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Redding opts out of state law on accessory dwellings

The Redding Board of Selectmen has voted to opt out of a state law on accessory dwellings or so-called granny pods.  During the Board's meeting earlier this month, First Selectwoman Julia Pemberton said that Redding's zoning regulations already permit accessory dwellings of 800 square feet and there is discussion of increase that to 1,000 square feet.  If Redding didn't opt out, which is allowed under the law, Pemberton noted that applicants wouldn't be subject to a public hearing.  She says that deprives the public of the right to be heard on an application and removes local permitting by the Zoning Commission.  The state requirements for parking for accessory and multifamily dwellings would be as-of-right while Redding currently requires slightly more parking for accessory and multifamily dwellings.  By opting out, Pemberton says Redding will maintain local control rather than the state's one-size-fits-all mandate.  Redding has already created two incentive housing zones that include incentives for private development of affordable housing in Georgetown where public sewer and water can support higher density.  

Brookfield Police Department adds new officer to ranks

The Brookfield Police Department has welcomed a new member.  Officer Joseph Smith was sworn into last week.  He joins the force from the Waterbury Police Department, where he was an officer for four years.  Smith is a West Virginia Native with 14 years of military service of combined Active Duty/National Guard, where he is still serving.

Southbury Celebration to be held this weekend

The Southbury Celebration is being held this weekend. The annual program is co-sponsored by the Town of Southbury and the Southbury Training School.  The community event, which features food, music and fireworks, draws approximately 5,000 people each year.  This year's event is slated for Saturday, with a rain date of Sunday at the Southbury Training School on  South Britain Road.

WCSU to host Hispanic Heritage event

Western Connecticut State University is marking Hispanic heritage month with an event on Tuesday.  Stories and advice from regional leaders of Hispanic Heritage will be shared.  Organizers say they will provide powerful insights and advice for students and others interested in accelerating their career opportunities.  The event on Tuesday at the Westside Campus Center Ballroom is from 5:30pm to 7.  It's sponsored by Savings Bank of Danbury, the Greater Danbury Chamber of Commerce, the Connecticut Small Business Development Center, Latin American Student Organization and the WCSU Chapter of the American Marketing Association.  Registration is not required.

Newtown Legislative Council gets update on town's fiscal outlook

The Newtown Legislative Council has gotten an update on the town's fiscal situation.   First Selectman Dan Rosenthal says Newtown has a $ 1.4 million fund balance, plus a surplus, which he says puts the town in a good position.  The town's Finance Director did note that most of the surpluses are due to vacant positions. The police is quite large due to retirees. Newtown reduced the Building Department by one position but left the money open if they needed to hire a part timer. The same with the Town Clerk's office and Highway.

Redding to unveil upgraded recreation facilities

The Town of Redding is holding a ribbon cutting ceremony this weekend for new recreation upgrades completed recently.  4 new Tennis Courts, lined for pickleball, Playground equipment for kids aged 2 to 5 year olds and a Pavilion at the Redding Community Center will be unveiled.  The ceremonies start at 10am Saturday at the Tennis Courts, then making way to the Playground and then to the Pavilion, where there will be light refreshments and entertainment.

Danbury Zoners approve application to change new retail cannabis regulations

The Danbury Zoning Commission has approved a change in the way distance is measured between residential zones and recreational retail cannabis establishments. The regulations approved last month called for 200 feet from the property line to the residential zoning district boundary, but D&B Wellness filed an application to change it as being from the front door of an establishment to the district boundary.

The Commission closed the public hearing the night it was opened and voted 7 to 2 in favor of the change.

There was some discussion during the hearing on other possible solutions that would allow D&B Wellness, doing business as The Botanist, to apply for a special exception to become a hybrid retailer, not just a medicinal establishment.  D&B is seeking to apply to the state for a hybrid license to expand the offerings at the Mill Plain Road location.  One possibility was to change the distance from 200 feet to 100, another was to change the measurement to a residential dwelling rather than to a district boundary.  Planning Director Sharon Calitro made the argument that the regulations were written as is because a lot line is an easy and clean measurement to a zoning district boundary. 

In the end, Commission members went with what was proposed in the application before them. Commission Chair Ted Haddad and member Rob Melillo voted against changing the regulations.

Hemorrhagic disease confirmed in white-tailed deer in Conn.

