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A Message from First Selectman Bindelglass

Updated 7/23/2021

Good afternoon, 

Fortunately, it has been a quiet week in town so I will try to be brief. To follow up from my message from last week, at Optimum’s suggestion we have begun to elevate all complaints to our municipal representative. I have expressed that fixing complaints one by one is not a good long-term solution, so we will continue to work with the company on broader solutions. They have agreed to set up an open forum to discuss the town’s issues, and we will work to set that up.

As you’ve probably heard in the national news, there are significant increases in the number of COVID cases, mostly due to the proliferation of the Delta variant. This is almost completely preventable by getting people vaccinated. The people of Easton have done a great job throughout the pandemic, and we have a very high vaccination rate today. For those in town who have not been vaccinated, this is even more reason to please consider it. We want to be able to keep our facilities, especially our Senior Center, open and be fully ready for a normal school year starting next month.

We welcome back Dr. Thomas McMorran as our interim school superintendent. I had the pleasure of working very closely with Tom while on the Easton Board of Education. He knows our students and our town. I have always been struck with his commitment to both education and the social and emotional well-being of our students. Even on an interim basis we are thrilled to have him.

Planning and Zoning has its first post pandemic public hearing on July 26 at 7 PM at Samuel Staples Elementary School.

Again, have a great weekend and enjoy all that our wonderful Easton has to offer. Check out the town website at eastonct.gov to find links to departments sponsoring special activities. Take advantage of our farms and eateries. Enjoy!

Dave




Message from First Selectman Bindelglass

Updated 5/28/21

Memorial Day

Good afternoon,

 I am happy to say that Val and Derek Buckley are home and recuperating.  Although they are making progress every day, thoughts and prayers are still in order.

On Monday, the Zoning Board of Appeals upheld a permit for a slaughter house on Tranquility Lane.  A number of restrictions were added to the approval. I remained concerned about this. The Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection has yet to allow the enterprise to go forward. This process highlights some changes which I believe we need to make in our Zoning Regulations and possibly Farming Ordinances. I have begun to discuss this with our Planning and Zoning Commission.

Bob Lessler has started to work with the Board of Ethics reviewing and rewriting our Code of Ethics Ordinance. Anyone who has thoughts regarding our Ethics Ordinance should feel free to forward their thoughts to me.

We have traditionally allowed political signs in the lead up to elections or referenda.  I realize that important votes by boards and commissions could be considered in the same fashion, and of course, I do not want to restrict freedom of speech. I would ask that once such votes occur, the signs be removed promptly. Our Zoning Regulations are designed to, “protect the established rural and residential character of the Town,” which I believe is a goal we can all agree to. If signs are left up or are not related to the election, referenda or commission, committee or board votes, they will be removed without notice per the Town Policy. We like to have our town looking pristine and uncluttered.

Bev Dacey has generously agreed to lead the effort to hold a meaningful Ceremony of Remembrance on September 11, 2021, which is the 20th Anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center buildings, the Pentagon and the fourth plane taken down in a field near Shanksville, PA. We are looking for people who have ideas on how to create a meaningful and mindful ceremony. That day affected so many of us here in Easton and we want to mark this anniversary in an honorable and respectful fashion. I know some residents were in downtown Manhattan on that day and may have reflections to share. Please contact me if you have ideas or wish to participate.

Monday is Memorial Day and I look forward to marching in the parade and seeing many of you at the ceremony. Having a parade is a sign of our emergence from the pandemic, and that is to be celebrated! I think the message of Memorial Day is particularly poignant at this time. We honor the memories of those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. We realize that being a good citizen requires a willingness to give of yourself to make our country better for all. On Memorial Day, we celebrate all those brave souls who lost their lives defending our nation and those who continue to fight for our freedom and our way of life.

See you at the parade!

Dave Bindelglass

This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave. – Elmer Davis




Letter: Home Rule for Planning and Zoning

To the Editor:

Thursday night April 29 at their regular meeting, the Easton Republican Town Committee unanimously endorsed the following resolution. This in response to the actions taking place in Hartford attempting to take Planning and Zoning out of the hands of our local government. Their goal is to have Hartford make our decisions for us. We will not stand by and watch that happen.

