April 24, 2014

Local Man Arrested for Murder of His Mother at Rattling Valley Road Home

DEEP RIVER— State police have arrested a local man for murder in the stabbing death of his mother in a house at 131 Rattling Valley Road. Robert Rankin, 22, was arrested late Thursday and presented Friday at Middlesex Superior Court in Middletown. He was ordered held in custody on a $1 million bond.

State police were called to the home, located off a common driveway on the eastern end of Rattling Valley Road, around 1 p.m. Thursday by Rankin’s father, Robert Rankin Jr.

According to information released at the court appearance, Rankin Jr. told troopers that he believed his son had stabbed his ex-wife. Her body was found inside the house after police arrived on the scene. Police had not released the deceased woman’s name as of late Friday afternoon. Detectives with the state police Central District Major Crime Squad were at the home into the night Thursday, and later arrested the younger Rankin on a murder charge.

Essex Property Values Drop With 2013 Revaluation

ESSEX— The assessed value of most properties in town has declined in the recently completed townwide revaluation, the first comprehensive update of values since the onset of the national recession in 2008.

Assessor Jessice Sypher said earlier this week most, but not all, of the town’s 2,918 residential property accounts, including undeveloped land, show a decline in assessed value .”It depends a lot on the location,” Sypher said, noting that property values in many neighborhoods held steady, or actually show an increase in assessed value based on recent sales. New assessments were mailed to most property owners in late November.

Sypher said values in and around the downtown Essex village held steady, while some properties in the northern sections of Essex off River Road showed higher assessed values. She said many properties around the Mill Pond of the Falls River in Ivoryton showed higher assessed values. Sypher said the town’s 307 commercial and industrial properties showed an average six percent drop in assessed value from the 2008 assessments.

The revaluation was done by Vision Appraisal Government Solutions of Northboro, Mass., the same firm that handled the last full townwide revaluation with on site inspections in 2003, and the statistical revaluation update that was done in 2008.

Sypher, who has served as Essex assessor for more than a decade, said she is anticipating a seven to ten percent drop in the town’s grand list of taxable property. A drop in that range would be comparable to what occurred in Deep River, when the town’s grand list decreased by eight percent after a revaluation that was completed in 2010.

Sypher said the 2013 grand list would be filed on schedule on Jan. 31, without the need for a 30 days extension that is sometimes requested after a revaluation.

Sypher said some residents have requested informal hearings with Vision Appraisal representatives on their new assessments, though there has been no influx of complaints to her office since the new assessments were mailed. “lt has been more questions than complaints,” she said.

Property owners who believe their new assessments are incorrect can request formal hearings with the town’s elected board of assessment appeals. The 2013 grand list will be used to set a tax rate for 2014-2015 after town and school budgets are adopted next year.

Essex Selectmen Consider Scaling Back Town Delay of Demolition Ordinance

ESSEX— The board of selectmen is considering amendments that would scale back the requirements of the town’s delay of demolition ordinance for historic structures. The board discussed the ordinance at a meeting Wednesday, and is expected to discuss specific changes o the ordinance at the next meeting on Jan. 8.

The ordinance was approved at a October 2004 town meeting at the urging of longtime town historian and author Donald Malcarne, who died in 2009. It requires public notice of intent to demolish any structure in Essex that more than 75 years old, and allows the Essex Historical Society, or any other resident, to petition for a 90 days delay of demolition.

Malcarne, responding to the demolition of a handful of older homes in town in the early 2000s, had contended the ordinance would give preservationists time to explore alternatives to demolition, or at least document the structure for the town’s historic record. The fine for a property owner ignoring the ordinance was only $100.

First Selectman Norman Needleman said he favors pushing back the historic date when the ordinance and related public notice requirements would be triggered to 1900. Under the existing ordinance, the date when the ordinance requirements are effective would be 1936. The year was 1927 when the ordinance was adopted in 2004.

“1900 is better than a rolling 75 years, Needleman said, adding the requirements of the ordinance have become “onerous” for some property owners in recent years. “It’s the law of unintended consequences,” he said.

Needleman also suggested revising the ordinance to specify that both the Essex Historical Society and the appointed town historian would be required to file an objection to trigger the 90 days delay of demolition, rather than simply any town resident. Selectman Bruce Glowac said he is open to revising the ordinance, while adding that Malcarne’s intentions were good when he pushed for adoption of the ordinance nearly a decade ago. “Historic houses were being torn down and nobody knew it was going to happen,” he said. Any amendments to the delay of demolition ordinance would require approve from voters at a town meeting.

In other business, the selectmen appointed Jae Wolf, a Deep River resident, as animal control officer. Wolf replace Belden Libby, who resigned from the part-time position last month.

Libby, husband of Selectwoman Stacia Libby, had been hired in June after the retirement of longtime animal control officer Joseph Heller. Needleman said Wolf is an animal lover who applied for the position, which includes an annual stipend and use of a town vehicle for calls.

Deep River Planning and Zoning Approves Relocation of Dunkin Donuts to 246 Main Street

DEEP RIVER— The planning and zoning commission has approved a special permit for the relocation of Dunkin Donuts to a vacant commercial building at 246 Main St. The panel approved the permit on a unanimous vote at a Dec. 12 meeting after plans were presented at a lengthy public hearing on Nov. 21.

In a separate decision, the commission last week approved a special permit to allow a dog day care business in a portion of the industrial building at 444 Main St. that had been the subject of a zoning dispute last year.

The permit will allow Great American Donut of Plainville to relocate the Dunkin Donuts that has operated for about 4 years in commercial space at 190 Main St. to move south to the 246 Main St. property that is located at the intersection of Main and Union streets. The Dunkin Donuts would occupy 1,600 square-feet, or about half, of the vacant commercial building on the parcel. The west section of the building, on the Union St. side, would be reserved for another unspecified commercial use.

The commission imposed nine conditions on the permit approval. Four of the conditions will require the applicant to return to the commission for permit modifications on lighting, the main sign for the business, the design and color scheme of a planned outdoor seating area, and the location and enclosure for the dumpster uses by the donut shop.

The location of the dumpster was a major topic of discussion at the public hearing, with some residents objecting to placing the dumpster at the front southern most section of the parcel, which is at the apex of the Main Street-Union Street intersection. But the commission decided to allow the dumpster in the front section of the parcel under conditions. The dumpster would have to be fully enclosed in a 10-foot by 12-foot structure with a roof.. Final plans for the dumpster location and enclosure would be reviewed by the commission before work begins on the site improvements.

Other conditions include extending the improved front facade of the building to the back of the building to obscure mechanical equipment on the roof, extending granite curbing to the parking area, and elimination of a window the west side of the building that is reserved for the future commercial use. There would be a prohibition on signage on the west side of the building facing Union Street.

The dog day care business at 444 Main St. was approved after a brief public hearing where the proposed use drew no objections from any nearby property owners. The permit will allow local resident Jerilyn Nucci to provide daytime care for up to 24 dogs. The dog day care would occupy about 1,500 square-feet of the building.

The industrial building on the west side of Main St., also known as Route 154, had been the subject of a zoning dispute in 2012 after town commissions blocked a proposal by the property owner, local resident George Bartlett Jr., to use most of the building for a used car dealership.

Region 4 School Board Approve 2014-2015 School Calendar, Second Year with Short February Break

REGION 4— Region 4 school boards have approved a school calendar for 2014-2015, the second year where district students will have a shortened two day February break.

The calendar that was unanimously approved by district school boards on Dec. 5 closely follows the current school calendar that was approved after much discussion by the boards in December 2012. For the second year, district schools will close for the Monday Presidents Day holiday, Feb,. 16 ,2015, and remained closed the following day for students while staff have an in service professional development day.

The next school year will open on Thursday, Aug. 28. The calendar adheres to the district policy for the autumn Jewish holidays, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, with schools closed if the holiday falls on a week day. For 2014, there will be no school on Rosh Hashanah, Thursday Sept. 25, while Yom Kippur falls on a weekend and does not require a closing.

As was the case this year, there will be no school for students on Columbus Day, while school staff will be in session for a professional development day. This follows a year, 2012, where schools were in full session on the Columbus Day holiday. As was the case this year, school will be in session on Veterans day, Nov. 11.

As was the case this year, there will be no school on Wednesday Nov. 26, the day before Thanksgiving. The winter holiday break will run from Dec. 23 to Jan. 2, with a spring vacation week from April 6-10. There will be five early dismissal days for students, while staff are in service during the afternoons for professional development.

Essex Zoning Commission Sets Date for Public Hearing on Medical Maijuana Moritorium, Village District Uses

ESSEX— The zoning commission will hold a public hearing Monday on a proposed one year moratorium on medical marijuana-related applications on proposed prohibitions on various commercial uses in the downtown village district. The hearing convenes at 7 p.m. in town hall.

The amendments to town zoning regulations are proposed by the commission. One proposed amendment would impose a one year moratorium on applications for uses developing from the new state law allowing prescription of medical marijuana for certain health conditions. The moratorium would apply to both growing businesses and dispensaries for medical marijuana.

Zoning Enforcement Officer Joseph Budrow said the panel is hoping to take a year to monitor how potential zoning uses related to medical marijuana are handled in other municipalities. “The commission wants to get more of a grasp on the new laws and determine whether those uses are appropriate for Essex,” he said.

A separate public hearing will focus on the commissions proposal to prohibit certain commercial uses in the downtown Essex village district. The proposed new regulation would allow arts and crafts-related uses in the district, while prohibiting check cashing establishments, tattoo and massage parlors, adult-themed stores, and head shops. Budrow said none of the proposed changes were prompted by any potential local applications for the uses, including medical marijuana uses.

Aaron Manor Town Plan Revisions Draw Mixed Comments at Chester P & Z

CHESTER— Revisions to the town plan of conservation and development that would give the Aaron Manor Nursing and Rehabilitation Center the option of connecting to the town sewer system drew a mixed response from residents and officials Thursday at a public hearing before the planning and zoning commission.

The nursing facility located off Route 148 at the Route 9/Exit 6 interchange has requested amendments to the 2009 plan that would give the facility the option of connecting to the sewer system that serves the downtown village and a section of Route 154. Aaron Manor is under order from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to upgrade the on site septic system serving the facility. Earlier this year, the town inland-wetlands commission asked representatives of the facility to investigate the option of connecting to the town sewer system before pursuing an application for a new and larger on-site sewage disposal system.

Changes to the town plan are needed for the facility to begin a detailed analysis of the option of a connection to the municipal system, a costly project that would require installing an underground sewer line along about 1.5 miles of Route 148 east from Aaron Manor to the downtown village area.

About 20 residents, including members of the conservation and economic development commissions, turned out for the public hearing. Several residents, including First Selectman Edmund Meehan, spoke in support of the requested revisions. Meehan, a former municipal planner for Newington, presented a written statement from the board of selectmen endorsing the changes, and also spoke at the hearing. Meehan contended giving the 10-year plan the option of expanding the municipal sewer system would be a “good thing for Chester.”

