Our New Connecticut Office Address

As of March 29, 2012, our Connecticut office will have a new address:

Rogers & Tartaro, LLP

158 Danbury Road

Suite 8

Ridgefield, Connecticut 06877

 

Our telephone number, fax number and e-mail addresses remain unchanged.

 

This blog will continue to comment on topics of interest to the small business community. Thus, metaphorically this blog continues to be "On Main Street."

Ridgefield Chamber Event: Economist Seminar

As I’ve said before, I am not an economist but occasionally play one on this blog (though I’m always conscious of my amateur status in the field).

Imagine my pleasure, therefore, of attending the informal “seminar” conducted by a REAL economist, Nicholas Perna, at the Ridgefield Chamber’s “Rise & Shine” breakfast earlier this week. Dr. Perna was able to side-step ideology and talk “real” economics, not only in an understandable fashion, but also with humor.

Our law practice, like any small business, is directly impacted by key economic trends. We also have to manage our practice around those trends. For example, last year, there was a drop in real estate transactions, while there was an increase in employees contacting us to review severance agreements. In Big Law, outright layoffs and the rescinding of job offers to graduates were even better evidence.

So, in addition to being informative and entertaining, the Rise and Shine breakfast was directly on point. My thanks to Dr. Perna and the Chamber.
 

Ridgefield Playhouse Concert: Keb' Mo'

Our blog’s mission statement permits us to go off-topic occasionally for various and sundry purposes, including recognition of the cultural assets of the communities in which we practice and live.

There was a great concert last night by blues artist Keb’ Mo’ at the Ridgefield Playhouse. The show included an opening performance by special guest, Kristina Train. Keb’ Mo’s music is, in the words of the program notes, “a contemporary link to the seminal Delta blues tradition that traveled the Mississippi River and across the expanse of America.”

We’ve praised the virtues of the Playhouse before and hereby do so again, including the somewhat undervalued feature of being able to enjoy a top-quality performance -- and be home within minutes afterwards.
Artist Keb' Mo'

Supporting the Ridgefield Playhouse

I had the pleasure of attending the Boz Scaggs concert at the Ridgefield Playhouse  last week. The Director, Allison Stockel, did a great job running the preceding fund-raising auction, a show in itself. Unfortunately, I missed the Gala party which preceded both. But, in general, the evening’s program seemed to be very well attended and the ambiance, company and especially music all contributed to a very enjoyable evening.


This is not a strict “legal” blog and for a change of pace we do comment on other topics of interest and fun. This post is primarily in the “fun” category but it has a serious side.

The Danbury News Times reports that while the Gala was considered a success, the Playhouse is not out of the woods yet. It seems the town’s “gem” has been especially hurt by the challenging economy, and many people are not willing to pay the ticket prices demanded from the Playhouse. However, as Ms. Stockel stated to the News Times, the ticket price must cover the costs of the talent and operation of the facility.

I was surprised that there were negative comments posted after the News Times piece appeared last week. The opportunity to see a great show almost in my own back yard has no down-side to me. I believe the Playhouse provides great value, considering the top quality of the talent.  There are only 500 seats in the Playhouse, allowing for an intimate setting for music and culture. The acoustics are wonderful and simply put, there are no bad seats in the house.


Aside from the talent that is featured inside the Playhouse, the entity itself is a draw for the town. It is a well maintained venue that hosts diverse music and comedy acts and features for families.

Bev and I would like to congratulate Allison and her staff on a terrific evening.
 

The Ridgefield Playhouse

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Welcoming our New Neighbor, Books on the Common

Everyone loves a good story, and Books on the Common has plenty of them – including a nice one of their own.

Bev and I are avid readers and browsers - - we are not all law, all the time - - and we are going to enjoy the convenience of frequenting our new Main Street neighbor, Books on the Common.

The longtime Ridgefield bookseller recently relocated to Main Street after 25 years at their previous address at Copps Hill Common. The store has moved to historic 404 Main Street, into the space that belonged to Bedient’s Hardware for 100 years. According to the Ridgefield Press, owners Ellen Burns and Darwin Ellis are looking forward to many years in their new Main Street location.

