WALLINGFORD — First-term Republican Councilor Christopher Shortell has requested an item be placed on the Ordinance Committee’s August agenda addressing the distribution of free newspapers on residential properties, which he believes is an annoyance and potentially a safety issue. Others wonder if the council has the authority to prohibit the free handouts.
Shortell said he asked that the item be placed on the agenda for discussion purposes and to get an opinion from the town’s legal department.
“In recent years, we’re in the digital age but it feels like the newspapers are proliferating. There’s a different one on my driveway every day,” Shortell said.
He said he takes issue with the unsightly appearance of having newspapers thrown on his lawn rain or shine, and also sees it as a potential safety violation as several days of worth of newspapers can indicate a home is vacant to potential burglars.
“It’s a red flag,” Shortell said. “It’s telling everyone there’s nobody there.”
Ordinance Committee Chairman Republican Councilor Craig Fishbein said he does not have an opinion on the topic either way, but is open to discussing it.
“I do get disturbed when people throw things in my driveway unnecessarily, but I don’t know that it’s government’s place to monitor that and also who is going to enforce it?” Fishbein said.
The issue may be out of the committee’s purview, according to Republican Town Council Chairman Vincent Cervoni.
“It would be nice to eliminate some of the stuff that I throw in recycling every week but at the same time I’m not sure what our ability is to limit that stuff because that’s part of the town’s right of way,” Cervoni said. “Arguably if not town property, then subject to the town’s right of way so if it’s then considered public land I’m not sure what our ability is to limit that.”
Town Planner Kacie Costello confirmed most properties in town under current zoning have a 10-foot right of way.
“Typically, the requirement is a 30-foot wide road and another 10 feet of right of way on each side,” Costello said. “It usually encompasses the sidewalk and other public improvements that transition between the road and the private property.”
Fishbein questioned if the right of way impacted the legality of the distributions.
“If the town has a right of way on a particular property I think it would only be for highway purposes and that’s for expansion of a roadway that abuts the property. An easement would not extend to allow for littering so to speak,” Fishbein said. “I suppose if the newspaper is left there by someone that was not invited by the property owner or the town that would in effect be a trespass.”
Democratic Town Councilor Jason Zandri described the issue as “an ongoing problem for a number of years,” citing safety issues stemming from newspapers and pamphlets collecting and also the frustration of being unable to stop the delivery of such papers because the delivery routes are not the same as regular subscription routes and are rather blindly distributed to every property in the area.
While glad the Ordinance Committee would be addressing it, Zandri was not sure if immediate action was necessary.
“I really hope it doesn’t come to a vote,” Zandri said. “With the discussion and not any action we can bring it to the attention of everyone. I don’t want to discourage anyone from printing their own home spun booklet or stop businesses from doing promotional efforts to try and increase circulation, but I think some additional awareness is needed and when somebody calls that the delivery has to be adjusted.”
The Ordinance Committee will meet Aug. 4 at 6:30 p.m. to discuss the proposal.
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