A Battle Pitting Local versus State Control at the Heart of Legislation to Change Housing in Connecticut

Local regulation of accessory apartments, mixed-use developments and multifamily housing could change dramatically if new legislation supported by the coalition Desegregate Connecticut is signed into law. Bill 1024 is among a number of housing bills on the public hearing agenda of the Planning and Development Committee of the General Assembly on Monday at 10 a.m.  The bill represents the platform of Desegregate Connecticut, an affiliate of the Regional Plan Association and self-described coalition of more than 60 organizations focused on an “overall goal of tackling segregation in land use laws.”  Among some of its components, Bill 1024 would allow accessory

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Miracle League in East Lyme Excited for First Season of Spring Sports

EAST LYME — Melanie Barber loves music, and she sings and dances all day long when she can, her mother Pam said. But after graduating high school, there weren’t many organized dance programs for Melanie to join. That changed two years ago, when the Miracle League of Southeastern Connecticut started Everybody Dance Now, an adaptive dance program made for people with disabilities. Melanie, 32 and living with Down syndrome, joined the classes at Studio 22 in East Lyme, where volunteer instructors paired up with participants with a wide range of physical and mental disabilities, and danced. “She loved the dance

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Legislators Debate Three Proposals for Healthcare

Legislators are debating a trifecta of bills addressing one of the biggest concerns Connecticut residents are facing this year — the cost of healthcare.   The first bill — the Democrats’ public option plan — would allow individuals and small businesses to purchase insurance on the state exchange.  The second bill, proposed by Gov. Ned Lamont, would tax health insurers and use the money to create subsidies for people who buy insurance on the state exchange, Access Health.  On Thursday, legislators held a public hearing on a third alternative: a Republican-backed combination of reinsurance and benchmarking that lawmakers say would better

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Legislators Debate Change in Redistricting for Connecticut’s Prison Populations

As Connecticut’s electoral maps are redrawn this year — new legislation could change the way that prisoners are counted, shifting local district lines and funding between rural and urban districts. State Sen. Gary Winfield, D-New Haven, has proposed a bill that would count prisoners in their last district of residence rather than in the district where the prisons are located.  Winfield told CT Examiner in February that, because prisoners don’t have the right to vote, the representatives in the districts where the prisons are located generally don’t support policies that benefit the prisoners. Nor do the prisoners take part in the

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Essex Savings Bank Meets Opposition to Plans for Halls Road Service Plaza

OLD LYME — At its Thursday meeting, the Halls Road Improvements Committee addressed two officers of Essex Savings Bank concerning the committee’s opposition to a Big Y Express gas station and convenience store proposed for a property on Halls Road that is owned by the bank.  “One of our biggest concerns is putting in a gas station on this property goes in exactly the opposite direction of what we were trying to get to,” said committee Chair Edie Twining, who said it was unlikely that the property will ever be redeveloped for another use once the infrastructure for a gas

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Lawmakers Open Hearing on Legislation to Ease Workers’ Comp Claims for COVID-19

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In July of last year, Gov. Ned Lamont signed an executive order establishing a presumption of eligibility for workers’ compensation claims related to COVID-19. This meant that employees required to work in person during the height of the pandemic, from March 10 to May 20, who contracted COVID-19 would be presumed to have contracted the virus at work, making them eligible for workers’ compensation.  Employers could still contest a claim, but the executive order ostensibly helped essential workers access deserved benefits in the midst of a pandemic, when substantiating a claim of an infection in the workplace would be especially

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Waterford the Latest Department to Equip Police Officers with Body Cameras

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In early April, Waterford will be the latest police department in Connecticut to equip officers with body cameras while on duty — a change that was mandated to take place no later than July 2022 by the Police Accountability bill passed by the legislature in special session last summer. “It’s going to protect the officers from allegations that are unfounded, and it’s going to protect the public from what they may perceive as officer misconduct,” Waterford Police Chief Brett Mahoney said.  Mahoney said that in-car cameras have already helped the department respond to complaints, and have allowed the public to