As business owners ourselves, we applaud the efforts and success of Burns and Ellis. It takes a lot of hard work and knowledge to maintain an independent business in any situation, but in today’s economy it is especially challenging. In fact, some of the fixtures in the new store are from other local bookstores that did not fare as well.  According to the Press, Burns said the proprietors of those stores were happy to have a piece of their own history continue in another independent bookstore. 

We are pleased to call them our Main Street neighbors and wish them much success. 
 

The Federal Stimulus & The Local Grocer: ECON 101

The students at Barlow Mountain and Scotland Elementary Schools don’t use the water fountains – they drink bottled water.


This is not a personal choice, this is a necessity which stems from the fact that chloride levels in the school’s water supply exceed state health standards. Fortunately, however, Ridgefield is on the short list to receive federal stimulus money to cover more than half of $1.45 million North Street water main project.


Ridgefield’s Weir Farm is also benefiting from the federal stimulus funds. The park just received $457,000 in federal stimulus money to help complete three projects.


These stimulus items remind me of the “multiplier effect,” one of the fundamentals of macro-economics. The concept is that any money spent on stimulus has to circulate, and how often or how quickly it circulates (the “multiplier”) determines how effective it is in stimulating the economy.

 
For example, Ridgefield gets money and pays contractors for the waterworks. In turn, they hire employees or subcontractors. That help goes out and buys groceries. The grocer hires additional help. And so on.  Every time a dollar changes hands in an economic transaction, it adds to our "Gross Domestic Product," the measure of our domestic economy.


Reasonable minds can and do differ about what kinds of spending have better multipliers or whether tax cuts are a better multiplier than outright spending. The bottom line for any small business is that the process of circulation takes time, so we have to accept that the changes to our practice or business will also take time.
 

Summer in a Small Town

This blog often reports on the issues that transpire within small towns. Every once in a while, events happen in towns like ours that make you forget the conflicts and appreciate the value of living here. In Ridgefield, that would be our Family Fourth and Sale-a-bration — two of the best and most beloved free events in town.


As Mack Reid of the Ridgefield Press put it, the Sale-a-bration was “an opportunity for shoppers and strollers to reconnect with that smaller-town Ridgefield of the older, simpler days.” Over 30 vendors and non-profit organizations put out their wares and interacted with locals and visitors.


And each year on July 4, more than 4,000 people gather on the fields of Ridgefield High School to share food, friendship and fireworks. Sponsored by Ridgefield Bank and Carnall Insurance, the sight of neighbors and local vendors sharing snacks and smiles with one another truly incites feelings of community, which one doesn’t often see in the pattern of everyday living. The businesses present at the celebration, such as Ancona’s Market and Chez Lenard, have been staples in the town for years, and their owners often greeted many customers by name.


Participating in and/or sponsoring local events is perhaps one of the most astute, yet simple, business practices any company can employ. There is much to be said for the public appreciation for the businesses that provide the entertainment and joy that illuminates the faces of young and old alike.
 

When MYOB becomes NIMBY

There’s been a lot of chatter around Ridgefield lately regarding the possibility of “light and blight” ordinances. The sides of the issue seem to be split between those who believe that the government has no right to interfere with one’s private property, and those who argue that neighbors are obliged to keep their residences and outdoor lighting in respectable condition.


The catalyst for the potential blight law seems to derive from two recent cases. One involves recent reports of property owners who were ordered to serve 100 hours of community service for violation of zoning and health codes. The second case involves a reported dispute between neighbors over whether one intentionally points lights directly into the windows of the other.


According to the Ridgefield Press, Ridgefield Selectwoman Di Masters says a blight ordinance could be a trigger to get people the help they need if they are struggling to maintain their property. Also according to the Press, Town Selectman Rudy Marconi, after receiving numerous calls from residents, said the town “may need to consider a blight ordinance with very strict, specific language that would stop a homeowner from bringing down the property value of other homes.”


