Three resolutions were discussed and voted upon at a June 22 town meeting held at the Community Center. The resolutions were:
The first resolution was proposed as a cost saving measure. The cost to collect tax bills of five dollars or less is greater than the amount owed. The resolution was voted upon and passed unanimously.
The second resolution would allow the Board of Selectmen to periodically revise the schedule of fees for building permits and fire marshal inspections. Selectman Michael Gill noted that the fee schedule has not been updated in some time. First Selectman Susan Chapman indicated that New Fairfield’s fees are lower than other area towns. The resolution was voted upon and passed with just one dissenting vote.
The final resolution would establish a water discharge ordinance. The proposed ordinance, which ran to three typewritten pages, would require builders of new structures and existing homeowners to manage water runoff into Town roads to prevent damage and unsafe driving conditions such as ice buildup. If a notice was served to a homeowner to correct such a condition, the homeowner would have to rectify the situation within thirty days or pay for the cost of repairs made by the Town if the property owner does not comply.
A lively discussion followed the reading of the resolution. Some attendees asked if the Town would take action in the case of general runoff or only if the property owner was intentionally doing something that caused excessive runoff, such as channeling water from storm drains into the street.
The Board of Selectmen indicated it would have to be an obvious problem that caused a safety issue and/or cost the Town money to remediate. Mr. Gill noted that a one-time event, such as a hurricane, would not be cause for the ordinance to be invoked. Ms. Chapman stated that town agencies use common sense and balance the rights of residents and the interest of the Town. She noted that they make decisions such as this for other issues ”every day”.
She cited an example on Fleetwood Drive where runoff from a residence caused road damage and excessive icing. The property owner would not remediate the problem and the Town wound up spending $16,000 on labor, materials and paving to fix the problem.
The general consensus among those residents present was that the proposed ordinance was too broad and did not give enough specifics of circumstances that would be considered a violation of the ordinance. The general feeling was also that the process to appeal a violation notification was not outlined sufficiently.
Mr. Gill stated that it’s not possible to write an ordinance that addresses every possible situation and that the language for the ordinance was written by the town attorney.
With discussion completed, the resolution was put to a vote. It failed by a count of 11 against and 8 for.
When asked what the next steps were for the water discharge ordinance, Mr. Gill indicated that the Board can either present the resolution again, make tweaks to the current resolution and represent, or not pursue it further. He did not know which option the Board will choose.
By Greg Slomba