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Legislators Aim to Bridge Connecticut’s Gap on Dyslexia

After four previous attempts by the legislature to improve Connecticut’s approach to identifying and educating children with dyslexia, the state’s Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee is proposing a new bill to ensure that teachers are sufficiently trained to handle students with dyslexia. Despite peer-review research suggesting that between 5 and 10 percent of the population has dyslexia, just 2,294 students across Connecticut were identified with dyslexia in the 2018-19 school year. That number amounts to well under one percent of the student population. In Connecticut, of students identified with a specific learning disability, less than one percent have also

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Solar Project Moves Forward in Old Lyme

OLD LYME — More than a year after receiving preliminary approvals, the state siting council gave developers the go ahead to start installing solar panels on a 12-acre site of previously wooded land in Old Lyme.  Developers of the Cobb Road solar project on Short Hills Road in Old Lyme had already cleared about 12 acres of woodland of a 120-acre site once planned as an extension of The Oaks subdivision. The final hurdle, a site plan review, allows the developers to begin installing 7,566 panels. The owner of the project is affiliated with Essex-based Independence Solar. The land cleared

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UI Offers Plan to Offset Rate Hikes with Customer Dollars

Gov. Ned Lamont and Attorney General William Tong announced a plan today for United Illuminating to offset a proposed May electric bill increase by returning money the company over-collected from customers after the federal corporate tax rate was slashed in 2017. UI offered a plan to regulators that would use $41.55 million of savings from federal tax cuts and an additional $5 million from the company to offer bill credits that will offset a proposed electric rate increase starting May 1 – about $10-15 a month for the typical residential customer. UI – a subsidiary of Avangrid that serves about

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Driven Indoors by Pandemic, Finding Relief on the Trails

“I need to get out of the house or I’m going to lose my mind.”

That is how Kristina White bottom-lines the motivation for a pandemic-driven explosion of visitors to the 20 trails and preserves she oversees as executive director of the Lyme Land Trust.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen this many people outside in the winter,” White said after returning home from a morning hike herself. “It’s a huge uptick and they’re coming from all over the state. When I drive through town on the weekends the parking lots are full and now it’s on weekdays, too. That’s never

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Lamont in Middletown to Announce Statewide Rollout of Free Public WiFi Sites

MIDDLETOWN — City Hall and Russell Library will provide free, public WiFi networks as part of a statewide initiative to bring reliable internet access to underserved communities, Gov. Ned Lamont announced Tuesday morning.  In a press conference in Middletown, Lamont said that these locations will be the first of 200 community sites across Connecticut, spread across 169 towns. A combination of state and federal dollars will fund the initiative, and the Middletown networks are expected to be up and running by the end of the week. State officials did not share a timeline for the statewide rollout.  “This is something

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Public Weighs in on Proposed 300-seat Outdoor Restaurant in Old Saybrook

OLD SAYBROOK — The proposal for Smoke on the Water, a 300-seat outdoor restaurant slated for the site of the former Dock & Dine at 145 College St, has attracted significant public attention, both positive and negative, as the project works its way through the town’s approval process for zoning and planning. The plan calls for two large charcoal smokers centered around a fire pit and eight high-tech trailers — two equipped for food prep, one set up for alcohol service, one to house portable restrooms, and others to store supplies. The trailers would be on-site for 180 days or

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COVID Risk for New and Expecting Mothers Raises Questions on Vaccination

A lack of clear data on how the COVID-19 vaccines can affect women who are expecting or nursing a baby leaves these women in a difficult position when deciding whether or not to get vaccinated.  Pregnant women are 5.4 times more likely to be hospitalized for COVID than the general population, 1.5 times more likely to be admitted to the ICU, and 1.7 times more likely to be placed on a ventilator, according to a June 26, 2020 publication by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Dr. Christopher Morosky, an Assistant professor and OB-GYN at UConn Health, said he

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Connecticut College Hosts Four Actors Reading Four Short Stories