A Ridgefield Press editorial suggests these provocative issues, which presumably face every town, are no more than heated disputes between neighbors and can be resolved with existing legal remedies. Since this is not a political blog, we do not take positions on pending legislation. We can comment, however, on the neighborly dispute aspect - - what remedies are there for neighbors involved in disputes of this general type?


First, there is a specific statute in Connecticut which permits a land owner to sue the owner of adjacent property who “maliciously” erects a structure to annoy or injure. This statute, obviously, may apply to some types of annoyances but not to others - - for example, a vicious dog is not a structure.


Then, there is the law of private nuisance which also permits a landowner to sue a neighbor and may, in some circumstances, take into account a decline in property value when calculating damages. Despite the frequent appearance of private nuisance actions in court, the law does not uniformly describe the elements of a “nuisance.” Furthermore, the law is not one-sided. Consideration must be given to the rights of both parties in the dispute. The law recognizes that in modern society some level of neighborly “interference” is inherent.


Of course, before resorting to private lawsuits, neighbors will want to take into account the expense  of private litigation, not to mention the lingering animosity that often results. Town legislators will generally consider whether or not the public interest is involved, in which case they may determine that private remedies are not enough and government enforcement powers must be invoked.
 

I’m sure this is a discussion that will be around for some time.

 

Image: From Wikimedia Commons: The Hatfeld Clan of the Hatfield-McCoy Feud; taken in 1897.

 

 


 

Use It, Move It, or Lose It: Protecting Your Property Line

The Ridgefield Press recently reported about the Land Conservancy of Ridgefield’s new “Good Neighbor” policy. In general, the program asks neighbors who abut preserved lands to keep track of encroachments, such as dumping leaves or paving driveways. Encroachments hinder the Conservancy’s mission to keep land in its natural state.

This gives me the opportunity to discuss one of my favorite topics, adverse possession.

Many of our clients have mistakenly believed that adverse possession is an ancient and arcane concept, when in fact it comes up all the time, both in Connecticut and New York. Town governments using land for governmental purposes are basically immune but private landowners are not. For private landowners, encroachments could mean the risk of losing part of their land through adverse possession. Over time, 15 years in Connecticut (10 in New York), encroachments can ripen into ownership rights and the original private landowner can lose a portion (or all) of his land.   

All landowners should take a tip from the Conservancy and follow their own good neighbor policy: be aware of property lines, observe any encroachments, and deal with them appropriately but promptly.

We would like to express our thanks to the Conservancy for performing an important, valuable and essential service. We all benefit from the preservation of land in its natural state.

Need more information about adverse possession? Click here:

 Image: Pierrepont Pond, Ridgefield, CT..

 

A New Lease on (Your Business) Life

According to a recent  Wall Street Journal blog, vacancy rates at malls and shopping centers in the top U.S. markets have climbed to their highest rates of this decade: 7.9% for malls and 9.5% for smaller, open-air shopping centers.


In today’s challenging economy, many struggling retailers – and residents – are approaching their landlords and asking for financial assistance or a reduction in their monthly rental payments. This practice, once considered a drastic measure, has actually become very commonplace.


Contrary to appearances, the parties are not on opposing sides. Both have the same goal: to keep the renter in business so he can continue to pay the rent. Facing a potentially long recession, it benefits both parties to come to an understanding in these situations.


Retail vacancies are on the rise, even in our own town of Ridgefield. If landlords and tenants come to an agreement, the lessee can continue to run his business, and the landlord continues to have a paying tenant. Of course, the terms of the negotiations should be agreed upon beforehand and clearly spelled out. It is also beneficial to have an attorney present to mediate or help resolve any potential conflicts.


Retail property owners that consent to abatement are putting their own financial future at risk. They also need to thoroughly analyze which of their tenants is deserving of the break; in other words, who is likely to succeed?


Tenants and renters cannot take a “hardball” approach to the situation, despite its frequency in these economic times. They should be willing to make concessions, put limits on the agreements and fully cooperate with the landlord. 

Image: New co-working reception area, Executive Pavilion, Ridgefield