WHEREAS, Connecticut’s towns and cities successfully use local zoning and planning processes to balance private property rights, the community’s interests, infrastructure demands, housing needs, and economic growth; and
WHEREAS, local control and decision making by Connecticut’s towns and cities allow resident taxpayers to carefully create zoning policies that reflect the town or city’s unique geography, economy, housing market, and other elements; and
WHEREAS, local zoning and planning ensures that local officials are accountable to the taxpaying community for the decisions they make; and
WHEREAS, local zoning and planning processes give the local affected residents the greatest opportunity to provide specific, unique and important information on the potential impacts of zoning changes upon their community that only they could have knowledge of; and
WHEREAS, local public hearings enable neighbors and residents to provide beneficial suggestions, identify errors and maximize the acceptability of zoning proposals to the community; and
WHEREAS, the town of Easton is geographically unique, being home to two storage and a terminal reservoir and over four thousand acres of watershed land that are crucial to supplying most of Fairfield County with drinking water; and
WHEREAS, the town of Easton is home to over 20 family farms and is an important source of locally grown organic produce and Christmas trees; and
WHEREAS, Protecting Easton’s watershed land and preserving our family farms and our rural character are best achieved through local control of planning and zoning; and
WHEREAS, proposals have been introduced in the Connecticut General Assembly to strip local planning and zoning processes from towns and cities; and
WHEREAS, proposals have been introduced in the General Assembly to allow BY RIGHT multi-family development; and
WHEREAS, proposals have been introduced in the General Assembly to allow outside Housing Authorities within a 15-miles radius of Easton to develop affordable housing projects within our town; and
WHEREAS, BY RIGHT multi-family development can lead to exponential market value overbuilding and can cause adverse impacts to neighboring property values; and
WHEREAS, BY RIGHT such development gives outsized power to builders and non-local Housing Authorities over other property owners and prevent local Planning and Zoning Commissions from studying the potential impacts of their projects and imposing conditions upon a developer to address those impacts; and
WHEREAS, eliminating public hearings and community input on zoning matters would have unintended consequences such as, erosion of Easton’s unique rural character, ; and
WHEREAS, each Connecticut town and city already has the choice to modify its zoning ordinances to best serve the community’s interests through its local electoral process, with the assistance of elected town and city government officials; and
WHEREAS, proposals have been introduced in the General Assembly that would allow SPOT zoning for multifamily housing in single family districts, effectively bypassing local Zoning Boards; and
NOW BE IT RESOLVED that the REPUBLICAN TOWN COMMITTEE of the town of Easton, Connecticut, opposes any State Mandated, one size fits all, Zoning Legislation.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the REPUBLICAN TOWN COMMITTEE of the town of Easton, Connecticut opposes the ability of any outside housing authority to have jurisdiction over our town’s Affordable Housing plan and any similar legislation that would further overrule, remove or diminish local control and decision making related to planning and zoning or affordable housing within the town of Easton; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that a copy of this resolution shall be sent to all State Representatives and State Senators representing Easton, to the Governor, all members of the State Legislature’s Planning and Development, Finance, Transportation and Housing Committees, and to all legislators sponsoring bills that remove local control of planning and zoning and affordable housing.

Wendy Bowditch

Easton Republican Town Committee Chair




Letter: Let the People Set the Path

To the Editor:

As the First Selectman of the town of Easton I had planned to explain my position regarding an advisory ballot question on funding Easton’s portion of the development of a multi-use path along Sport Hill Road. I still plan to do that in the future.  However, I feel obligated to respond to the letter to the editor regarding the Board of Selectmen’s action at our March 4 meeting. There are several inaccuracies which I do not want to let linger prior to my more detailed discussion.

The authors of the letter, June Logie and Sherry Harris of Citizens for Responsible Government, state that — during the Planning and Zoning Commission members’ March 4 presentation in support of the pathway — that “no mention was made of the town wide charette informing citizens about this project.”  This is an error as Ross Ogden of the commission extensively quoted statements made at the design charette.