Hemorrhagic disease was recently confirmed in white-tailed deer in Connecticut for the third year since it was first documented in the state in 2017. The first positive case of 2022 came from a deer found in Goshen. A second positive deer was found on a property in Kent where an additional five deer have been found dead. The third positive case was from a property in East Haddam where an additional three deer have been found dead. 

Reports to the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection of dead deer in multiple other towns, mainly in the northwest and southeast of the state, fit the description of animals affected by the disease. 

Hemorrhagic disease does not infect humans, and people are not at risk by handling infected deer, eating venison from infected deer, or being bitten by infected midges.

There are several different forms of hemorrhagic disease, but it usually kills the animal within one to three days of infection. Symptoms in deer include swollen head, neck, tongue, or eyelids with a bloody discharge from the nasal cavity.  The virus creates high fevers, leading infected deer to be found near water sources. Not all symptoms are present in every infected deer. 

Hemorrhagic disease is transmitted by biting midges, commonly referred to as sand gnats, sand flies, or no-see-ums. There has not been a significant negative impact on the long-term health of deer herds in states where the disease has been detected because only localized pockets of animals tend to be infected within a geographic area. 

The disease rarely causes illness in domestic animals, such as cattle, sheep, goats, horses, dogs, and cats. Hunters should observe normal precautions around any sick or strangely acting animals. 

The DEEP Wildlife Division is encouraging anyone who observes deer appearing emaciated, behaving strangely, or lying dead along the edge of waterbodies to report the information to the DEEP Wildlife Division at Andrew.labonte@ct.gov or by calling 860-418-5921. 

Hearing scheduled in lawsuit over swearing in of Bethel First Selectman

A hearing has been scheduled in the lawsuit brought by a Bethel Republican Town Committee member against the Town of Bethel over the swearing in of Rich Straiton as First Selectman earlier this month.  The Board of Selectmen, Straiton and Town Clerk Lisa Bergh were ordered to appear for a remote status conference hearing on October 17th to show cause for why a temporary injunction should not be issued against them as sought by Daniel Nostin.  When  Matt Knickerbocker resigned to take a position in Wilton, Straiton resigned his Selectman's seat and asked the Town Clerk to swear him in as First Selectman.  The Town Attorney advised Bergh to swear Straiton in as First Selectman, not in an acting role.  Under the town's Charter, the vacancy requires a special election, as well as an appointment by the Board of Selectmen to fill the third seat.  Nostin is looking to overturn Straiton's swearing in. 

Ridgefield Police, Fire Annual Safety Day this weekend

The Ridgefield Police Department, Ridgefield Police Benevolent Association, the Ridgefield Volunteer Fire Department and the Ridgefield Professional Firefighters Association will be holding their Annual Safety Day this weekend.  The family-oriented event is set for Sunday from 10am to 2pm in the parking lot of East Ridge Middle School featuring K9 demonstrations.  The planned landing of the State Police helicopter has been cancelled due to the forecasted weather. Admission is free.  There will also be child safety seat inspections, and information on gun safety, Lyme disease prevention and information from the Ridgefield Prevention Council.

Jurors must decide how much Newtown families suffering worth

WATERBURY, Conn. (AP) — After watching days of testimony that included the parents of slain children breaking down on the witness stand, a Connecticut jury soon will have the difficult task of coming up with a dollar amount that conspiracy theorist Alex Jones should pay for promoting the idea that the Sandy Hook school shooting was a hoax.

A judge last year found Jones and his company, Free Speech Systems, liable by default for defaming and inflicting emotional distress on the plaintiffs — eight families who lost loved ones in the 2012 massacre and an FBI agent who was among the first responders. The jury of three men and three women is now charged with determining damages.

One by one, family members have taken the stand to talk about the horrors of losing a loved one, and how that has been compounded by a decade of harassment, fear and pain inflicted by those who believed the lie that the shooting never happened.

In often emotional testimony, they have detailed death and rape threats, mail from conspiracy theorists that included photos of dead children and in-person confrontations with people telling them their children or wives or mothers never existed.

At one point, a juror broke into tears and was comforted by another member of the panel.

Robbie Parker, who gave a live statement to the media about his daughter Emilie the day after she was murdered, took the stand Wednesday, following testimony from his wife Alissa. Robbie Parker had been captured on camera cracking a nervous smile as he approached the microphone the day after the shooting, after his father made a little joke of encouragement, referring to him by the name of the school mascot he once portrayed. It was a moment Jones pounced on to publicly call him a “crisis actor.” 

