Cashman Counter-Sues Town For Continued Right To Farm

"Twenty-five years ago we were given a right to have a farm and now those rights are being denied."


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.

Concerned Citizen November 20, 2012 at 01:55 PM
Why is it that the town looks the other way or supports the "bending"' of zoning laws when it comes to supporters of the current administration, such as Ms. Pinder and Mr. Watts, and at the same time harrasses people such as Mr. Cashman, who is a vocal critic of the current administration? Petty local politics at their worst! I hope everyone who is disturbed by this visits Mr. Cashman's store and makes a donation to his legal fund, and remembers to VOTE in November of 2013!
judi November 20, 2012 at 02:18 PM
I wish you luck with your counter suit, I only wonder why you did not get a lawyer a more high-profile lawyer to support and defend you?
Celeste Kelsey November 20, 2012 at 02:33 PM
This sounds personal...too bad. Discredits town officials who have much more pressing issues on their agenda...or should. Use my taxes in a more meaningful way, Please!
Maricela Lee November 20, 2012 at 02:59 PM
Good Luck Cashman! You deserve more respect than this.
Phil Sengle November 20, 2012 at 03:32 PM
I think the town has more important issues to address. Some of the issues the town ignores are economic development, rising taxes, an estimated $55M waste water pollution solution, contamination of the new H.S. property and blighted properties all over town. Badgering Mr. Cashman is a waste of town (our) resources. The Cashman's have every right to protect their interests. Too bad it costs so much money and effort to do so.
Josh November 20, 2012 at 04:16 PM
Connecticut General Statutes, Section 19a-341 (Farming) not deemed a nuisance. Exceptions. (a) Notwithstanding (regulations) pertaining to nuisances to the contrary, no (farm) shall be deemed to constitute a nuisance, either public or private, due to alleged objectionable (1) odor from livestock, manure, fertilizer or feed, (2) noise from livestock or farm equipment used in normal, generally acceptable farming procedures, (3) dust created during plowing or cultivation operations, (4) use of chemicals, provided such chemicals and the method of their application conform to practices approved by the commissioner of environmental protection or, where applicable, the commissioner of public health and addiction services, or (5) water pollution from livestock or crop production activities, except the polution of public or private drinking water supplies, provided such activities conform to acceptable management practices for pollution control approved by the commissioner of environmental protection; provided such agricultural or farming operation, place, establishment or facility has been in operation for one year or more and has not been substantially changed, and such operation follows generally accepted agricultural practices. Inspection and approval of the agricultural or farming operation, place, establishment or facility by the commissioner of agriculture or his designee shall be prima facie evidence that such operation follows generally accepted agricultural practices.
Kate Griffith November 20, 2012 at 05:19 PM
From making him cut down the beautiful sunflowers to harassment from town officials. Farming is a wonderful thing and a way of life for them and others....Unbelievable!! Hope you win Cashman's. You and your family have always treated everyone with respect, too bad you are not receiving the same from the very town you support.
Bruce Farmer November 20, 2012 at 08:20 PM
It is my understanding and it should be noted that even a number of Ct. State agencies have informed Cashman that he is NOT in violation of their regs. In my opinion,the Town of Clinton will most likely loose in court and how much will this cost the taxpayers. Don't we have more important issues to tackle ? important issues to tackle in Town ?
Yankee in the south November 20, 2012 at 10:02 PM
Jeff and his family are supported from my family even as we are now living in the south. Its VERY sad that the town is acting so brutish toward a good man and small business owner. The town should be in support of Jeff. When I came home over the summer it was very disheartening to see all the empty buildings along route one.
Beth Smith November 20, 2012 at 10:56 PM
I miss the sunflowers! :( You have our support, Jeff. I'm so sorry this is happening!