“If you have it in the plan you can guide it and direct it,” Meehan said, adding that planning and zoning commission oversight and current zoning for minimum one or two acre building lot sizes would limit development and population density along any Route 148 sewer extension. “I don’t think this is going to upset the town’s land use patterns,” he said.

Steve Flett, chairman of the economic development commission, said the revisions represent a request for help from an existing business, not a plan to promote wider economic development. “If Aaron Manor is prepared to pay the bill, you should just let them do it,” he said.

But Michael Prisloe, chairman of the conservation commission, contended the changes to the plan could have “unintended consequences” for future development that would change the environment and character of. the town’s western gateway. The commission presented a statement urging further study before approval of any changes to the town plan. Prisloe also noted the changes to the plan could become effective early next year, long before completion of any sewer line from Aaron Manor.

The commission was expected to close the public hearing Thursday and begin deliberations of the Aaron Manor application at it’s Jan. 9 meeting.

Deep River P&Z Holds Public Hearing on Proposed Dog Care Business for 444 Main Street

DEEP RIVER— The planning and zoning commission will hold a public hearing Thursday on a special permit application for a dog day care business in a portion of a former industrial building at 444 Main St. that was the subject of a zoning dispute last year. The hearing convenes at 7 p.m. in town hall.

Local resident Jerilyn Nucci is seeking to use 1,500-square feet of the building owned by resident George Bartlett Jr. to provide day care for up to 24 dogs. The dogs would be walked outside during the day in a monitored play area.

Bartlett had purchased the 13,340 square-foot building, former home of the Champion Tool & Dye Co., in 2011. In 2012, he proposed using most of the building for a used car dealership, an application that led to a dispute between the planning and zoning commission and zoning board of appeals. The ZBA approved variances for the proposed use in June 2012, drawing objections from the planning and zoning commission over whether one of the variances was a use-related variance that exceeded the authority of the ZBA.

The ZBA later determined that it had granted only a dimensional variance related to road frontage requirements, a move that led to a lawsuit filed by Bartlett against the board that is still pending in Middlesex Superior Court. Last May, the planning and zoning commission denied a special permit application from Bartlett to use a portion of the property to store and maintain construction equipment amid a dispute with the applicant over conditions related to a permit approval.

Bartlett is currently renting about 8,000 square-feet of the building to a small manufacturing business, and another section to a boat repair business that was formerly located in Chester.

Chester Selectmen Endorse Requested Aaron Manor Plan of Development Change

CHESTER— The board of selectmen last week endorsed changes to the plan of conservation and development that were requested by the Aaron Manor Nursing and Rehabilitation Center to give the facility an option of connecting to the town sewer system. First Selectman Edmund Meehan will present a statement from the board when the planning and zoning commission considers the request at a public hearing that begins Thursday at 7;30 p.m. at town hall.

The nursing facility off Route 148 is under order from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to upgrade the septic system serving the facility. The inland-wetlands commission last year asked representatives of Aaron Manor to explore the option of connecting to the town sewer system before presenting an application for a new and larger on site sewage disposal system. The requested changes to the 2009 town plan would allow town boards and commissions to consider a request to tie in to the municipal sewer system.

First Selectman Edmund Meehan, a former town planner, said last week it would be “shortsighted” to hold to a plan that does not provide options for expanding the system that currently serves the downtown village and properties on Route 154. Meehan presented a written statement outlining several reasons to revise language in the plan.

The statement notes that “public sanitary sewers are a major infrastructure asset that benefits a community’s public health, water quality, and economic base.” It also suggests that a future sewer expansion could help the town’s “long range economic development and business retention options for existing non-residential land uses when on-site systems are not feasible.”

The selectmen unanimously endorsed the statement prepared by Meehan. Selectman Tom Englert said any future economic development along Route 148 west to the Aaron Manor property would be controlled by the planning and zoning commission and other town land use commissions, while the changes would simply give the nursing facility the option of investigating the feasibility of a connection. “It doesn’t say we are going to do it,” he noted.

Region 4 School Boards Approve New Three-Year Contract for Administrators

REGION 4 — District school boards Thursday approved a new three-year contract for school administrators that provides a total 9.48 percent salary increase at the expiration of the agreement in June 2017.

The contract with the Region 4 Administrators Association was approved with little discussion by the 24 board members present at the meeting from the district towns of Chester, Essex, and Deep River. Arthur Hennick, a newly elected member of the local Chester Board of Education, cast the single dissenting vote. The contract covers ten administrators, including principals and assistant principals at the five district schools and some central office staff.

The agreement, which is effective in July, provides a 3.82 percent salary increase for 2014-2015, 3.16 percent for 2015-2016, and a 2.5 percent pay increase for the final year, 2016-2017. The totals include any step increases for several of the most recently hired administrators who are now at lower steps on the three step salary schedule for administrators.

Kevin Roy, a lawyer who represented the school district in the negotiations, said the talks with administrators, who did not use an attorney, were a “cooperative process” that quickly produced the three-year agreement. Roy said the cumulative 9.48 percent salary increase was “slightly above” the current statewide average pay increase of 7.28 percent for a three-year contract.

But Roy noted district administrators were at or below statewide pay averages for their contracts extending back to 2008. He noted that an agreement concluded in 2008, at the start of the financial crisis that led to the national Great Recession, provided no salary increase for 2008-2009, and only a two-year 2.5 percent pay increase for 2009-2011. Roy said the new contract would help the district attract and retain qualified administrators.

The actual salaries vary among administrators based on experience and years of service in the district. For the principal at Valley Regional High School, who assumed the position in 2010, the salary would rise from the current $139,000 per year to a salary of about $146,000 in 2017.,

The contract also provides for some savings on health insurance costs for the administrators, with the employee share of total premium costs rising from the current 18.5 percent share to a 21 percent share paid by the employees in 2017. The employee share of a separate higher deductible plan would rise from the current 14.5 percent to a 17 percent employee share in 2017.

Essex Selectmen Will Delay New Solid Waste Transfer Station Fees Until April

ESSEX— Planned new and higher disposal fees for the town’s solid waste transfer station drew no major objections from residents at a public hearing Wednesday, though First Selectman Norman Needleman announced that implementation of the new fees would be delayed until April 1 rather than a planned January start date.

About 20 residents turned out for the public hearing on a new fee schedule for the transfer station that was unanimously approved by the board of selectmen in August. The plan recommended by the town’s appointed sanitary waste commission would replace the current $3 per bag disposal fee for household trash with an annual resident user sticker that would cost $125, with a $75 annual fee for senior citizens. There would also be higher fees for disposal fees of tires, demolition materials, junk furniture and mattresses.

Needleman said the purpose of the plan is to remove cash transactions from the transfer site, and to recover some of the costs for disposal of the various bulky waste items. “We don’t want to make any money, but we would prefer not to lose money,” on the site, Needleman said, adding the current cash per-bag system “lends itself to potential problems and extra work.” He said there would be no charge for recyclables, including glass bottles, cans, and newspapers, or for residents depositing small loads of brush.

The new fees would apply to residents who carry trash and other items to the site off Route 154, not effecting the majority of households in Essex paying a private hauler for curbside trash pickup.

The new fee schedule brought no objections from residents during the 40-minute hearing, though one elderly woman said the $75 annual sticker fee for senior citizens would still be more than she is now paying for disposal by the bag.

Despite the lack of strong objections, Needleman said the board of selectmen would review the fee schedule a final time at a future meeting before holding a second vote for final approval. He said the new system would become effective on April 1, rather than the January start date envisioned by the board with the initial vote last August. Needleman said the additional time would be needed to set up a payment by check or credit card system to collect fees for disposal of items not covered by the annual sticker fee.

Chester Library Trustees Present New Expansion Plan

CHESTER– Trustees for the Chester Public Library Tuesday presented a new library expansion plan to the board of selectmen. The plan focuses on an underground expansion on the west side of the historic 1906 library building on West Main Street.

Library trustees, using a $20,000 state grant, hired an architectural firm to explore options for expanding the library. In the fall of 2012, the trustees presented a plan for a 2,000 square-foot expansion that would double the size of the library building at an estimated cost of $3.09 million with additions on both sides of the building.

Trustees chairwoman Terry Schreiber said the plan drew a mixed response from residents attending to public information sessions held last March. She said architects with the South Windsor firm Drummey-Rosane-Anderson Inc. were asked to develop an alternative plan.

The new plan calls for a slightly smaller expansion, with most of the new space extending west from the existing basement underground beneath an existing parking area. The plan has an estimated price tag of about $2.8 million.

The trustees told the selectmen the next step was conducting a series of test borings to a depth of 25-feet to confirm the feasibility of the underground, lower level expansion. The borings would cost about $6,000.

But First Selectman Edmund Meehan said the trustees should obtain more community input before the town expends funds for the test borings. Selectman Tom Englert said he was uncomfortable with the underground expansion. “Some people may not want to have most of the new space under a parking lot,” he said.

The trustees agreed to hold another public information session on the alternative plan in January. Meehan said the trustees could then approach the board of selectmen with a funding request for the borings and other preliminary costs for the project.

 

Related letter: Chester Library Expansion Clarification

Essex Selectmen Public Hearing on New Solid Waster Transfer Station

ESSEX– The board of selectmen will hold a public hearing Wednesday on new fees for use of the town solid waste transfer station that are scheduled to become effective in January. The hearing begins at 6:30 p.m. at town hall.

The new and higher fees were unanimously approved by the board in August based on a study and recommendations from the town’s appointed sanitary waste commission. Along with recovering some of the annual expense for solid waste disposal from residents carrying their own trash to the transfer station, the new fee system is also intended to eliminate cash transactions from the transfer site.

Residents currently pay $3 per bag to being household trash to the site. This would be replaced by an annual fee of $125 for a transfer site sticker, with a reduced annual charge of $75 for senior citizens. There would also be higher disposal fees for disposal of tires, stuffed furniture, mattresses brush and demolition materials. There would be no charge for disposal of recyclables, including glass bottles, cans, cardboard, and newspapers.

The new annual sticker fee and higher disposal fees are scheduled to become effective in January, though the board could consider revising some of the fees based on input received at the public hearing.

Deep River Selectmen Disband Town Hall Auditorium Restoration Committee

DEEP RIVER— The board of selectmen Tuesday formally disbanded the Town Hall Auditorium Committee after receiving a final report on the now completed restoration of the historic auditorium at town hall.

The ten member committee was established in the fall of 2011, charged with completing a long-planned restoration of the second floor auditorium. The volunteer committee replaced the Deep River Town Hall Restoration Association, a private non-profit group that was first established in 1979 to direct restoration efforts for the 1892 town hall. The association had received over $260,000 in private donations over the years for town hall restoration, but had lagged in completing the final improvements to the auditorium, including fire and building code work that was required for full use of the auditorium balcony.

