Ex-first selectman candidate accuses Darien blight officer of trespassing
The battle between Darien resident and former first selectman candidate Chris Noe and Darien’s Blight Committee continues into another year this month.
This week, Noe accused Blight Officer Robert Sollitto of trespassing on his property after he sent photos of its current conditions.
On Jan. 8, Noe sent an angry email to Blight Officer Robert Sollitto, which was copied to The Darien Times. In it, he addressed Sollitto as “Hey loser.”
“I never received the original pictures you said you would send,” he wrote. Noe continued that he had received seven emails of images and Sollitto’s description and “assumptions.”
“Many of these images show you were on my property to take these pictures,” Noe wrote. He continued by telling Sollitto to stay off his property, using an expletive, and also used an expletive to describe Sollitto’s physical appearance.
“You climbed the steep embankment in front of my house to hang over the wall and take pictures,” he wrote.
“I will repeat myself again. I have never received the original pictures you said you would send. Do your job you loser,” he said.
Following the email to Sollitto, Noe emailed Darien Police Chief Donald Anderson. In the email, Noe explained that a woman had called him to tell him she saw someone on Noe’s property. After describing the person, Noe said the woman confirmed it was Sollitto and said she observed him on his property. Noe also said the pictures he received were “clearly showing he was on my property from where the pictures were taken. He does not have authority to be on my property.”
“He also climbed the steep embankment in front of my house which is town land. It flattens and becomes mine. He clearly hung over the stone wall taking pictures on all angles. I want this guy arrested,” Noe said.
“Will your department look into this. Last time with the police lawn job you sided with your officer. There are probably many more pictures of this town employees' location. Will your department look into this or do I need to call the state police,” Noe wrote.
Decision on citation
At an October 2019 Blight Review Board meeting, the board discussed that Noe had placed covers over the problem areas and said he felt this made him in compliance with the blight ordinance. The blight officer told the board he confirmed that the blight issues still continue. The board unanimously voted to issue Noe a citation delivered by the sheriff, saying he was past the period in which he could complete the work required to remediate the blight.
At that time, Noe told The Darien Times via email that the Blight Review Board’s “claims are unfounded.”
“Claims of dirt piles, construction debris, sticks have never existed. They exist at another location across from Andrews Drive. I believe their photos may have been miss filed. In the complaint it says “see photos,” photos have never been attached. I received a formal letter in February stating- screen, cover and remove. I did all three. I was given a deadline and had it done 10 days prior. I notified the blight officer for his inspection and waited for his response. He works two days a week, three hours on blight,” Noe said.
“My entire property is under construction to remediate their issues and others more time sensitive. I now have ZBA approval to repair the fire damage to the back of the house dating back to 2006,” Noe said.
Noe appeared before the blight board several times throughout 2019 to discuss and defend his property against their blight findings.
At the February 2019 meeting, when asked if the concerns were fair, Noe agreed he had “stuff on the property” but said it was always under construction. Noe was also asked if he still had the “motorcycle hanging down.”
Noe replied that he had taken the motorcycle off the side of his house for a year, but had put it back up after returning to “this blight ordinance” — upside down, “adorned with Christmas lights.”
Blight Review Board reaction
Though an official Blight Review Board Meeting did not happen the evening the email was received, because of a lack of quorum, the Darien TV79 video shows a brief discussion of what appears to be the email Sollitto received. The Noe case is never specifically referred to, however.
During the discussion, Sollitto asks Darien’s Town Counsel, Wayne Fox, to look at the “last page” of the file in front of them. Fox and the attending members quietly read the page.
“I received that today,” Sollitto said.
One member referenced that the email seemed “kinda threatening.” Town attorney Wayne Fox mentioned should the blight officer need to revisit the property in question, he may want to set up a procedure with a police officer.
Fine is over $10,000
In August, Noe received a citation notice that he shared with The Darien Times saying that he would be subject to a daily fine of $100 that had begun on July 26, 2019 and would continue until the blight conditions they had cited continued.
Examples in the notice included “Persistent and excessive amounts of garbage, trash or construction debris,” “Inoperative or unregistered motor vehicles,” and “unsightly or excessive amounts of debris, fallen tress, refuse or excavated material.”
A November citation was issued to Noe for the total of $10,500 in fines. It is unclear whether the $100 a day has continued since.
Blight officer refutes accusations
On the same day he received Noe’s email, Sollitto responded, refuting that he had stepped foot on Noe’s property.
“I cannot stop you from attempting to seek charges against me for trespassing, however, I never laid a foot on your property, the line of which is the stone wall that boarders the south border. Every image was taken from the public right-of-way, and any attempt by you to prove otherwise will be fruitless,” Sollitto wrote.
“I am considering slander and defamation of character charges against you. I am meeting with the town attorney this evening. Thank you for the email, which will live in perpetuity,” Sollitto wrote.
Chief Anderson told The Darien Times, in response to Noe’s email, “the department will look into these allegations further but, based on the information in the email and attachments, I simply don’t foresee that any arrest would be forthcoming at this juncture.”
Sollitto did not respond to request for comment or whether he will pursue slander charges.
Noe ran unsuccessfully for first selectman for the sixth time in November.
According to the ordinance, which took effect as of Jan. 1, 2017, an instance of blight is defined as “residential real property, including any building or structure located thereon, which is and continues to be in a state of disrepair or is becoming dilapidated.”
A set of criteria — which lists defining characteristics of blight, including broken or boarded up windows, collapsing walls or roof, or significant fire or water damage — are listed in the ordinance. A property must be found to have at least two of the defining characteristics of blight to be considered blighted.
During the drafting of the ordinance, it was estimated that there were between 20 and 25 homes in town that matched the description of blight. Read more about the ordinance here.
The purpose of the blight board, as defined by the town, is to define, regulate, prohibit and abate housing blight in order to protect, preserve, and promote public health, safety and welfare; and to maintain and preserve the beauty of neighborhoods and the general appearance of the Town. It is made up of five members, and Robert Sollitto is the Blight Prevention Officer.