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Rejected Liquor Store Proposal Heads to Court

Now it's up to the Superior Court to decide how to measure 200 feet.

Updated Tuesday, Jan. 17

The applicant whose proposal for a liquor store was rejected by the Stratford zoning commission is appealing that decision in Superior Court.

Resh LLC was denied its application Dec. 20 when the zoning commission ruled that the proposed location -- the former Office Depot spot at 1100 Barnum Ave. -- was too close to a residential area.

A town regulation prohibits package stores within 200 feet of a residential district. [The regulation can be read in the gallery to the right.] Zoning chairman Chris Silhavey said houses on Frederick Street are only about 50 feet away from the lot in question.

However, other zoning members argued Silhavey was not measuring the distance in accordance with the regulation, which they said is not meant to be calculated as a straight line from point A to point B, but rather as a perpendicular line from storefront to nearest public highway.

With the latter approach, members said, the measurement expands across the plaza's parking lot and exceeds 200 feet. Though three out of five zoning members voted to approve the proposal, the motion needed four "yes" votes in order to pass.

Now it's up to the courts to decide how to measure 200 feet. Resh LLC and members of the zoning commission are scheduled to meet in Bridgeport Superior Court on Feb. 14.

Stratford town attorney Tim Bishop said the applicant is vying for a "certificate of compliance" from the town's zoning department. Bishop said the judge has four months to make a decision, but it's "unlikely" the court will order that the certificate be granted.

According to court documents (attached as a PDF), Resh LLC is alleging "the Commission acted illegally and arbitrarily and in abuse of the discretion vested in it by denying the Application in one or more of the following ways:"

  • By disregarding evidence that the distance between the proposed lot and a residential area exceeded 200 feet
  • By disregarding evidence that the distance between the proposed lot and the nearest school exceeded 200 feet
  • By disregarding past town practices of how to measure the 200 feet
  • By disregarding a state zoning rule that says a board may not reverse a decision "unless a change of circumstances intervenes"
  • By permitting the Dec. 20 public hearing without first gaining a legal opinion from the town attorney
  • By allowing a "tainted" vote by one of the zoning members

In April 2011, the zoning commission unanimously approved a proposal for the same applicant at the same location, according to the documents. But the application was appealed by another liquor store in town.

"Some defects came to light after the appeal," Bishop said. One of the defects which has since been cleared was that a pharmacy in the same plaza had a liquor permit, which violates a town regulation. 

The second application proposed in October 2011 was the one that was denied by the zoning commission.

Bishop said the denial of the second application in effect outweighs the approval of the first, and the opportunity to use the first application's approval to one's advantage in court has passed.

The town attorney said the case will ultimately be determined in how the judge decides to measure the 200 feet that serves as a barrier to a residential area from a liquor store.

"That's the issue, essentially," Bishop said.

***

Zoning Narrowly Rejects Liquor Store Proposal

There was much debate about how to measure a town regulation prohibiting the sale of alcohol within 200 feet of a residential district. And it's likely to continue in the courts.

(Published Dec. 21)

After a heated public hearing in which residents voiced strong opposition against a proposed liquor store, the zoning commission Tuesday narrowly rejected the applicant's plan to move into the former Office Depot site at 1100 Barnum Ave.

Though three out of five members voted to approve the proposal, the motion needed four "yes" votes in order to pass, and commissioner Robert Galello and chairman Chris Silhavey voted no.

"It's not appropriate to the site," said Silhavey, referring to the building's 50-foot proximity to Frederick Street and a town regulation that prohibits package stores within 200 feet of a residential district. [The regulation is attached to this article in the photo gallery above.]

Those who voted in favor of the proposal, however, argued against Silhavey's interpretation of the regulation.

Commissioner James Sheriden said the town has always measured the 200-foot distance as a perpendicular line from a store's front door to the nearest public highway. In this case, that means the line extends across the shopping center's parking lot to Main Street, and from there to the nearest residential district is more than 200 feet.

"I feel for the people who argued basic New England common sense," said Sheriden, commenting on the earlier public hearing. "[But] I feel we should go with past precedent."

Silhavey said he believed the regulation was intended to be measured as a straight line from property line to property line, and it should be faced with a "common sense approach."