Committee chairman Arthur Thompson presented the report, declaring the work of the restoration committee is now finished. Thompson, while serving as a selectman from 2099 to 2011, had pushed for formation of an official town committee to focus on completing work on the town hall auditorium.

Thompson said the restoration work was completed earlier this year using the funds that had been donated to the previous restoration association. The committee held a community event in May to showcase the restoration, and the auditorium has been used for various programs and activities in subsequent months. Thompson said the auditorium now meets all applicable safety codes.

Thomson said the committee completed the restoration work using all but $2,863 of the available funding. The committee recommended the remaining funds be turned over to a newly former Town Hall Auditorium Management Committee that is now coordinating public use of the auditorium.

Region  4 School Board Resignation

In other business the selectman appointed Lauri Wichtowski to the Region 4 Board of Education to fill a vacancy created by the resignation of board member Duane Gates that was effective Tuesday. Wichtowski will serve through the 2015 municipal election, when the position will be on the ballot for the remaining two years of the unexpired term ending in 2017.

Gates, a Democrat, was first elected to the regional board in 2005, and was re-elected to a second six-year term in 2011 in a contest with Wichtowski, who was running on the Republican line. First Selectman Richard Smith said the Deep River Democratic Town committee had recently endorsed Wichtowski to fill the two-year vacancy. She had served previously on the local school board that governs the operation of Deep River Elementary School.

Essex Zoning Commission Approves Rite Aid Expansion

ESSEX— The zoning commission Monday gave quick special permit approval for an expansion of the Rite Aid pharmacy in to adjoining vacant space in the Bokum Center shopping plaza at 125 Westbrook Road.

The approval came after a brief public hearing where no residents spoke either for or against the permit application from the Rhode Island-based pharmacy chain and Provident Bokum Holdings of Guilford, owner of the shopping plaza. The lack of public comment was in sharp contrast to the response to a 2009 application for a new 14,673 square-foot pharmacy with a drive through that would have been constructed on the opposite side of Westbrook Road (Route 153) at the site of the Oliver’s Tavern restaurant building.

In 2009, there was more than four hours of comment at two public hearings from residents from residents who objected to the claimed “big box” size of the pharmacy and the traffic impact of the larger separate store. In early 2010, the commission denied the permit application, citing concerns for pedestrian and vehicle safety at the busy three-way intersection of Westbrook, Plains, and Bokum roads. The permit denial was upheld after a court appeal.

The new plan would expand the existing 7,649 square-foot pharmacy in to 1,824 square-feet of abutting space that was previously occupied by a martial arts center. The plan for a total 9,427 square-foot Rite Aid would not change the existing entrance, but would upgrade the existing sales area while adding a new waiting consultation area, handicapped accessible restrooms, and an employee lounge.

The only issue for discussion at the public hearing and following commission discussion was parking. The shopping plaza that was built in the 1980s currently has 118 parking spaces. The panel determined that only 10 additional spaces would be needed for the pharmacy expansion, with the spaces to be provided by striping a reserve parking area on the south side of the block of storefronts. Striping of the back parking area was the only major condition imposed with the unanimous permit approval.

Chester Selectmen to Discuss Proposed Aaron Manor Town Plan Revisions

CHESTER— After a Nov. 20 town meeting that resulted in no votes, the board of selectmen will discuss the revisions to the town plan of conservation and development requested by the Aaron Manor Nursing and Rehabilitation Center at its next meeting on Dec. 3.

The requested revisions to the 2009 plan, which would give the nursing facility the option of connecting to the municipal sewer system, were the subject of a town meeting last week. First Selectman Edmund Meehan said the resolution for the town meeting did not call for a vote, and there were no attempts by residents at the meeting to move the issue to a vote. Meehan said about 25 residents turned out to spend about an hour discussing the requested revisions, with some residents contending the revisions would open the door to unwanted development along Route 148 while others said the town should give the tax-paying facility the option of connecting to the system if necessary.

Aaron Manor, located off Route 148 at the Route 9 Exit 6 interchange, has been under order from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to upgrade and replace the septic system serving the facility. Aaron Manor requested the revisions to the town plan after the inland-wetlands commission earlier this year asked facility representatives to explore the option of connecting to the sewer system that serves the downtown village before pursuing a permit application for a new and more elaborate on site system. Both options, a new on-site system or connecting to the municipal system, are costly and no decisions have been made on which option Aaron Manor should pursue.

The planning and zoning commission, which must approve any revisions to the town plan, opened a public hearing on the issue in September, but later accepted Meehan’s contention that a town meeting discussion should precede any formal public hearing before the commission. The panel agreed to open a new formal public hearing on Dec. 12, after the town meeting.

Meehan, a former longtime town planner for Newington, said last week he would offer his own suggestions on the proposed revisions when the board of selectmen discuss the issue on Dec. 3. Meehan said he would urge the planning and zoning commission to “keep our options open,” by approving the revisions.

Meehan noted the municipal system, which was expanded in 2008 and sends wastewater to the treatment plant on Winter Avenue in Deep River, has the capacity to accommodate some further expansion. He noted that if Aaron Manor were to pursue a connection along Route 148 at no cost to the town, the planning and zoning commission would always have the authority to limit development and density for properties along the expanded sewer line.

Any recommendations developed by the full board of selectmen at the Dec. 3 meeting would be presented to the planning and zoning commission at the Dec. 12 public hearing, along with a record of the Nov. 20 town meeting discussion.

Deep River P & Z Opens Public Hearing on Proposed Dunkin Donuts Relocation

DEEP RIVER— The planning and zoning commission Thursday opened the public hearing on the proposed relocation of Dunkin Donuts to a vacant building at 246 Main St., with the location of the trash dumpster for the store emerging as a major issue during the hearing.

About 30 residents turned out for the public hearing on a special permit application to relocate Dunkin Donuts from 190 Main St., where it has operated since 2009, to a vacant commercial building at 246 Main Street. The applicant. Great American Donut Co. of Plainville, is expected to purchase the property if the relocation wins zoning approval. The building, formerly a garage and later an Irish gifts shop, has been mostly vacant for several years on a triangular-shaped parcel that has frontage on both Main Street and Union Street..

Stuart Fairbank, engineer for the project with the Old Saybrook firm Mcdonald/Sharpe Associates, said the relocation would bring “a facelift,” to the vacant building and surrounding 19,400 square-foot parcel. Fairbank said Dunkin Donuts would occupy 1.600 square-feet on the east, or Main Street side, of the total 3,240 square-foot building, with the western half of the building reserved for an unspecified retail use. While nearly all of the parcel is currently paved, Fairbanks said about 3,000 square-feet of paving would be removed and replaced by grass and landscaped plantings, with only one existing tree to be removed as part of the site improvements.

While some residents speaking during the public hearing expressed general opposition to having a Dunkin Donuts on the site, most speakers focused on specific elements for of the site plan for a parcel that many described as the southern “gateway” to the downtown area. Much of the discussion focused on the location for the trash dumpster for the franchise.

After preliminary discussions with the commission and the town advisory design review board, the current plan calls for locating the dumpster behind fencing at the southern end of the parcel, which is also the apex for the two streets. John Cunningham, a Madison landscape architect retained by the applicants, said plantings with “seasonal color” would “soften,” but not completely obscure the fenced area with the dumpster.

Most speakers, including design review board members Peter Howard and Alan Paradis, objected to locating the dumpster at the front of the property. But Jonathan Rapp, who owns the abutting property on the north side of the parcel, said he would object to locating the dumpster behind the existing building and closer to his residential property. There were also questions about exactly what type of business would locate in the open space on the Union Street side of the building.

Fairbank said the applicants are open to guidance from the commission on where to locate the trash dumpster. The commission closed the public hearing and is expected to discuss the application at its Dec. 19 meeting.

Essex Town Meeting Approves $200,000 Purchase of Perry Property on 34-30 Vote

ESSEX— Voters at a town meeting Wednesday approved a $200,000 purchase of the .65-acre back section of the Perry property at 27 West Avenue on a 34-30 show of hands vote. The small parcel abuts the town hall property and Grove Street Park.

It was the location of the parcel that led First Selectman Norman Needleman to support the land purchase. The parcel, which includes a historic house on the front section, was owned by Eileen Perry, a longtime resident who died in June. The entire parcel was assessed at $623,000 on the current grand list. Needleman negotiated the purchase price with members of the Perry family, insisting that the town receive full ownership of the back section, with the house to be sold separately.

Needleman said the purchase was “a one of a kind opportunity,” to acquire some of the last remaining open land abutting the town hall property. “It’s an opportunity for the future,” he said, adding the town has no immediate plans for use of the property. But Needleman suggested the parcel could eventually become the site of a town hall annex building at some undetermined date in the future.

Needleman said $200,000 was “a fair price,” for the .65 acre, noting that a permanent easement on the parcel had been valued at that amount by an appraiser hired by the Perry family. He said town acquisition of the parcel would result in a loss of only $470 in annual tax revenue at the current tax rate.

The purchase was also endorsed by newly seated Republican Selectman Bruce Glowac, who agreed the key location made the land an asset for the future. Along with abutting the town hall site, the parcel also abuts to the east the Pratt House property that is owned by the Essex Historical Society. “This land would enhance the town property even if it remained as open space,” Glowac said.

The land purchase was endorsed by the board of finance at an Oct. 17 meeting, though the finance board made no immediate determination on how to pay the $200,000 purchase price. Needleman said the $200,000 could be taken from the town’s undesignated fund balance, which now totals over $2 million, or be included as part of a bond issue for capital projects that is planned in 2014.

The prospect of a bond authorization request for numerous town projects next year led some residents to question the need for spending money for a property purchase now, while others contended the town should not buy land without an immediate plan to utilize it. But others maintained it made sense to acquire the land now as a future asset for the town.

After about 70 minutes of discussion at a public hearing that preceded the town meeting, the expenditure and land purchase was approved on a 34-30 vote. Voters at the town meeting rejected a motion to hold a paper ballot vote, with the vote done by a show of hands.

Essex Annual Town Meeting Monday to Consider 22 Board and Commission Appointments

ESSEX— Voters at the annual town meeting Monday will be asked to confirm 22 appointments to town boards and commissions, and accept the annual town report for the 20-12-2013 fiscal year. The meeting convenes at 7 p.m. in the auditorium at town hall.

Nearly all of the appointments are reappointments. of current board and commission members. Most of the appointments are for two or three year terms, with all of the appointments approved by the board of selectmen at a Nov. 6 meeting.

The appointments include Jim Hill for the zoning commission, with Jeffrey Lovelace as zoning commission alternate and Michael Neto for zoning board of appeals. Appointments for the inland-wetlands commission are Daniel Lapman, Charles Corson and Stephen Knauth. Appointments for the planning commission are Alan Kerr, with a new appointment of John Ackerman as planning commission alternate.