Parker said soon after that, he began getting hateful comments on social media.

“What was just this littering of comments, by Tuesday (four days after the shooting) became just a burning trash pile,” he said.

Alissa Parker cried while describing the abuse they faced in the days after the shooting because of Jones’ comments. She said they decided to have a closed casket funeral out of fear that someone would take a photo of their daughter’s body and use it to further the conspiracy theories.

“Just the things they were saying about my sweet daughter,” she said through tears. “Things like, ‘Watch your back, we’re watching you and we’re coming after you and your daughter.’ Just horrible things. They called Emilie a whore, just the most horrific things you could ever imagine.”

How jurors arrive at a dollar figure is cloaked in secrecy. Although given some basic instructions, there are no specific ones from the judge on how exactly to arrive at dollar figures.

Jurors, however, have been shown evidence and heard testimony on the millions of dollars Jones and his company have made over the years.

Jones’ lawyer, Norman Pattis, is trying to limit any damages the jury awards. In cross examining witnesses, he has tried to show that Jones wasn’t directly linked to many instances of harassment and threats, and he has accused the victims’ relatives of exaggerating the harm the lies caused them.

The Center to hold events marking Domestic Violence Awareness Month

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The Center For Empowerment and Education in Danbury is the local Domestic and Sexual Violence resource for Upper Fairfield and Lower Litchfield county.  The Center will hold events and workshops to help spread awareness.  This year’s theme is #Every1KnowsSome1. Last year, The Center provided more than 28,000 individuals in the greater Danbury area Domestic Violence related services. 

SRO appointed for Meeting House Hill, Consolidated Schools

The New Fairfield Police Department, in conjunction with the Connecticut State Police Resident, have appointed a School Resource Officer to the new school campus for Meeting House Hill and Consolidated Schools.  Effective Saturday, New Fairfield Police Officer Marc Scocozza will be assigned to the campus full time. Scocozza is a 26 year veteran police officer and a POST certified instructor in critical incident management.  Department officials say he will be strong asset to the schools.

Hearing scheduled in lawsuit over swearing in of a Bethel First Selectman

An ex parte relief requested in the case of a Bethel Republican Town Committee member against the town has been denied and the court instead has scheduled a hearing.  Daniel Nostin filed the suit over what he called an abuse of process in the appointment of Rich Straiton as First Selectman.  Matt Knickerbocker resigned on September 6th to take a position in Wilton.  Straiton resigned his Selectman's role and asked the Town Clerk to swear him in as First Selectman.  The Town Attorney advised the Town Clerk to swear Straiton in as First Selectman, not in an acting role.  Under the town's Charter, the vacancy in the First Selectman's Office requires a special election, as well as an appointment by the Board of Selectmen to fill the third seat.  Nostin is looking to overturn Straiton's swearing in. 

Danbury Commission continues hearing on application from Panera

Discussion will continue tonight in Danbury on an application from Panera to construct a new stand-alone cafe building with drive thru on Sugar Hollow Road.  The Environmental Impact Commission will hear details about their plans to move out of the Shoppes at Marcus Dairy building into one constructed in the parking lot.  The EIC meeting tonight is at 7 o'clock in Council Chambers of Danbury City Hall.

Chemical treatment was applied to parts of Lake Zoar

Chemical treatment was applied to parts of Lake Zoar yesterday.  The herbicide targets control of the aquatic nuisance plants Eurasian watermilfoil and curlyleaf pondweed.  The treatment was applied in an area where there was regrowth after an application of Diquat earlier this year.  There are no restrictions for swimming, boating and fishing in treated areas, but for the next 3 days the water should not be used for drinking purposes or for irrigating turf and ornamentals.  There should not be used today for livestock or domestic animal consumption.  For the next 5 days there should not be used of treated lake water for irrigating food crops or production ornamentals.

Danbury continues road paving

Road paving continues in Danbury on Old Shelter Rock Road.  Through the rest of the week there will be closures for the work, with detours set up.  There is no on-street parking during construction, which started about two weeks ago.  The construction hours are 8am to 3pm daily.