As stated before, though the majority of the commission voted in favor of the proposal, it needed at least four votes of approval to pass and it only received three. It's expected that the applicant, Resh LLC, will appeal the commission's decision in court.

Arguing 'Basic New England Common Sense'

Frederick Street resident Nancy Delvicchio was one of eight residents to speak during the public hearing that preceded the administrative session in which the proposal was rejected.

"Frederick Street directly abuts the parking lot and it's used as a direct access," she said. "I don't know why the measurement wouldn't be from the door [of the liquor store] to parking lot to Frederick Street."

Kevin Sheehan owns at 411 Barnum Avenue Cutoff. He went so far as to say that Frederick Street does not end until Barnum Avenue, meaning the parking lot in front of the building in question acts an extension of the residential road.

Sheehan also questioned why the applicant wants to move into a location that is only about 500 feet from . "Why are they fighting for this location?" Sheehan asked the commission. In fact, several residents voiced concern that the proposed liquor store would be easy access for minors.

Housatonic Avenue resident George Mulligan said with the high school "basically a block away," tipsy drivers would put students walking home from school in danger. He said he'd like to see something more "affirmative" than a liquor store occupy the building. It was said during the public hearing that Stratford has about 17 liquor stores.

"Minors can and will walk to the proposed liquor store," said Lee Everetts of Cutspring Road. Everetts, a victim of a drunk driving accident, said adjacent businesses like and are popular spots for young people.

'You Follow Past Practice'

That's what Barry Knott, the attorney representing the applicant, Resh LLC, told the zoning commission prior to its vote. Knott said, under Stratford law, there's only one way to read the regulation measuring 200 feet from a package store to a residential district, and that is through a perpendicular line from the store's front door to the nearest public highway.

Using this calculation, Knott said the shortest distance to a residential zone from the proposed liquor store is 375 feet. Knott singled out planning and zoning administrator Gary Lorentsen, saying the town official has followed this regulation with this exact measurement protocol since 1984.

Before the commission voted to reject the proposal, Silhavey said the regulation originated in the 1950s and the commission should revise it for better clarity.

Editor's note: The name of the applicant was originally misidentified as Fresh LLC.

***

Updated 9:49 p.m. Tuesday

Although three out of five zoning commissioners voted to approve the plan, the vote needed four to pass.

Chairman Chris Silhavey voted no, saying a common sense approach supports blocking a liquor store from setting up so close to a residential area.

A town law prohibits liquor stores within 200 feet of a residential area, but one way of measuring the distance -- via a perpendicular angle from storefront to Main Street -- had the proposed store outside of 200 feet of a residential area.

Commissioner Robert Galello also voted no. "I have serious problems with the kids," he said. The property is about 500 feet from Stratford High School.

Commissioners Robert Connolly, Michael Henrick and James Sheridan voted to approve the apllicant's proposal. All three said the law of the town, i.e., the way to measure the 200 feet, supports the application.

Prior to the vote, several residents spoke out in opposition of the proposal during a public hearing. Many said, if approved, the liquor store would have easy access to minors.

It's expected that the issue will now head to the courts.

Check back in the morning for the full story, which will include more details on the confusing 200-feet rule, quotes from residents and the eventual rejection of the proposal.

***

The original story, published Tuesday morning, follows.

Do You Support a Liquor Store Moving Into the Former Office Depot Spot?

Editor's note: The time of the public hearing has been moved up to 6 p.m.

The zoning commission tonight will discuss the potential for a wine and liquor store to move into at 1100 Barnum Ave next to .

The proposal, however, violates a law Stratford has that prohibits the sale of liquor within 1500 feet of a residential area, according to a town official.

That restriction will be debated tonight during an administrative session in room 213 at Stratford Town Hall. A public hearing at 6 p.m. in Council Chambers will precede the meeting.

Let us know how you feel about a new wine and liquor store coming to town by voting in our poll.

