State Expected to Bond $1.4 Million for East Haddam Athletic Complex

EAST HADDAM — The State of Connecticut’s Bond Commission is expected to vote next Thursday to approve a $1.4 million bond for an athletic complex at Nathan Hale-Ray High School.  The $1.4 million will account for just under half of the project’s proposed cost of $2.9 million, according to Marc Pisciotti, the chair of East Haddam’s Board of Education.  The proposed complex includes a 6-lane, full-oval track with eight sprint lanes, a soccer field, an area for throwing events, concession stand, restrooms and a storage area. Pisciotti said that the town has one of “less than a handful” of high

More

Town Residents Gather to Air Views on Marijuana Prohibition in East Haddam

EAST HADDAM – The countless and complex layers of issues and emotions surrounding the legalization of marijuana in Connecticut were on full display on Wednesday night as more than two dozen residents aired their views at a public hearing called to gauge opinion on whether the town should outright prohibit it from any commercial use in town.  Heartfelt stories were told of marijuana’s wonderful medical benefits, and its corrosive role in teenagers’ mental health and the death of a young man killed by a driver high on marijuana and an assortment of other substances.  Some said a proposed marijuana shop

More

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

More

Proposed Retail Marijuana Shop in East Haddam Beats Moratorium, Stirs Opposition

EAST HADDAM – Plans by a well-known local businessman and town official to open a retail marijuana shop were put on hold on Tuesday after a the town’s First Selectman, residents and members of the Planning and Zoning Commission questioned the appropriateness of the proposed site or any location in town at a public hearing. Robert Casner, chairman of the town’s Economic Development Commission, proposes to open the retail shop in a building that now houses a package store and an architect’s office, adjacent to a popular cafe at the busy Town Street intersection. Casner submitted his application to open

More

Developer Pulls Back, Town Moves Ahead on Swing Bridge Landing Vote

EAST HADDAM – The developer of the proposed Swing Bridge Landing has hit the pause button on his $50 million downtown commercial redevelopment, but the town is moving forward with creating a redevelopment agency to oversee any potential transformation of the historic riverfront village. “He’s on hold depending what the town does,” First Selectman Irene Haines said at a Monday night meeting of the East Haddam Village Revitalization Committee of the developer, local architect Jeff Riley and his Centerbridge group of investors.  “I think at this point they’re not ready to pull the plug yet,” she said later of Riley’s

More

Close, But Not There Yet on East Haddam Village Vote

EAST HADDAM – Under pressure of legal deadlines and holidays and a developer’s building impatience, the joint meeting of the boards of Selectmen and Finance was called this week to move along in redesigning the future of the downtown village. But in the end, that goal was derailed by the boards’ agreement that the process had become a doomed-to-fail example of the cart before the horse — an expression that came up repeatedly during the session. “It seems, in my humble opinion, that the cart is sort of before the horse here,” finance board member Harvey Thomas said less than

More

East Haddam Aims for Dec. 14 Referendum on Village Redevelopment

EAST HADDAM – Aiming to hold a moved-up Dec. 14 referendum to decide the commercial fate of the riverfront downtown village, town officials and the would-be developer will engage in a series of meetings and negotiations this week that will determine if that time-crunched goal can be made. The tentatively-scheduled referendum date comes nearly two years after local architect Jeff Riley proposed to transform the mostly-vacated municipal site into Swing Bridge Landing, an ambitious mix of commercial, retail and residential development adjacent to its namesake iconic span across the Connecticut River.  Plans include approximately 94,000 square-feet of shops, restaurants and

More

Haines Signals Strong Support for East Haddam Redevelopment

EAST HADDAM – Newly-elected First Selectman Irene Haines says she strongly supports a highly-debated commercial transformation of the riverfront downtown village – a signal that the developer of the proposed Swing Bridge Landing project insists is crucial to moving it forward. Haines, a Republican who on Tuesday defeated Democrat Scott Jezek by a total of 1,734 votes to Jezek’s 1,604, said one of the first calls she made after taking office was to Swing Bridge developer and Centerbrook architect Jeff Riley.  “He’s glad that somebody wants to move it along and make it happen,” Haines said, adding that she shares

More

East Haddam Pharmacist Envisions a Bigger Building — and a Broader Healthcare Role

