Zoning Commission Hosts Public Hearing on Zoning Regulation Revisions

Woodbury residents may share their thoughts at a public hearing tonight: Tuesday, August 14.


A Woodbury Zoning Commission public hearing on revisions to zoning regulations and aquifer protection will take place at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, August 14, in the .

The full agenda is attached to this article as a PDF.

Also on the agenda is the tabled matter of Tom Arras' possible sign violation relating to the size of a sign on Arras' 76 Main St. South lawn.

The board has not make a decision on the possible sign violation, citing how the zoning regulations were undergoing revisions, according to an April 11 article in the Litchfield County Times.

At a Tuesday, July 31, special meeting and public workshop on the amendments to all proposed, non-aquifer-related regulations, commissioners spent time discussing signage in town.

Ultimately, the consensus of the Zoning Commission is to repeal the proposed section on political signs, in its entirety. A vote to that effect has not occurred.


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The following excerpt is from Section 7.5.10. I of the draft zoning regulations, attached as a PDF to this article. The draft regulations can also be found on the town of Woodbury's land use department page.

"I. Political Signs: One or more signs, the total aggregate amount of signage per property not to exceed the greater of (i) 12 square feet, or (ii) the maximum aggregate amount of signage which would be allowed on the property under the regulations applicable to the district in which the property is located."

Here is a breakdown of commissioners' thoughts on the proposed political sign regulations, according to the July 31 special meeting minutes, attached as a PDF to this article.

John Chamberlain said he preferred to see the political sign regulation eliminated.

Bob Clarke supported leaving the language in the proposed regulations.

Chuck Cosgriff Jr. originally did not want to remove the political sign regulation language completely, as he said he did not want the town to be vulnerable to neon signs. He changed his opinion and supported removing the language.

Ron Judson supported taking the political sign language out of the proposed regulations completely.

Sean Murphy felt the language restricting political signs should be removed and said the neon sign issue is addressed elsewhere in the regulations.

Chairman Martin Overton said that in his opinion, some form of the section needs to remain in the regulations.

First Selectman Gerald Stomski, sitting at the table as an ex-officio member, supported eliminating the language.

Ted Tietz supported removing the political sign regulation language.