George Bernard Shaw December 21, 2011 at 07:08 AM
My name is George Bernard Shaw and I have been known to chase the spirits a bit myself; however, I assure all of you that if I were to buy my spirits it wouldn’t be anywhere in your town. Not that the liquor would taste any different but I see absolutely no purpose in perpetuating the lives of the feebleminded. In my day, I and my ilk were trying to convert social opinion to the need of fitness exams. Under our system, the inferm, blind, mentally deficient, feebleminded, psychotic, and generally all others would be mandated to attend a fitness board examination in where they would be graded on what they provide and what the state expends on them. I think the SS later went on to use these practices – the collating cards systems made the process a whole lot simpler.
George Bernard Shaw December 21, 2011 at 12:45 PM
Well presented.
Dale December 21, 2011 at 12:58 PM
Everyone is saying that its too close to a school? What about the one near the train station across the street from the school??? Trust me if an underage person wants to get alchol they will. Also too many liquor stores in Stratford??? no more than any other town in the area.. How many businesses have already been in that location??? How long did the survive?? That place would create jobs and revenue to local businesses with the people that would go to that location. If really doesn't bother me at all and I live in that area. I wish you good luck in your venture.........
Olivia Gombar December 21, 2011 at 01:21 PM
Janice - There are at least two in airport area, and a NEW one, Discount Liquor, on the corner of Boston Ave and Franklin Ave, which is right across from Franklin School, Holy Name Church and in a residential area. Zoning had no problem approving that one! Kids walk by it to and from Franklin School. D-5 Council paid no attention. Interesting.
Janet December 21, 2011 at 02:30 PM
I live on Frederick Street and have 2 children, 9 and 10 years old. It is NOT a good idea to have a liquor store so close to our home! The building itself is less than 20 feet from the neighboring yard and would cause chaos in the parking lot at all hours of the day and night, as was seen when the grocery store that closed at 9pm, did. Originally, Frederick Street was a dead end and is now a public "highway", meaning that it is, "any main or ordinary route, track, or course", it is bad enough that Bella Napoli's delivery drivers speed down the street as a cut through to Main Street. Sure, let the drunks speed through as well, endangering not only my children, but others that live on the street too! It is a no-brainer!
Tom December 21, 2011 at 02:58 PM
I think we need a new strip joint.....ours is worn down. Silly people, want to know why businesses dont opt for Stratford??? read the preceding. Do we really, honsetly think that we have now prevented drunk driving by blocking this????? seriously??? I guess now SHS students wont be able to get there hands on any hooch....NOT!! This is a legitimate business in a very commerical zone...very appropriate.
Peter Troilo December 21, 2011 at 03:48 PM
I’m the proud owner of a “package store” permit in the state of CT and yes, there are many who do not play by the rules. But some of us are fighting the good fight trying to bring sophistication to people’s lives through the responsible enjoyment a hand crafted glass of wine. To comment that all people shopping at a “liquor stores” are drunks with no basis of morality or ethically fortitude is insulting. Our town is filled with big retailers who compete solely on price. The gov’t should be focused on bringing quality to the town. It’s a tough task. There are enough liquor stores in town. Bringing another one will only dilute the business of the other stores. Some of us are battling every day to make the retail wine and spirits business in CT a better marketplace. It’s nice to see our efforts rewarded by consumers crossing state lines and purchasing products in another state simply to save a few dollars. Don’t take your purchases across state lines. Instead, take the hour you would spend driving to write Malloy to affect change. It’s time we stop burying our heads in the sand. Our new world economy was created by a need for excess and gluttony. We cannot recover until we get back to small town economics and supporting our local merchants. Pay the extra dollar. Shop with merchants that take the time to know your name, your experience will be better. When was the last time someone gave you a receipt and said “Thank Mr. Smith” and really meant it
Mark Calzone December 21, 2011 at 03:54 PM
More Idiots - lets turn down and tax paying business and the mill rate will just keep rising and the residents will continue to shoulder the burden and we will continue to have empty building, we need more sensible business people in politics
Allison December 21, 2011 at 04:58 PM