/

Greg McKenna has already outgrown the Moodus location of the Nutmeg Pharmacy he opened in February 2020. Now he’s seeking approval to build a brand new Nutmeg Pharmacy down the road — a location he hopes will not only continue to serve the East Haddam community but will help expand the role of pharmacists across Connecticut.  The proposed pharmacy at the corner of Rae Palmer and William F. Palmer Roads would have a drive-thru pickup window – an important feature that McKenna said he hoped would make it easier for older patients with limited mobility to get their medications.  But

More

New Zoning Regs Will Redesign Moodus to Look Like Former Town Center

/

EAST HADDAM — While there are no current plans to redevelop Moodus Plaza, the town’s Planning and Zoning Commission recently created a new zoning district around Moodus center that aims to guide future development toward a walkable, mixed-use village that more closely resembles the Moodus that many residents remember. Since the federal urban renewal project of the 1960s razed the original Moodus Village and replaced it with strip malls, Moodus Plaza has been a symbol of regret for the people in town who agreed to trade their village for a vision of a modern, prosperous future, bankrolled by the federal

More

East Haddam Amends Regulations to Ease Limits on Hobby Farms, 4-H

EAST HADDAM – Town Planner James Ventres said that under East Haddam’s current regulations, he had to tell several families that they couldn’t keep a farm animal for a 4-H project because they didn’t have enough space to meet the town’s setback requirements for animal shelters. On Wednesday night, the town Planning and Zoning Commission agreed to loosen those setbacks for small “hobby farms,” including 4-H students. The commission also agreed to tighten setback regulations for new, larger animal operations – an effort to prevent a repeat of an incident several years ago when someone tried to move thousands of

More

East Haddam Narrowly Approves Budget

EAST HADDAM — After soundly rejecting a town budget proposal in June, East Haddam voters on Tuesday narrowly approved a $36.37 million budget that had been trimmed down to a zero mill rate increase – by a vote of 885-834. The original budget proposal included an increase of $2.49 million over last year’s spending, and would have raised the mill rate by 0.62 mills to 31.06 mills. Residents voiced frustration with several line items in that budget, and also concern with the transparency of the budget process – especially with how information was presented in an online tool the town

More

Scott Jezek Makes a Case for East Haddam First Selectman

/

Scott Jezek, an East-Haddam-based attorney, is the Democratic candidate for first selectman, competing against State Rep. Irene Haines, the Republican candidate, who currently represents Colchester, East Haddam, East Hampton at the State Capitol. The Connecticut Examiner sat down with Jezek to talk about what inspired his run, what differentiates him from his opponent, and what his priorities would be in office.  This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.  What inspired your run for first selectman?  I’m a lifelong East Haddam resident. I have a long history with the East Haddam Lions Club, a service organization I’ve been a

More

Irene Haines on Running for East Haddam First Selectman

Irene Haines, who currently represents Colchester, East Haddam, East Hampton in the state legislature, has announced that she is also running this fall on the Republican ticket for East Haddam first selectman. If elected, Haines said she would serve in both capacities. In her first campaign for the General Assembly, Haines defeated Democrat Teresa Govert with 52 percent of the vote in 2018, and was reelected last November with 56 percent of the vote, compared to Democrat Judd Melon’s 42 percent. Haines previously ran for town first selectman in 2017.  Haines also works as an insurance agent, serves as a

More

Developers Propose Affordable Housing for Latest Banner Estates Plan

EAST HADDAM – A group of New York developers is back with plans to convert a banquet hall into 20 apartments at Banner Country Club Estates, this time with an affordable component that makes the plan more likely to be approved. Anthony and Frank Longhitano, the owners of Banner Estates, are applying under state statute 8-30g to redevelop an empty 28,000 square-foot banquet hall into 20 one-bedroom apartments – of which six units would be income restricted.  The statute requires municipalities where less than 10 percent of the housing is “affordable” to prove that any rejection of a project is

More

East Haddam Budget Cuts Get a Public Hearing on Tuesday

EAST HADDAM — In response to an overwhelming vote to reject the town budget, the Board of Finance has trimmed its proposal to eliminate an increase in property taxes. The board also promised a more transparent process moving forward. The budget is scheduled for a second referendum on July 27, and a public hearing is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Tuesday, June 29, at the Nathan Hale-Ray High School auditorium and streaming on the town YouTube page. David Carbo, who wrote one of the editorials in the East Haddam News opposing the first budget, told the board at a meeting