James Redway August 23, 2012 at 06:39 PM
Freedom of speech is alive and well on the Middlebury/Woodbury Patch. I think the bottom line is that political signs CANNOT be regulated when displayed on PRIVATE PROPERTY. You cannot regulate size, shape, aesthetics, placement, or workmanship. As it has been said…"Democracy can be ugly!" Lots of arguments in Woodbury, but I think the BIG argument has already been decided by the Supreme Court in 1994. You can read all about it at: http://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/512/43/ If you are not fond of reading legalese, check out Wikipedia for the meat and potatoes of the case. That link is: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/City_of_Ladue_v._Gilleo Why argue about something that has already been decided by the highest court in the land. Freedom of political speech is what it is. Don't try to regulate it. Come on smile … there are a lot worse things in the world to worry about. :-)
Richard C. Snider August 23, 2012 at 07:13 PM
Mr. Murphy, I never make "fun of" or "mock" a person's physical characteristics, illnesses or disabilities. I may disagree with your political ideology and method of reaching your goals; however, my concern about your physical well being is genuine. Shortly before I retired, a young attorney in my office, approximately your age and with a similar temperament, suffered a fatal heart attack while negotiating a highly volatile emotional law suit. He was survived by his wife and three children. Makes you stop and rethink your life values. You keep asking where's the "due process"? Due process is an individual's right to be protected from secret legal proceedings. The notice, from the Zoning Enforcement Officer to Mr. Arras, serves as his "due process". Yes, law suits are costly. Nevertheless, if the Zoning Commission ultimately brings legal proceedings against Mr. Arras, he will have to engage an attorney. I cannot express my opinion, about a municipality's right to regulate the size, shape and type of political sign, any clearer then I have in these many comments.
Sean M August 23, 2012 at 07:24 PM
Richard How about you stop being so easily offended? You are a leftist. You support leftist ideologies. You attempt to implement the Alinsky playbook use by leftists. Since you do not like the idea of getting rid of 7.5.10.I, then what is your offer? It is clear the commission knows there is a problem. WHAT IS YOUR SOLUTION? Have you even read the article I put together on political signs? All the information is there. It is up on Patch. You can read all the facts and decide what your recommendations are.
Richard C. Snider August 23, 2012 at 07:27 PM
City of Ladue v. Gilleo pertained to Ladue's regulation restricting the "content" of a political sign and not the size, shape or type of political sign. It was a restriction on "time, place and manner of expression". The Woodbury Zoning regulation is content neutral and does not impinge upon any Freedom of Speech protections.
Todd Fox August 23, 2012 at 08:47 PM
I've read the Ladue v. Gilleo decision and it is very clear that this case determined that a town may not prohibit a citizen from posting a political sign. Other decisions have indeed determined that the town may apply restrictions to the size of political signs. In other words, the town may not prohibit free speech by banning political signs, but it is allowed to put restrictions on the size of said signs. In layman's terms: Our right to have a big mouth is protected by our constitution, but your town can determine how big.
Sean M August 23, 2012 at 10:47 PM
Richard, you sure can express your opinions clearer. Please cite the constitutional allowances for limiting speech, any supporting case law, or legal advice from qualified counsel.
Sean M August 23, 2012 at 10:48 PM
Todd, I suggest reviewing all the documentation that zoning has been given. http://woodbury-middlebury.patch.com/articles/letter-to-the-editor-resident-shares-political-sign-update I have given the two legal opinions by the Woodbury town attorney.
Voice of Reason August 24, 2012 at 12:15 AM
The argument “Time, Place and Manner” has been tossed about by the opposition of the larger signs (as if it were a guide set in stone to which to refer). While this argument, at times, has been upheld by the courts as a legitimate reason to restrict Political Free Speech it does not mean that the citizens must always simply submit to tyrannical and arbitrary regulations they feel impinge on their Rights. In fact, it is the duty of the citizen to stand up to Government when they feel said Government has reached beyond it's role. Woodbury is seeing a few strong willed souls on both sides of this argument; each, obviously, feel they are correct. On the one side we have proponents of freedom, not a bad thing if you ask me. They wish their voice to be heard and simply be left to live their lives. On the other side we have those that wish to further restrict their neighbor and to force others to live within their parameters of acceptance. To the latter group I suggest you learn tolerance. Our Freedoms were born from blood shed and lives lost by men and women who felt them important enough to sacrifice everything to fight for them. To the People, don't give those Rights away!
