Community News

Finance Board Okays $1.2 Million Investment

The Board of Finance voted Tuesday night to invest the $1.2 million remaining after the termination of the town’s defined pension fund in a one-year Treasury bill, earning 4.88 percent, or about $49,000 (less an approximately $2,000 management fee). Susan MacEachron, head of the Pension Committee, said that investing for only a year gives the town access to the funds to meet expenses expected next year. 

The town terminated its defined benefit plan—which had about $1.8 million in it—in January and has since purchased annuities for the few town employees still receiving retirement benefits. When obligations to employees were satisfied, the town was left with about $1.2 million, McEachron said, and a custody account was opened at Union Savings Bank.

A small portion of the money, about $135,000, is needed this November to pay this year’s installment on the debt on Botelle School windows and doors, and toward at the ambulance building. That money has been transferred to the National Iron Bank and invested in a five-month CD earning 5.125 percent. 

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P&Z Sets Hearings for August

The Planning and Zoning Commission set two public hearings for its August 13 meeting during a session held Tuesday. Slated for discussion in August are an application from William G. Gridley for a subdivision of land at 59 Sandisfield Road, and an application for a text amendment to the zoning regulations from the Friends of Norfolk Community Dog Park, Inc.

The text amendment requested by the Friends seeks reduction of the area required for the dog park from 20 to two acres. When the original application was considered in May 2023, there was no provision in the zoning regulations for a dog park. The commission considered the dog park to be a recreational facility, which carries with it the requirement for 20 contiguous acres.

The approval stipulated, however, that while 20 acres must be set aside, only the two acres detailed in the site plan can be used for the dog park.

Members concurred with P&Z member Jordan Stern’s suggestion that the Friends be required to submit a definition of a dog park in the application. After the meeting, P&Z chairman Tom Fahsbender explained that it would be up to commission members whether to accept the provided definition, amend it or devise their own.

The Gridley application seeks to divide a plot of slightly less than 15 acres into two lots. There is currently a large home on the land. 

An application for a zoning permit/special permit for construction of a new maintenance shed at the Norfolk Country Club was removed from the agenda because Zoning Enforcement Officer Karl Nilsen had issued a zoning permit for the project.

Neighbors of the Manor House, an inn located at 69 Maple Avenue in a residential zone, brought their concerns about expansion on the property to the P&Z. The Manor House owners have sought a zoning permit to construct a garage and install a hot tub.  

Joseph Kelly, who lives opposite Manor House, said he was unclear about what was being accepted or approved despite efforts to meet with Nilsen. “I do have concerns and want more clarity,” he said. 

He contended that as “a large business in our residential neighborhood” operating under a special permit, changes should require a public hearing.

Fahsbender said that a special permit allows certain uses and that operation within the original permit does not require another second hearing. Nilsen, who issued a zoning permit for the garage, explained that it would be for residential and not business use and is replacing one that will be razed. 

Also questioned was the addition of a hot tub. Nilsen said he considered it to be a recreational use allowed within the special permit. He issued a zoning permit for that as well. Both projects are pending.

Both Fahsbender and Nilsen advised the neighbors that they should take their concerns to the Zoning Board of Appeals. 

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North Brook Trail Work Will Begin Soon

Work on the North Brook Trail is expected to begin in August, according to George Johannesen of Allied Engineering Associates, who designed it for the Rails to Trails Committee.

Johannesen appeared before the Planning and Zoning Commission Tuesday night where he secured approval of the site plan for the project, which follows the former Central New England Railroad right-of-way and will extend about three-quarters of a mile to the Stoney Lonesome Trail parking lot off Ashpohtag Road. An easement from Norfolk Center Cemetery Association will allow parking on the Norfolk end of the trail.

Johannesen said the entire trail meets ADA requirements and is designed for both pedestrian and bicycletraffic. It will also be firm enough for strollers and wheelchairs.

The Inland Wetlands Agency has approved the plan, as has the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, owner of the land. “We have all the letters of authorization,” said P&Z Chairman Tom Fahsbender.

