Wetlands Approval Poses Dilemma for Chester Housing Developer

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CHESTER — At its meeting on Monday, the Inland Wetlands Commission said the developer of Falcon Crest, a proposed 55-and-older residential complex at 88 Winthrop Road, will need to obtain a subdivision permit from the town before the commission will proceed with its recommendation on the project. If the town grants the subdivision permit, then developer Joseph Mingolello, principal of Connecticut Concrete Solutions LLC of Higganum, will be required to come before the Inland Wetlands Commission for approval of each of the project’s five lots proposed for the 34-acre triangular-shaped parcel bordered by Winthrop Road/Route 145, Butter Jones Road and

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Old Lyme Selectmen Appoint Affordable Housing Committee, Discuss Annual Town Meeting

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OLD LYME — The Board of Selectmen appointed a special committee on Monday night tasked with researching and making recommendations on affordable housing in Old Lyme. The selectmen voted to appoint seven town residents as regular members of the Affordable Housing Exploratory Committee: John Coughlin, Michael Fogliano, Thomas Ortoleva, Harold Thompson, Tammy Tinnerello, Karen Winters, and John Zaccaro. Two alternate members were also selected: Peter Cable and Jennifer Miller. The committee will meet on a timeline limited to between six months and one year unless extended by the selectmen, according to a charge approved in September.  The idea of forming

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Checking in on the Real Estate Market in Southeast Connecticut

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Housing sales in southeast Connecticut indicate the region is slowly emerging from a decade-long slump, with the market for lower-priced homes showing the greatest activity, according to several area realtors.  “We continue to see the trend for the lower-priced properties, under $300,000 … starters to a little bit bigger, and those can fly off the shelves pretty quickly,” said Joel Grossman, new business development director of Calcagni Real Estate, which represents Middlesex County as well as New Haven County, among others. “It looks like the trend in terms of prices is in that 2 to 4 percent range, probably more

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Regional Tourism Board Meets to Resolve Breach of Contract, Secure Future Funding

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NORWICH — The Eastern Regional Tourism District board voted on Friday to overhaul district procedures, and add new leadership, in an effort to resolve a breach of contract with the Connecticut Office of Tourism that threatens access to $400,00 in state funding for fiscal year 2019-20, and $160,000 in funding leftover from 2018-19. “Three years ago we were knocked out of business. Now we’re starting all over again, and nobody knows nothing about what the hell is going to happen,” said former State Senator Pete Connair, who represents East Lyme on the tourism board. “It’ll take more than twelve meetings a

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Food Allergies Challenge Restaurant Industry in Connecticut

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For State Representative Robin Comey (D-Branford), food allergies have become a fact of everyday life. “My son has food allergies. He has had them since he was about 16 months old. It’s what I’ve been advocating for, for years, and one reason I ran for office,” Comey said. From the time her son was diagnosed, Comey explained, eating out became increasingly difficult and stressful. Restaurant chains, like Starbucks or Panera Bread, typically note when eight of the most common allergens appear on menus, and have standard practices to keep likely allergens separate and prevent cross-contamination. Smaller, local, one-of-a-kind places, are

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With Funding and Representation at Stake, State and Local Officials Prepare for Federal Census of Connecticut

State officials have estimated that for each person who goes uncounted in the 2020 Census, Connecticut could lose about $2,900 of federal funding for each of the next ten years. “This is for us to see how the demographics of our country are changing … we have to be prepared for the changes in our lives, and things certainly will change a lot over ten years,” said Elizabeth Porter, who chairs the Town of Groton’s Complete Count Committee in a phone interview on Thursday. “We have to continue to fight to get our piece of the pie,” said Porter. The

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Glyphosate Use Faces Public Concern and Continued Use in Southeast Connecticut

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In 2019, amidst public concerns regarding the most common lawncare chemical — glyphosate, also known as RoundUp — the towns of Waterford, Groton and Chester opted to restrict non-organic applications of pesticides. This policy does not prevent the use of RoundUp on private land however. The restrictions were adopted after lawsuits in California against RoundUp’s maker, Monsanto, were decided in favor of plaintiffs who claimed exposure to the herbicide caused their cancer. “The concerns came from a neighborhood in Waterford where there was spraying between the road and the sidewalk curbing,” said Gary Schneider, the new director of Public Works

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Charlestown’s Virginia Lee Offers Alternative on Shoreline Development