tom arras August 24, 2012 at 10:12 PM
Richard, I have resided on Main Street for decades( mid-70's ) and in my current house from the early 80's to now. I have displayed large political signs on my property since I purchased it, taking it as acceptable since it is provided for in the State & U.S. Constitutions, and since it is a practice that has gone on since I've been in Town. Sometime circa1996 a regulation limiting these signs appeared in the regs. Overton said the "people" voted on it, but an FOI request to Land Use could find no record of that. So it somehow "appeared". Still, large political signs have always popped up. In 2010 you & 12 other Democrats( including George Hale ) filed a complaint against my Martha Dean sign, plus one other, but ignored other obvious "violations", including those at Democrats' residences. Enter the double standard of the Democrats. In 2011 another complaint was filed against my Overton sign, while ignoring the fact that Overton's own campaign headquarters signage exceeded the same regulation, and once again so did Democrat residences. You moved to Town relatively recently, & want to change what's been the norm here. Overton didn't even live in the U.S. when I started displaying political signs, & now that he's become a citizen he wants to override the Constitution. You Democrats started this issue in a partisan manner, & don't appear very interested in any rights of others that don't suit you. Get used to it- we all live here!
tom arras August 24, 2012 at 10:31 PM
Richard, This year you filed yet another complaint against my Greenberg to keep up your consistency. I supported Mark, & took my sign down within hours of the vote results. I will take my Overton sign down only when I consider the issue fully resolved, which it seems you don't want to happen. More recently Overton has stated that we have a bad regulation, and that it's unenforceable. I think you should experience the same awakening. You are not going to tell me what I can & cannot do with my property any more than I could possibly tell you what to do with yours. I think that we all have to realize that each individual is different, yet we all have equal rights. I am defending your right to do exactly what the Constitution allows & protects, too, and I will do anything in my power to stop the rights of anyone else( including myself ) from being curtailed or stripped by the likes of you.
tom arras August 24, 2012 at 11:52 PM
Hmmm, Dr. Richard's snake oil anyone? Or poor Richard the analyst? Stick to the facts on the subject if you would, please. Or perhaps this is a hidden admission that your defense of a ridiculous viewpoint is waning, as well it should be. Glad I didn't drink that kool-aid.
joe_m August 25, 2012 at 12:06 AM
Sean, I don't disagree about zoning, I purposely put italics around "local". In most of the articles I've read, "local" :) zoning boards abuse their power. They are a boon for lawyers and cost taxpayers. What they do to individuals, their neighbors, in their overzealous enforcement of zoning regulations should be criminal.
Jon Quint August 25, 2012 at 10:41 AM
Tom, are you saying that Democrats have a double standard? I am shocked, I tell ya, shocked. If I had the time (I'm too busy earning a living and paying for all those government programs), I could sit down and write at least a 500 page book on examples of Democrat hypocrisy. You nailed it, except for public health or safety, no government should be able to tell anyone what they can do on there own property. Do Woodbury zoning have any regulations on kids lemonade stands?
Richard C. Snider August 26, 2012 at 03:48 AM
Mr. Arras, times change and so do laws and regulations. This is 2012 and not 1975. Perhaps Woodburians got tired of all those "large" political signs and decided it was time to enact zoning regulations controlling the "size" of political signs. You got caught twice violating the "current" zoning regulation. There was nothing preventing you from filing complaints about "all those Democrats" whom you claim also violated the same zoning regulation. Why didn't you file complaints? Neither I nor anyone else is telling you what you can or cannot do with your property. Despite complaints from neighbors about the physical condition of your property (Marina Daniels letter to the Historic District Commission), you have managed to exercise your self-expression unchecked, uninhibited and unconcerned for neighbors and neighborhood. You state that you will do "anything" in your power to protect everyone's constitutional rights from being curtailed. If you think the zoning regulation is unconstitutional, do something instead of just talking about it. Press your case in a court of law. You claim to be knowledgeable on everything pertaining to the First Amendment and freedom of speech. You believe that you are right. You claim to have consulted an expert "constitutional law" attorney, namely, Martha Dean, the 2010 Republican candidate and "environmental law" attorney, whose letter you continually quote. Ask her to take your case "pro bono". Mr. Arras, take the lead!!
Richard C. Snider August 26, 2012 at 03:50 AM