More

Rob Smith Explains What’s Next as East Haddam Budget Defeated 274 to 1,242

East Haddam voters overwhelmingly defeated the town’s budget proposal Tuesday night, by a vote of 274 in favor and 1,242 opposed. The budget included $36.95 million in spending – a $2.49 million increase [7.2 percent] over last year – and would have raised the mill rate by 0.62 mills to 31.06 mills.  In a public hearing and on social media, residents raised concerns about several items in the budget, including wage increases for the first selectman and 20 non-union town employees and camera systems in the town office building and at the transfer station. The Board of Finance will hold

More

Centerbrook Architects’ Jeff Riley Walks Through a Plan for East Haddam’s Redevelopment

/

Jeff Riley, a principal of Centerbrook Architects, talked with CT Examiner about Swing Bridge Landing, a proposed mixed-use development adjacent to the Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam. The $51 million, 94,000-square-foot project would include a village green surrounded by retail shops, restaurants, apartments, a health club, offices, on-site parking, and possibly a boutique hotel. Below are a selection of Riley’s comments on several images of the proposed project.  “The village green is meant to be just exactly that — a green that is available to the people in town. All sorts of things can happen there from seasonal celebrations

More

East Haddam Village Redevelopment Draws on Town’s History to Fuel Future Growth

EAST HADDAM – It’s now a barren parking lot surrounded by rusting guardrails and vacant, weathered former municipal buildings. But when local architect Jeff Riley looks at the site of his planned redevelopment of the downtown village, he sees shops, restaurants and apartments, many housed in a replica of the 1838 mansion of William H. Goodspeed, the banker and entrepreneur who built the namesake Goodspeed Opera House directly across the road in 1876. He sees a town green fronting the mansion and other buildings that will host holiday festivals, farmers’ markets and activities for children, a bike shop that will

More

Tourism, Traffic, Migrating Fish and Birds — All Part of Planning the Swing Bridge Overhaul

/

EAST HADDAM – The first alert is a loud rapid-fire clang of a warning bell like at a railroad crossing, followed in quick sequence by flashing red lights and the wail of a siren. As the sound fades into the air high above the Connecticut River, vehicle-blocking gates on either side of the East Haddam Swing Bridge drop into place. Foot-high steel barriers rise from the deck as further precaution. In a small room over the bridge with windows on all sides, an operator scans live video monitors to ensure all is clear, then presses a series of buttons on

More

Developer Withdraws Application for Banner Estates

EAST HADDAM — For the second time, the owners of Banner Country Club Estates have withdrawn a zoning amendment application that would have allowed them to convert a large, empty banquet hall into a residential apartment building.  At the Planning and Zoning meeting Tuesday night, James Ventres, zoning enforcement officer and land use administrator for the town, read aloud a letter from attorney John S. Bennet, which stated that issues between his client, property co-owners Anthony and Frank Longhitano, and the existing condominium association of Banner Country Club Estates had not been resolved and that the application was officially withdrawn.

More

Owners of Banner Estates Resubmit Application to Zoning

EAST HADDAM — The owners of the Banner Country Club Estates have resubmitted an application for a zoning amendment change that will allow them to convert a 28,000-square-foot banquet hall into residential units.  Co-owner Anthony Longhitano withdrew a similar application for a change to the Planned Recreational Development/Resort Zone, a floating zone, via email on Feb. 25, the same day the Planning and Zoning Commission had planned to vote on a motion to deny the application. The commission had referred the matter to counsel to craft the language of the motion to deny as a safeguard from litigation, but because of

More

East Haddam Draft Budget, Flat Mill Rate, Goes to Hearing May 5

EAST HADDAM — The Board of Finance will present a 2020-21 budget proposal with no anticipated change to taxpayers’ mill rate at a public hearing broadcast on the town’s YouTube page on Tuesday, May 5. Expenditures in the budget proposal total $34.18 million, which would be 1.8 percent or about $614,000 more than the current budget for fiscal year 2019-20. Residents and taxpayers will be able to email questions ahead of the meeting to budget.questions@easthaddam.org and then have their questions addressed at the meeting, according to Board of Finance Chair William DiCristofaro. The zero percent increase in taxes is possible

More

Major Repair of Goodspeed Bridge Slated for 2022, Plans for Pedestrian Crossing As Yet Unfunded

