New Canaan opts for outside counsel in sober house appeal
Updated 5:34 pm, Thursday, March 23, 2017
NEW CANAAN — The town has beefed up its legal team as they continue to investigate a sober house.
The town has heeded the advice of its attorney, Ira Bloom, and sought outside counsel for the Zoning Board of Appeals as they continue to weigh allegations of foul play lodged by neighbors of the Lighthouse, a sober house recently opened at 909 West Road.
“Ira’s on record as giving advice to the town on this exact issue, he cannot be the one that determines the outcome as he is prejudiced in a way on the town’s side,” First Selectman Robert Mallozzi III said at a Tuesday Board of Selectman meeting at which the board approved entering into a contract with land use and zoning attorney Patricia Sullivan, of Bridgeport-based Cohen and Wolf, for $220 an hour not to exceed $5,000.
Though the selectmen ultimately showed their support for outside counsel in a unanimous vote, they were not without reservations about taking on additional legal fees.
“It’s just too bad neighbors can’t talk to each other and work things out like the old days,” Selectman Beth Jones said, though she complimented Town Planner Steve Palmer for his ability and willingness to work with both the owners of the sober house, known as the Lighthouse, and the aggrieved neighbors.
“I’ve noticed with Steve Palmer, he seems like he’s a great mediator, and like he’s willing to talk to these people and get people to come together, and then all of a sudden everybody lawyers up and it costs everybody hundreds of thousands of dollars and it just is too bad,” Jones said.
The contract with Sullivan comes after a hotly contested Zoning Board of Appeals meeting and a local appeal filed by a neighbor, Thom Harrow, of 871 West Road, of a decision made by Palmer that state and federal law protecting disabled people — a category into which addicts are included — supersedes local zoning regulations that limit the number of non-relatives living in one house.
The Lighthouse plans to host up to eight men.
An attempt was also made by the owner of the home occupied by the Lighthouse, Anne Lie-Sparks — who rented to Lighthouse co-owners Tony Kiniry and Trey Laird — to quash a suit filed by neighbor Thom Harrow, of 871 West Road. The suit listed Lie-Sparks, Kiniry and Laird as defendants and requested all proof of all communications between Lie-Sparks, the owners of the Lighthouse and the town.
Lie-Sparks’ attorney called the subpoena “unreasonable, oppressive and burdensome,” but the motion to quash the suit was denied on March 9 at Stamford Superior Court and the case will now proceed to trial on May 16.