Easton P&Z approves high density affordable housing development on sensitive watershed property draining into two major reservoirs

Our zoning commission has approved the application for an intensive affordable housing development proposed by Saddle Ridge, “with multiple conditions.” No matter the conditions, the intensive development of this property in the watershed between two reservoirs which service over 400,000 residents in Fairfield County should not have been approved. Aquarian Water Company opposed the application, as well as various town officials and governmental entities. In a prior application by Saddle Ridge our courts previously recognized that the need to protect the watershed outweighed the need for an intensive affordable housing development by Saddle Ridge.
In fact, while Easton has few affordable housing units, 50% of them are apparently unfilled. Easton does not have the infrastructure to support intensive development. We rely upon individual wells and septic systems on watershed land.
While the applicant waives the flag of altruism in providing affordable housing, more likely the application had a profit-making motive. The application as submitted proposed a phased construction plan in which the first phase would have contained no affordable housing. While the zoning commission may have “conditioned out” this phasing, one does wonder whether the intent of the application was to make a quick profit on the first phase and not have to worry about phasing in the affordable units. An example is the development across the line in Fairfield opposite the former GE site, which started out as senior housing, but when that did not sell required an acceptance of dropping the senior housing requirement. One can wonder if that might be the future of the present affordable housing development.
Even if the project remains affordable and even if the developer accepts all of the conditions and attempts to meet them, there is no guarantee that the watershed will be protected. The engineering experts who have reviewed the proposed development differ on whether or not there is adequate protection for the watershed, and if anyone is relying upon the perfection of engineering, you might google “engineering failures.” More importantly, you might remember that our town has a weak zoning enforcement record.
Our zoning commission has shifted the burden to oppose this dangerous development to Citizens for Easton. We hope that you will support our efforts by sending a contribution to CSE/CFE, PO Box 151, Easton, CT 06612, or click here Paypal buttonto Donate via Paypal

Easton Health Department did not recommend approval of the Saddle Ridge application; many concerns noted in their letter to Planning and Zoning, including:
“…The proposed subdivision is calling for 1 acre lots with both a septic system and an onsite private well. We are concerned that the water quantity may not be available to serve such a dense development. There are property owners in the vicinity of the development who have chosen to drill a second well due to insufficient water quantity. The developer must provide an answer to the question – will there be adequate water quantity to serve this development? Because of the density of the development it will be difficult, if not impossible, to drill additional wells on the individual lots and meet all code requirements.”

Water Advocates Mark World Water Day – March 22

Today, March 22,  is World Water Day. As noted in an article in the Redding Pilot, an alliance of statewide organizations and watershed associations is calling on lawmakers to safeguard Connecticut’s water resources. “Connecticut has had tremendous victories in protecting drinking water and restoring rivers, but at the same time, there are ongoing threats to the quality and quantity of our water,” said Karen Burnaska, water projects coordinator for CFE/Save the Sound.
CFE asks you to help commemorate World Water Day this week by contacting the legislators listed below to modify the affordable housing statute 8-30g to help protect our public drinking water supply watershed lands by inserting the text which is shown below in bold and italics in Subsection Subsection (g)(2)(A): Continue reading

Easton P&Z Approves High Density Housing Development in the Watershed


We understand how a bad law has put Easton and dozens of other communities across the state in an untenable position. Either they bow to the dictates of an irremediably flawed affordable housing statute or suffer the consequences in court. What we don’t quite understand is why our own zoning commission has ignored an extenuating factor in this instance: Intensive housing developments such as this put the watershed at risk and ultimately public health as well. All manner of so-called “safety nets” or “conditions” can’t begin to redress this blunt fact nor prevent similar developments in the future. Courts have already ruled that Easton does indeed have a unique mandate in protecting a vital public resource, yet our own town sees otherwise. We’re disappointed, but also optimistic that the best outcome – for Easton and the hundreds of thousands of Fairfield county residents who depend on this resource – will ultimately prevail.

Planning and Zoning Commission Special and Regular Meeting Monday, March 13. Conference Room A, Easton Town Hall, 225 Center Road.