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CHARLESTOWN, RI — Open space. Dark skies. Limited development. Good schools. Low taxes. How has Charlestown, a small coastal town packed into the crowded Eastern seaboard, blazed its own decades-long path of holding to its environmental values while also staying financially stable and attracting families to live there? And is Charlestown’s model fiscally and environmentally sustainable?   “We’re the ‘model of yes to this.’ Yes to what the people who live here want: A rural, safe, kind community with good schools, dark skies. Safe to live in, quiet and private so that you can commute to all the hecticness but you

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Upcoming Old Lyme Fire Department Audit to Determine Local Insurance Costs

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OLD LYME — The town’s volunteer fire department is preparing paperwork for an evaluation that will affect how much Old Lyme property owners pay for fire insurance. In preparation for the evaluation process, the Board of Finance approved $15,120 for aluminum signs and hoses on December 17. The Insurance Services Office, a subsidiary of insurance data company Verisk Analytics, rates fire departments and their surrounding communities, on their readiness to respond to fire emergencies. Those ratings are based in part on staff size and training, water supply, emergency communications, and public outreach efforts. “It’s there for the people and for their

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32 Takes on the New Year with CT Examiner

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We asked 32 writers, politicians, educators, artists, journalists, acadmics to contemplate the New Year for us.

Participants include Ned Lamont, Joe Courtney, Paul Formica, Devin Carney, Justin Elicker, Alma Nartatez, Richard Stout, Tony Sheridan, Luanne Rice, Will Haskell, Sophie Spaner, David Kelsey, Jack Monmeat, Jerry Weiss, Gail MacDonald, Betsy Gara, Rolf Wolfswinkel, Brian White, Brittany Stalsburg and others...

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New London Opts to Renegotiate Regional Sewer Agreement

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NEW LONDON — At its December 19 meeting, the New London Water and Water Pollution Control Authority voted to renegotiate the 30-year-old sewage agreement with the towns of Waterford and East Lyme.  The tri-town agreement would have automatically renewed on January 10, 2021 for a ten-year period unless one or more member municipalities gave formal notice to the other parties to change or terminate the agreement.  The three towns share the use of the Thomas E. Piacenti Regional Water Pollution Control Facility in New London. The plant can process 10 millions gallons per day. New London is allocated 55 percent

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Regional Tourism District Seeks to Resolve Breach of Contract, “Loss of Trust” with State Tourism Office

NORWICH — Members of an ad hoc committee of the Eastern Regional Tourism District board are convening in Norwich multiple times over the weeks of Christmas and New Year’s Day to meet a January 6 deadline set by the State Office of Tourism, which claims the district breached a contract for a state grant of about $400,000, dispersed in June 2019 for the fiscal year 2018-19. One member of the district board and ad hoc committee, Tony Sheridan of Waterford, said at multiple points during meetings on Monday, December 23, and Thursday, December 26, that there has been a significant

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Department of Education Balances Work and College Prep for Connecticut High School Graduates

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In 2017, 70.9 percent of new Connecticut high school graduates enrolled in a college or university, according to the State Department of Education. Nearly 30 percent of Connecticut students joined the workforce with a high school diploma. In a statement this October, the State Department of Education underscored the need to provide public education that directly meets the needs of both career paths. “We strongly believe that Connecticut’s K-12 public education system must not only emphasize rigorous, well-rounded academics and citizenship, but also evolve to meet the needs of the state’s economy. In addition to providing pathways to college through

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Mystic Seaport’s Steve White Takes a Bow

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MYSTIC — “It was a perfect moment, an intersection of all these key things coming together,” Steve White said in a phone conversation with CT Examiner on December 19. “The Charles W. Morgan needed to be restored, and then the question became how much should she be restored. It was clear to me as a new person here that if we’re going to restore her that much that this would certainly be the only and singular opportunity to take her back to sea.”  For White, 66, who announced on December 17 that he will retire in 2020 as president and

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SCCOG approves $1.1 million budget for 2020-21

IN THE REGION — The Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments approved an operating budget of $1.1 million for fiscal year 2020-21 on Wednesday at a meeting of first selectmen, mayors, and other chief operating officers from its 22 member towns and boroughs at Flanders Fish Market and Restaurant. This new budget will take effect in just over six months, starting on July 1, 2020.  SCCOG Executive Director James Butler said that this budget is “my best projection of where the SCCOG’s finances will be next fiscal year,” according to a report to the SCCOG executive committee at their December 2 meeting.