Appointments for the economic development commission are Lon Seidman, David Sousa, and Elizabeth D’Amico. Appointments for the harbor management commission are Jeff Going and Joseph Zaraschi. Appointments for the park and recreation commission are James Rawn and Thomas Clerkin, with Edward Burleson as commission alternate. Appointments to the combined sanitary waste commission/water pollution control authority are Susan Malan, Randel Osborne, Leigh Rankin, Mark Reeves, and Robert Van Houten, with Alvin Wolfgram as an alternate member for the two commissions.

Chester Sets Nov. 20 Town Meeting on Aaron Manor Town Plan Revision

CHESTER— Voters will be asked at a town meeting Wednesday to offer input on proposed revisions to the town plan of conservation and development that would give the Aaron Manor Nursing and Rehabilitation Center the option of connecting to the municipal sewer system that serves the downtown village area. The meeting convenes at 7:30 p.m. in the meeting room at town hall.

The town meeting was scheduled after lawyers for the town and the planning and zoning commission concurred with First Selectman Edmund Meehan’s contention that a town meeting was required as the commission considers the Aaron Manor request for revisions to the town plan. The commission opened a public hearing on the request in September, but last month agreed to convene a new public hearing on Dec. 12 to consider any input provided by a town meeting.

The nursing facility off Route 148 has been under a state Department of Environmental Protection order to upgrade the septic system that serves the facility. The town’s inland-wetlands commission early this year asked representatives of Aaron Manor to explore the option of connecting to the municipal sewer system before pursuing a wetlands permit application for a new and larger on site wastewater treatment system. Both a new on-site system and a connection to the municipal system would be very costly, and no decisions have been made on how the nursing facility should proceed. A revision to the 2009 town plan would give Aaron Manor the option of pursuing a connection to the town sewer system.

The call of the town meeting asks residents to “review and make comments to the Chester Planning and Zoning Commission” on the proposed town plan revisions requested by Aaron Manor. The resolution does not call for a vote, with the voters present at the town meeting having the option to decide whether to vote on a motion supporting or opposing the requested revisions. If a town meeting vote is held opposing the revisions, it would require a two-thirds vote of the nine member commission to approve any revisions.

Voters at the town meeting will also be asked to amend the 1997 ordinance establishing an economic development commission to reduce membership of the panel from seven to five members. The appointed commission has been having some difficulty in recent months mustering the required four member quorum for meetings.

Essex Selectmen Plan Quick Action for the Walnut Street Bridge

ESSEX— The board of selectmen decided last week to work for an expedited replacement of the Walnut Street bridge in the Ivoryton section, with the bridge replacement to proceed separately from a planned 2014 bond issue that would fund several major town capital improvement projects.

The board agreed to work for separate and quicker action on the bridge replacement after First Selectman Norman Needleman reported that a recent inspection by state Department of Transportation engineers had detected new and more serious problems with the bridge. The inspection has led to imposition of a 10–ton weight limit for the bridge that will require detours for some heavier vehicles. “That bridge needs to be done now,” Needleman said.

The bridge was constructed in 1983 with Federal Emergency Management Agency funding after the June 1982 Ivoryton Flood destroyed the previous bridge that carried Walnut Street over the Falls River. It was intended to be a temporary bridge, with a life-span of five to ten years, but has now been in use for 30 years. The project is expected to be eligible for up to 80 percent state/federal funding cost reimbursement under the Local Bridge Program.

Selectmen had originally planned to include the Walnut Street bridge on the list of capital projects, including replacement of sections of the Essex Elementary School roof, that would be presented as part of a proposed bonding authorization for capital projects. But the proposed bond authorization is not expected to go to the voters for approval until early summer of 2014, with the board deciding to pursue the Walnut Street bridge project under a separate, and hopefully faster, timetable.

In other business, the selectmen agreed to return to it’s previous meeting schedule for 2014, with meetings to be held twice each month on the first Wednesday at 5 p.m., and the third Wednesday at 7 p.m. The board had experimented with a one meeting per month schedule beginning over the summer, but later decided that two meetings per month are needed.

Essex Democrat Chris Riley Picked as New Chair of Region 4 Board of Education

REGION 4— Chris Riley, an Essex Democrat, was picked Thursday as the new chairman of the Region 4 Board of education. Riley succeeds Linda Hall, a Deep River Democrat who has held the key leadership position since 2009.

Only five of the nine elected board members from Chester, Deep River, and Essex were present for the vote on electing officers Thursday evening. Riley, who had been serving as vice-chairman, was supported by the other members present, including Jennifer Clark of Essex, Laurie Tomlinson of Deep River, Ann Monaghan of Chester, and newly elected member Leigh Rankin of Essex. Absent were members Duane Gates of Deep River, Elaine Fitzgibbons and Mario Gioco of Chester, and newly elected member Jane Cavavaugh of Deep River. Monaghan, who was first elected at a December 2011 Chester town meeting to fill a vacancy term, was picked for vice-chairman, with Clark named as board secretary and Gioco continuing in the treasurer position.

Riley, who works as director of media relations for Citizens Bank, was elected to fill a vacancy in 2009, and re-elected with support from both political parties for a full six-year term in 2001. He currently has two children attending Essex Elementary School. Riley, in brief remarks after the vote, said he would do his best “to listen and learn,” from other board members and school staff while serving as chairman. “We have a wonderful school system and if we continue to work together we can make it go forward,” he said.

In other business, the board approved a new four-year labor contract for secretaries and school nurses at Valley Regional High School and John Winthrop Middle School. The eight secretaries and two nurses are represented by Local 1303-419 of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees. The four-year contract, running from July 1 to June 30,2017,provides a total 9.25 percent pay increase over the four years, including increases of 3.1 percent in the current year, 2 percent in 2014-2015 and 2015-2016, and 2.25 percent in the final year.

The contract includes a change in retirement plans for employees hired after July 1. New employees will be offered a 403(b) deferred compensation plan, where the school district will match employees up to five percent of base pay. Current employees will be allowed to remain in the Connecticut Municipal Employees Retirement Fund. The agreement also includes gradual increases in co-pays for employee health insurance.

Proposed Anti-Blight Ordinance Draws Mixed Response at Essex Public Hearing

"Blighted" property at on North Main Street at New City Street (photo by Jerome Wilson)

“Blighted” property at on North Main Street at New City Street (photo by Jerome Wilson)

ESSEX— A proposed anti-blight ordinance drew a mixed response from the crowd at a public hearing Wednesday, with the board of selectmen now facing a decision on how to proceed with the ordinance. About 80 residents filled the auditorium at town hall for the hearing, providing the selectmen with nearly two hours of public comment on the ordinance.

The ordinance drafted by town attorney David Royston, with some instructions from First Selectman Norman Needleman, defines blight conditions on properties, and provides for the establishment of a three-member appointed anti-blight board to receive and review complaints. But the draft ordinance would require that a residential property be vacant and unoccupied for at least 30 days to trigger town enforcement action for blight conditions. In the event of a continuing violation, the ordinance would allow the town to impose fines and take action to remediate blight conditions while billing the property owner or imposing a tax lien on the property to recover the cost of any clean up expense.

Needleman, who was against a blight ordinance when the board of selectmen last considered the idea in 2011, said he was presenting the draft ordinance now to receive input from residents. Needleman said he asked Royston to make abandonment and vacancy a trigger for enforcement to avoid a broader ordinance that could draw the town in to neighborhood disputes over conditions on particular properties. “I have concerns about administering it,” he said, adding “blight in one person’s mind may not be blight in another persons.”

But several residents expressed support for a stricter ordinance that would not use vacancy as a trigger for enforcement, with much of the comment focusing on handful of confirmed blighted structures in town that include 63 North Main St., 2 Prospect St., and an abandoned structure on Route 153 south of the intersection with Mares Hill Road. William Reichenbach, who lives near the North Main St. property, said vacancy should not be the only trigger for enforcement action. “A house is blighted or it is not blighted whether someone is living in it or not,” he said. Reichenbach and others contended blighted properties quickly reduce property values for homes in the surrounding neighborhood.

Several residents urged Needleman to use existing public health, fire safety, and building codes to pursue enforcement action against blighted structures. Needleman said the town is taking action on certain properties, with former Building Official Keith Nolin issuing demolition orders for two structures before he retired from the job last month. Needleman said acting Building Official David Deleeuw would be conducting new inspections in the coming days at some properties based on complaints filed with the town.

Other residents contended a blight ordinance may be unnecessary if the town pursues aggressive enforcement action on other code violations. Some residents said the proposed ordinance is “an overreach” that could expose the town to additional legal expenses, and problems recovering the costs incurred in taking action to remediate blighted properties.

Needleman advised the crowd the board of selectmen may not take any immediate action on a blight ordinance because the General Assembly is expected to consider proposed statewide anti-blight standards in the 2014 legislative session that begins in February. The board of selectmen is expected to discuss the input received at the public hearing at an upcoming meeting.

When the discussion resumes, there will be a new member of the board of selectmen. New Republican Selectman Bruce Glowac, who served previously as first selectman from 1991-1995, will take office on Tuesday. Glowac was present for the hearing Wednesday.

Democrats Win Contested Finance, Region 4 School Board Seats in Deep River Town Election

DEEP RIVER– Democrats won contested board of finance and region 4 Board of education Seats in Tuesday’s town election where 24-year Democratic First Selectman Richard Smith ran unopposed for a record 13th term.

Democrats Russell Marth, a former selectman, and incumbent Lori Guerette outpolled Republican candidates John Wichtowski and douglas Nagan to win full six-year term seats on the finance board. The vote was Marth-564, Guerette-524, Wichtowski-383, and Nagan-364. Appointed incumbent Democrat Carmella Balducci was uncontested with 721 votes for a two-year vacancy term on the finance board.

Democrat Jane Cavanaugh won a full-six-year term seat on the region 4 Board of Education, outpolling Republican James Olson on a vote of 494-429. Democrat Mark Reyher won the only other contested position on the ballot, outpolling Republican Douglas Dopp for a seat on the board of assessment appeals, 537-351.

Smith received 811 votes for first selectman in the third consecutive town election where the longtime incumbent has run unopposed. Democratic Selectman Angus McDonald was elected to a second term with 554 votes. Republican Selectman David Oliveria was re-elected to a third term on the board with 368 votes. Incumbents were unopposed for three other paid town positions, with Republican Town Clerk Amy Winchell winning a third term with 709 votes, Democratic Tax Collector Lisa Bibbiani winning a third term with 777 votes, and longtime Republican Town Treasurer Thomas Lindner winning a new term with 727 votes.