I am not sure who Sean Murphy thinks has died and anointed him the final arbiter in all things pertaining to zoning regulations and free speech. Mr. Murphy now insists that I provide him with cases and legal advice, from qualified counsel [do you mean someone like Martha Dean, the 2010 Republican candidate and "environmental law" attorney, whom you and Tom Arras keep referencing as your "constitutional law" expert], citing "constitutional allowances for limiting speech". What is Sean Murphy talking about? I have never espoused limiting free speech. It is a guarantee under the First Amendment. I unequivocally support "free speech" – which is one of the constitutional rights we "left-handed liberals" fiercely protect. I only propose "content neutral" regulations – Mr. Murphy that means a regulation which does not limit free speech. If Mr. Murphy believes that the Town of Woodbury can regulate the "type" of sign (Section 7.5.9 of Woodbury Zoning Regulations) – [see his second comment above], then the Town of Woodbury can certainly regulate the "size" of the sign. Both the "type" and the "size" of a sign are "content neutral" regulations – Mr. Murphy that means a regulation which does not limit free speech. Mr. Murphy, is this clear enough, or am I going too fast?
Sean M August 26, 2012 at 04:11 PM
Unfortunately for Richard, there has never been any enforcement taken on Tom Arras. To conclude that is just expressing his opinion. You have to be found guilty after a hearing. The people who have discussed the violations with me did not file a complaint because they thought it was a complete waste of town resources. They see this situation as a complete waste of time. What needs to happen is some people in Woodbury need to grow up and stop acting like children. If they do not like the look of something, ignore it. The only people who are offended by some yard display are those who choose to be. Get something better to do with your time. Tom has spent his time earning money and if he wants to put up some art work, it is none of my business. As I have stated before, there must be action taken before Tom would have any standing to go to court. People must ask themselves why Richard Snider and his pals like Martin Overton and Bill Monti want every problem to be resolved in court? They have no regard for the taxpayers in Woodbury. Elected officials are here to make these decisions on constitutionality. Our founders were clear on this. 5 commissioners concluded the best course is to get rid of the sign regulation restricting to 12 sq. ft. I do not know what everyone's reasons were, but they will come out. Residents need to read the information presented to zoning. Richard Snider does not care because he is only interested in his agenda.
Sean M August 26, 2012 at 04:14 PM
What Richard has shown is the stark contrast between liberals and conservatives. When a liberal does not like something, they demand government take action to correct it immediately. When a conservative sees something they do not like, as long as it is not harming someone, the conservative just ignores it. When a conservative is presented with facts and logic, they look at it and draw their conclusions. When a liberal is presented with facts and logic, they just continue on with their agenda, regardless of what the law is or someone's rights are. When a conservative is presented with a dispute, they want to sit down with everyone involved and see if they can work it out. When a liberal is presented with the same problem, they scream and yell and threaten to sue.
Sean M August 26, 2012 at 04:23 PM
Richard Snider is using another Saul Alinsky technique of discrediting people instead of debating them on their issues. Martha Dean has run twice for Attorney General and has plenty of knowledge on Constitutional law. Richard Snider, is a tax lawyer from NY, who has no qualifications to speak on this matter. I have read two legal opinions from the Woodbury town Atty Richard Roberts and the case law behind it. I have read the ACLU's position on this. I have listened to Atty Deb Stevenson, another constitutional law expert. I have read the case law provided to me by Martha Dean, which is a lot of the same case law Atty Roberts gave the Commission. I have read the Council of Government's report on political signs. I have never seen one qualified person say that Woodbury should keep the size restrictions in place. If Richard Snider has such documentation, I want to see it. I would like time to review it and ask questions. That is the job of a Zoning Commissioner. Richard Snider is taking bits and pieces of the information on the topic. This is why I put up the entire documentation up for all residents to review. There has not been one comment by Richard or any of his Democrat buddies. Why? You can see their position is voided by the information given. The real questions need to be directed at Martin Overton and Bob Clarke. How is it that the town Atty stated to get rid of the size restrictions, yet they oppose it?
Sean M August 26, 2012 at 04:26 PM
I have spent all this energy to make sure I listen to all sides on the matter. Maybe Selectman George Hale and former Commissioner Bill Monti can explain how they came to their conclusions, despite the significant evidence to the contrary.
Jon Quint August 26, 2012 at 04:38 PM
