The Mansfield Town Council passed an ordinance Monday night to ban fracking waste and its byproducts after nearly two months of discussion and deliberation.
The ordinance bans the storage, disposal and use of fracking waste or its byproducts in the town. It was presented to the council in September after local activist Gary Bent circulated a petition for its adoption. Monday’s meeting was the last opportunity for the council to vote on the ordinance before the town charter would require the proposal to go to public referendum.
Bent, the leader of Eastern Connecticut Green Action, said he thought the council did “a wonderful job” of reviewing the proposal before its passage.
“(They had to) make a few minor corrections – things that they couldn’t really control. We certainly understand that,” Bent said. “We thank the town council, and I’m very happy with the result.”
The council adopted the proposed ordinance on an 8-0 vote, with councilman Bill Ryan absent. The ordinance will go into effect 21 days after the full text of the ordinance is published in a newspaper with a general circulation in the town. The town has 10 days to publish the ordinance text.
Deputy mayor Paul Shapiro thanked Bent and the other members for bringing the issue to the town council’s attention. He said this was a great example of citizens taking initiative and the council working with them to accomplish the goal.
“Some of the best things that happen in town ... are citizen initiatives,” Shapiro told the members of Eastern Connecticut Green Action in attendance. “We owe you thanks.”
Members of the council approved several technical changes to the ordinance’s wording as outlined by town attorney Kevin Deneen before passing it. They also amended the ordinance to ensure the ordinance could not contradict any future state laws that might prevent the ban.
Paterson, Wassmundt reflect on final meeting
Mayor Betsy Paterson and councilwoman Betty Wassmundt are not seeking re-election, making Monday’s meeting their final on the town council.
Paterson has served on the town council since 1997 and became mayor in 1999. Wassmundt was elected in 2013, serving for one term.
“It actually has been a wonderful experience,” Paterson said. “I’ve learned a lot. I also became very active in the state organization, so I was able to interact with my colleagues from around the state and bring home ideas to Mansfield and share things we had done.”
Wassmundt said in a statement to council members she was proud “to be of service to the town” during the investigation of former Mansfield school superintendent Fred Baruzzi. She said her access to documents and resources helped to further the town’s efforts to uncover additional information. An audit conducted by Cohn Reznick found he had received nearly $11,000 more than he should have in mileage reimbursements between 2009 and 2014.
Paterson said she wished she could have done more to promote civility in the town, especially in recent years.
“Unfortunately, we’re in a time in our country’s history where civility doesn’t seem to be important,” Paterson said. “And it’s filtered down to the local level. I’m hoping that the next council maybe can pursue that and have respect for each other as well as town staff.”
Echo Road residents concerned about new student housing
Nearly a dozen residents who live on Echo Road in Mansfield Center attended Monday’s town council meeting to express concern about a residence being converted into a rental house for local college students living off campus.
Residents encouraged town council members to take action due to growing frustration with the town’s zoning agent. The residents allege the new rental house is in violation of town zoning laws, exceeding the limit of three students allowed in a single rental contract.
“It’s not the students that are the problem for us,” resident Jen Oliver said. “They probably don’t know what the law is in terms of number of students that can occupy a home, noise ordinances, parking ordinances. We don’t want to see people get ticketed. We don’t want to see people get evicted. What we want to see is people being good neighbors.”
Oliver and the other residents blamed the landlord for allegedly allowing more than three residents to live in the home. They also blamed the university for continuing to expand its student body without adequate housing for everyone admitted.
Almost all of the residents attended UConn within the last 30 years, and those that did not had family ties to past or present faculty. Bill Roe, one of the residents of addressed the council, is the son of the former dean of UConn’s School of Education.
Roe said residents on Echo Road were originally told “a nice family with a little child” would be moving into the neighborhood before finding out on Aug. 28 it was several college students. He said the town should issue a “cease and desist” notice to the landlord.