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
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 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.”
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
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.
You may have heard that conflict continues over an application before Planning & Zoning which would break zoning and imperil the watershed. We’re sorry to say, you’ve heard right. An earlier application had been rejected by P&Z, while Judge Berger of the Hartford District Superior Court had sided with concerns that intensive development on the watershed would present a deleterious impact on the public water supply. The developer subsequently appealed, and was denied.
As always, the challenge before P&Z remains so-called affordable housing under CGS 8-30g. However, in an effort to redress the concerns over this law – often used by developers to force towns to break their zoning – our State Senator, Tony Hwang and Rep. Brenda Kupchick are soliciting comments. Those could help shape potential amendments that would protect the watershed and public health. The deadline for input for the public hearing was February 16 but you still can send in your comments, so please contact your representatives listed below.
If this application were to prevail, others would follow. A domino effect thus established, the threat to public health would be far-reaching, and irreversible.
“Irreversible” is a big word. Fortunately, “if” is not. It’s not too late to make certain this deeply flawed law doesn’t subvert our future, our health, and our mandate to protect this precious resource.
Citizens for Easton has a basic position:
If any portion of a proposed affordable housing development is on land that drains into a public water supply reservoir, a substantial public interest must be established which supersedes 8-30g.
Intensive development on the watershed puts at risk the drinking water of over 340,000 residents in towns across Fairfield County, including Bridgeport, which depend on Easton’s reservoirs for safe, clean, potable water.
Please send your comments to : HSGtestimony@cga.ct.gov with subject line: “Improve 8-30g” with copies to Tony.Hwang@cga.ct.gov, Brenda.Kupchick@cga.ct.gov and firstname.lastname@example.org
As reported by the Fairfield Sun on February 6, 2017
Housing Committee Co-Chair Sen. Tony Hwang and Ranking Member Rep. Brenda Kupchick today issued the following statement: Area residents can now tell state lawmakers what they think of the controversial affordable housing state law known as 8-30g. The CT General Statute section 8-30g law:
- Has been used by developers to bypass local control and zoning regulations and environmental concerns
- Has caused controversial housing decisions throughout Connecticut after costly and inflammatory court litigation.
- Has the potential to forever alter the unique and historical character of neighborhood architecture and communities.
This year, we have an opportunity to:
- Take a close look at this law and how it can be improved and adapted to meet changing community needs.
- Receive input from local zoning officials, community leaders and residents from impacted neighborhoods.
- Come to a solution which provides towns with much-needed control and flexibility while also achieving the goal of increasing our stock of workforce housing.
The Connecticut General Assembly’s Housing Committee will hold a public hearing on the 8-30g law on Thursday, Feb. 16 at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford. You can email your comments about the law today to the Housing Committee at HSGtestimony@cga.ct.gov. The comment may be as brief as you like. Include your name and town in the email.
Put “Improve 8-30g” in the email’s subject line
Copy us on the email at Tony.Hwang@cga.ct.gov and Brenda.Kupchick@cga.ct.gov
For more information on the law, visit cga.ct.gov/2017/rpt/pdf/2017-R-0013.pdf. For more information, call 800-842-1421 (Co-Chair Sen. Hwang) and 800-842-1423 (Ranking Member Rep. Kupchick).