All four candidates were elected to serve on the local board of education that supervises the operation of Deep River Elementary School. They are Democrats Hadley Kornacki-469 and Augusta Ferretti-471, along with Republicans Nelle Andrews-401 and Michelle Grow-414. All three candidates were elected for the library board of trustees, including Democrats Michelle Emfinger-631 and Roy Jefferson-696, and Republican Patricia Unan-505.

Democrats Hudson and Pollo Win Contested Essex Board of Finance Race

ESSEX— Democrats won two seats on the board of finance Tuesday in the only contests for a town election where incumbent Democratic First Selectman Norman Needleman was unopposed for a second term. Incumbent Campbell Hudson and Mary Louise Pollo, both Democrats, outpolled Republican candidates Peter Decker and James Palegonia to win full six-year terms seats on the board. The vote was Hduson, 957, Pollo-914, Decker-717, Palegonia-706.

Needleman was re-elected for a second two-year term, receiving 1,247 votes on the Democratic line. The other two seats on the board of finance were also uncontested, though Republican Bruce Glowac outpolled incumbent Democratic Selectwoman Stacia Libby, with 848 votes for Glowac and 784 votes for Libby. Glowac, who served previously as first selectman from 1991-1995, replaces two-term Republican Joel Marzi in the minority party seat on the three-member board.

Marzi was elected to the open position of town clerk with support from both political parties, receiving 721 votes on the Republican line and 841 votes on the Democratic line for a total 1,562 votes. Incumbent Democratic Tax collector Megan Haskins was re-elected, receiving 674 votes on the Republican line and 905 votes on the Democratic line for a total 1,579 votes. Democrat Jim Francis, the current chairman of the board of finance, was elected to the open position of town treasurer with 1,192 votes on the Democratic line.

Both candidates were elected to the Essex Board of Education that supervises the operation of Essex Elementary School. Incumbent republican Adam Conrad had 730 votes, with 872 votes for Democrat Carolyn Rotella. Incumbent Republican Coral Rawn was re-elected to the board of assessment appeals, with 706 votes ion the Republican line and 820 votes on the Democratic line for a total 1,526 votes. Leigh Rankin was elected to an open seat on the Region 4 Board of Education, with 706 votes on the Republican line and 847 votes on the Democratic line for a total 1,553 votes.

Essex Town Meeting Wednesday Includes Preliminary School Project Resolutions

ESSEX— Voters will be asked at a town meeting Wednesday to approve three preliminary resolutions for a planned building project at Essex Elementary School, and three additional appropriations that include $40,000 for a new boiler and heating system improvements at town hall. The meeting convenes at 4:45 p.m. in town hall.

Voters will be asked to authorize the Essex Board of Education to accept any state funding available for a building project at the school that would include replacement of sections of the school roof. Two other resolutions confirm the board of selectmen appointment of a three-member 2013-2014 Capital Projects Building Committee, and authorize the town and the building committee to prepare preliminary schematic drawings for a school building project.

Voters will be asked to approve a $40,000 expenditure to replace the aging oil boiler at town hall. The board of finance approved the appropriation last month, with a directive the funds should be transferred from the contingency fund in the current town budget. Voters will also be asked to approve two additional appropriations to cover overruns in the 2012-2013 fiscal year that concluded on June 30, including $30,700 for police services, and $57,148 for the highway department.

Polls Open Tuesday from 6 A.M. to 8 P.M. for Mostly Uncontested Municipal Elections in Chester, Deep River and Essex

AREAWIDE-– The regular election polling places in Chester, Deep River, and Essex will be open Tuesday from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. for the biannual town elections. But for the first time in the modern era all three first selectmen for the towns are running unopposed for new two-year terms. Other paid, full-time elections positions, such as town clerk and tax collector, are also uncontested in the towns.

There have been uncontested first selectman races in each town over the past two decades. In Chester, former Democratic First Selectman Martin Heft ran unopposed in 1997, 1999 and 2003. In Deep River, 24-year Democratic First Selectman Richard Smith ran unopposed in 1995, 1999, 2009 and 2011 In Essex, former Democratic First Selectman Phil Miller was unopposed by town Republicans in 2007. This year the three incumbent Democrats, Smith in Deep River, Norman Needleman in Essex, and Edmund Meehan in Chester, are uncontested for new terms.

Meehan, a former municipal planner, was elected first selectman of Chester in 2011. He will serve through November 2015 with the two incumbent selectmen, Democrat Larry Sypher, seeking a third term, and Republican Tom Englert, also seeking a third term. All of the other positions on the town’s lengthy ballot are uncontested. Voting is on the second floor of the town hall 203 Middlesex Avenue (Route 154).

Smith is running unopposed for first selectman of Deep River for the third straight election. Incumbent Democratic Selectman Angus Mcdonald Jr. is seeking a second term, with incumbent Republican Selectman David Oliveria seeking a third term. There are contests for two full-term seats on the board of finance, with Democrats Russell Marth and incumbent Lori Guerette competing with Republican candidates John Wichtowski and Douglas Nagan. There is also a contest for the seat on the Region 4 Board of Education that has been held since 2001 by the current board chairwoman, Democrat Linda Hall. The candidates are Republican James Olson and Democrat Jane Cavanaugh. Voting is at the lower level of the Deep River Public Library.

Needleman was elected first selectman of Essex in 2011 after serving on the board of selectmen since 2003. Incumbent Democratic Selectwoman Stacia Libby is seeking a second term, with Republican Bruce Glowac, who served as first selectmen from 1991-1995, is running for the third seat on the board. He will replace two-term Republican Selectman Joel Marzi, who is running for the open position of town clerk with support from both political parties. Democrat James Francis is uncontested for the open position of town treasurer.

The only contests on the ballot are for two full-term seats on the board of finance. democrats Mary Louise Pollo and incumbent Campbell Hudson are competing with Republican candidates Peter Decker and Jim Palagonia. Voting is in the auditorium at town hall. The town hall parking lot, which has been closed in recent weeks for repaving, is expected to be open Tuesday.

Deep River Considers New Ordinance Allowing Fees for Late Paid Motor Vehicle Taxes

DEEP RIVER— The board of selectmen has decided to present a proposed new ordinance for town meeting approval that would allow the town to impose a fee for delinquent motor vehicle taxes. The ordinance, endorsed by the selectmen last week, will be presented to voters for approval at the next town meeting.

First Selectmen Richard Smith said the ordinance was recommended by Tax Collector Lisa Bibbiani as a way to recover some of fees the town is now charged by the state Department of Motor Vehicles for administering the statewide motor vehicle registration monitoring program. The program enables the DMV to block renewals of required motor vehicle registrations for vehicles with unpaid property tax due to cities and towns. Bibbiani advised the amount the town is paying for this service has increased, totaling $1,112 in the 2012-2013 fiscal year.

The ordinance, which has been enacted in many other Connecticut towns, would allow the town to charge an additional fee of $2 for each delinquent motor vehicle tax payment, and 50 cents per page for any printing expenses incurred. The fee would be levied when the delinquent motor tax is paid by the vehicle owner.

Deep River Selectmen to Pursue Sale of Industrial Building, Purchase of Industrial Land

DEEP RIVER— The board of selectmen agreed Tuesday to investigate the possible sale of a town-owned industrial building at the Plattwood Industrial Area, with the proceeds to be used to acquire land for development in the same industrial area.

First Selectman Richard Smith said the deal, still in its early stages, would involve the sale of a town owned industrial building on Industrial Park Road that was constructed with the help of state grant funds about six years ago. The 9,000-square-foot building is currently occupied by four businesses. Smith said the proceeds from the sale would then be used to purchase four acres of industrial land located near the end of Industrial Park Road from local businessman Gary Mislick.

Smith said the parcel could then become the site for two or three new industrial buildings, helping to create jobs and boost the town’s industrial tax base. “We would control the site and there is no doubt in my mind we could have new industrial buildings back there,” he said.

Smith said the town would hire an appraiser to establish a value for both the town-owned building, which is now occupied by four businesses, and Mislick’s four-acre parcel. Smith said the board of selectmen would use the appraisals to negotiate a sale of the building, and a purchase of the Mislick parcel. He said the proceeds from sale of the building would be used to buy the additional industrial land at no direct cost to town taxpayers. He said state rules would allow the town to sell the building if the proceeds from the sale were used for additional job-creating industrial development.

The other two selectmen, Democrat Angus Mcdonald Jr. and Republican David Oliveria, expressed support for the plan presented by Smith. “It’s worth continuing to explore,” McDonald said. Both the sale of the building and any purchase of additional industrial land would also require approval from the board of finance and voters at a town meeting.

In other business, the selectmen agreed to pursue the sale of a one-acre parcel at 73 Kirtland St. that was acquired by the town in lieu of unpaid back taxes. The parcel, which has steep terrain and ledge, would not support an on-site septic system. But the parcel has access to a public water line, and after completion of a sewer expansion that was approved by a town meeting last May, could support a small single-family residence. The selectmen set the minimum bid for the parcel at $14,000, which is the current assessed value of the property.

Essex Selectmen Seek Funding for Town Hall Boiler Replacement

ESSEX— The board of selectmen has endorsed a special expenditure of $40,000 to replace an aging oil boiler that provides heat for town hall. Selectmen approved the expenditure, which also requires approval from the board of finance and voters at a town meeting, at the regular meeting last week.

First Selectman Norman Needleman said the boiler, which is more than thirty years old, has begun having problems, including excessive smoke, that raise the possibility of a failure. Needleman recommended replacing it with two new, smaller and more efficient oil boilers at a cost of no more than $40,000. He said the smaller boilers would bring a savings on heating oil expenses.

In other business, the selectmen agreed to return to the previous meeting schedule, two meetings per month on the first and third Wednesday, for the remainder of the year. The board had decided during the summer to hold only one regular meeting each month. The selectmen will meet Nov. 6 at 5 p.m, Nov. 20 at 7 p.m., Dec. 4 at 5 p.m, and Dec. 18 at 7 p.m.

Essex Selectmen to Consider Acquiring Half of Perry Property that Abuts Town Hall

ESSEX— The town will consider a $200,000 purchase of the back section of the Perry property that abuts the town hall property on West Avenue. First Selectman Norman Needleman announced the potential acquisition at the board’s meeting Wednesday, with the selectmen expected to discuss the offer further at a Nov. 6 meeting.

The property at 27 West Avenue is part of the estate of Eileen Perry, a longtime resident who died in June. The front section of the property contains a historic house, while the back section is undeveloped land that abuts the town hall site. Needleman said private discussions with Brad Perry, a son and an executor of the estate, has led to an offer to split the property and sell the town six-to-seven-tenths of an acre from the back section for $200,000. The property also abuts to the east the Pratt House property that is owned by the Essex Historical Society.

The entire property, including the house, is assessed at $623,100 on the current grand list, a figure that represents about 70 percent of fair market value. Needleman said Perry sponsored an appraisal that valued a permanent easement for the back section of the parcel at $200,000.