Johannesen said that most of the trail traverses wetlands and that several beaver dams in the area have created pools of standing water. A 150-foot-boardwalk, constructed of pressure-treated lumber, will span the pools. The remainder of the trail will be surfaced by compacted aggregate, which is permeable. 

The Rails to Trails Committee has labored for more than a decade to bring the project to fruition. In May 2023 it received a $399,725 Recreational Trails Program grant from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. The grant represents about 80 percent of the total cost of construction. The balance is to be covered by other grants, donations and in-kind services.

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City Meadow Restoration Will Be Ongoing Effort

Restoration of City meadow, which was reclaimed several years ago as a wildlife habitat, will be an ongoing effort, cautioned Elizabeth Borden, co-chair of the Friends of the Meadow Committee, at its recent meeting.

Invasive species have already mowed twice and will be treated with herbicides in August. Woody invasives will also be cut and have herbicides applied. 

Restoration could be accomplished within two years, Borden said, but would be more expensive if the group does not try to preserve native cattails growing there.

Looking forward, the group discussed where sculptures could be placed along the sculpture trail proposed by the Norfolk Community Association. Doreen Kelly, co-chairman of the association, said they usually work in a two-year timeframe for installations and asked when the Friends anticipate having the meadow ready for a sculpture. Borden predicted three years. 

Discussion then turned to seating on Robertson Plaza, which overlooks the meadow from Station Place. The group talked about various ways of rearranging the seating and providing shade but did not reach a conclusion.

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South Norfolk Residents Battle Cell Tower Plan

A group of South Norfolk neighbors is waging a battle against a cell tower being erected in their midst.

Last spring letters were sent to South Norfolk landowners from Smartlink, a leasing agent for telecommunication companies, seeking property on which to place a cell tower. None of the homeowners in this residential neighborhood responded and thought that ended the matter.

However, Sloane Klevin, who owns a house at the corner of Old Goshen Road and Route 272, recently noticed trucks and people on vacant land opposite her property. Inquiring, she found there is a pending lease on the land and that the people were verifying that the parcel could support a cell tower, which could be as tall as 120 or 130 feet.

Investigating further, Klevin discovered that the land is owned by Michael Farrington, a Florida resident who inherited it and who has never set foot in Norfolk. “He didn’t even know there were neighbors,” she said. “It’s literally smack in front of everyone, but he sees this as a windfall.”

The neighbors contacted him to see if he would consider selling them the property. Klevin said the neighborhood includes environmentally sensitive elements such as a heron rookery and residents harbored the idea of donating it to the Norfolk Land Trust. “I told him his land is on a natural diversity map and we offered $100,000 for it,” she said.

Farrington responded with a figure of up to $300,000, beyond the reach of neighboring property owners.

Since that exchange, the neighbors have sought additional funding to procure the land, but even an offer of $200,000 has met with no success. “We realized he is playing us off Verizon,” said Klevin. 

The group approached an environmental lawyer, who advised that their best chance of forestalling the development is to find an alternate site for Verizon. Two less intrusive locations nearby, accessible from Route 272, have been identified but, to date, Smartlink and Verizon have not responded.

“We’re willing to file an intervention with the Siting Council and to propose other sites, but we can’t get through to them,” Klevin said. “Once they have found a site, they are not reachable.” 

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“No Frills” Firehouse Plan is Developing

The Firehouse Building Committee is making progress in hammering out a building design that suits the town’s needs with no added frills. “Everyone fully understands the budgetary constraints,” First Selectman Matt Riiska said.

He said the building committee, with input from other firefighters, is looking at “what we can get rid of, what we can do later. There are no BarcaLoungers, no big TVs, no bunk rooms—what is there is for function. The committee is very aware of the costs.”

Indeed, although a firm cost analysis has yet to be completed, projected costs for the project have risen from around $5 million when the project was first proposed several years ago to $8 million or more in the current market. 

“We’re trying to plan for 50 to 75 years out,” Riiska continued. “We’re all going to be on the same page as to what is needed.” 

“It is up to date as far as equipment, technology and mechanics, proper ventilation—all the critical stuff—are concerned,” he said. “It’s a very function-oriented building.” 

