On January 25, 2016, Hartford Superior Court Judge Marshall Berger dismissed the affordable housing and inland wetlands appeals by Saddle Ridge Developers, LLC, et al, following a multi-year dispute. The developers had sued to overturn the town of Easton’s land use commissions denials of a proposed 99-unit townhouse development, which was to be located in watershed land that drains into the Aspetuck and Easton Reservoirs and provides drinking water to over 400,000 Fairfield County residents.
Watershed issues were paramount in reaching the decision to dismiss the appeals, according to Judge Berger’s memorandum of decision. “The preservation and protection of the wetlands and watercourses from random, unnecessary, undesirable and unregulated uses, disturbance or destruction is in the public interest and is essential to the health, welfare and safety of the citizens of the state,” the document reads.
Critics of the development project were elated at the court’s decision. “The Saddle Ridge proposal would set a terrible precedent for building on watershed land,” said Verne Gay, President of Citizens for Easton (CFE) and a member of the Coalition to Save Easton, (CSE) a sub-group of CFE that was the environmental intervener in the case.” Gay added, “I’m so grateful to Judge Berger for being so thorough and fair.”
In accordance with the Connecticut State Legislature’s directions to protect the town’s watersheds, the town’s land use commissions “properly reviewed the impact of Saddle Ridge’s proposal and denied the applications,” the memorandum reads. “The commission has proven that it’s decision was necessary to protect the public’s interest in safe drinking water that the risk to the drinking water supply for 400,000 people clearly outweighed the need for affordable housing units as proposed by Saddle Ridge.” Saddle Ridge Developers, LLC had planned to build 30 units to meet the criteria of State Statute 8-30g. CFE/CSE also notes that the existing affordable units on record with the town of Easton have historically had a vacancy rate of approximately 50%.