VIN CIMINO November 20, 2012 at 11:45 PM
The Planning & Zoning Commission in Clinton is a farce and an embarassment! How could they approve the transfer of valuable commercial town land to a member's brother and then sue Mr. Cashman in an attempt to cease his long-standing business? The two members who were found to have committed ethics violations regarding the Watts land giveaway continue to refuse to step down. The chairman went on record as saying that they shouldn't. It seems we're stuck with all these individuals until the next election. In the meantime, good people like Mr. Cashman must defend themselves against their own corrupt town government to protect their property and their livelihood. Through the years, Mr. Cashman has supported every community effort very generously. The next time you pass the Post Office, notice the restored streetlamps. That was also courtesy of Mr. Cashman. Is it any wonder that businesses are leaving this town? Is it hard to understand why no one wants to relocate to Clinton? Ever-increasing taxes, irresponsible spending, corruption, harassment.... Mr. Cashman, I'm so sorry that you and your family have to go through this. It's sinful. I admire your courage and perseverance and I pray that, in the end, you will be vindicated and compensated for everything they've done to you and your family.
Ken Johnson November 20, 2012 at 11:45 PM
I grew up in Clinton in the '50s and '60s, Morgan class of '71.Debbie and I moved here after having lived in many towns in CT and VA. Never have I seen such profligate waste of tax revenues as I have in the few short months I have been back. How much of our money is this current administration prepared to squander? How much time will our elected and non-elected representatives waste on frivolous and personal agendas. How much longer shall we endure the selective enforcement of our charter and statutes? Unless the Cashmans have suddenly become a public nuisance, this case should be dismissed and a public apology offered not only to the Cashmans but also to us, the taxpayers. Let us chose wisely next November!
joan November 21, 2012 at 12:16 AM
I have lived in Clinton most of my life, way back when, we could have farm animals and do almost within reason, what we wanted to, on our property, after all, we do pay the taxes. However, we now have people that seem to want everything changed to their liking. I said it before and I'LL say it again, IT'S WHO YOU ARE, AND WHO YOU KNOW, in this town lately, only a certain few can break the laws.
John Wayne November 21, 2012 at 01:15 AM
Wow! Isn't Mr. Cashman the man that for years donated the farm tractor and trailer for hayrides during Christmas in Clinton? Was that "hay" on the trailer used in the "hayride"? Is hay found on a farm? Is a tractor found on a farm? Is a farmer allowed to grow his business along with his product? Is a farmer allowed to make money? Have you ever been to a farm that gave product away free...or are they a business hoping to be profitable? Does anyone remember, before the Christmas holiday's, taking their family to Sprucey Hill Farm for the hot cider, homemade soups and chili's, farm animals, (goats, sheep, horse, etc) barn gift shop, and picking out the perfect Christmas tree? They even took a picture of your family and saved it for your return the next year!! A bit of olde fashioned, wholesome fun. Aren't there more relevant issues for the town and the ZEO to be working on??
joan November 21, 2012 at 01:47 AM
Apparently not. This town is driving all the businesses and the people in it ,who have worked their butts off, to make this town a decent place to live. OUT. Hey, like our selectman said at one of the town meetings, "so, we have lots of lawsuits". I guess, what's one more.
Hannah Bissell November 21, 2012 at 02:01 AM
Interesting observation: Every single comment here is a show of support. Usually we see at least some division within these comment areas but for this one, the members here seem to agree: Leave the Cashman's Farm Alone!
debbie sommo November 21, 2012 at 05:52 AM
I really hope cashman wins. He s done so much for the town and such a nice friendly guy with a great small welcome business in town.Do we really want to push another business out or maybe the town thinks we need oh maybe a pawn shop to go with that lovely gold and silver store on rt 1 thats a real nice welcoming site to see when you come into town.Leave him alone and get on to real business.
Jay November 21, 2012 at 03:40 PM
Why is there no comment or explanation from the Land Use department and Chairman who started all this?
Yankee in the south November 21, 2012 at 04:05 PM
the problems is that we are and have been moving to a socialistic world view where the people keep giving more control to the goverment by electing those who want to see the goverment rise and the people fall. “When the people fear the government, that's tyranny; when the government fears the people, that's freedom.” T.Jefferson. We are living in a time of TYRANNY from small towns to the BIG Town on the hill
Fay Abrahamsson (Editor) November 21, 2012 at 04:47 PM
Clinton Zoning Enforcement Officer Tom Lane's comments are in the first article which is referenced in this article: http://patch.com/A-xHkg
CP November 21, 2012 at 06:32 PM
If Kristin and Matt have no problem and they live next door then it appears it is not a nuisance. Case closed.
