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Attorney took wrong strategy with P&Z

On April 10, Winsted’s Planning and Zoning Commission voted 3-2 to reject a special permit application by Community Health and Wellness of Greater Torrington to move its health center to 372 Main St., the current location of Winsted Super Saver IGA.

On April 18, in response to the decision, attorney Joseph Williams of Shipman & Goodwin, who represents the organization, sent a letter to Commission Chairman Craig Sanden and the town demanding that the commission reverse its decision.

In his letter, Williams alleged conflicts of interest with commission members George Closson and Barbara Wilkes, along with Alternate Lee Thomsen.

Thomsen sat with members of the board for both hearings on the special permit application and, during the second public hearing, Thomsen asked questions to organization representatives. However, Thomsen did not vote on the application.

In his letter, Williams claimed that Thomsen has a conflict of interest because of his personal relationship with Community Lawyer Charlene LaVoie, who spoke against the application during the first hearing.

Williams’ claim is off the mark. Any resident at any public hearing should always be more than welcome to speak out. Personal relationships should not factor into a decision like this, especially considering that Thomsen did not even vote in the commission’s decision.

Furthermore, Thomsen had every right to ask questions to representatives of the organization, as did other residents who attended both hearings.

During public comment at both hearings, employees of Community Health and Wellness spoke in favor of the application. Yet no one complained about a potential “conflict of interest” with the comments.

Williams went on to accuse both Closson and Wilkes of conflicts of interest due to their association with the Winsted Health Center.

The Winsted Health Center is located on 115 Spencer St. and is the current location for Community Health and Wellness in Winsted.

Wilkes previously served on the center’s board of directors and Closson currently serves on the board.

In Closson’s case, Williams wrote that “Closson must have known that his vote could financially benefit or harm Winsted Health Center, and therefore had a clear conflict of interest.”

Both Wilkes and Closson have been on the commission for several years.

Considering that they have many years of knowledge of planning and zoning decisions, rules and regulations, it is doubtful that they would be intentionally or unintentionally ignorant of any rule of law, including conflicts of interest.

Also, the special permit application did not specify or involve the Winsted Health Center location in any way.

Community Health and Wellness has signaled its intent to move out of the Winsted Health Center and it is doubtful that any Health Center representatives could, directly or indirectly, try to stop them from moving.

At press time, there has been no announcement made by Community Health and Wellness on whether or not they would sue the town over the commission’s decision.

A lawsuit would not be beneficial to the nonprofit organization or Winsted.

Instead of spending money on legal fees and attorneys, Community Health and Wellness should spend its funds where most needed: medical equipment and treatment to help its patients.

It would also take funds from the town, which is strapped for cash and still trying to figure out how to fulfill all of its municipal needs, including funding the education system, road infrastructure and funding equipment for both its fire and police forces.

If Community Health and Wellness wants to do what is best for the community, the best thing it can do is move on and find another location in Winsted.