Board of Selectmen Meeting of March 17, 2022

The Board of Selectmen held its second regular meeting in March with all members present in person and with several members of the public present in person and via Zoom. The board is pleased that we are again able to have the public attend meetings in person while simultaneously accommodating attendance by the public via video.

The board approved the minutes of its March 3, 2022 meeting and approved nine tax refunds as recommended by the tax collector.

The board heard a presentation from Elizabeth Boyce and Bruce Nelson on the proposed Demolition Delay Ordinance. This ordinance would impose a 90 day waiting period before qualified historically significant buildings could be destroyed. Similar ordinances are on the books in about one third of Connecticut towns and cities. The goal is not to prohibit property owners from tearing down structures, but rather, to allow time to explore alternatives to demolition or to document and photograph structures before they are demolished. Mr. Nelson, who serves on the Demolition Delay Committee in Redding, reported that most structures do end up being demolished but a historical record is created. Peter Howard, the town’s building inspector, spoke in support of the ordinance. The board approved the ordinance and it will, therefore, be on the agenda for adoption at the Annual Town Meeting in April.

The board heard a presentation by Hilary Desmond concerning Pride month. Thereafter, the board approved a request from the town’s Pride Committee to hold a flag raising ceremony on June 1st of 2022 and 2023, and to fly the Pride flag on the new nautical flagpole in front of town hall for the entire month of June in 2022 and 2023. The committee is planning to have an Easton-centric event on the 1st following the flag raising which will include speakers and a social gathering. Details for the June 1st event are being developed by the committee.

The board voted to form a new Human Resources Advisory Committee, resurrecting a body that had existed for a time but was disbanded during the last administration. The new body will be comprised of the members of the Board of Selectmen, a representative from the Finance Department and a citizen of the town selected by the selectmen. This body will oversee the human resource operation of the town.

The board adopted a charge for the newly formed Emergency Medical Services Planning and Building Committee. The charge directs the committee to plan, design, develop and construct a new EMS building for the town. The committee is already hard at work. It is actively seeking to find a site for the new building. The town hopes to use federal funding for a large portion of the project cost.

The board approved a revised Library Board Ordinance to include two alternate members appointed by the Board of Selectmen. Presently, there are six elected full members but no alternates. Some town boards, whether appointed or elected, have alternates and some do not. The current Library Board felt their body would benefit by having alternates. Adoption of the revised ordinance will also be on the agenda for the Annual Town Meeting in April.

The board reviewed a first draft of a revised Zoning Enforcement Ordinance. The goal is to have the town adopt a more robust ordinance to allow better and more consistent enforcement of our zoning laws. After hearing comments from Dori Wollen, the chair of our Conservation Commission, concerning the draft, the board will also review the ordinance outlining the role of the conservation enforcement officer. While the board would like to bring this revised ordinance to the townspeople at the Annual Town Meeting in April, it may not be ready for final action in time. If it is not ready, the board will continue to work on the document and bring it before the Town Meeting at a later date.
In anticipation of several important actions the board will need to take in the near future, we looked at our schedule and are planning the following meetings:

1. The April 7 regular meeting of the Board of Selectmen is cancelled.

2. A special Board of Selectmen meeting will be held on April 8 instead at a time yet to be determined.

3. On April 18, the board will hold a public hearing on the sale of South Park Avenue to the Aspetuck Land Trust. That hearing will take place at 7 p.m. at Samuel Staples Cafetorium.

4. On April 19, the board will hear a presentation from the Affordable Housing Committee about the plan it has drafted. The specific time and place for this meeting is yet to be established. The draft plan should be available on the town website by the time you read this post. The town is required by state law to have a plan in place by the end of June 2022.

5. On April 25 at 7 p.m. at Samuel Staples cafetorium, the Annual Town Meeting will take place. The complete agenda will be adopted by the selectmen on April 8th. In addition to the items listed above, the Annual Town Meeting will hear a presentation on the town budget for the next fiscal year. That item will be adjourned to a machine vote referendum for final adoption to be held on May 3.

The board received comments from members of the public at the beginning and the end of our meeting in accordance with our usual practice. Here is a summary of the comments we heard:
June Logie spoke about why we are apparently planning both an Annual Town Meeting and a Special Town Meeting for the same day. She raised a concern about not being able to add agenda items to a special meeting but being able to add agenda items to a regular meeting. She spoke in opposition to the plan to add two alternates to the Library Board. She asked that all draft ordinances be posted on the town website so people are made aware and can offer comments. She supports the proposed Demolition Delay Ordinance.

Carolyn and Emery Oppenheim spoke in support of the Pride flag flying on the flagpole for the entire month June.

John Meyer supports flying affinity flags and asked if there is a formal policy or guideline for this. The first selectman explained that we do have a written policy and will make sure it is posted on the town website if it is not already.

Jeff Becker wished everyone a happy Purim, happy St. Patrick’s Day and happy spring. He expressed his desire to serve on the Demolition Delay Committee assuming the ordinance is adopted by the town.

The members of the Board of Selectmen also offered comments.

Selectman Lessler noted his disagreement with the views expressed by a commentator concerning the legality of adding items to the Annual Town Meeting agenda at the meeting itself. He also congratulation town resident John Foley for leading the successful effort to preserve the Great Irish Hunger Museum. The museum is presently housed on the campus of Quinnipiac University in Hamden. However the university is re-purposing the building and had planned to mothball the museum. John was instrumental in moving the museum to the town of Fairfield where it will remain accessible to the public.

Selectman Sogofsky congratulated those students in town who are fundraising and collecting supplies for the people of Ukraine as they defend themselves from the unprovoked invasion by Russia.

First Selectman Bindelglass expressed his pleasure at the commonwealth of people in town who are working to support our entire community through things like the Pride flag events, the Demolition Delay Ordinance, supporting Ukraine and promoting Irish heritage. He said our Covid numbers our very good and how glad he is to see full faces in town hall – no more masks!

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