NEW LONDON — A four well-regarded actors will perform readings of four short stories by authors with roots in Germany, China, Nigeria and the Dominican Republic in a virtual performance hosted by Connecticut College next week. The actors include Kate Burton of Grey’s Anatomy, Laura Gómez of Orange Is the New Black, Russell G. Jones of Tommy, and Jennifer Lim of Jade Dragon. The program is organized in collaboration with Symphony Space, a New York-based performing arts group that curates “selected shorts” programs — short stories read live over public radio.  Rob Richter, the director of arts programming at Connecticut

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New London Keeps Positive, Draws Closer, Through Pandemic

NEW LONDON — Although restrictions are lifting and the vaccine rollout is underway, New London’s small business owners say their revenues remain far below what they saw before the pandemic began.  Rod Cornish, owner of Hot Rod Cafe on Bank Street, said he’s taken advantage of any opportunity to bring funding into the restaurant. He was able to obtain PPP grants, an SBA loan and a grant of about $1,300 from the City of New London.  “If I’m eligible, I will absolutely apply for anything,” he said. “We’re literally down 50 percent.”  Jake Johnson, owner of Jake’s Diner on State

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Groton City Mayor Keith Hedrick Makes his Case for a 3rd Term

Incumbent Keith Hedrick is facing off against former State Rep. Aundré Bumgardner in the Democratic primary for Groton City Mayor on Monday, March 8. Hedrick served for decades in the U.S. Navy and is endorsed by the Groton Democratic Committee.  In a conversation with Connecticut Examiner, Hedrick shared why he hopes voters re-elect him as mayor, and what his goals are for a third term.  This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.  What are your thoughts heading into Monday’s election?  I’m frustrated, because I’m in a primary that didn’t need to happen. I just don’t think the primary

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A Quick Peek at Marker 37 in Chester

CHESTER — “Cooking the food and making it absolutely taste outstanding, I don’t stop there. It’s so gratifying to see a waitress drop the food off at a table and see the customer immediately smile even before they’ve eaten the food. That is what I want the experience to be, said David Saunders, chef of Marker 37, a restaurant under construction on Railroad Ave. at Chester Marina.  Saunders, who has been the chef of Saybrook Soup and Sandwich Co. since 2010, said his new venture, named for its location on the Connecticut RIver, will feature a “contemporary aquatic” menu with

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Cromwell Approves Two 48-Foot Electronic Billboards on Route 9

A drive down the southern stretch of Route 9 is a scenic one  – offering glimpses of the Connecticut River and rolling hills, the famous New England foliage in autumn, and ice-glazed bluffs in winter. Billboards are rare on Route 9. Outside of New Britain – which features a handful of them that greet highway drivers as they approach, or drive away from, the city’s downtown – there are none.  But that could soon change after the Cromwell Planning and Zoning Commission approved a permit for two one-sided 48-foot wide electronic billboards rising 50 feet above the ground. The signs

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Aundre Bumgardner Makes His Case for Groton City Mayor

Former State Rep. Aundre Bumgardner is challenging incumbent Keith Hedrick in the Democratic primary for the Groton City mayorship on Monday, March 8. Bumgardner, who represented Groton and New London in the General Assembly from 2015 through 2017, was sworn in at the age of 20, making him the youngest state representative in Connecticut history. He has served on the Groton Town Council in 2018. Bumgardner was elected to the statehouse as a Republican, but left to join the Democratic party in the aftermath of the 2017 Charlottesville riot, when then-President Trump said there were “very fine people on both sides”

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Lamont Announces a Significant Loosening of Pandemic Restrictions

Connecticut restaurants and retail outlets will be allowed to operate at full capacity with masks and distancing on March 19, Gov. Ned Lamont said in a press conference Thursday, where he laid out a significant loosening of pandemic restrictions.  Lamont announced the elimination of capacity limits for restaurants, libraries, museums, aquariums, gyms, stores, offices, personal services and houses of worship.  He emphasized that all of these businesses will still be beholden to mask mandates, six feet of spacing requirements, and cleaning protocols. Stores and restaurants are currently capped at half capacity indoors, and restaurants can seat eight people at most