Local lawmaker receives award from Conn. Psychological Association

The Connecticut Psychological Association has selected Newtown state Senator Tony Hwang as the 2022 recipient of its “Distinguished Legislator of the Year“ award.  Hwang noted that September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month and that he continues to support the work of American Foundation of Suicide Prevention. Sen. Hwang is a co-ranking member of the Connecticut legislature’s Public Health Committee and ranking leader on the Insurance and Real Estate Committee.

Moose sightings prompt warning from DEEP

Recent sightings of moose in Woodbury, Southbury, Danbury, Newtown, and New Fairfield, though believed to be the same moose has prompted a warning from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.  DEEP says this should serve as an important reminder for motorists to be aware that increased moose activity near roadways can pose a hazard. Though Connecticut’s moose population is small, about 100 animals, moose can pose a serious threat to public safety when they wander onto roadways. Moose are more active and often travel farther distances during the fall breeding season, which peaks in September through October.  Because moose are darker in color, stand much higher than deer, and are most active at dusk and at night, observing reflective eye-shine from headlights is infrequent.  When struck, moose often end up impacting a vehicle windshield. When checking the road for moose at night, look higher than you normally would for deer and reduce the speed of your vehicle. Data collected from other states indicate that a moose/car collision is 30 times more likely to result in a human death than a deer/car collision. On average, one out of 50 moose/car collisions results in a human fatality. 

Redding Zoners to hold hearing on turning commercial structure into apartments

The Redding Zoning Commission is holding a public hearing at their meeting tonight on an application for a special use permit.  A resident wants to turn a business-zoned building on Portland Avenue into apartments.  The 2.5 story building, which most recently served as a child care center, would be converted into a 5-unit building if approved.  No external building changes are proposed.  Four are proposed as one-bedroom units, one a two-bedroom unit.  At least three would be handicap accessible.  There would be two parking spaces per unit.  The Zoning Board of Appeals earlier ruled that the applicant could only build 5 units on the property.  The Planning Commission has signed off on the plans.  The Zoning Commission hearing is at 7:30pm in Redding Town Hall’s hearing room.

Swift House Task Force looking for Kent resident feedback

The Swift House Task Force is looking for Kent resident feedback to guide them in making recommendations back to the Board of Selectmen as to the future of the Swift House, located next to the Veteran's Memorial.  The survey timeframe has been extended.  The Swift family came to Kent in 1743. By the early 1970s, the Swift House was in sad shape. The Town acquired it, and created a fund for restoration, much of which was complete in 1977.  Kent Historical Society, the Kent Informal Club and other civic groups use it as a gathering place.

Families testify of confrontations with Sandy Hook deniers

WATERBURY, Conn. (AP) — A mother who lost one of her sons in the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre testified Tuesday that her biggest fear is that people who believe the shooting was a hoax will harm her other son, who survived the attack at his school.

Nicole Hockley and her former husband, Ian Hockley, were the latest family members of the 26 victims of the school shooting to testify at the defamation trial of Alex Jones, where a jury is deciding how much the conspiracy theorist must pay for spreading the hoax lie.

Nicole Hockley said she’s been called an actress and threatened with violence by people who have written to her that her 6-year-old son, Dylan, either never lived or never died.

She keeps knives and a baseball bat by her bed because she fears being attacked, and has taken out a large insurance policy in the event she is killed, she said.

“I got sent pictures of dead kids, because I was told that as a crisis actor, I didn’t really know what a dead kid looked like, so this is what it should look like,” she said.

One piece of hate mail, she said, came from someone who cursed at her and her slain child and wrote, “We’re going to extend an RIP greeting to you,” with the words “rot in pieces” in parentheses. “I got a piece of mail telling me to slit my wrists before they did it for me,” she testified.

Nicole Hockley said her biggest worry is what would happen if her now 18-year-old son, Jake, is confronted by similar threats, “that as a young man he won’t know the right choice to make if he’s approached, because of what that might do to him in terms of making him angry because someone is questioning his own life, questioning the life and death of his brother, his parents.”

Earlier, Ian Hockley testified that he was ridiculed online as a “party boy” and an actor after posting a video of the memorial service for Dylan, because when he found the service uplifting, he smiled.

“That is what that video started to attract is people saying this must be fake,” he said. “He’s an actor. He’s smiling. ‘Oh, you’re out of character,’ all of those things started to appear until we took our video down.”

