Neighbors object to Cannon Road plan

After several postponements, the public hearing for an eight-lot subdivision on Cannon Road took place before the Inland Wetlands Commission on Thursday, Oct. 13. Eight letters in opposition to the development were read into the record to begin the proceedings.

The property owner has proposed what is known as a conservation subdivision that would involve building eight homes on about 10 acres of the 55-acre site. The remaining 45 acres, which are primarily wetlands including a roughly four-acre pond, would be set aside in a conservation easement.

One letter writer, Harry Clark, questioned the value of this property since most of the acreage in the easement is unbuildable. “The property owner has proposed a deal where he brings nothing to the table,” he said. The development, he said, would bring more traffic, more runoff, and a strain on public resources.

The property is in an R-2A residential zone, but the homes would be on lots of less than two acres because of the clustering.

In order to be considered for a conservation subdivision, the applicant must show it can present a viable plan that adheres to the two-acre zoning. Tom Quinn of Peak Engineering in Georgetown presented a plan he said met that criterion. It involved 11 two-acre lots carved out of the property. Total clearing of the site would be 12.3 acres with 2.7 acres of disturbance.

However, the emphasis of the evening was on the eight-lot plan.

“Everything we are asking is allowed by the zoning regulations,” he said in response to some of the comments in the letters read earlier.

The original plan had two common driveways serving the eight lots, but the plan presented last week included a dead-end road off Cannon Road and across from Black Alder Lane. This would be a 22-foot-wide tertiary road that would eventually be turned over to the town for maintenance.

A tertiary road, according to the town’s subdivision regulations, is a local street serving not more than 10 lots, which is not designed to be extended or serve as a connection between two public streets.

Six of the lots would be clustered around the end of the road, which is shown as a cul-de-sac. Two lots would be served by a common driveway off the tertiary road. Seven of the homes are indicated on the plan as having five bedrooms, one with four bedrooms. There was also some discussion at the meeting of some of the homes having swimming pools.

The tertiary road is the preferred alternative, Quinn said. By reducing the common driveways that were going to be 20 feet wide, there would be less impervious area on the property. In addition, there would be only one curb cut opening on Cannon Road, preserving trees.

This plan would result in five acres of site-wide clearing, 0.48 acres of limited disturbance in the 100-foot setback area, 1.16 acres of disturbance in the upland review area, and 0.95 acres of impervious surface.

Drainage has been designed for a 25-year storm, greater than required, Quinn said. He also said he did 40 perc tests across the eight lots.

Kate Throckmorton of Environmental Land Solutions is the landscape architect for the project, and she noted the property is surrounded by about 100 acres of open space. Adding these 45 acres would provide 130 contiguous acres of open space, she said.

The property is mostly wooded, she said, with a wetland corridor crossing north to south that is about 13 acres in area, including a pond. There is a wooded wetland in the center of the property and emergent wetlands in the north, which is primarily herbaceous material.

Throckmorton said she found no vernal pool-dependent species and no species of special concern, although Carolyn Brady, whose letter was read at the beginning of the hearing, said she has seen a rare species of iris.

There had been some concern earlier about habitat for the long-eared bat, which Throckmorton said “runs all over Connecticut.” Seven towns have documented nesting areas, she said, with the closest being Greenwich.

Both Throckmorton and Quinn insisted there would be no wetland disturbance, but Woodson Duncan was not convinced.

“When we say there’s no impact, we all know there can be temporary impact,” he said. “Wetlands are a really valuable public resource. … The wetlands will be impacted. Our water supplies are degrading.

“The line of defense for the water is the forest, the ground and the wetlands. It’s all one ecosystem.

“There is no way a project like this, even though it’s temporary and we’re going to remediate, no way it doesn’t degrade the wetlands,” he concluded.

Because the commission’s purview is limited to wetlands, it restricted comments to that issue. So when Shereen Moubayed asked if an escrow could be imposed to protect water resources, he was told to take that up with the Planning and Zoning Commission.

One woman was concerned about wells running dry in the neighborhood because of increased demand on the water table. She was also concerned about silt runoff to the storm drains. Would it increase ice on the road in the winter? “There are safety issues about drainage,” she said.

Sara Curtis said she has already been impacted by a large — 6,800-square-foot — home just north of her and was concerned about water quality.

The home in question, she said, has “two solid acres of sod” which was watered throughout the spring, summer and fall. “I had serious well problems three times. I had to put in filtration. My water pressure went down. …

“Cannon Road runs like a river of mud,” she said, because of this house, blocking storm drains. “We are living a nightmare every single day from properties like the one north of me.”

The hearing was continued to Oct. 27, when it will likely be closed. The hearing was opened Sept. 22, but then immediately continued, and all proceedings must be completed within 35 days.