Uptick in Wilton wetlands infractions leaves some residents frustrated

Violations in wetland areas of Wilton have increased over the past few months and at least one resident says that more direct contact with homeowners must be made.

Violations in wetland areas of Wilton have increased over the past few months and at least one resident says that more direct contact with homeowners must be made.

Jeannette Ross / Hearst Connecticut Media

WILTON — An increase in wetlands infractions being doled out in recent weeks has left some residents disgruntled and wanting more education on the proper permitting process.

Mostly as a result of landscaping projects, where trees are cleared in wetland areas without first consulting the Inland Wetlands Commission for a permit, infractions have been seen more frequently by Wilton’s Department of Environmental Affairs Director Mike Conklin and his staff. Permits must be obtained to make any changes to one’s property either on a wetland or watercourse area, or within 100 feet of those areas.

When tipped to a potential violation of the Inland Wetlands regulation, Conklin or one of his staff members investigate. After confirming an infraction has been made, they can administer a cease and desist letter to the homeowner, which is either upheld, modified or lifted after a hearing with the Inland Wetlands Commission.

Conklin said such violations could “result in fees and possible legal action.”

But Jonathan Ottens, of Wild Duck Road, voiced his displeasure with the process during a Board of Selectmen meeting on Monday.

“I don’t understand why they don’t just drop something off in our mailbox,” Otten said in a public letter and comments during the meeting.

His main issue stemmed around the Inland Wetlands Commission and the Department of Environmental Affairs not directly educating new residents, or existing residents who may be unaware, of regulations and proper procedures on acquiring a permit, he claimed.

While Ottens was the lone resident to speak to this sentiment at the meeting, there are numerous infraction appeals to the Inland Wetland Commission held weekly. There, Wilton residents who have underwent unpermitted clearances of trees or other infractions must now work backwards to pursue corrective action.

What worries Ottens, he said, is that he would prefer trees not to be cut down or the wetlands areas to be harmed. But he contended that he didn’t see enough proactivity to educate the community.

Ottens argued that direct contact with homeowners had to be made to address regulations. New homebuyers may not know the regulations in time before making a wrong move, he said at the meeting.

“The bottom line is that more enforcement action is taking place now because more violations are occurring,” Vanderslice said. “The department put out an Op-Ed, which did happen now.”

She added that violations aren’t just made by new town residents, but by those who have been in town for years.

The first selectwoman also said it’s a responsibility of real estate brokers to inform potential homebuyers of town regulations and how not to infringe on them.

“When I moved in, I didn’t know anything about it,” Ottens said,adding that the Inland Wetlands Commission has been helpful in the past, but there has been a recent disconnect which he believes has led to the influx in violations.

“To me, Wilton’s biggest treasure is the trees,” Ottens said. “I think (the commission) should be managed, be more proactive and educate the community if we care about our wetlands.”

Along with the letter to the community authored by Conklin about how to keep wetland communities safe and proper procedures in obtaining permits, more information can be found on the town’s website.