Special Meeting 5:00 PM: Discuss and consider adjudication of applications by Saddle Ridge Developers, LLC
Regular Meeting 7:00 PM: Agenda including but not limited to Update of Town Plan of Conservation and Development
See link for notice: http://www.eastonct.gov/sites/eastonct/files/agenda/agenda-file/planning_and_zoning_commission_special_meeting_and_regiar_agenda_03-13-2017.pdf

By Monday, 3/13: Save the CT Council on Environmental Quality

From Connecticut Land Conservation Council:
ACTION: Submit testimony in OPPOSITION to the elimination of the Council on Environmental Quality, H.B. 7051 (Sections 9-18 and 31) (Public Hearing 3/13).
HOW:

Email Your Testimony: Please email your testimony to gaetestimony@cga.ct.gov (pdf or word format preferred), with “GAE Committee Testimony”, H.B. 7051, “CEQ” and “3/13” in subject line.
Contact your Legislators: Send them a copy of your testimony. Click HERE to find your legislators’ contact information. Organizations, businesses or other entities – please use your official letterhead. Individuals – include your name and town.
TALKING POINTS:

  • I oppose the elimination of CEQ.
  • CEQ is the state’s only independent environmental watch-dog agency.
  • Since 1971, CEQ has provided the public with objective and independent oversight of the state’s environment efficiently, effectively and at minimal cost ($174,000) to the state.
  • Acting through its volunteer council and just two staff, with limited support from DEEP for administrative purposes only, CEQ services include: The Environmental Monitor (project information for the public under the CT Environmental Policy Act and for notices of proposed transfers of land), Annual Reports on Environmental Quality, Special Reports (most recently, “Energy Sprawl in Connecticut”), monthly meetings and an opportunity for citizens to lodge complaints and otherwise voice concerns.
  • There is likely no state agency that does so much for so little.

Additional Information: H.B 7051 Section 31 of the bill repeals CGS Section 22a-11, the statute that establishes the CEQ. Sections 9 through 18 eliminate the CEQ’s duties and authorities pursuant to CEPA, surplus property statutes, and other laws. One CEQ duty, publication of the Environmental Monitor, is transferred to DEEP; all others are eliminated.

Public Hearing Information: A public hearing on will be held on Monday, March 13, 10:00am, by the Government Administration and Elections Committee, in Room 2A, Legislative Office Building, 300 Capitol Ave., Hartford.

Please contact abpaterson@ctconservation.org if you would like to testify at the public hearing or need assistance submitting your comments.

Important to Act by Monday, March 6 to Protect the Purity of the Water Supply by Modifying Affordable Housing Statute 8-30g

Contact the State Housing Committee (contact info below) to recommend amending the statute by inserting the text which is shown below in bold and italics in Subsection (g)(2)(A):
(g) Upon an appeal taken under subsection (f) of this section, the burden shall be on the commission to prove, based upon the evidence in the record compiled before such commission, that the decision from which such appeal is taken and the reasons cited for such decision are supported by sufficient evidence in the record. The commission shall also have the burden to prove, based upon the evidence in the record compiled before such commission, that (1) (A) the decision is necessary to protect substantial public interests in health, safety or other matters which the commission may legally consider; (B) such public interests clearly outweigh the need for affordable housing; and (C) such public interests cannot be protected by reasonable changes to the affordable housing development, or (2) (A) the application which was the subject of the decision from which such appeal was taken would locate affordable housing in an area which is zoned for industrial use and which does not permit residential uses;  or is located in the watershed of a public drinking water supply reservoir; …”
STATE HOUSING COMMITTEE:
CO-CHAIRS
Rep. Larry Butler: Larry.Butler@cga.ct.gov (860-240-8585)
Sen. Gayle Slossberg: http://www.senatedems.ct.gov/slossberg-contact (860-240-0482)
Sen. Tony Hwang: Tony.Hwang@cga.ct.gov (1-800-842-1421)
VICE CHAIRS
Rep. Kim Rose: Kim.Rose@cga.ct.gov (860-240-8585)
Sen. Catherine A. Osten: Catherine.Osten@cga.ct.gov (860-240-0579)
Sen. Kevin C. Kelly: Kevin.Kelly@cga.ct.gov (1-800-842-1421)
RANKING MEMBER: Rep.Brenda.Kupchick: Brenda.Kupchick@cga.ct.gov (860-240-8700):
As noted by Julia Pemberton, First Selectman of Redding and the Redding Planning Commission in a letter to Housing Committee dated 2/15/17:
“Protection of the purity, wholesomeness and quality of the Connecticut’s public drinking water supplies is at least as essential to the health, safety and economy of the state’s citizens as safeguarding its industrial sites. Public water supply watersheds are an indispensable resource for the State’s future, and their protection is an urgent necessity of public policy. Population growth factors and climatic change variability have demonstrated the importance and of protecting the public water supply. Our recent and recurrent drought conditions are a reminder of the need for protecting this ever more stressed resource. Connecticut being a small state with limited reserves of water for the needs of its increasing population needs to focus on this critical resource.
Since enactment of Section 8-30g, many of these watersheds have been under assault by development interests utilizing this section to maximize the profit of building at higher densities than allowed by local regulations. This amendment is wholly consistent with the State’s Conservation & Development Policies Plan 2013-2018, which urges protection of the state’s essential water resources and location of new higher density development where urban infrastructure – such as water and sewer service, jobs and public transit are available.”