A City Council member has failed to respond to a cease-and-desist letter he received for allegedly illegally dumping refuse on designated wetlands located on city-owned property.
A copy of the cease-and-desist letter shows officials on the Environmental Impact Commission, in coordination with the city’s health department, sent their order to City Council member Michael Halas on Oct. 6, ordering him to clean up materials he is accused of dumping on city property located on Barnum Road in violation of the city’s Inland Wetlands & Watercourses Regulations.
“You are hereby ordered to correct this condition by submitting an environmental restoration plan, prepared by a qualified professional engineer, which will remediate the loss of wetlands on the subject property,” the cease-and-desist letter states.
“The restoration plan shall be submitted to the Environmental Impact Commission no later than October 26, 2022 along with a timetable for executing this corrective work,” adds the letter. “Failure to meet these conditions may result in litigative action against you and your property.”
Halas, a Republican who was appointed to a City Council seat in 2009 and later left the council before being reelected in 2021 , operates the Halas Farm Market, a fourth generation family owned business located on Pembroke Road, according to the farm stand’s website.
Property owned by the farm abuts a lot owned by the city of Danbury to the west, where separate sewer and water lines are laid, according to city tax assessor records. On the opposite side of Pembroke Road, farm land stretches to the east toward the federal prison.
Halas did not respond to requests for comment on the matter. He also did not appear at the Environmental Impact Commission’s Wednesday night meeting; nor has he submitted any restoration plan as required under city regulations outlined in the cease-and-desist letter, according to the commission’s chair Bernard Gallo.
Gallo said he understood the issue has been “ongoing” but the body only recently became aware of the situation, which he said involves the dumping of shrubs, old pumpkins, and other items “that go bad on his farmstand.”
“Several people have spoken about it, and for whatever reason, he hasn’t cleaned it up,” Gallo said Wednesday night.
“It is damaging the watershed, you just can’t do that, that is wetlands in there so whatever is growing he is obviously killing because he is covering it up with debris,” he added.
Photos taken in April of this year and reviewed by a reporter show heaps of cut pine tree branches, tree trimmings, and other yard refuse dumped on the city-owned lot.
Mayor Dean Esposito affirmed the commission’s responsibility to enforce city regulations dealing with environmental concerns and said in an email the city looks forward to “all parties finding a resolution.”
“The commission will evaluate what’s going on at the Barnum Road location and all normal procedures will be followed,” he added.
Gallo said the commission would consult with city lawyers to decide whether or not to send a second copy of the cease-and-desist letter. Should Halas fail to respond again with a proper remediation plan, the matter would be directed to district court.