Jillian Soto-Marino, the last witness of the day, testified she was accosted at charity 5K race for her sister, by Matthew Mills, a conspiracy theorist who had been a guest of Jones. Mills was arrested at the event for harassing Soto-Marino with allegations that her sister, first-grade teacher Vicki Soto, never existed. He was sentenced to two years probation.

“These lies have taken away my sense of security, my sense of safety,” Soto-Marino said. “Things that are supposed to be joyful, you don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Jones’ attorney, Norm Pattis, had Soto-Marino acknowledge that Mills never mentioned Jones or said that he was sent by Jones. She also said she had never watched any video of Jones before the trial started and never received correspondence from Jones. She said that as far as she know, Jones has never used her name.

Earlier in the trial, other relatives also gave often emotional testimony describing how they endured death or rape threats, in-person harassment and abusive comments on social media by people calling the shooting a hoax. Some moved to avoid the abuse.

Judge Barbara Bellis last year found Jones and his company liable by default for damages to plaintiffs without a trial, a consequence for what she called his repeated failure to turn over documents to their lawyers.

The jury of six will determine how much in damages Jones and his company should pay relatives of five children and three adults killed at the school, for saying the shooting didn’t happen and inflicting emotional distress. An FBI agent who responded to the shooting also is a plaintiff.

Last week, Jones got into a heated exchange with plaintiffs’ attorney Christopher Mattei, accusing the lawyer of “ambulance chasing” and saying he was done apologizing for claiming the shooting was staged. In recent years, Jones has acknowledged the massacre happened, but says the families of victims are being used to push a gun-control and anti-free speech agenda.

Ridgefield residents approve $1.8 million for two new fire trucks

Nearly $1.8 million has been approved by Ridgefield residents during a special town meeting to replace two fire trucks.  The apparatus were set for replacement in 2024 and 2025, but will be moved up in the capital plan due to their current poor condition and long lead time for new trucks.  First Selectman Rudy Marconi says the delivery time for Pierce fire trucks is about 17 months from the time of order. 

Danbury and Bridgeport exclusively use that brand and Marconi says both have run their vehicles very hard.  Pierce's service center is located over the state border in Patterson. 

Fire Chief Jerry Meyers made the case for bumping up the purchase. 

He noted that in the past six months, "we have not had all three of our pumpers in service for longer than five days. We are just experiencing a significant amount of failure in them that has required a lot of maintenance and we're reaching a point now ... we have to ask ourselves today, 'will these trucks be running for us two years from now?' And my gut tells me, 'No, they won't be,' so we need to act a little bit sooner on it. And that's the reason for the off-budget request." 

Selectman Sean Connelly says by purchasing Pierce trucks, this could make it easier to sign a shared maintenance agreement with the City of Danbury.  They could be maintained at a repair facility at Kenosia Avenue.  Marconi notes that they haven't negotiated any agreement with Danbury as of this point, but are hoping to.  The negotiations are underway.

Moose spotted running around Greater Danbury

There was a moose on the loose in the Greater Danbury area yesterday.  A moose was spotted in Newtown, then running through the AMC parking lot in Danbury, and up in New Fairfield.  The day before, a moose was spotted by a Woodbury Resident State Trooper. 

(Photo: Woodbury Resident Trooper Office)

The current moose population in Connecticut is estimated at just over 100 animals.  Moose may stand over 6 feet tall at the shoulders and can weigh up to 1,400 pounds.  By 2007, the Wildlife Division was receiving about 60 sighting reports a year and had documented 19 moose-vehicle collisions. 

Although they may appear to be docile, the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection says moose should be given the healthy respect that New England’s largest land mammal warrants.  DEEP says moose can present a serious threat to public safety under some circumstances. Although usually shy, moose can demonstrate unpredictable behavior if they wander into populated areas.

Danbury Farmers Market to hold Veteran Recognition, Resource Day

The Danbury Farmers Market is holding a Veteran Recognition and Resource Day this weekend.  All area Veterans and Service members are invited to attend Saturday's event to receive a $10 Farmers Market voucher for purchase of fresh produce. The state Department of Veterans Affairs will have staff available to assist Veterans with accessing benefits and services.  At 10:30am there will be a Veteran Recognition ceremony to include remarks and special presentations by Danbury Mayor Dean Esposito and Veterans Affairs Commissioner Tom Saadi.

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