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Middletown Approves Purchase of 40 Acres from Bysiewicz Family for Open Space

MIDDLETOWN — The city’s efforts to preserve open space took a step forward on Monday as the Common Council approved buying 40 acres that could be used to expand walking trails at Smith Park and will preserve a patch of farmland nearly surrounded by houses. The council voted unanimously to allow the city to use $750,000 of bond funds voters approved in 2019 to buy 39.7 acres of land in the Westfield area. Half of the property is wooded and faces the wooded section of Smith park, while the half of the property facing East Street is open space that

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Eversource Proposes Rate Increases to Recover 2020 Costs

Eversource has offered state regulators three options for rate increases to its residential electric customers next summer: a $12 a month increase to the average customer, smaller increases over several years, or the possibility of borrowing about $200 million, if lawmakers approve, to spread out costs and rate increases over a number of years. In filings on Monday, Eversource asked state utility regulators at PURA to increase rates this May so that the company can recover costs from 2020 – largely citing costs from a deal that requires utilities to buy power from the Millstone Nuclear Power Station at above-market

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Black Seal Reopens to Eager Customers After 2020 Fire

ESSEX — Closed for over a year to repair damage from a fire last January, the Black Seal restaurant on Main St. in Essex Village reopened to eager customers last weekend. “We had people out there at 11, 11:15, waiting to get in to their usual bar seat,” Black Seal owner Mauricio Salgar said. “People were waiting for take out everywhere.” Salgar said he didn’t publicize the soft opening last weekend because he didn’t want the restaurant to be overwhelmed after being closed for 13 months. But in a small town like Essex, word travels quickly. “One person finds out,

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Stonington Prepares to Reopen Public Schools

STONINGTON — The Stonington Board of Education on Wednesday night asked Superintendent Van Riley to create a plan that would bring all grades back to in-person learning as soon as possible.  The plan comes in response to demands from parents that the schools reopen, despite teachers and paraeducators asking to remain in a hybrid model.  The key concern with returning in-person was the lack of space, which doesn’t allow students to maintain the six feet distance that the CDC recommends.  Yet according to a district-wide survey, about 60 percent of parents are asking for the district to return to in-person

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Legislature Passes $137 Million Fix for PILOT with Bipartisan Support But No Funding as of Yet

A still unfunded plan to revise and increase state reimbursements to local governments for tax-exempt property, at an estimated cost of $137 million, received significant bipartisan support from Connecticut’s first selectmen and mayors before passing 125-24 in the House and 28-7 in the Senate.  The bill also included the elimination of welfare liens and provisions against double taxation for commuters Mayor Justin Elicker of New Haven said he was grateful that first selectmen and mayors from across the state — rural communities and urban ones, small and large, Democratic and Republican — have come out in support of funding the

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Clinton Reports Better than Expected Revenues, Smooth Transition for New Town Manager

CLINTON — It’s been a year since the town hired Karl Kilduff as town manager to oversee the municipal budget, and members of the town council say that they can already see the benefits of having a professional in charge of the town’s finances. “Having him in place has had a huge impact on the town,” said Chris Aniskovich, chair of the town council.  On Nov. 19, 2019, Clinton transitioned from a board of selectmen form of governance — with a first selectman as “town CEO”— to an appointed town manager overseen by a seven-member elected town council. Aniskovich said

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New Jersey-based NRG to Sell Middletown, Montville, Hartford and Devon Plants

MIDDLETOWN — NRG Energy, a New Jersey-based energy company, announced on Monday that it was selling 4.8 gigawatts worth of “non-core fossil assets” to a subsidiary of Boston-based ArcLight Capital Partners for $760 million. An NRG spokesman confirmed Tuesday that the sale includes all four of the company’s power plants in Connecticut: 1,548 megawatts worth of natural gas, oil and jet fuel-fired plants in Middletown, Montville, Hartford and Devon. NRG Spokesman Dave Schrader said the company is constantly reviewing the makeup of its portfolio, assessing the location, type and mix of assets to ensure they are suited to its customers’

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