But Needleman said he was not interested in an easement, and convinced Perry agreed to offer an outright sale of the property for that price. “I think this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to expand the town hall property,” he said, while adding there are no immediate plans for use of the parcel..

The purchase would require approval from the board of finance and voters at a town meeting, along with a variance from the zoning board of appeals to allow a split of the property. The selectmen deferred a vote on the acquisition Wednesday after Selectman Joel Marzi suggested the full three-member board should be on hand to vote on any land acquisitions. Selectwoman Stacia Libby was absent from Wednesday’s meeting.

Essex Board of Appeals Rules on Elderly and Affordable Housing Expansion

ESSEX— The zoning board of appeals Tuesday denied a series of variances requested for a planned 22-unit expansion of elderly and affordable housing at the Essex Court elderly housing complex in the Centerbrook section. The variances were rejected on 4-1 vote, with member Paul Greenberg in favor of approving the variances.

The decision is a setback for the plan by Essex Elderly and Affordable Housing Inc., a non-profit group established by the Essex Housing Authority, to complete an expansion on a one-acre town-owned parcel located on the west side of the Essex Court property. The existing Essex Court elderly housing complex has 36 units that opened in 1985 and have been upgraded in recent years.

Essex Elderly and Affordable housing Inc. has received a $250,000 planning grant from the state Department of Housing, and is hoping to apply for grant or loan funding for construction by the end of the year. The group has hired the firm Quisenberry & Arcari Architects LLC of Farming to prepare preliminary plans for the project.

But the three-story building designed by the architects requires 12 variances from current town zoning regulations. Architect Tom Arcari presented the plans at a public hearing Tuesday, explaining the need for each variance. The requested variances include several variances of setback requirements, along with variances of minimum lot size, lot coverage and unit size requirements.

Arcari said most of the 18 one-bedroom units would be 700-square feet, below the 750-foot minimum size requirement of the regulations. The regulations also limit the number of units in one multi-family dwelling to four, and the number of floors to two with a maximum building height of 30-feet.

Arcari said many of the setback variances result from activity on the east side of the property which abuts the existing Essex Court complex. He said the town’s current regulations for multi-family dwellings do not address many of the current development standards for elderly and affordable housing. Arcari said the “physical constraints of the parcel,” and the goal of adding the new units near the existing Essex Court site were hardships related to the application. No one spoke in opposition at the public hearing, with one resident speaking in support of the project.

But board Chairman Doug Demerest said there were just two many variances for the board to approve for a single project. He suggested the applicants confer with the zoning commission about possible changes to the regulations that would reduce the number of variances needed for the project. Greenberg said the need for additional elderly and affordable housing in Essex should outweigh the number of variances, adding that approving the variances would be “the right thing to do.”

Janet Atkeson, chairwoman of the Essex Housing Authority, said proponents of the project would confer with the zoning commission about options, while also exploring a provision of a new state law on affordable housing that could allow the project to move forward without local zoning approval. She said the expansion plan faces a January deadline to apply for the available funding for construction.

Town Meeting Vote, Second Hearing for Requested Revisions to Chester Town Plan

CHESTER-– A town meeting vote, and a second public hearing before the planning and zoning commission, will be required for a requested revision to the town plan of conservation and development that could allow Aaron Manor Nursing and Rehabilitation Center to pursue the option of connecting to the town sewer system.

At the commission’s Oct. 10 meeting, Chairman Jon Lavy announced that a second public hearing would be required for the nursing facility’s petition because the full language for the five requested revisions to the 2009 plan had not been provided to the board of selectmen for review a required 65 days before the commission opened it’s public hearing on the petition on Sept. 12. In a related development, First Selectman Edmund Meehan said Tuesday he has confirmed that a town meeting discussion and vote are required before the planning and zoning commission can consider the requested changes to the town plan. The board of selectmen is expected to schedule a mid-November town meeting on the town plan revisions requested by Aaron Manor.

The nursing facility located off Route 148 has been under a state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection order for more than two years to upgrade a failing septic system that serves the facility. The town’s inland-wetlands commission earlier this year had asked representatives of Aaron Manor to explore the option of connecting to the town sewer system before pursuing a wetlands permit application for a new and more complex on site sewage disposal system.

Revisions to the town plan are needed for any expansion of the sewer system, which now serves the downtown village and areas running south on Route 154 to the Deep River town line. Alvin Wolfgram, engineer for Aaron Manor, had said at the Sept. 12 public hearing that connecting the nursing facility to the terminus of the existing sewer system, a distance of about 1.5 miles along Route 148, is feasible but very costly. Wolfgram added that constructing a new system on the Aaron Manor property would also be very costly.

Meehan said the town meeting on the requested town plan revisions would include a vote that would be advisory for the planning and zoning commission. If voters at the town meeting reject the requested revisions, it would then require a two-thirds majority, six votes on the nine-member panel, for the commission to further consider the Aaron Manor request. The commission has scheduled a second and “official”” public hearing on the Aaron Manor town plan revisions for Thursday Dec. 12.

DR Planning and Zoning Sets Hearing on Proposed Relocation of Dunkin Donuts

DEEP RIVER— The planning and zoning commission has scheduled a Nov. 21 public hearing on a special permit application to relocate the town’s Dunkin Donuts to a vacant commercial building at 246 Main St. The hearing begins at 6:30 p.m. in the town hall auditorium.

Great American Donut Inc. is seeking approval to relocate Dunkin Donuts from the current location at 190 Main St. to the building at 241 Main St., on the southern gateway to the downtown section of Main Street. The building that formerly housed an Irish gifts shop was purchased in 2011 by Peter Keyhayas of Chester. Two small businesses that opened last year as part of a three-unit development quickly closed, and the building has been vacant in recent months.

Great American Donut Inc., which owns several Dunkin Donuts franchises in the area, is expected to purchase the 241 Main St. property if the relocation is approved. The Dunkin Donuts would be located on the Main Street side of the property, which also has frontage to the west on Union Street. The plans call for one unspecified retail space on the west side of the building. The Dunkin Donuts would not have a drive-through window. The Dunkin Donuts opened at 190 Main St. in 2009.

Essex Zoning Board of Appeals Considers Expansion of Essex Court Elderly Housing

ESSEX— The zoning board of appeals has scheduled an Oct. 15 public hearing on an appeal for 12 variances needed for a planned 22-unit expansion of the Essex Court elderly housing complex in the Centerbrook section. The board will convene at 7:30 p.m. in town hall.

The applicant for the variances is Essex Elderly and Affordable Housing Inc., a subgroup formed by the Essex Housing Authority to pursue a long-planned expansion of the existing 36 unit elderly housing complex at 16 Main St. The group received a $250,000 state Department of Housing grant over the summer for planning and design of the proposed development that would be located on a one-acre town-owned parcel in the back area of the complex. The plans call for 22 units on three floors, similar to the design of the Kirtland Commons elderly housing in Deep River.

Zoning Enforcement Officer Joseph Budrow said the current design plan would require 12 variances of zoning regulations, beginning with a variance of a height requirement that limits new multi-dwelling structures in Essex to two floors. The project also needs variances for the minimum acreage, minimum unit size, and storage requirements of the regulations, along with variances of setback requirements.

Budrow said the project would also need approval from the zoning commission, though the commission will not schedule a public hearing on a special permit application until after the wastewater disposal system for the development receives approval from the health department.

Essex Elderly and Affordable Housing Inc. is currently seeking federal and state funding for construction of the new units, with local zoning approvals expected to aid in the effort to secure funding. The existing 36-unit Essex Court elderly housing complex opened in 1985, with several grant-funded upgrades and improvements completed at the complex in recent years.

Two Juveniles Arrested Thursday After Bomb Threat at DR Elementary Schools

DEEP RIVER— Two juveniles were arrested by state police Thursday after a morning bomb threat forced an evacuation of Deep River Elementary School. The unidentified juveniles, who are students at the kindergarten through sixth grade elementary school, were arrested and charged with breach of peace and threatening.

A telephone bomb threat was received at the school at 9:20 a.m., leading to an evacuation of the building with students and most staff transported by bus to the John Winthrop Middle School. State police and emergency personnel searched the building and determined there was no threat. Students and staff returned to the school around 11:30 a.m.

The two juveniles were arrested by police later Thursday. Their cases have been referred to the juvenile court in Middletown.

Mystic Firm Expected for Design Work on Phase One of Chester Main Street Project

CHESTER— The Mystic firm of Kent & Frost is the recommended pick for preparing detailed designs and bid documents for phase one of the long-planned Main Street reconstruction project. The firm, which recently prepared a comprehensive plan for the entire project, has been recommended by the town’s Main Street Committee that is coordinating the project.

First Selectman Edmund Meehan told the board of selectmen at a meeting Tuesday that he is ready to follow the committee’s recommendation after resolving some final details on the exact scope of work that would be required for the project, which is a reconstruction of Main Street from the intersection with Route 154 west to vicinity of the Laurel Hill Cemetery. Meehan said he hopes to sign a contract with the firm by the end of October.

Meehan said Kent & Frost was of of three firms interviewed by the 11-member volunteer committee. A total of seven firms submitted proposals for the project work in August. Meehan said the price from Kent & Frost, about $122,00, was slightly lower than prices from the other two firms interviewed, Millane & McBroom Inc. of Cheshire and Tectonic Engineers PC of Rocky Hill.

Meehan said the plan is to complete the project design over the winter5 months to be ready to seek bids for the project by April. The design plans would be presented at a public information meeting before bidding. Kent & Frost had estimated the cost of the phase one project at about $1.3 million in the full “Chester Village and Center District Master Plan” plan that was approved by voters at a town meeting in July

Essex Town Meeting Approves 2013-2014 Town Projects Building Committee

ESSEX— Voters at a town meeting Monday approved the formation of a building committee to develop and implement several infrastructure projects that are expected to be presented to voters for a bonding authorization early next year. Six residents turned out to approve the formation of the 2013-2014 Building Committee and the appointment of its first three members on unanimous voice votes with little discussion.

The initial three appointments to what is planned as a five-member building committee are town finance director Kelly Sterner, Leigh Rankin, and Bruce Glowac. Rankin, a former U.S. Coast Guard officer, is an uncontested candidate for Region 4 Board of education in the Nov. 5 election. Glowac, a former first selectman, has served as director of facilities for Region 4 schools since 1999.

Glowac is also the uncontested Republican nominee for an open seat on the board of selectmen in the Nov. 5 vote. Glowac is expected to begin a new term on the board of selectmen, where he served as a selectman and first selectman in the early 1990s, when the new two-year term begins in mid-November.

The first task for the building committee will be working with the board of selectmen to hire an engineering firm to prepare detailed cost estimates for various priority projects that would be used to establish an amount for the proposed bond authorization. The current list of priority projects includes replacement of sections of the Essex Elementary School roof, and replacement of two bridges in the Ivoryton section.