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As Additional $15 Million Announced, Gara Says STEAP Hampered by Uncertainty

On Wednesday, the Bond Commission released funding for the Small Town Economic Assistance Program for the first time since 2016. The commission designated $15 million toward economic development across Connecticut. “We had been pressing for the release of STEAP grants for some time, but certainly weren’t expecting it,” said Betsy Gara, the executive director of the Connecticut Council of Small Towns. “It was a pleasant surprise.” The program, known as STEAP, is the primary source of funding available to small and rural towns throughout the state for projects that can help contribute to economic development. Projects include sidewalks, streetscapes, reconstruction

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Old Saybrook Renovating North Cove Sheffield Street Dock for Spring 2020

OLD SAYBROOK — The Harbor Management Commission is overseeing a project to renovate the Sheffield Street dock facilities on North Cove by early April, replacing two floating docks, adding a raised landing to avoid flooding during high tides, and new racks for dinghies and kayaks. Harbor Management Commission Chair Robert Murphy said in a Thursday interview that these renovations are intended to make it easier for boaters to move their dinghies up to the dock and make the cove a more attractive destination for resident boaters and visitors. At any time, there are about 150 moorings in Old Saybrook’s North Cove,

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Sneak Peak at Phoebe Griffin Noyes Renovation

The first phase of the $3.05 million renovation of the Phoebe Griffin Noyes Library, the historic and upstairs portion of the building, is almost complete. “This piece will be open in January or early February. It will move the staff offices to the historic back of the building and turn the upstairs into staff workspace,” said Katie Huffman, the library director. The upstairs of the library has not been in use since before Huffman took on the job of director of the library. Previously, the space was used by the Old Lyme Historical Society, but more recently has remained unused

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Audit Shows Boon for Old Lyme Reserves

OLD LYME — In 2018-19 fiscal year, Old Lyme took in higher revenues and paid several lower expenses than were expected. This allowed for a $739,152 contribution toward the town’s general fund balance of $11,309,944 on June 30, 2019, according to an annual audit presented to the Board of Finance Tuesday night. Board of Finance Chair Andrew Russell said that this general fund balance — which is equal to over a quarter of Old Lyme’s most recent annual budget — will help to keep a steady mill rate by preparing for unexpected one-time costs, and get a low interest rate if

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Mounds Explains New Approach to Quasi-Publics

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In July, when the Connecticut Port Authority’s financial and administrative problems surfaced, the CEOs of the state’s 17 quasi-public agencies convened their first monthly meeting to exchange ideas about how best to run their organizations and avoid the pitfalls of port authority.  “One of the things that I realized very quickly at the first meeting was they’ve never been in room and talked about shared experiences, talked about the role of quasis in the state of Connecticut or talked about how their entity fits into the fabric of the state, but also the overall agenda of the governor and the

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School-based Health Centers Expand into Elementary Schools, Open Center For Navy Children

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Last week, the 94th school-based health center funded by the Department of Public Health, and the 15th in New London County, opened in Mary Morrison Elementary School in Groton. “When the folks from Family & Child Agency approached us about the possibility of having another center we were thrilled to put it mildly,” said Michael Graner, superintendent of schools in Groton. This is not Groton’s first school-based health center. There is one at the high school, one at each middle school, and at Title 1 elementary schools serving disadvantaged students. All are operated by Family & Child Agency and funded

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Old Lyme Board of Selectmen Talk Beavers, Sewers, Reviewing Roles of Commissions

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OLD LYME — The Board of Selectmen provided updates at their Monday meeting, on projects planned for the Sound View neighborhood, continuing struggles with beaver dam flooding around Black Hall Pond, and announced plans to review the roles of town committees Beaver flooding Several town boards — including the Open Space Commission and the Flood & Erosion Control Board — have been made aware of problems posed by beaver dams in the area around Black Hall Pond, First Selectman Tim Griswold said. The dams block water flow and cause water levels to rise, which has left one resident unable to

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6th Annual Jingle Bell 5k Supports Healing After Loss to Suicide

