Category Archives: Saddle Ridge

Saddle Ridge legal challenges proceed through courts

The proposed development plan for the 124-acre Saddle Ridge property, which would include single-family homes and duplex units, with 30% of them to be designated as affordable housing.

Legal challenges to the approved Saddle Ridge housing development are slowly working their way through the courts, with no clear indication when written briefs might be filed or oral arguments will take place.

The Planning and Zoning Commission’s unanimous vote in March is being appealed by entities that both favor and oppose the controversial plan, which would have 20 affordable housing units out of 66 total units.

The developer, consisting of Saddle Ridge Developers LLC and Silver Sport Associates LP, is upset with some of the many conditions — or restrictions — put on the project’s approval by the P&Z. The Coalition to Save Easton, a group affiliated with the Citizens For Easton organization that has long focused on retaining the town’s rural character, wants the P&Z decision overturned.

The two lawsuits have been consolidated by the court and transferred to the state’s Superior Court land-use docket, and will be heard by Judge Marshall Berger. In a previous lawsuit involving a different development proposal by the Saddle Ridge developer at the same site, Berger denied the developer’s appeal and ruled in favor of the P&Z’s rejection of that project.

A conference call on the pending case for representatives of the participating parties has been scheduled for Oct. 3. A previous conference call took place Aug. 22.

The P&Z is being represented by attorney Ira Bloom of the Berchem Moses firm, who handles many matters for the town; the developer’s attorney is Matthew Ranelli of Shipman & Goodwin; and the coalition’s legal representative is attorney Janet P. Brooks, an environmental specialist.

Bloom said the judge has asked lawyers involved in the case to report in about once a month on their status in the litigation.

In the future, the attorneys will be given a date to submit written briefs by the judge and then a date set to hear oral arguments. “But that’s a ways down the road,” Bloom said.

Ranelli, the developer’s attorney, said he could offer no comment at this time. Ranelli also represented the developer in front of the P&Z during the application process.

Brooks, the Coalition to Save Easton’s lawyer, could not be reached for comment.

William J. Kupinse Jr., one of three interveners in the case on behalf of the coalition, said the case remains in “its preliminary stages. Like most litigation, it will drag along for awhile and eventually be heard by the court.”

Kupinse, a former Easton first selectman, is a practicing attorney but is not involved in this case as a legal representative, but as a town resident on behalf of the coalition. The two other coalition members listed in court papers are Leslie Minasi and Verne Gay.

The P&Z has met to discuss the legal case in executive session — which are closed to the public and media — several times before regular meetings in recent months.

P&Z Chairman Robert Maquat said he doesn’t believe any formal legal documents other than the original lawsuit papers — called “complaints” in legal jargon — have been filed with the court. “We’re kind of in a holding pattern,” Maquat said.

The project, the appeals

As approved, Saddle Ridge would have 30 single-family homes as well as 18 duplex structures with an additional 36 living units. All structures would be on lots of at least one acre, with about one-third of the overall site kept as homeowners’ association-owned open space. Each of the 48 lots would be served by individual septic systems and wells.

The development, known as Easton Crossing, would be built on a 110-acre site that had been zoned for three-acre, single-family houses.

The application was filed under the state’s affordable housing law, known as statute 8-30g, which puts an extra burden on local land-use boards when rejecting an application.

In its appeal, the developer claims the P&Z’s numerous conditions of approval “essentially denies Saddle Ridge’s application because it will have a substantial adverse impact on the viability and degree of affordability of Saddle Ridge’s development.”

The appeal states the P&Z’s 77 conditions “do not clearly outweigh the need for affordable housing in Easton” and “could have been addressed by reasonable changes to the application plans.”

The Coalition to Save Easton, in its lawsuit, questions having have one septic system for each two-unit duplex structure based on a town ordinance, the P&Z concluding a new inland wetlands application wasn’t needed, and if the project’s regional environmental impact was fully vetted.

 

In addition to the above article published in the Easton Courier, the project is reasonably likely to have the effect of unreasonable polluting the waters  of the State as concluded by our experts,.  And, as partially stated in the last paragraph in the Courier article, the project contains community septic, which is contrary to Town Ordinance. Also, among our other concerns, the application bypassed the Conservation Commission usurping their role in determining the licensing of regulated activities .

