Rowayton woman threatened with $100 a day fine

NORWALK, Conn. – An attempt to silence a prominent aspect of the Rowayton resistance to the potential building of a house in Farm Creek has not made it out of the starting gate.

Drivers heading down McKinley Avenue to Highland Avenue are sure to see the banners that Lisa Thomson has been hanging on her stone wall while they are sitting in front of Thomson’s house at the intersection.

Wednesday, Thomson got an anonymous letter informing her that she was in violation of Norwalk Zoning code, had been reported and faced a $100 a day fine.

“The sign on the wall regarding your personal interest, besides impacting the quality of the appearance of our neighborhood, is not permitted under the Norwalk code…” the letter read. “While there may be sympathy for your cause, there are reasonable ways to express your view that does not have to offend your neighbors, and cheapen our property values. Fortunately we have city regulations to protect us from such selfish and ugly expression of personal interests.”

It was signed, “Your neighbors.”

Thomson wrote to Mayor Harry Rilling and the Sixth Taxing District commissioners.

“It is important to note that the banners have only become more numerous, after each THEFT over the course of the summer. The smaller sign and previous banners have been stolen four times!  I filed a complaint a week or so ago, with the NPD.  It was embarrassing as I know they have better things to do with their time. But I figured it would stop the theft,” she wrote. “I suspect this letter is an attempt to up the ante. If (Planning and Zoning Director) Mike Green comes after me – in light of all the bigger P&Z issues going on in the city, I will consider myself as being targeted by P&Z and violating my right to free speech. I know that there isn’t anything that you can do, but I just wanted you to be aware.”

Greene never got involved. The complaint quickly fizzled – Norwalk Ordinance Enforcement Officer Ed Schwartz visited that afternoon and told her that she was in compliance, she said.

Schwartz works for the Department of Public Works.

Thomson said that was “on the VERY same day that the city is not interested in neighbors’ concerns  over dirt dumping and plantings in a wetlands – yet at the same time feels compelled to send somebody to my house about a banner. I think that pretty much sums up the level of cronyism and government agency responsiveness in Norwalk.”

She was referring to an email Julie Burton of Save Farm Creek sent to Norwalk Senior Environmental Engineer Alexis Cherichetti, staff adviser to the Inland Wetland Agency.

“There is planting, soil being added and an irrigation system being put in at 2 Nearwater, the narrow peninsula that juts out into Farm Creek,” Burton wrote. “… We have seen cease and desist orders from your commission regarding plantings on other properties near the water, so thought it would make sense to alert you. Are there any other commissions/departments/organizations we should contact?”

A workman
A workman replaces plants at 2 Nearwater Road in this photo sent by Julie Burton to the Norwalk conservation office.

Cherichetti wrote back, “The Inland Wetland Agency regulates activities that may impact inland (not tidal) wetlands.  A review of maps in my office indicates this property does not have any inland wetlands.  It is adjacent to tidal wetlands.  My office has no jurisdiction regarding planting activity on this property.  Nonetheless, I am not aware of any other regulation that prohibits the installation of plants or irrigation for landscaping.”

Bruce Beinfield, owner of the property at 2 Nearwater, said he was having invasive plants removed from the peninsula.

“I am currently planning to enhance the vegetated buffer on the upland portion of the site that is in close proximity to the tidal wetlands,” Beinfield wrote in an email. “This involves the removal of invasive species and the planting of native salt tolerant grasses, and shrubs.  This process will serve to increase the natural wildlife habitat, and improve the flood and erosion characteristics of the site.  A vegetated buffer will also serve to filter land based impurities from entering the tidal estuary environment.”

Full disclosure: Lisa Thomson is a board member of Chapman Hyperlocal Media, Inc.


7 responses to “Rowayton woman threatened with $100 a day fine”

  1. JoeC

    Cowardly people send anonymous letters containing false assertions of law to activist citizens in an attempt to stifle free speech. Shame on them.

  2. Casey Smith

    “…there are reasonable ways to express your view that does not have to offend your neighbors, and cheapen our property values.”

    Really? Something so temporary will devalue property? Amazing. I never knew property values were so delicate. I could see it if the house was in disrepair or there was a derelict car parked on the front lawn or something like that, but signs???

    So what about the parcel which I think is a park where people regularly post signs for all kinds of events? Shouldn’t that come down, too? That’s right in the center of Rowayton.

  3. Suzanne

    Rowayton is going crazy. I think Ms. Thomson should park a tractor in the front, post signs and REALLY bug the neighbors.

  4. Greene Has to Go.

    P and Z Director Mike Greene has to resign or be fired. He is not doing his job.

  5. Oldtimer

    Her signs probably don’t do much for the value of her property, one way or the other, but they are free speech expressions of her opinion and protected as much as signs endorsing political candidates. If they were advertisements for some commercial product or service, they would clearly be subject to regulation. People who disagree with her could post their opinions on their property, but sending her anonymous threats is grade school playground bullying tactics.

  6. EastNorwalkChick

    Here in Norwalk, we seem to have issues with signage, parking and flower pots….

  7. Don Chiodo

    Only one option really exists. She needs to threaten to build a mosque.

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