I agree with Sean's last two comments and once again Mr. Snider has taken to personally attacking Sean- "Mr. Murphy, is this clear enough, or am I going too fast?". The insinuation there is obvious! Once again, I say, Democrats can't engage in a civil conversation, they always have to engage on personal attacks. It is really SO predictable. The difference: If a Republican doesn't like guns, he doesn't buy one. If a Democrat doesn't like guns, he/she wants all guns outlawed. If a Republican is a vegetarian, he doesn't eat meat. If a Democrat is a vegetarian, he/she wants all meat products banned for everyone. If a Republican is down-and-out, he thinks about how to better his situation. A Democrat wonders who is going to take care of him/her. If a Republican doesn't like a talk show host, he switches channels. Democrats demand that those they don't like be shut down. If a Republican is a non-believer, he doesn't go to church. A Democrat non-believer wants any mention of God and religion silenced. If a Republican decides he needs health care, he goes about shopping for it, or may choose a job that provides it. A Democrat demands that the rest of us pay for his.
Don Sherman August 26, 2012 at 06:19 PM
"If Mr. Murphy believes that the Town of Woodbury can regulate the "type" of sign (Section 7.5.9 of Woodbury Zoning Regulations) – [see his second comment above], then the Town of Woodbury can certainly regulate the "size" of the sign." Richard: You are smarter than this; you know why his statements are consistent. For those wondering why the statements are not inconsistent: as long as the Town does not regulate too much speech, leaving an option to the regulated "thing", that regulation will not be found unconstitutional.
Don Sherman August 26, 2012 at 06:30 PM
"If you think the zoning regulation is unconstitutional, do something instead of just talking about it. Press your case in a court of law." Richard: You and Martin Overton are now BOTH on record calling for a suit to determine whether to delete a regulation that is likely to be declared unconstitutional in Court. Rather than expedite the matter, rather than leaving open the possibility of arriving at mutually agreeable language in the future, you and Martin Overton prefer to saddle the taxpayers will additional legal fees. I will not question your integrity or your motives. I will suggest you ask whether you are willing to face public scrutiny for an ill-conceived demand.
Richard C. Snider August 26, 2012 at 07:22 PM
Sean, let us try one more time. Let us agree to call Martin Overton, Bob Clarke, Tom Arras, the Zoning Commission, Martha Dean, Deb Stevenson, Republicans, Democrats, Conservatives, sarcasm, snarky remarks, etc…considerations which cloud the basic issues. Let us agree to move all those considerations off the table. My one request is that your response sticks to the basic issues. At the Zoning Commission Workshop, the majority of the members, present at the meeting, along with First Selectman Stomski and Brian Miller, agreed to eliminate "ALL" regulations pertaining to political signs. No one said, "Just a minute, let's have a few regulations apply to political signs". The basic issues: (1) If "ALL" zoning regulations, in regard to political signs, are eliminated, please explain to me how Zoning Regulation 7.5.9 Prohibited Signs would apply to political signs; (2) If Zoning Regulation 7.5.9 Prohibited Signs does apply to political signs, then the Zoning Commission has not eliminated "ALL" zoning regulations in regard to political signs. Doesn't that mean that the Zoning Commission needs to provide language in the zoning regulations which state that Zoning Regulation 7.5.9 Prohibited Signs does apply to political signs; and (3) If Zoning Regulation 7.5.9 Prohibited Signs does apply, why doesn't that zoning regulation, regarding "type" of sign, violate "freedom of speech", whereas a "size" zoning regulation does violate "freedom of speech"? Thank you.
Sean M August 26, 2012 at 08:08 PM
Richard I was at the same workshop. The issue at hand was 7.5.10.I. Given that is the only regulation on political signs, removing them all means getting rid of that one. I did not take the conversation as you did. It is well worth further discussion. As for your questions, I think the best thing to do is bring them up at a public hearing, if they are not addressed before then. These are really good questions. I would appreciate sending in a letter and asking it be forwarded to the entire commission before the next meeting. I do not know what the other commissioners meant. I will definitely bring this up. Any sign that goes up, regardless of content, is a sign. The definition of political signs will stay, as the Commission discussed. Previous comments about being content neutral would apply if someone put up a light up sign on a political issue. I would assume that the Commission would enforce on 7.5.9. The town attorney stated that the Zoning Commission would have to be content neutral. This would mean that any light up sign is prohibited, no matter what was on it. There is the "substantial state interest" concept. If someone does something that impedes on another from using their property, government should act. A light up sign in a residential neighborhood could disturb as much as a concert late in the night, as the Shelton case covered.