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Stamford water supply connected to Easton development

A pipe running along Davenport Ridge Lane in Stamford on Nov. 29, 2016. Aquarion installed the pipe to bring 4 million gallons of water a day into Stamford from Bridgeport. The Stamford reservoirs are less than half what they should because of the drought. Photo: Matthew Brown / Hearst Connecticut Media

Stamford Advocate: By Angela Carella Published Friday, April 14, 2017

STAMFORD – It’s unlikely Stamfordites would have much interest in a zoning fight that’s dogging the town of Easton, half an hour to the north. The communities have little in common, other than seats in Fairfield County.
Stamford, with 130,000 residents, is diverse, largely urban, a business center known for its traffic and proximity to Manhattan. Easton, with a homogeneous population of 7,500, is largely rural. It has one traffic light and not a single commercial zone. But they have a vital connection – most of Easton is on watershed land owned by Aquarion, and its reservoirs are a big source of Stamford’s water. Now Eastoners are in court battling a development of 66 houses and duplex units that has been approved for a tract of land between two significant reservoirs – Aspetuck and Easton Lake.
Aspetuck — along with the Saugatuck Reservoir, which runs along the Easton border into Weston and Redding; and Hemlocks Reservoir, which crosses into Fairfield – are part of a system that supplies 5 million of the 11 million gallons of water Stamford uses each day. The feed can go as high as 7 million gallons a day in normal times, said Bruce Silverstone, vice president of corporate communications for Aquarion, the area’s water utility.
But, because of a drought plaguing the region, Aquarion in November installed a temporary above-ground pipe and the Easton area began feeding Stamford all 11 million gallons. The water flows far beyond Stamford. The Easton-area system is a source for all of southern Fairfield County. “We are hoping that all towns in the county that get water from us would help us,” said Bill Kupinse, a former Easton first selectman and an attorney on the board of Citizens for Easton, a group he said has “been around for about 40 years trying to protect Easton from one developer or another.”
Affordable housing
The Easton Planning and Zoning Commission approved the housing project in March, after months of debate, tacking on “a whole bunch of conditions,” Kupinse said. “But the citizens of Easton don’t think the conditions are sufficient to protect the watershed.” Continue reading

Easton Conservation/Inland Wetlands Agency never received for review an application from Saddle Ridge for the 2016 development proposal

January 3, 2017 letter to P&Z from Conservation Chair and Resident Dori Wollen:
“This is a follow up to my letter to you dated November 18, 2016 regarding the latest Saddle Ridge development proposal. As noted before, the Conservation/Inland Wetlands Agency (“Conservation”) has yet to render an opinion due to the lack of receiving a formal application from the developers. The developers continue to claim that there is no new wetland impact and therefore the 2014 Conservation permit remains valid. However, until we know the extent of the regulated activities we cannot determine their impact. This issue was last discussed at our meeting on November 15, 2016 which prompted my letter referred to above. Continue reading

Significant concerns were raised in testimony by soil scientist expert

Excerpt from letter from Environmental Planning Services, (CSE’s intervenor expert) regarding the Saddle Ridge development application to Easton P&Z:
“The Planning and Zoning Commission cannot rely on the wetland permit as the Conservation Commission’s report or approval for several reasons. The plans do not meet the conditions of the Conservation Commission 2014 permit, which included modifications to the design of the drainage and stormwater treatment systems, as well as permanent restrictions on impervious cover, restrictions on construction timing, and individual review of the site plan for each home lot that includes an upland review area. It appears that individual reviews will be required on 44 of the 49 lots. The current application and plans also do not address the condition calling for a third party engineering review of the construction, as required by the wetland permit.  The Conservation Commission conditions are also consistent with my recommendations with respect to establishment and permanent funding of a long term maintenance mechanism for the stormwater management system.  If it is true that the applicant has maintained an active appeal of the permit, these concerns are especially significant.” 

Easton Health Department did not recommend approval of Saddle Ridge

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.”

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. Continue reading