EAST LYME — Nearly 700 people, decked out in Santa hats and holiday costumes, crowded into MacCook Point Park on Saturday morning. It was drizzling, but that didn’t seem to dampen the spirit as a line formed for pre-race photos in front of the Brian Dagle Foundation banner. It was the start of the sixth annual Niantic Jingle Bell 5k, nearly seven years since the foundation began and eight years after Brian Dagle died from suicide on November 12, 2011. “I lost my son Brian in 2011, and at the time there were very few resources for us as parents

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Dagmar’s Stollen and German-style Sweets a Favorite for the Holidays

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OLD SAYBROOK — “Of course Christmas is the time of the stollen but it’s such a good pastry, why not offer it throughout the year,” said owner Dagmar Ratensperger at her shop on Saturday morning where a stream of pastry lovers bustled in and out. “My customers know it and they buy it all year long but if you’re someone coming from Germany, they say it’s a little funny.”  The traditional fruit bread is eaten during the Christmas season in Germany, but at Dagmar’s Desserts it became so popular now it’s available all year round. This time of year, the

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Proposed Subdivision Sparks Debate Over Open Space

OLD LYME — A 3-lot, 45-acre subdivision is proposed for 19-1 Great Oak Road, off Short Hills Road, in Old Lyme by Ron Pelletier of CAWIAMCA LLC. The project, called “The Oaks – Phase 2,” would extend Great Oak Road and construct three single-family homes set back from the road, in addition to providing open space located near to the road. The open space comprised mostly of wetlands – called the Joseph Parcel – make up less than the 15 percent contribution recommended in Old Lyme’s planning and zoning regulations as a guide to developers, a point of contention at

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Crystal Mall Assessments, Taxes, Reflect Change in Retail Environment

WATERFORD — Town leaders say that they’ll be able to weather an expected annual loss of about $374,600 for each of the next several years after a recent settlement with Crystal Mall LLC over its property valuation, but the settlement does draw attention to a drop in value of retail stores and their ability to provide future tax revenue for the town. “We reached a stipulation,” town attorney Rob Avena told the Board of Selectmen at their December 3 meeting. “And it’s moving forward and the big hit, obviously there’s always a hit … their second-half taxes is basically their

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Waterford’s Rob Brule Talks “Customer Service,” Attracting Young Families

WATERFORD — Newly elected First Selectman Robert Brule said Wednesday in an interview with CT Examiner, that his early priorities in office will focus on responsive service for residents, housing and economic development, and new incentives to attract volunteers to the town’s fire services. “My campaign was based on customer service and infrastructure, the things that this town needs to do continuously to be a town that people want to live in,” Brule said in a Wednesday morning interview at Waterford’s Town Hall. “There are high expectations from our residents. We have tremendous leaders and department headers, tremendous employees who

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Few Rules, Little Oversight For $11 Million Open Choice Program

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Each year the state writes a check for more than $11 million that is shared among 13 school districts as compensation for accepting 2,242 students from Hartford into their schools. That money – called the Open Choice grant – arrives after local school budgets are finalized and comes with no specific guidelines for its use, according to the State Department of Education. “Open choice is essentially an entitlement grant. We don’t track the district’s expenditures,” said Peter Yazbak, the director of communications for the State Department of Education. “Open choice grants go to districts in the form of revenue like

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Finance Board Votes Alberti Chair, Discusses Water, Public Safety

EAST LYME — The Board of Finance, with three new members in its first meeting since the November elections, voted in a new chair, voted on a $5.59 million well filtration project, and discussed their involvement in deciding on renovations to convert the former Honeywell office building into a public safety complex. After being unanimously voted in as board chair, Camille Alberti emphasized her belief that the board’s role should be to ask direct questions and to provide a check on government spending “It’s really up to this board to do the due diligence for the tax payers and the

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WPCA Discusses a State-Mandated Revision to Old Lyme’s Sewer Ordinance and Cost Sharing

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OLD LYME — In part due to the town’s recent re-evaluation, the Water Pollution Control Authority plans to hire attorneys and consultants to determine property values in Sound View Beach as the town’s sewer project moves forward.  At Tuesday’s WPCA meeting, Douglas Wilkinson, treasurer, said next year’s budget includes $10,000 for a land use lawyer and about $15,000 for an appraisal consultant to evaluate properties, especially since the town is going through a re-evaluation this year.  In an August 13 referendum, residents voted 883 to 565 to bond $9.5 million for sewer construction in Sound View Beach and Miscellaneous Town

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