Far more importantly, they state that “the legal authority to govern town finances rests with the BOF.”  Of course the legislative body of the town of Easton is the Town Meeting. It is that body which approves budgets and appropriations as recommended to them by the Board of Finance. In this case  on the question of an appropriation for the multi-use path, the Board of Finance voted 3-3 which prevented the question of the appropriation from being put to the Town Meeting.

Given the Planning and Zoning Commission’s unanimous position that this was needed by the town, why not put this question to the town as a whole? Is allowing them to do so and safeguarding the rights of the people to be heard not exactly what the Board of Selectmen should be doing? For those concerned that the Town Meeting is somehow usurping the Board of Finance’s power, the vote would be advisory only.

The authors present this as a partisan issue suggesting that only the Democratic members of the Board of Selectman voted to put this advisory question on the ballot, while in fact the vote was unanimous. Furthermore, it is worth noting that one of the Republican members of the Board of Finance who supported putting the appropriation on the ballot did so saying that she believed the people should vote on this important question.

Since running for this office I have tried to remain transparent. I have said all along that where the town faced difficult and potentially controversial issues the people of the town should decide what is best. The authors give every appearance of arguing that the people of Easton, through the Town Meeting process, are not qualified to make the financial decisions expressly granted to them by town ordinance and state statute. For a number of reasons their argument is difficult to comprehend.

First Selectman David Bindelglass




Home Rule In Land-Use Rests On State Statutes

Like every city and town in Connecticut, Easton sets rules and regulations for land-use with authority to do so under the state’s constitutionally reserved “police powers” to protect the health, safety and general welfare of its inhabitants.  Home rule in zoning is not an inherent municipal power; it is a state enabled and regulated power.

That distinction between inherent and delegated authority could play out in the current discussions about housing inequities, although the upcoming special session of the General Assembly might only have time to deal with law enforcement issues and plans for mail-in voting during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Lamont administration has been public in its preference for a collaborative approach between the state and local government on land use regulations. However, the majority Democratic Party in the state legislature is now on record as wanting to expand affordable housing opportunities, one of its 33 general proposals for consideration in the special session. That could require state intervention.

Zoning is dealt with in Chapter 124 of Connecticut’s General Statutes. Section 8-2 of that chapter covers regulations and clearly conveys on Easton’s Planning and Zoning Commission the power to set acreage requirements and use restrictions on construction permitted in it property districts. The section also provides for limitations on development in terms of conservation considerations such as watershed protection, which has been a major concern in Easton.

The appraisal principle of conformity is also recognized in the section: “Such regulations shall be made with reasonable consideration as to the character of the district and its peculiar suitability for particular uses and with a view to conserving the value of buildings and encouraging the most appropriate use of land throughout such [a] municipality.”

The restricting of development in Easton to one and three acre parcels for single family residences would appear to fit comfortably into the statute’s “suitability” provisions, except for the section’s assertion that “such regulations shall also promote housing choice and economic diversity in housing, and shall encourage the development of housing opportunities, including housing for both low and moderate income households.”

In that regard, the statute specifically mentions cluster and multifamily development “consistent with soil types, terrain, and infrastructure capacity” to serve the housing needs of  “all the people of the municipality and the planning region in which the municipality is located.” Such additions to permitted uses could be implemented through special permit regulations, such as those that allow the construction of churches and schools, which typically are not among the regular permitted uses.

To date, the state has relied heavily on the for-profit real estate market to make inroads on housing affordability and availability in suburban towns. Existing legislation provides developers with accelerated access to the courts to challenge permit denials by zoning commissions, as long as the denials were of plans that included a required percentage of affordable housing. The other advantage for the developer in such a case is that the burden of proof is on the commission to justify the denial, not on the developer to justify a reversal of the denial. Easton has had once such contested development that has been in adjudication for over a decade.

Faced with this challenge in state legislation, some suburban towns have established their own housing task forces to promote affordable housing on town terms. Nearby Fairfield is an example. Easton has not chosen that course. It does have an affordable housing accessory apartment regulation, which holds rent to an affordable level, but the house owner is not required to rent the apartment. The accessory unit can remain as an improvement to the property for an alternative private use.