Selectman Joel Marzi told voters Monday the early formation of a building committee would allow the town to begin work on an application for state funding assistance that would be available for the school roof project. A formal building committee is required for seeking state funding reimbursement for school building projects.

Marzi noted that Glowac has experience with this process from serving as Region 4 director of facilities during the Valley Regional High School and John Winthrop Middle School renovation and expansion projects that were completed in 2005. The town could also seek partial state funding reimbursement for the two bridge replacement projects.

The existing three-member building committee is expected to hold its first meeting later this month, with the board of selectmen expected to discuss the process for hiring an engineering consultant at its Oct. 16 meeting. After the make up and amount of the proposed infrastructure projects bond issue is established, the plan would be presented to voters at one or more public hearings before any town vote on a bonding authorization.

Town Meeting Approval Required for New Essex Projects Building Committee

ESSEX— Approval from a town meeting is required for the new 2013-2014 town projects building committee established by the board of selectmen last week. The town meeting is scheduled for Monday at 5 p.m. in town hall.

The building committee will be charged with developing an implementing several town infrastructure projects that are expected to be funded by a bonding authorization that would go to town voters for approval early next year. A Sept. 18 town meeting approved spending $35,000 in surplus funds for hire an engineering consulting firm that would prepare detailed cost estimates for priority projects, including replacement of sections of the Essex Elementary School roof and replacement of the Ivory Street and and Walnut Street bridges in the Ivoryton section.

The cost estimates would be used to establish an amount for the bonding resolution, which would be presented to voters at one or more public hearings before any vote.

Voters Monday will be asked to approve two resolutions, one for the establishment of the “2013-2014 Building committee,”, and a second to approve the appointment of three members recommended by First Selectman Norman Needleman last week.

The proposed members are Bruce Glowac, town finance director Kelly Sterner, and Leigh Ann Rankin, a former U.S. Coast Guard Officer who is an uncontested candidate for Region 4 Board of Education in the Nov. 5 election. Glowac, who served as first selectman from 1991-1995, currently serves as the director of facilities for Region 4 schools.

Glowac is also the Republican nominee for an open seat on the board of selectmen in the Nov. 5 vote where Democratic First Selectman Needleman, Democratic Selectwoman Stacia Libby, and Glowac are uncontested for election to the board. Glowac’s term on the board of selectmen would begin in mid-November. The selectmen agreed last week to establish a five member building committee, with volunteers still being sought for the other two spots on the panel.

Essex Zoning Commission Approves Special Permit for Centerbrook Pharmacy

ESSEX— The zoning commission Monday unanimously approved a special permit for a new pharmacy in vacant former restaurant space in the commercial building at 31-33 Main St. in the Centerbrook section. The panel acted after a public hearing where the plan from Quality Care Drug/Centerbrook LLC drew no objections and expressions of support from two residents.

The partnership led by Pharmacist Greg McKenna operates five small pharmacies in Connecticut, including pharmacies in Haddam and Portland. The space in the 31-33 Main St. building had been previously occupied by restaurants, but has been vacant for about three years. The 31-33 Main St. building had previously housed Doane’s Pharmacy, a locally owned independent pharmacy that operated for decades before closing about seven years ago.

Before winning quick approval from the zoning commission at the special meeting Monday, the application last week had secured approval of a variance from the zoning board of appeals. The variance allows 35 parking spaces for the building where 44 spaces would be required under zoning regulations.

John Weinstein, a partner with building owner JMB Properties of Cheshire, told the commission Monday the new pharmacy would be an asset to the town, and would require less parking than any possible restaurant use. The pharmacy is expected to open before the end of the year.

The commission Monday also approved a special permit allowing the Essex Volunteer Fire Department to open a fire training facility on a section of Greider Field, a property owned by the fire department on the east side of Plains Road that also contains a recreational ball field. The fire department plan drew no objections at a Sept. 16 public hearing.

Essex Selectmen Appointing Building Committee for Planned Bonding Projects

ESSEX— The board of selectmen is appointing a five-member building committee for planned infrastructure projects that are expected to go to town voters for a bonding authorization by early next year. The selectmen are considering bonding for several capital projects, particularly replacement of sections of the Essex Elementary School roof and two bridge replacement projects in the Ivoryton section.

First Selectman Norman Needleman initially suggested a three-member building committee during discussion at the board’s meeting last week, but agreed to a suggestion from Selectman Joel Marzi for a five member committee.

The initial members recommended by Needleman are Kelly Sterner, the town’s finance director, Leigh Ann Rankin, a former U.S. Coast Guard officer who is an uncontested nominee for Region 4 Board of Education in the Nov. 5 election, and Bruce Glowac.¬† A former first selectman from 1991 to 1995, Glowac currently works as director of facilities for the Region 4 schools. But Glowac is also expected to return to the board of selectmen in November as the uncontested Republican nominee for the seat now held by Marzi, who is an uncontested candidate for town clerk in the Nov. 5 vote. The selectmen are seeking interested volunteers for the two other spots on the building committee that is expected to hold its first meeting later this fall.

In other business at last week’s meeting, Needleman announced one appointment and two departures. Doug Haynes of Ivoryton has been appointed as the town’s first veterans services contact person, a new position that is required under a state law that became effective in July. Haynes, a U.S. Navy veteran, will serve on a volunteer basis, helping Essex residents access available services.

Needleman announced that Stuart Ingersoll is retiring from the zoning board of appeals. Ingersoll has served on the ZBA since the mid-1960s, soon after zoning regulations became effective in Essex. He has served as board chairman for many years.

Needleman also announced that Keith Nolin is retiring from the building inspector position he has held since 2004. The town is accepting applications for a new building inspector. Nolin will continue in the part-time fire marshal position.

Parking Variance Approved, Essex Zoning Sets Meeting on Pharmacy Application

ESSEX—- With a parking variance approved this week by the zoning board of appeals, the zoning commission will hold a special meeting Monday on the permit application to open a pharmacy in vacant space at the commercial building at 31-33 Main St. in Centerbrook. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. in town hall.

The commission had opened a public hearing on Sept. 9 on the application of Quality Care Drug/Centerbrook LLC to open a pharmacy in vacant former restaurant space at 31-33 Main St. The proposal drew no objections, and two expressions of support, from residents at the public hearing.

But the zoning commission was unable to act on the application without approval of a parking variance from the zoning board of appeals. The variance would allow 35 parking spaces where 44 spaces would be required under zoning regulations for all current and planned uses at the commercial building.

At the request of the applicant, pharmacist and business partner Greg McKenna, the commission took the unusual step of agreeing to hold special meeting to conclude the public hearing and possibly vote on the application if the variance was approved by the ZBA. The board approved the variance Tuesday after a public hearing.

Essex Town Meeting Approves $200,000 in Special Appropriations from Surplus

ESSEX–- Voters at a town meeting Wednesday approved five special appropriations totaling $200,000 of unexpended funds from the 2012-2013 town budget. About 25 residents, many of them volunteer firefighters, turned out to approve the additional appropriations from a budget surplus that totaled about $380,000.

Finance Director Kelly Sterner said nearly all of the surplus came from additional revenue received in the budget year that ended June 30, including $229,000 from a settlement with the Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority, $29,000 in surplus returned from the 2011-2012 Region 4 education budget, and about $80,000 in reimbursements from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for expenses incurred from Storm Sandy last October and the February blizzard. Sterner said there is about $180,000 in surplus funds remaining after the expenditures approved Wednesday.

The largest amou8nt approved Wednesday was an additional $75,000 for the volunteer fire department’s budget sinking fund. The funds will be used to purchase equipment and other items. Also approved was a supplemental appropriation of $50,000 for the municipal property sinking fund, and $15,000 for the police cruiser replacement sinking fund.

Voters also approved special appropriations of $35,000 for a bonding study and $25,000 as initial funding for a planned waste water management study. The board of selectmen is reviewing various capital projects, including roof replacement at Essex Elementary School and replacement of two bridges in the Ivoryton section, for a possible bonding authorization that could be presented to voters for approval early next year. Sterner said the $35,000 would be used to hire an engineering consulting firm to prepare detailed cost estimates for projects under consideration for bonding.

The $25,000 for a waste water management study is the initial funding for a comprehensive study of waste water disposal in the three villages of Essex, Centerbrook, and Ivoryton that could cost a total of about $150,000. First Selectman Norman Needleman said preparing for the study is a “proactive step,” to avoid any possible orders or mandates from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection that could require construction of sanitary sewers in any of the village areas. He said the study could suggest less costly alternatives for any waste water disposal problems in the village areas.

The last waste water management study sponsored by the town’s water pollution control commission was completed in 1998 as part of a sewer avoidance plan for the town. Proposals for the study will be sought when additional funding is available, possibly in 2014.

Chester P & Z Approves Pizza Restaurant for 69 Main Street

CHESTER— The planning and zoning commission has approved a special permit for a new pizza restaurant at 69 Main St. in the downtown village. The panel approved the permit on a unanimous vote at it’s Sept. 12 meeting.

The restaurant will be run by Jonathan Rapp, who also owns and operates the River Tavern restaurant at 23 Main St. in the downtown village. The 35 seat restaurant would be open daily from 5 to 11 p.m., offering pizza, salads, and gelato, along with beer and wine. The three-story building at 69 Main St. is owned by local resident Jonathan Schroder, who purchased it from the town several years ago.

The town had acquired the property in the mid-1990s for a possible expansion of town hall, which was located in a building on an abutting parcel until the current town hall opened in 2003 at 203 Middlesex Avenue (Route 154).

The commission imposed several conditions with the special permit approval, including a ban on outdoor music and parking behind in the area the building which is reserved for tenants on the other two floors. Patrons of the restaurant will be required to use on street parking or park in any the three town-owned lots in the village. Rapp had included a provision for outdoor seating in the application, but he will be required to obtain a separate accessory use zoning permit from the zoning enforcement officer before any outdoor seating is allowed.

Essex Zoning Holds Special Meeting to Act on Proposed Centerbrook Pharmacy

ESSEX-– The zoning commission is ready to hold a special meeting next week to act on a special permit application for a pharmacy in vacant former restaurant space in the commercial building at 31-33 Main St. in the Centerbrook section. But any action on the application is dependent on the approval Tuesday of a parking variance from the zoning board of appeals.

The commission opened the public hearing Monday on the application of Quality Care Drug/Centerbrook LLC. Greg McKenna, a licensed pharmacist and partner in the firm, said the partnership currently owns and operates five small “community based” pharmacies including pharmacies in Haddam, Portland, and three in Fairfield county. McKenna said the parking needs for the pharmacy would “certainly be far less,” than the parking requirements for restaurants that had operated in the vacant space until late 2010.

JMB Properties, a Cheshire group that owns the building, is seeking a variance from the zoning board of appeals to allow a total 35 parking spaces for the building where 44 spaces would be required under zoning regulations for all current and proposed uses in the building. The ZBA is set to hold a public hearing, and possibly act, on the appeal Tuesday.