Well said. My husband is also one of those ones to hold a liquor permit in Stratford, and I can assure you that there are few drunks that actually come in. Most are respectable people who are looking for a bottle of nice wine with dinner, or looking for a six pack of beer to kick back and watch a football game. Also, I can promise you that if someone comes in clearly intoxicated, we are mandated BY LAW to not sell to them. Same as underage kids...they arent allowed in stores without a parent or guardian. I guess my only confusion with this 200 ft issue is that I look at other stores that are already in place, and can see houses directly behind them. Is this a new rule? I agree that it is close to the high school and where students tend to hang out after they get out for the day (Starbucks, Bella Napoli) and for that reason I would be against it, but I dont understand the residential issue. I know when you apply for a permit, you are required to send a certified letter to all homeowners in a certain distance from the site, so Im guessing thats where this is all coming from. (Not that I disagree, Fredrick Street has always been one of those streets I feel bad for, as Im sure they get alot of traffic from people trying to avoid the lights)
George E. Mulligan December 21, 2011 at 05:21 PM
If 1 tipsy driver bought more liquor there & zoomed from a difficult parking lot, hitting/killing school child or anyone? Its' too much! Newest rage, pointed out last night: Masses of kids descend on a store grab bottles of booze & scatter. Frazzled owners/workers can't chase or leave the store, or other raiders hit? Ppolice were described as no help! To Mr. Calzone, if 17 town liquor store have 1,000 customers each, won't the likely net effect be a zero sum loss of business for existing clients? If this is a BIG BOX then the profits go out of Town, while most of the existing small business owners live & pay taxes in Stratford. Isn't it more logical to create niche businesses which profitably fill needs with good paying jobs. There are businesses which must be local. There are businesses which are not effected by economy to scale pricing. In late 1960s-mid 1970s, my WW II Combat Vet father spent much time in West Haven's vetaran's home. A MAJORITY of PATIENT were there because of ALCOHOL & TOBACCO. Subsequently DRUGS was even WORSE!! If a majority of drinkers are RESPONSIBLE & there are medicinal & social values associated with ALCOHOL - SO WHAT? JUSTICE DEPARTMENT STATISTIC show over 95% of JAILED have ALCOHOL and/or DRUG ABUSE related ISSUES. ALCOHOL ABUSE causes - Liver cirrhosis - Domestic violence - Violence - Automotive accidents - Accidents - Financial Hardships, including bad contract decisions FREE CHOICE for ADULTS
George Bernard Shaw December 21, 2011 at 09:35 PM
Thomas Dewey helped bring about the failure of true education in this country. He studied the garbage that was going on in Germany and brought it back here.
George Bernard Shaw December 21, 2011 at 09:45 PM
Lee, I am sorry to learn about your assault. Too often, it is stories such as yours that eventually convinces some of our officials that location and saturation does matter.
George Bernard Shaw December 21, 2011 at 10:01 PM
Just think of all the money your town just lost in scratch-offs Mark. Oh, I do enjoy watching the toothless scratchings of the addicted and compulsive gamblers. They make for such a pleasant sight indeed my friend. The town truly blew it. All of those profitable jobs just tossed away – such a shame indeed. Why, I recall my younger days back home, working as a stock boy in a spirits store myself. The money rolled in for the three employed there. I was actually considering using my fortune to finance my days at Oxford, but I went on to meet more influential people and decided instead to just become a drunkard and a intellectual anarchist. Prisons create tax paying jobs. Should your town build a prison there as well? Nuclear power plants create jobs. How about that, a nuclear power plant maybe?
Tom December 21, 2011 at 10:24 PM
This probably would not decrease the rate of driving under the influence offenses; however, it more than likely prevented a wreck related to the offense. Let’s face it – it happens. Regardless of the traffic patterns and the efforts of the proprietor, intoxicated people will drive. In addition, this town is not Greenwich, Darien, Westport, or even Wilton. This town is being hit pretty hard economically. Degeneracy is a process usually and poverty accelerates its symptoms. As a community, we have to prepare to offset the effects of financial instability on ourselves as well as our neighbors. The last thing we need is a more liquor establishments for our police, fire, and EMS to have to deal with. Put aside the possibility of intoxicated operators and consider the intoxicated pedestrians – you want to pick up the remains. The strip of roadway could become a bloodbath over there. A more worried about why it is we have teachers asking our children who their parents voted for in the last presidential elections than a couple of unsustainable jobs that would even afford someone to rent in this area far less pay-up their delinquent mortgages.
Lamont Sanford December 21, 2011 at 10:45 PM
I guess Pops had one too many boilermakers with some woman and now she’s headed over to our place to make right on his tipsy proposal to her. He’s been pacing the living room since she called trying to convince me to have Rollo come over and sneak him out of the house in a carpet. I keep telling him to stay away from the liquor. To top it off, some Japanese company is thinking about buying our street and building a brewery. I knew we should have sold when we could have.
