Letter: Easton has plenty to offer — plenty of drama

To the Editor:

Beautiful, bucolic Easton welcomes your newspaper. Many people didn’t realize how much we needed a newspaper until we didn’t have one. 

Our unique little town has plenty to offer – not only to our townspeople, but also to our neighboring towns and cities. Our extensive farms teem with produce, livestock and Christmas trees. Our reservoirs supply fresh, pure water to more than 600,000 residents of Fairfield County and beyond, and many in our town feel that it’s our responsibility to protect these vital resources. Our plentiful, tree-filled open space supplies healthy oxygen to other towns where concrete and commercial development abound. Many if not most of our residents oppose commercial development here. 

Easton also offers plenty of drama which residents may be unaware of because we had no newspaper. Drama has been supplied by our recent election which had an uncharacteristically large voter turnout and, for the first time in a long time, has placed a Democrat majority on the board of selectmen. This election also offered the first unaffiliated/independent candidate for first selectman in our town’s recorded history, the grandson of the Bridgeport Hydraulic president and Easton resident who 100 years ago built Grand Reservoirs in many towns.

Much of the drama is also being supplied by our Planning & Zoning Commission which errantly approved an application for a large housing development on a 110-acre property located directly on the watershed that flows into two major Easton Reservoirs. On October 3, 2019, Superior Court judge J.T. Berger ruled that P&Z was not authorized to approve the development in this very ecologically sensitive area because they did not allow our Conservation and Wetlands Commission to rule on it. The Coalition to Save Easton, a group of Easton citizens, ponied up a substantial amount of their own money to intervene in this case and fight our P&Z for the benefit of the town, the environment, and the reservoirs.

Then, last year, P&Z imposed its plan of development (POCD) and zoning regulations on Easton despite nearly 100% public opposition from those who attended the public hearings. This can be construed as symptomatic of a “rogue P&Z” which Easton citizens currently have no ability to challenge because P&Z is appointed by our three-person Board of Selectmen and not answerable to the townspeople in any way. This has sparked a movement to enact a statute that empowers our citizens to elect the members of our P&Z, so that when they ignore the will of the people they can be voted out.

There is plenty of drama to come. P&Z is currently attempting to create the town’s first commercial zone called a Village District, which threatens to open the floodgates of commercial development in our town for the first time in more than 80 years. Will P&Z change their ways and respect input from the public? Will they consult our boards and commissions on this vital issue affecting the future of Easton? Will they again refuse to answer questions from the public as they have in the past?

P&Z has applied for a grant to build a half-mile walkway/bike path from Helen Keller to the Easton Village Store potentially costing $178,000 of town funds. They did this without approval of our Board of Finance or consultation with our Conservation Commission.  

P&Z is now in deliberations with Sacred Heart University to lease them part of our property on which Staples Elementary school is located. There is plenty of ongoing controversy and lawsuits regarding SHU students occupying the North End of Bridgeport. Does our town, particularly parents of young Staples children, want to allow Sacred Heart college students access to our elementary school property?

Stay tuned. There is much to come. We’re now happy to have a venue with which to help inform the public and spread the news.

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