Brubeck subdivision: Wetlands activity questions consume hearing

How detailed the plan for a redrawing of the lot lines of a six-lot subdivision needs to be was a subject of some disagreement at the Oct. 27 meeting of the Inland Wetlands Commission. The application for a significant regulated activity permit under consideration belongs to the Brubeck Trust and involves parcels on Millstone and Hickory Hill roads.

The commission also heard the from “intervenors” of the proposal through their attorney and soil expert.

A report by Dewberry Engineers of New Haven, an impartial third party retained by the commission for its expert opinion, criticized the timing of wetland activity mitigation in the plan. Waiting until a building permit is obtained, as the plan indicates, is too late, Dewberry’s report said. Because of the significant impact on wetlands, residential lot development should not begin until wetland mitigation is completed and the road and infrastructure are installed.

The report also suggested that the wetland on one of the lots, which is proposed as a mowed meadow, instead become a forested wetland since it is impossible to determine if a future homeowner would follow through with a mowing plan.

Representatives for the property owner did not feel that level of detail was necessary. They — Holt McChord of McChord Engineering Associates and attorney Casey Healy of Gregory and Adams — felt the commission could approve the plan to the level of detail presented.

“We’re requesting an envelope to show we can build there,” Healy said, adding that the other stipulations were premature since “we don’t have an exact house plan.”

Mike Conklin, director of environmental activities, responded that “there’s no way to know if it will be built piecemeal or all at one time. The commission has to look at how it’s going to be built and how this is going to be managed.

“For example, if only one lot gets built, when does this other mitigation on the other lots get built?”

Since commission chair John Hall and commissioner Nick Lee recused themselves, Commissioner Liz Craig filled in as acting chair. She was concerned a road was too close to the Comstock Brook.

McChord insisted the plans had the road far enough away from the brook, with the buffer zone varying from 20 to 55 feet.

The buffer between development activity and the Comstock Brook was also of concern to South Norwalk Electric and Water, which has examined the application for potential water-quality impacts to the Comstock Brook watershed, which serves as a source of drinking water for the agency’s customers.

A letter to the commission dated Oct. 27 said the access road and common driveway for two of the lots leaves only a small buffer, five to 15 feet in at least two locations. Tree removal would have a negative effect on the brook, the letter says.

The letter pointed out several other concerns, including a proposed septic system that is within the 50-foot distance required by state law between open watercourses within a public water-supply watershed and any part of the septic system. In this case, the agency was referring to Spectacle Brook.


Also speaking to the commission was Marjorie Shansky, an attorney who represents Mr. and Mrs. Paul Snyder, Tom Harris, and Virginia Valkenburgh, who are neighbors of the 25-acre property.

Referring to the project as a “high-intensity development,” she presented evidence it would result in damage to the wetlands and watercourses.

Shansky retained Trinkaus Engineering LLC of Southbury to conduct a third-party engineering review of the application. It submitted comments on the site design, storm water management, and erosion control plan. It questioned whether the storm water management systems proposed for the site would function as intended. Specifically, it questioned the soil tests and methods used to model the storm water management systems.

If the systems did not function as intended, the result would be increased runoff to the watercourses and increased pollution.

Finally, James Cowan, a registered soil scientist with Environmental Planning Services  of West Hartford, spoke on behalf of the intervenors. He produced a nine-page report that said, among other things, that the regulated activities, which drain to the Comstock Brook, would result in “direct and indirect impacts on the brook, other watercourses and waterbodies.”

He also indicated that the biological and wetland surveys were not complete and the proposed wetland mitigation plan was inadequate and incomplete.

Specifically mentioned in his report was the impact on at least one vernal pool that supports wood frogs. “The adverse impacts on the wood frog population will result in an adverse impact on the physical and chemical attributes of the vernal pool,” he said. He added that because the wetland assessment was completed in mid- to late August, it did not provide sufficient information on wildlife or impacts to wetland habitat.

The commission voted to keep the application open.