The Lidsky family was busily preparing for a camping trip on Thursday evening but they were constantly being distracted.
The television in the living room of their of 53 Susan Lane home was paused to the WTNH six o’clock news broadcast about 7-year-old Kayden Lidsky’s pet rabbit; the town of North Haven recently sent her father Josh Lidsky a cease-and-desist letter, stating that town zoning regulations prohibit owning rabbits on a property of the Lidskys’ size.
Josh Lidsky’s cell phone rang at least twice in an hour, calls from sympathetic residents with offers to house the rabbit if they are forced to give it up. His wife Laura Lidsky said at least a dozen similar calls had come in already. An online petition has garnered almost 2,000 signatures in support of the bunny.
The rabbit in question is a 3-year-old Flemish Giant named Sandy. Although the Lidskys have owned rabbits before, they never researched North Haven’s zoning policies on rabbit ownership.
“We’d never think to do that,” said Laura Lidsky. “I’ve had rabbits all my life.”
Earlier on Thursday, First Selectman Michael Freda fielded calls and visits from reporters after this story broke on WTNH. He contends the rabbit issue stemmed from complaints from neighbors about the visible rabbit cage. The town deemed the structure a blight and issued a citation.
“We’re not trying to take the rabbit away from the child,” Freda said. “Residents were disgusted.”
Freda said that the Lidskys can request a variance to legally override the regulation through the Zoning Board of Appeals. Town zoning regulation 126.96.36.199 states: “No livestock, rabbits … may be kept on any lot of less than two (2) acres.” The Lidskys’ property is a little over half an acre.
What do you think about this situation? Should the bunny be allowed to stay? Tell us in the comments.
Other complaints against Josh Lidsky include alleged unpaid permit fees and owed back taxes.
Trouble began in March with a complaint about an unfinished overhang on the south side of the house. Josh Lidsky said he intends to finish the construction project, which would create an indoor patio that does not increase the footprint of the house.
“We are totally in agreement with the town,” said Laura Lidsky about the blighted overhang. “But they’re trying to make us do it their way,” which she said would cost the Lidskys more money overall.
Josh Lidsky also said financial difficulties prevent him from remedying the problem, which he wanted to avoid saying at public hearings.
“I just didn’t want that aired,” he said.
The rabbit cage became a issue when building inspectors, looking into the overhang complaint, noticed the cage and considered it blight, too.
“There was no formal complaint about the bunny cage,” Josh Lidsky said. “We never expected a letter about our bunny.”
Josh Lidsky disputes the town’s documented interactions with the Lidskys and the property inspection, pointing out what he sees as inconsistencies and contradictions. Throughout 2011, the Lidskys received more than 20 visits from the police and building and zoning officials, but no fines or follow-ups were issued.
“I consider this harassment,” said Josh Lidsky.
According to Josh Lidsky, Freda’s office denied him a conversation with the first selectman.
Cindy Vanacore, the Lidskys’ neighbor, lodged the original blight complaint. Vanacore declined to comment on why she filed the complaint. She added that the neighbors were once good friends, but something personal came between them.
“I personally never see the rabbit on the lawn or anybody playing with the rabbit,” said Vanacore. “I don’t want to hurt the kid.”
Josh Lidsky can make his case at the next Zoning Board of Appeals meeting on Thursday, Aug. 16.