Clinton businessman Jeff Cashman, who said he's tried everything to calmly resolve a lawsuit from the town over his farm on River Road, has counter-sued the town with his own lawsuit.
"It breaks my heart," he said. "I've always been about 'what can I do for the town I love,' but no one is helping me and no one will listen."
Cashman, owner for 25 years of Sprucey Hill Farm at 66 River Road, is insistent that since he bought the property, it had been approved as a farm.
The town, in their lawsuit to Cashman, said he is violating town regulations over the proper setback of an enclosure since his property is zoned R-80 (residential) and is not zoned as a farm.
Cashman said the alleged violations that the town says he's committing, via Zoning Enforcement Officer Thomas Lane, don't apply to his property because it is a farm.
"The Zoning Commission said I have a legal operation on River Road," said Cashman. "From the Tax Collector, Assessor, Finance Office, etc. they all have paperwork that says we are a farm. I have cancelled checks that prove it."
Cashman says he and his family were given a right to have a farm, and have had one for 25 years. Even if zoning regulations changed over the years, he would be "grandfathered" in.
"How do you go to a 25-year old operating farm and business and shut it down? When you cost me money and shut me down, I'm going to have to do something about it," he said.
Through his attorney David Crow of Orange, Connecticut, they filed a counter-claim in Superior Court in Middletown on Nov. 5.
Here are some points of the claim:
- The property has been classified by the Town of Clinton as farmland under Public Act #P.A. 63-490 since 1990 and is, therefore, a legally nonconforming use not subject to zoning laws passed after its classification.
- The designation as farm land was duly recorded on the land records of the Town of Clinton.
- Use of the farm predates the zoning regulations the town is trying to enforce.
- The zoning regulations the town seeks to enforce do not define enclosures.
The counter-suit also claims that the Cashman family has endured "emotional distress due to fear of losing their home and income."
They are asking for monetary damages, attorney's fees, a court order to cease the harassment, and other costs and fees. The amount in demand is more than $15,000.