Jason Bagley (Editor) December 21, 2011 at 11:27 PM
A couple comments from the Stratford Patch Facebook page: Edward Goodrich: "Good move. We can do better. Plus, it wouldn't be fair to the other liquor stores. Stratford should only consider businesses that are value added to the community. Went to a cool Co-op up in Great Barrington Mass. Might be a good idea." Noreen Lyman Calgreen: "I too am glad its not going to be another big liquor store eddie. it should never been up for consideration to change zoning in the first place. I would like to see some sort of business that could create some jobs for people in town and generate some tax dollars. "When you say Co-op thats housing. we surely dont need that. with housing comes having to educate children. we cant afford to pay to educate the kids now. everything is being cut because we dont have enough tax dollars. I for one am glad mine are grown and raised. I feel youngsters in town are not getting the same education that they received with all the cut backs and large classes." http://www.facebook.com/StratfordPatch
Jason Bagley (Editor) December 21, 2011 at 11:28 PM
One more: Claudine Roy: "Glad to hear it was rejected. I would rather see a grocery store there. Kind of a pain to have to go all the way to Stop and Shop and/or Shop Rite for essentials when you work and live on the other side of town. Not that they are far away, but the trip there is just conjested, gridlock at lights, etc. I think the area would benefit from a grocery store. Be it, Trader Joes or something. We definitely don't require another liquor store, especially a big one that'll put the nearby mom and pop package stores out of business..I'm not against liquor stores at all, just against the idea for an un-needed one." http://www.facebook.com/StratfordPatch
Garry Potter December 22, 2011 at 12:03 AM
If you walk away from something and then walk back toward it, if you apply number magic at the same time, in theory you could double its distance from a specific location. I have seen similar magic in the Harry Potter movies. Finally, life is beginning to imitate art and mysticism. Oh boy, wait until I tell the members of the quidditch team. Last meet kind of beat our spirits. We had lord Voldemort as a judge and you all know how he can be.
Leroy Jepson December 22, 2011 at 12:28 AM
It's great to want something else in there. But it can only be what someone is willing to build, and right now someone is willing to build a liquor store.
Tom December 22, 2011 at 01:15 AM
I'd like to see someone willing to build a White Castles to tell you the truth. Do I think it would be best for the Town -- no. But I love White Castles and I'm sick of taking my money to New York or having to buy the frozen sliders. I could see a White castle pulling in some big cash, and they probably hire a few dozen people.
Loren December 22, 2011 at 01:48 AM
Who knew liquor stores were Superman-esque, enter the phone booth and you're automatically inebriated style establishments?! Huh. Way to generalize and paint those who patronize liquor stores as the enemy. Now that the liquor store isn't happening how about a Barnes and Noble? Starbucks could cut a door to the space and add seating and maybe even a cafe. They don't serve alcohol and bookstores are also not open late. My kids would love it if they came to town.
Jennifer Reiley Young December 22, 2011 at 03:44 AM
Wow. I cannot believe the stream I have been reading. Allison and Peter made the most sensible comments... Maybe all the nay-sayers are right that we don't need, or more important, want, another liquor store. What do we want? I wish this dialogue would turn into something more creative to address THAT question. White Castle? Ok, I'm moving away and taking with me my tax dollars. ( I hope that was a joke.) A good liquor & wine shop like Peter describes? A good gourmet market or a Trader Joe's? Fantastic! Something that is manufactured/made here? Even better. This town needs to be elevated to the level of "destination" for out-of-towners and "let's stay right here" for those of us who cannot find it here. This is a beautiful town with alot to offer. Shame on you who called it a dump. Manifest beauty and success! The surface of our potential has only been "scratched". But don't just stick your head in the sand that a liquor store is the end of the world. Even if we don't want another. What DO we want?
Dom DeCicco December 22, 2011 at 05:52 AM
You mean shame on Dom, not “you”. Simply by the presentation of the attack, it gives the appearance of being too scripted, something a politician would try and pull off. Shame on Dominique for calling it as it is? No, I protest – shame on those who dress dung with icing and then expect everyone to have a taste while they sit back and tell the others how good it is. As I said, the regrets I have are similar to a lot of other people “stuck” in this town. I have skin in the game and, as I don’t force my opinions onto others by calling them shameful when they think differently than I, I reserve the right to maintain my beliefs and speak openly about them. The facades of the buildings in this town are abysmal – even during good times, efforts to incentivize seemed to have been misplaced severely. Nothing matches, there is no sense of culture, and the streets have been and still are a wreck. In order to save your vehicle suspension, you have to serpentine around potholes in the road constantly. Sidewalks often lead pedestrians with little options other than walking out into traffic. Some sidewalks turn into little more than deer-trails. I am perplexed by the amount of new intersections that have been built with all of the latest bells and whistles only to leave any handicapped individual unfortunate to have come to them with nothing left after the corner they have crossed to.