One of two remaining swing bridges across the Connecticut River, from East Haddam to Haddam, is in desperate need of repair. The National-Register-eligible structure, located near to the Victorian-era Goodspeed Opera House, is an iconic sight for the Lower Connecticut River Valley. “It will be a significant, substantial overhaul with rehabilitation of mechanical and electrical components as well as the structure and the deck itself,” said Kevin Nursick, the communications director for the Connecticut Department of Transportation. “It will be a multi-year project with significant traffic impacts. You couldn’t really ask for a trickier bridge.” The rehabilitation, scheduled for 2022,

More

Needleman, Haines Take Questions on Vaccinations, High School Track, Marijuana, in East Haddam

EAST HADDAM — A state bill that would end the state’s religious exemption for mandated vaccinations was the dominant topic at a Monday forum with East Haddam’s two state legislators.  Amid questions from constituents, Rep. Irene Haines (R-East Haddam) and Sen. Norman Needleman (D-Essex) also touched on 5G infrastructure, medical marijuana, and funding for a track at Nathan Hale-Ray High School. Emily Maxfield, a resident of Portland, said that House Bill 5044 was “icing on the cake for how the state government has been absolutely crushing families. The conversation around the dinner table has now become ‘Why are we here?’

More

Longhitano Withdraws Application in East Haddam, Residents Seek Closure

EAST HADDAM — It was announced at the Planning and Zoning Commission meeting Tuesday night that the owners of the Banner Country Club Estates withdrew an application for a special zoning exception that would have allowed them to convert an empty 28,000-square-foot banquet hall into about 20 residential units.  Co-owner Anthony Longhitano formally withdrew the application for an amendment change in the Planned Recreational Development/Resort Zone, a floating zone, in an email sent through his attorney and read into the record by James Ventres, zoning enforcement officer and land use administrator for the town. The change would have allowed buildings

More

East Haddam Planning and Zoning Agrees to Draft Denial of Zoning Amendment

/

EAST HADDAM — The Planning and Zoning Commission agreed Tuesday night to ask the town’s attorney to write a draft denial of a zoning amendment application that would have allowed the owners of the Banner Country Club Estates banquet hall to convert that empty building into an estimated 20 residential units. “I just feel if we’re doing an ordinance change, it should benefit the town in general, and I don’t see this benefiting the town,” said commission member Edmund J. Gubbins, Jr., during the commission’s Tuesday night meeting. “I see this benefiting one developer and that’s all.” In the application,

More

Taxable Property Up 1.78 Percent in East Haddam, Modest Growth in Nearby Towns

/

Recent filings of grand lists by Chester, Deep River, East Haddam, and Westbrook show modest growth across the region between October 2018 and October 2019. Of the four towns, East Haddam had the largest increase in its overall grand list, at 1.78 percent. The town’s total net assessment grew from $879,144,920 in 2018 to $894,795,125 in 2019. Westbrook grew 1.12 percent, from $1,149,623,949 in 2018 to $1,162,509,264 in 2019.  Chester’s taxable property grew 0.87 percent, from $441,137,583 to $444,985,360 in 2019. Of the four towns, Deep River had the smallest increase, of 0.34 percent, its total net assessment grew from

More

East Haddam Seeks Village Revitalization with Development of Former Goodspeed House and Town Offices

EAST HADDAM — Town officials expect to hear in mid-March a proposal to redevelop a 2.75-acre property containing the former town office building and the one-time residence of William Goodspeed, as part of an effort to revitalize the area around Goodspeed Opera House. “The village is bigger than this particular piece of property, but we’re hoping that this will help make a vibrant village,” said William Gerrish, chair of the East Haddam Village Revitalization Committee. “One that brings economic development to the town where there’s pedestrian access and it’s a part of something the entire community can enjoy. I think

More

Zoning Change Allowing Redevelopment of Older Resort Properties Raises Opposition in East Haddam

///

EAST HADDAM — A large number of vocal town residents attended the Planning and Zoning Commission’s public hearing Tuesday on a proposed special exception to change the town’s density rules and allow a developer to convert an empty 28,000-square-foot banquet hall into an estimated 20 or 22 residential spaces. The banquet hall, which was built in the 1930s, is part of Banner Country Club Estates on Banner Road, and would qualify as adaptive reuse under the proposed amendment, according to Gary Hendren, an architect from Boston who represented the applicants, property owners Anthony and Frank Longhitano, of New Rochelle, New

More