My weekly update is a bit long this week so I highlighted the major topics in bold so you can skim through to the areas of interest to you.
This week, I brought in members of United Illuminating, our Tree Warden, and the Forestry Committee Chair, after a stalemate on the tree trimming program. We worked together to come up with a plan to trim trees interfering with power lines and still preserve the beautiful tree lined streets we Fairfielders appreciate. I am encouraged by the compromises both sides were able to make and I look forward to getting that work started to ensure the safety of our residents and limit the number of outages during storms.
I want to remind residents of our Senior & Disabled Homeowners Program which is designed to help seniors and disabled residents remain in their homes in the town they helped build. The Assessor's Office is accepting applications between now and Friday, May 15. Click here to read guidelines and requirements.
It was great fun to welcome the Connecticut Hammerheads, Major League Lacrosse's newest franchise to Fairfield this morning! It was great to meet the Hammerheads Team President Ian Frenette and Commissioner of Major League Lacrosse Alexander Brown, alongside Fairfield University President Dr. Mark Nemec and Athletic Director Paul Schlickmann.
In keeping with my inaugural message to set the tone for bipartisanship in Town government, I invited leadership from the Representative Town Meeting (RTM) and Board of Finance (BOF) from both parties to discuss my budget proposal. I believe it's important to have conversations with our elected officials face to face so all elected members from both parties can engage in respectful conversation as we enter into the budget season.
I look forward to presenting my budget proposal on Monday morning at 9:00 a.m. You can tune in to Fair TV live, or you can read the budget once it is proposed, online at www.fairfieldct.org/budget.
On another note, our Town Charter restricts my ability to talk with Selectwoman Nancy Lekfowitz about the budget, the fill pile or any issues facing our community unless we are in a Board of Selectman meeting, because she is from a different political party than me. This antiquated rule is inefficient and goes against the bipartisanship I’m trying to instill in our Town.
This is just one example of how our Town Charter can be improved. In the coming months, you will hear more from me regarding establishing a charter revision commission that I believe will be helpful in moving our town in a more positive and efficient direction.
This week I assembled a Coronavirus (COVID-19) Community Mitigation Workgroup, which is being led by Emergency Management and the Health Department. The work group includes additional representatives from our Fire, Police, Schools, Social Services, Human Resources, Community and Economic Development Departments as well as EMS, Fairfield University, Sacred Heart and others. Both universities have requested their students abroad to return to their home states for two weeks before returning back to campus.
This team met to review the steps they are each currently taking, and their additional planned actions as they prepare for the range of potential impacts of a COVID-19 pandemic. Participants also discussed strategies to ensure we maintain essential services for our community. I will provide updates and information on the town's website going forward.
Several residents wrote to me this week regarding the 8-30g application that was approved on High Street and the pending application for Beacon View Drive. I wrote a letter to the TPZ Commission expressing my concern about the Beacon View application. Unfortunately the 30 year old 8-30g state statute overrides local zoning laws and removes control from our local zoning board and my dislike for these restrictions are widely known.
While we are still short of our goal of 433 points, our town has closed the gap significantly over the last few years. Fairfield will have enough points to qualify for a moratorium when the projects currently in the pipeline get built. This will pause all 8-30g applications for five years. I’m also working with Mark Barnhart and our zoning department to discuss other strategies that could be helpful to add affordable units that count under the state statue to continue to meet the guidelines under the state statue.
As for an update on the fill pile and the relevant impacted sites, we received another Notice of Violation (NOV) from DEEP. This NOV is for dredge material that was removed from Owen Fish Pond as part of erosion control and brought to the fill pile in 2018. The fill pile was not permitted to receive this material, which is why the Town received this NOV. The remedy to address this NOV is the same as what we are already doing: test, plan, remediate, and seek DEEP approval for regulatory closure of the fill pile.
On Thursday morning our environmental attorney and members of my team had a two hour meeting with the Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (DEEP) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to discuss progress and next steps. Our licensed environmental professional (LEP) is preparing the sampling work plan which will have to be reviewed and accepted by DEEP and the EPA. We invited both agencies to be present for the sampling to ensure all approved protocols are being performed while on-site.
As I have stated previously, once we have the results of this plan, I will host a town hall meeting to share all information with our community. I will continue to follow the direction of the state and federal agencies and will continue doing everything I can to move our community forward through this situation. The criminal investigation into this issue is still ongoing and I’m fully cooperating with law enforcement.
I want all our residents to know that all proper procedures will be followed and the safety of our residents will remain protected and my top priority.
Brenda L. Kupchick