Anonymous mailers raise questions in zoning case

A series of anonymous mailers sent to an unknown number of Trumbull residents has thrown a twist into a proposed zoning change on Route 111. The proposed change, from commercial to light industrial, is a necessary step in the process for a planned 350-unit senior housing complex at the site of the former UnitedHealth building at 48 Monroe Tpke. The housing proposal would include a mix of independent living apartments and assisted living and memory care units.

In recent days, the application has taken a turn from traffic studies and financial impact discussions and become decidedly more political, as the mailers and a phone call campaign took aim at the proposal and First Selectman Vicki Tesoro.

“It’s an interesting way to put forward a position,” Tesoro said Thursday. “It’s pretty obvious someone out there is against it, and they don’t want to come out and say who they are.”

While the mailers do not indicate who sent them, their timing, coming just days before former First Selectman Timothy Herbst emerged as a legal representative for some nearby condominium owners opposing the zone change, raised some Democratic eyebrows. The Trumbull Democratic Town Committee noted Herbst’s involvement on its Twitter page, but stopped short of naming him the sender:

“While we are not thrilled for Trumbull that Tim Herbst has re-emerged on the local political scene (big step backward), watching him slogging through a zoning issue sure beats him getting ready to be sworn in as our next Governor. Our state is far better off.”

For his part, Herbst said he did not know who had sent the mailers.

“I received it in the mail just like everyone else,” he said.

Asked what he thought of the mailer’s content, he shrugged off the suggestion that it amounted to a political attack ad.

“As a former first selectman myself, I can certainly relate to having this kind of thing sent out,” he said.

The mailers in question accuses Tesoro of reneging on a campaign promise to protect Trumbull’s character, declaring that “Vicki Tesoro and her allies are allowing developers to run amok in Trumbull” and asserting that the proposed development would burden emergency services and overcrowd the school system, resulting in massive property tax increases. The mailers also claimed that traffic on Route 111 was dangerous and certain to get worse, leading to diminished property values in town, and included the warning “Your neighborhood may be next.” Recipients were urged to call or email Tesoro and “tell her Trumbull is not for sale.”

Tesoro called the claims “despicable” and a transparent attempt to rile up community members.

“Obviously they were full of inaccurate and dishonest information,” she said. For example, the proposal is for age-restricted housing for residents 55 and older.

“That would have no impact on the schools whatsoever,” she said.

The warnings about traffic conditions were similarly baseless, she said.

““When UnitedHealth was there, all the employees were coming and leaving at the same time. Even at full capacity, we expect that the traffic will be much less than it was.”

The Planning & Zoning Commission conducted a public hearing on the proposed zone change Dec. 19, and could vote on approval at its Jan. 2 meeting.