tom arras August 27, 2012 at 12:06 AM
Yes Richard Times change & so do regulations. John Chamberlain at least found out about when the political sign reg. changed, but it remains a "whodunit". Martin said "the people" voted for it. This part of "the people" has no recollection of it, and Land Use couldn't find it! Did some slithery creature sneak it in? I really don't care. The Constitution trumps it, & you can go pound sand! Just why are you so obsessed with what I do on my property? And why didn't you complain when Martin exceeded the same political sign limits? And why not when others did it? I couldn't care less what you & your partner do up on the hill--why is what I do of such importance to you? Could it be because we simply disagree? Get used to it!!! Nice try to discredit Martha Dean, but really pretty lame. I note you apparently overstated your own credentials above a bit, as you're listed as not having been admitted to the bar 40 years ago as you claim. Tsk, tsk. Justice is supposed to be blind--not the lawyer! I'm just glad we've got Sean on the Zoning Commission. He does his homework so that he is familiar with what he is talking about. I wish they all did that. Don't you?
joe_m August 27, 2012 at 01:36 PM
I've posted this before: SEC. 4. Every citizen may freely speak, write and publish his sentiments on all subjects, being responsible for the abuse of that liberty. SEC. 5. No law shall ever be passed to curtail or restrain the liberty of speech or of the press. This is from our Constitution and a sign is "write and publish". Sec 5, "No Law" should need no explanation. So, why should there be a limit on political signs? Why is anyone sworn to uphold the Constitution of the State of Connecticut even contemplating a "law"?
Sean M August 27, 2012 at 03:26 PM
I suggest asking Martin Overton and Bob Clarke. They voted against removing the regulation in question. I would ask Overton more questions on why his rewrite of the regulations last year continued to include limitations on political signs and why these limits were larger than commercial signs, a direct violation of the November 2010 legal opinion from the town Attorney.
Richard C. Snider August 29, 2012 at 04:03 AM
Tom, Marina Daniels complained about the condition of your property. I only complained about the size of the political signs, which exceed the current zoning regulation. I don't care about what else you do on your property or to your property - just comply with the current political signs zoning regulations. I wasn't living here full time in 1996 when the zoning regulations were amended. Therefore, I cannot help you on that. Maybe we should both do some investigating to try to discover what really happened. Martha Dean's legal experience is as a litigator focusing on corporate law and then specializing in environmental law – and she is successful environmental law attorney. Martindale lists her area of legal expertise as environmental law. No cheap shot by me, just the facts. Doesn't mean she can't express her point of view on another area of the law. It just doesn't make her a "constitutional law expert". I graduated from law school in June, 1972; I took the bar exam in July, 1972; I passed the bar exam in 1972; started working for a New York law firm in September, 1972. In my comment above, I said that "my comments, regarding political signs, are based upon the numerous cases and articles which I have read over the past 40 years as an attorney." I never mentioned anything about "admitted to the bar". There you go again, Tom, doing what you do best – making false statements.
Sean M August 29, 2012 at 01:23 PM
Richard Always obey every regulation huh? Good thing you were not in the South in the 1960s and better yet Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus. Martha Dean has run for Atty General twice, which her qualifications are more than noted. This still does not change that the town attorney stated get rid of the sign restrictions, along with the ACLU. The Council of Governments put all kinds of complaints with the regulations. Not one source has said keep the size restrictions. I have read everything. Public officials cannot use their position to implement their agenda. That is fascism. Make the case as to why zoning should keep the regulations, with documentation. It is not a sufficient argument to say the town can regulate size. The opposition has made its case. You have not. As I have stated over and over again, send it and I will read it. I put an article documenting the sign stuff and have yet to see any response by you, George Hale, Bill Monti, or anyone else.
Voice of Reason August 29, 2012 at 03:17 PM
Richard Snider said: "I only complained about the size of the political signs, which exceed the current zoning regulation. I don't care about what else you do on your property or to your property - just comply with the current political signs zoning regulations." This is quite the bold statement by Mr. Snider. Is it just me or do others see this as an indication of a pathological want to control the Political Speech of Mr. Arras (and possibly others with opposing views)?


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