No one expressed opposition to the proposed pharmacy at the zoning commission hearing Monday. Two residents spoke in support of the application, Paul Partica, owner of the Centerbrook Cheese Shop located in the 31-33 main St. building, and local engineer Robert Doane. Doane’s father ran a pharmacy that operated in the Centerbrook building for decades until around 2006. Partica said he has never observed a lack of parking at the building, which also houses the Centerbrook Package Store, since opening the cheese shop in late 2010.

When commission members also raised no questions or objections during the hearing,

Peter Lucchese, a Clinton realtor who has been marketing the vacant space, asked the panel to consider acting on the permit application before the next scheduled meeting on Oct.21. Lucchese said McKenna is hoping to open by Thanksgiving to allow the business to start generating some return on the investment going in to the winter season.

Commission Chairman Alvin Wolfgram said the panel usually delays a vote until the next regular monthly meeting, particularly if a key requirement, such as the nine-space parking variance, is still lacking. But after discussion, the commission agreed to schedule a Sept. 23 special meeting to close the public hearing and vote on the pharmacy application, as long as the parking variance first wins approval from the ZBA.

Chester P & Z Continues Hearing on Town Plan Change Requested by Aaron Manor

CHESTER— The planning and zoning commission has continued a public hearing on the request by Aaron Manor Nursing and Rehabilitation Center for an amendment to the town plan of conservation and development that would give the facility the option of connecting to the town sewer system. The hearing that began Thursday will resume at the commission’s Oct. 10 meeting.

The 60-bed nursing facility, located at 3 Wig Hill Road off Route 148, is requesting revisions to the 2009 town plan that would give it the option of connecting to the municipal sewer system that currently serves the downtown village and areas south on Route 154 to the Deep River town line. The septic system for the 60-year old facility has been failing for several years due to seasonal high ground water, and Aaron Manor is under a consent order with the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to resolve the problems.

Represented by Essex engineer Alvin Wolfgram, the facility last winter applied to the inland-wetlands commission seeking a permit for a new and expanded septic system and on-site treatment system. The IWC asked Wolfgram to also investigate the option of connecting to the municipal sewer system, leading to a withdrawal of the permit application last March. The town plan currently makes no provision for sewers west of the downtown village along Route 148, a situation that blocks any consideration of the hook-in option for Aaron Manor.

The idea of revising the town plan to accommodate Aaron Manor drew a mixed response from residents at the hearing. The hearing began with First Selectman Edmund Meehan contending the request should have been first presented to the board of selectmen, and could possibly require approval from voters at a town meeting. Commission lawyer David Royston said town meeting action was not required if changes are approve by a two-thirds vote of the nine-member commission. But Royston recommended continuing the hearing to allow for review and input from the selectmen.

Royston also urged the commission to “proceed cautiously” with any changes to the town plan, with an eye toward addressing any possible conflicts with a statewide plan of conservation and development that became effective in June. One possible conflict could be an increase in potential development density that could result from an extension of the sewer line west along Route 148.

Several residents objected to changing the plan, with some suggesting there should be another way to give Aaron Manor a connection option without amending the plan. Meehan said any decision on changing the plan should include a review of all vacant land that is available for development along Route 148 to the Route 9 Exit 6 interchange. “Part of this decision is what is the sewer service area the commission wants for the town of Chester,” Meehan said.

But a representative of one nearby property owner suggested connecting Aaron Manor to the municipal sewer system could be the most environmentally sound option for resolving septic problems at the facility. Joan Malloy, a Wallingford attorney representing the owners of nearby Chapel Farm, contended the new and larger on site system proposed last winter could lead to contamination of a stream that runs through the farm property.

Wolfgram said connecting Aaron Manor to the municipal system with a sewer line running more than 1.5 miles along Route 148 would be “physically feasible,”, but costly, while adding the new and larger on site septic system that would be required for Aaron Manor would also be “very expensive.”

Essex Zoning Commission Public Hearing Monday on Centerbrook Pharmacy Application

ESSEX— The zoning commission has scheduled a public hearing Monday on a special permit application for a pharmacy in the commercial building at 31-33 Main St. in the Centerbrook section. The hearing, one of four on the panel’s Monday agenda, begins at 7 p.m. in town hall.

Quality Care Drug/Centerbrook LLC is seeking to open a pharmacy in vacant space that was previously occupied by Debbie’s Restaurant, which closed in 2010. But the plan requires a parking variance from the zoning board of appeals which must be approved before the zoning commission could act on the special permit application.

The ZBA has a public hearing Tuesday on an appeal by JMB Properties LLC of Cheshire, owner of 31-33 Main St, for a variance of the parking requirements of zoning regulations to allow 35 off-street parking spaces where 45 spaces are required for all existing or proposed uses on the property.

Quality Care Drug/ Centerbrook LLC is owned by Greg McKenna, a Berlin resident who owns other small, non-chain, pharmacies around the state. The 31-33 Main St. building was the home for decades of Doane’s Pharmacy, an independent, locally-owned pharmacy that closed more than six years ago. In subsequent years, the space that had been the pharmacy was occupied by an expanded Centerbrook Package Store, leaving only the former restaurant space remaining vacant in the commercial building. The only other pharmacy in town is the Rite-Aid located at the Bokum Corners Shopping Plaza.

Zoning Enforcement Officer Joseph Budrow said this week the zoning commission can not act on the pharmacy application without ZBA approval of the parking variance for the overall property. Budrow said the commission is expected to continue any public hearing on the proposed pharmacy that is opened Monday to it’s October 21 meeting, after any action on the variance by the ZBA at the Sept. 17 meeting.

Chester P & Z to Hold Public Hearing Thursday on Proposed Revisions to Town Plan

CHESTER— The planning and zoning commission will hold a public hearing Thursday on proposed modifications to the 2009 town plan of conservation and development that are requested by the Aaron Manor Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. The hearing convenes at 7:30 p.m. in town hall.

The 60-bed skilled nursing facility located off Route 148 at 3 Wig Hill Road is under a consent order from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to repair and upgrade the septic system that has served the facility for decades. Aaron Manor, represented by Essex engineer Alvin Wolfgram, had applied to the inland-wetlands commission earlier this year for a permit for a new and expanded septic system. In considering the application, the IWC had asked Wolfgram to also explore the option of connecting to the existing town sewer system which serves the downtown village and several properties extending east to Route 154 and south to the Deep River town line.

The system was expanded in 2009 and currently sends waste water from Chester south to the Deep River sewer system and the waste water treatment plant on Winter Avenue in Deep River. Under a 2005 agreement, Deep River agreed to accept waste water from Chester for treatment at the Winter Avenue plant.

The town plan that was last updated in 2009 makes no provision for an expansion of the municipal sewer system to the west along Route 148. Aaron Manor is requesting changes to four chapters in the town plan that could allow for consideration or any proposal for a future expansion of the system west along Route 148.

First Selectman Edmund Meehan said last month the town has no plans for any westward expansion of the sewer system on Route 148 to the Route 9 Exit 6 interchange, an area that includes Aaron Manor. Any expansion to the area, a distance of about 1.6 miles from the end of the existing system, would have to be self-funded by Aaron Manor, possibly with assistance from state and federal grants. A change to the town plan of development would at least allow Aaron Manor to consider a connection option as it works to comply with the state consent order.

Essex Housing Authority Plans for Expansion of Essex Court Elderly Housing

ESSEX— The Essex Housing Authority is developing plans for a possible 20-unit expansion of the Essex Court elderly housing complex at 16 Main St. in the Centerbrook section. At a Sept. 5 special meeting, the board of selectmen approved a change to a lease agreement that is required for the authority’s current plan to proceed.

The expansion would be constructed on a one-acre parcel at the back section of the complex. The parcel is owned by the town, and leased to the authority under a 99-year lease approved in 2002. But the appointed authority has established a non-profit sub-group, Essex Elderly and Affordable Housing Inc., to coordinate the expansion project. The lease agreement would be amended to include a reference to Essex Elderly and Affordable Housing Inc.

Janice Atkeson, chairwoman of the housing authority, said the authority has hired the Middletown-based Women’s Institute of Housing and Economic Development to assist in planning for the project, particularly in applying for loans or grant funds that could be used to pay for construction. The group earlier this year secured a $250,000 pre-development planning grant from the state Department of Housing, with some of the funds used to hire the Quisenberry & Arcari Architects LLC firm of Farmington to prepare a preliminary design plan for the project.

Atkeson said the plan for a possible expansion of 20 to 22 units would be used in the coming months to apply for loans and other funding for the project. If funding is secured, the project could be put out to bid and construction begin in 2014.

The new rental units would be available to persons over age 62 who meet income guidelines. The existing 36-unit Essex Court elderly housing complex opened in 1985, but has been renovated and upgraded in recent years with the help of grant funding.

Middlefield Firm Picked for Essex Town Hall Campus Project

ESSEX— The town is expected to hire Xenelis Construction Inc. of Middlefield as the lead contractor for the Town Hall Campus Project after components of the project were modified when the four bids received for the work exceeded the state grant funding for the project.

First Selectman Norman Needleman said Friday the Middlefield firm has agreed to various changes that were required to hold the cost of the project close to the $471,500 state Small Town Economic Assistance Program (STEAP) grant funding that was awarded for the project late last year. Needleman said the board of selectmen is expected to award a modified contract to Xenelis Construction at it’s next regular meeting on September 18, with work to begin later that week.

The project includes repaving and expanding the town hall parking lot, new tennis courts, and a new handicapped accessible playscape in the Grove Street Park that abuts the town hall property. There would also be new crosswalks, sidewalks, and other improvements intended to enhance the connections between the town hall property and the Essex Library property on the other side of Grove Street.

Xenelis Construction had submitted the second lowest of four bids that were opened on Aug. 8, but the total price of $638,113 exceeded the available grant funding. Needleman said he worked with town Public Works Director David Caroline to remove items from the bid package where the town could obtain lower prices, such as paving and site preparation work.

The town will use to state Department of Transportation subcontractors, Garrity Construction of Bridgewater and American Paving Company of Berlin, for the site preparation and paving work. “It was a very complicated process and we had to review all four bids line by line,” Needleman said.

Needleman said Xenelis Construction will receive $277,261 for most components of the project, including construction of the new tennis courts. The components for a new handicapped accessible playscape will cost $130,000. Lenard Engineering of Meriden, which prepared the design plans for the project, will receive $21,000, with a $27,000 contingency and pavements to the site preparation and paving subcontractors accounting for the remainder of the total cost.

Needleman said the town will direct between $130,000 and $150,000 to the project in addition to the grant funding. He said the town was always planning to pay for some components of the project, with all of this funding available in the current town budget without the need for any special appropriation. With construction expected to begin around Sept. 19, the project is expected to be completed by mid-December.