Bruce Farmer November 21, 2012 at 09:41 PM
I repeat my previous statement - It is my understanding that the State of Ct. has said that Mr.Cashman is NOT in violation of any of their regs. I hope Mr.Cashman wins.
John Wayne November 22, 2012 at 02:20 PM
"Well, let me tell ya pilgrims..." (nice pun for today). Clinton Eastwood & I remember running cows down River Rd. & folks simply put fences up to keep animals off their property. You can't ride a horse and steer a herd of cows at the same time!! That's why CT. state statute 47-43 was designed. For example: Stockade fences are to have the good, smooth side facing the neighbor or road. Pickets and slats are on the outside so animal hooves to not destroy the fence and therefore the neighbors property. This allows the animals to pass through on the "trail" and until they get to market. We didn't have fancy trucks and trailers for transportation like today. Fences are allowed on the property line by law in Ct. Farmers and homeowners are even protected by local statutes as well (3.20.10). NO law or zoning regulation states that animals have set backs, only their housing or structure!! Somebody should read the zoning regs. as they are written!! NO zoning regulation can overpower a state law that is pre-existing!!
John Wayne November 22, 2012 at 02:35 PM
The interpretation of any zoning regulation does NOT belong to one man, but a group of people. These decisions are to be made in the public eye. This ensures that one man (ZEO) does not have full control with no accountability. Commission members & the ZEO have to be careful not to break their own regulations. (section 1.1.3 or 3.1) According to Clinton zoning regulations the commission members as well as, the ZEO are subject to civil penalties or other actions. (section 8-12) Clint Eastwood & John Wayne are movie stars. They never lost in the many epic films they made. Looks like this one will also go down in history as an epic drama! Buy your tickets now!!
cheryl white November 22, 2012 at 04:20 PM
Good Luck Cashmans I and my family support you!! I think we need to clean house at The Town Hall come Nov 2013 !!
joan November 24, 2012 at 08:27 PM
AMEN, to cleaning house Nov. 2013
John Wayne November 25, 2012 at 01:36 AM
Guess what I just found out!?! I did some digging and came up with the following information: The zoning commission & regulations began in 1965. Section 2.1 of these regulations states that if no building or structure is to be established, no permit is required & no certificate of zoning compliance is needed. This regulation has been on Clinton's zoning books from 1965 - 2011, for 46 years! Does this mean that the ZEO, land use technician, secretary, & commission members weren't aware of this ? In 2012 a change was made in this reg. that would not affect Cashman since he would have been grandfathered in from previous years. I have to wonder... did the involved parties mentioned above recognize the regulation at the time it was changed? According to public records the barn was built by the previous owner, Audrel Dotson. According to the above mentioned Section 2.1 the property was a farm upon completion of the barn. Animals were known to be kept on the property prior to the Cashman's purchase, which some of the current neighbors might even remember. This would mean that Cashman bought a farm when he purchased the 3+ acres. In addition to this, according to public record (Vol.179 / Pg. 332), seven months after purchasing the property Cashman formally registered a new business, Sprucey Hill Nursery Farm with the Town of Clinton. It seems pretty obvious that Cashman IS a farm. I wish Mr. Cashman good luck...us farmers need to stick together!
Stephanie Kinsley Patterson November 26, 2012 at 10:10 PM
It's a shame the Cashman's have been placed in such a difficult position by the town. And I suppose it also speaks to the question of when the town will begin to pick up storm debris left on the side of the every road in my neighborhood. It suggests that the stuff will stay there a long long time because taking it to Cashman's farm to be processed is NOT an option anymore!
Ray Denison December 10, 2012 at 12:50 PM
Jeff Cashman for First Selectman
Art Kuever December 10, 2012 at 06:38 PM
I lived next the Hoppy's (real name Audrel Dotson) son(Tildon) up the road from this residence on Oscela Trail. I also played every outdoor sport on the lawn that used to be there back in the day, so I spent alot of time on that property. There was always, rabbits and other animals around along with a large garden where the cows are now being kept and that fence line is exactly where it is now back then. I remember when that barn was built, to me this was always a farm so all of this seems unwarranted. This is a waste of time and money. Move on.


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