Dom DeCicco December 22, 2011 at 05:53 AM
I am tired of hearing about the Shakespeare Theater and the Army Engine Plant. What could possibly be wrong? The town reminds me of a Twilight Zone episode – a sign-post up ahead; an age long gone, where everyone works for the same corporation – looks like that is changing for the worse soon though. The schools are not meeting their target and the real violence that occurs in them seems to be approached with blinders that the public is never privy to. I am not an elephant however – I realize that I am part of a larger community. Accordingly, it is not just my own home that I wish I could put on my back and walk off with; I would take my neighbor’s with me. In my opinion, the town has become so hooked on corporate handouts and Hartford dollars that it is incapable of meeting its fiduciary responsibilities to its citizens. Representative governance is no longer here. When you implement a radical behavioral policy in the schools that many parents, teachers, and students are appose to and then try to manipulate reality by suggesting that all of the staff is on board and would have to agree to the program before it could be implemented, but in reality you have placed a gag order on your employees that prevented them from criticizing the program – you are being deceptive. When you are deceptive in a program that, in my opinion is experimental and lacks validity, you are unethical as well.
Dom DeCicco December 22, 2011 at 05:53 AM
The most I can say is this – nepotism is a malignancy to all democratic republics – such is what we are or at least were intended to remain. I would love nothing more than to see this town return to its original status; however, that would take honor, dignity, virtue, and restoration of our culture. Until then, the guy who mentioned White Castles is on to something. Like White Castles, in Stratford, the real magic takes place on the inside.
Charles Cornwallace December 26, 2011 at 06:50 PM
Knowledge is Power We’ll sacrifice the elderly for thier votes will surely dwindle. We’ll criticize while we modernize and implant that which we kindle. As we pillage and plunder through the worship of laws from under , our involvement shall remain hidden, and will pluck the eye who dares to spy and betray our esoteric brethren. Our commerce will be their scandal, as the good are condemned for ever and through our frolic and play that has lead them astray we will retire their criticism in shamble. Through fear we will bind with secrets that remind of the swindle that made their honor dwindle.
George E. Mulligan December 26, 2011 at 10:23 PM
Didn't Shaws move from the site of the proposed liquor store to the Walmart & Home Depot Shopping center with all 3 getting TAX abatements due to the efforts of Esq Burturla & Esq. Knott? Please correct me if I am wrong? How many years & how much was the abatement? Were "Team Stratford" involved in that too? Former stores like ex-Shaws, ex-Town Fair, & ex-Bradley's stayed closed for a couple of years due to lease situations. Food for thought about potential future oriented good business with good pay and good benefits, beside government / political apparatchics, Fantastic video on the progression of information technology, ... Standard YouTube License ... www.youtube.com/watch?v=cL9Wu2kWwSY Executive Summary: Sony’s E3 Conference 2009 Future Shock is a book written by the futurist Alvin Toffler in 1970. In the book, Toffler defines the term "future shock" as a certain psychological state of individuals and entire societies. His shortest definition for the term is a personal perception of "too much change in too short a period of time".
Jason Bagley (Editor) January 17, 2012 at 07:49 PM
Note to all: This article has been updated to include information on the applicant's decision to appeal the zoning commission's decision to reject its proposal for a liquor store at the former Office Depot location on Barnum Ave.
IndyThinker January 18, 2012 at 12:14 AM
How many times do the applicants need to hear that the majority of the town residents do not want their big box store in this location. It is patently absurd to say that the residents, whose property lines are within 50 feet of the proposed store location, are actually more than 200 feet away. Why don't they look for a more suitable and LEGAL location?
Catmommie January 18, 2012 at 12:43 PM
Once again, many adults/parents blaming the location of a liquor store for juvenile drinking. It starts on the homefront: pay attention to what your kids are doing.

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