.  “It’s a real big deal to

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Zoning Okays Zoning Change for Yale Health Expansion, Blocks Gas Station Proposal

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OLD SAYBROOK – The Old Saybrook Zoning Commission paved the way for a significant expansion of the Yale New Haven Health Medical Center at the intersection of Route 9 and Middlesex Turnpike on Monday night over the concerns of a number of residents of a neighboring cul-de-sac.  The commission also unanimously rejected an effort to allow a Big Y gas station at the shopping plaza at Boston Post Road and Spencer Plains Road, though it left the door open to reviewing the proposal with some changes. Residents of the Brenda Lane cul-de-sac raised concerns that a proposal to build a

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Old Lyme Property, Once Slated for Affordable Housing, Sold to ‘Overseas’ Buyer

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OLD LYME — A 12.3 acre parcel at 16 Neck Road, which was the subject a contentious application in 2018 to build 37 units of affordable housing, has been sold to an unknown buyer for $1,050,000. The buyer is a newly-formed LLC, 16 Riverview Property Corp., according to town clerk records, with an address matching Westport-based Keystone Capital Corporation, whose president and CEO Frank Nocito told CT Examiner that he had bought the property on behalf of an “overseas” group. He did not provide further information.  “I had very little to do with it. I just happened to be the

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After Two-Year Trial, Ledyard Debates New Approach to Short-Term Rentals

LEDYARD –The town is debating how to regulate short-term rentals – like those advertised by AirBnB and VRBO – after a two-year experimental ordinance fell short of expectations. The ordinance expires at the end of February to widespread agreement that the current rules lack teeth to sufficiently address neighbors’ concerns about party rentals and absentee landlords. Town Councilor Andra Ingalls said that when the ordinance was implemented, the town council had been studying how other towns were regulating short-term rentals. The professional advice from the town attorney at the time was that it would be better as an ordinance, she

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Farm and Winery Planned for Middletown Parcel Under New Regulations

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MIDDLETOWN – Looking for a fresh start and a new career, Joe DeFrancesco bought a farm at 519 Miner St. in the Westfield area with plans for a quaint winery that would serve as the foundation for his farm business. DeFrancesco is the first to apply for a farm winery since the Middletown Planning and Zoning Commission approved several new uses for farms in town – looking to give farmers more options for revenue as the high cost of land and low margins continue to threaten the stability of small Connecticut farms. Having grown up on a farm in Haddam,

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First-Come, First-Served COVID Test Kits for Madison Residents

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MADISON – The town will be providing free COVID-19 testing kits on a first-come, first-served basis to residents who register online starting Monday morning.  First Selectwoman Peggy Lyons said in a Jan. 2 communication that the town of Madison received a shipment of 2,880 test kits on Saturday.  Beginning on Monday, Jan 3, at 9 a.m, Madison residents can go online and reserve a time slot to pick up their test kits. Pick up is on Tues, Jan 4 and Wed, Jan 5 between 12 and 7 p.m. at the Madison Surf Club. Residents are limited to two kits per

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Police and Firefighter Partnership in New London Clears Cases at Triple the National Average

NEW LONDON – The idea was sparked during the summer of 2020 by the need to respond to a significant number of cars that were deliberately set on fire and left to burn on the city streets. Given the challenges to making arrests and securing convictions for arson cases, Fire Marshal Vern Skau decided he needed to find a more efficient way to handle the investigations. Instead of calling in whichever police officer was available at the time of a suspicious fire — the department’s routine response — Skau formed a dedicated team of fire inspectors and police officers to

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Move to Reshape P&Z Sparks Resignations, Charges of Partisanship, in Madison

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MADISON – A move to replace two of the longest-serving members of the town’s Planning and Zoning Commission has led two more members to resign in protest, raising concerns about the ability of the commission to make land-use decisions free of outside political influence.  The Board of Selectmen voted on Monday to replace three of the longest-serving members on the commission – Republicans Ron Clark and Joe Bunovsky, and Joel Miller, an unaffiliated member – with the three alternates of the commission – two Democrats, Ron Bodinson and Carol Snow, and Peter Roos, who is unaffiliated.  Miller had already decided

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As East Lyme Changes Course on Sewers, Old Lyme Faces Further Delays

OLD LYME — The Town of East Lyme has asked the Town of Old Lyme for a separate intermunicipal agreement for the upcoming installation of sewers in Soundview and the neighboring chartered beaches in Old Lyme — a significant reversal from prior understandings that has left Old Lyme officials with a number of unanswered questions. In the original agreement Old Lyme was to join the town’s three chartered beach associations — Miami Beach, Old Colony Beach and Old Lyme Shores — in an intermunicipal agreement with East Lyme to pump up to 170,000 gallons of sewage per day through East

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