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Nelson Achieves State Certification

Congratulations to Assistant Town Clerk Deborah Nelson, who just passed her exam to become a Certified Connecticut Town Clerk. Nelson has been assisting Norfolk Town Clerk Linda Perkins while taking the required courses.

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Street Fair Braves Bad Forecast To Deliver Fun

The threat of rain did not deter the Norfolk Library Associates, who raise funds to provide children’s and cultural programming at the library, from celebrating their 50th anniversary last Sunday with a spirited little street fair in Station Place.

The weather forecast was dire, with strong storms predicted for the afternoon. A stiff breeze seemed to presage rain, but the fair went on in the plaza without a mishap and the plaza was filled with booths that offered visitors snacks, face painting, the chance to adopt a stuffed animal, an opportunity to learn juggling, to take a ride behind a tractor or marvel at the massive puppets from the Sova Dance and Puppet Theater that were roaming the street.

The associates began their year-long celebration with a gala last January.

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Swim Lesson Schedule To Be Announced Soon

A swimming lesson schedule will be announced soon, according to Josh DeCerbo, administrator of Tobey Pond beach.

Monday he had an instructor work with lifeguards interested in running swim lessons. He anticipates announcing the schedule as early as next week. “We haven’t decided when lessons will begin,” he said, “but it will be sooner than later.”

DeCerbo also wants to do some drills for his lifeguards in concert with the ambulance service. “We would run simulated rescues,” he said. “Pretty standard stuff, but everyone would know how to respond.”

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Something Old, Something New at Tobey Pond

Tobey Pond, the town beach, now has a handsome new changing room for swimmers, sponsored by the Lions Club.

It replaces an earlier one removed several years ago because of its deteriorating condition. 

“Sandy Evans, a Lions Club member, came to me and asked if I would volunteer to make it,” said fellow Lion Philip Cyr of J&P Building & Remodeling in Norfolk. He agreed and John Funchion said he would pitch in. The club paid for the materials.

“John came up with the [design] concept,” said Cyr, “and I built it on the fly. It probably took me a month and a half, working on it when I could—maybe 15 hours. I used rough-sawn lumber and tried to make it as rustic as possible because it is in the woods.”

Funchion also helped with construction. “It was hard work,” he said. “Phil is a master craftsman, but he let me help. He took my design and tweaked it.”

Interesting touches include door handles and towel hooks made out of tree branches. “It’s all-natural light, so we painted the floor a sky blue to give it brightness as well.”

Something else new at Tobey Pond is also very old. 

Long before Norfolk residents splashed happily in its waters, Tobey Pond was home to a rich array of forest and aquatic creatures and remains a sanctuary for wild and aquatic life—a fact recognized by the beach staff this year. 

Sensitive to the rights of longtime denizens of the 58-acre pond, the lifeguards responded quickly when on June 2 a snapping turtle—what could be more primordial?—emerged from the glacial pool to lay her eggs on the beach. The staff hastily created a circle of brightly painted stones around the nest and posted a sign advising, “Do Not Disturb Turtle Eggs.

Norfolk is a notably enlightened town and, to its credit, momma turtle, christened Teresa, can look forward to her brood hatching in late August, even though Tobey Pond beach administrator Josh DeCerbo hopes the little turtles will emerge for the Tobey Day celebration in mid-August.

Teresa posed for staff and her picture is available upon request. One thing is certain—she will be a no-show for Tobey Day. Notoriously nonchalant about their families, turtles lay their eggs and leave their offspring to their own devices.

The staff has tipped its hat to other “Tobey Pond Pets,” as well. A whimsical sign near the new changing room describes the creatures who claim the area as their own. Teresa, of course, has a mate, Tom. The staff advises that he is “a big snapping turtle who has lived here his whole life” and “has two children.” (Who counted?)

Not all the area inhabitants are aquatic, however. Larry, the cormorant, is cited “as the lifeguard boss,” while Al, the water snake is reported to have been “born in Norfolk,” but “travels a lot.” Unsurprisingly, there is also the lunch-stealing “Bearnice the Bear,” and Shy Di, the Deer.

So, look closely, folks, when visiting Tobey Pond. You may just meet some Norfolk’s natives, still living as their ancestors did in days of yore. 

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