Opinion: A breach of trust in Trumbull

Exterior of Trumbull Town Hall, in Trumbull, Conn. Aug. 24, 2017.

Exterior of Trumbull Town Hall, in Trumbull, Conn. Aug. 24, 2017.

Ned Gerard / Hearst Connecticut Media

Conflict of interests are a major issue in the controversial development aspirations of Matt Reale, a locally elected zoning official. Many people are concerned where these conflicts could lead and what other problems could develop from this. Unfortunately, it’s gotten worse. What we are seeing now is a deeper dive into town ethics code violations with a clear breach of the public trust. Preferential treatment and unfair advantage have been given to Reale’s Moorefield Farms development group by town staff and commissioners.

At issue now is the circumvention of Wetlands Commission review and approvals with regard to the interpretation of the ARHZ regulations (60-plus age restricted). In proceedings and public hearings earlier, their site plan was found to have many serious issues.

On Jan. 30 of this year, the town engineer’s office sent Reale’s group a notice to pay $16,000 that the commission commission ordered for a third party evaluation. Why is the town now ignoring the second recent third party report from residents paid for in late August that states this site and construction plan should go before wetlands? Follow the money and the insiders. Reale’s plans contain so many problems, errors and omissions that it cannot hold up to the scrutiny of Wetlands Commission that should be in place to protect the environment and town residents. He apparently wants to circumvent proper oversight. Our own town engineer stated at the Feb. 5 wetlands public hearing that this whole process/plan needed to be vetted by a third party.

The P&Z meeting on Aug. 21 could be best described as a sham and a farce with a rushed closing of the public comment, thereby silencing residents.

The fact is that their “new” site plan cannot be built without impinging on the 100-foot wetlands restricted area is clear. Their plans have shown this. They clearly are using their connections to town hall to avoid proper oversight. Any other developer or town resident would have to go before wetlands. An average homeowner in Trumbull couldn’t build a shed on a property and on top of a sensitive watercourse like this without getting the Wetlands Commission involved.

The public has been misled, ducked and avoided, which has led to the staged “public hearing.” Why can’t town staff return calls? Why can’t they defend the bending of the regulations to benefit the density calculations in this site plan? It is clear that they are solely serving and acquiescing to Reale’s group while ignoring resident’s contentions and concerns.

Of note, we have a Public Works department that oversees engineering and parks. We have the town planner and P&Z deferring to this department while ignoring the findings from third party engineering experts that were funded solely by concerned town residents. We also have two parks commissioners that will financially benefit by the approval of this P&Z application. By taking proper wetlands oversight away, these individuals are paid faster and receive more funds than if things were done correctly and fairly.

When the issues are addressed with town staff, residents are told to take the town to court if you do not agree with them. What does that tell the public when an elected official is blatantly given preferential treatment and special considerations?

Do our town leaders think taxpayers should pay thousands of dollars for expert third party reports to have them ignored? Why is Matt Reale given a pass on non-compliance of town commission orders? It is clear he is attempting to use his position in the P&Z department for his personal financial benefit to the detriment of residents’ rights. This is a clear breach of the public trust. We demand answers from town leadership and commissions to stop this egregious breach of the public trust from happening in Trumbull.

Larry Barkman & Catherine Fair

Bob & Sarah Lally

Paul & Laurie Panettiere

Mark & Mary Ellen Pelley

Bob & Beth Schrader

Matt & Jill Seres