Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Home Depot rejection reaffirmed by wetlands panel

By Jason Rowe
Journal Inquirer
December 7, 2005

VERNON — The Inland Wetlands Commission has reaffirmed its August 2003 rejection of a Home Depot proposed for Reservoir Road, ending months of deliberations among commissioners.

On Tuesday, the commission unanimously approved a 14-page document outlining its reasons for rejecting a wetlands permit for Diamond 67 LLC, the developers who want to build the 117,000-square-foot Home Depot.

The store, including a garden center, would be built on the 14.7-acre site of the former New England SportsPlex near exit 67 from Interstate 84.

The commission's decision brings to a close the latest step in a legal battle over the site, which began when the commission rejected Diamond 67's application for a permit following eight lengthy public hearings on the project, held between May 6 and July 30, 2003.

The developers appealed the commission's decision, and Superior Court Judge Jane S. Scholl vacated the decision in March. She concluded that the commission had failed to find an adverse impact from the project, a legally required condition for a rejection.

Scholl sent the matter back to the wetlands commission for further consideration.

Weeks later, the developers asked the court to order the commission to stop deliberating and issue a wetlands permit for the project. But that request was denied, and during the summer the commission began holding special meetings to formulate a response to Scholl's March decision.

The document approved Tuesday is the final result, Special Town Counsel Harold Cummings said today.

Quoting heavily from the more than 20 volumes of documents and testimony derived from the eight public hearings, the commissioners concluded that the application for the wetlands permit should be denied because:

• Chemicals and sedimentation stemming from the development would affect the physical characteristics of watercourses and impair their ability to sustain trout spawning.

• The proposed development would significantly impair the physical characteristics of wetlands and watercourses surrounding Gages Brook, Walker Reservoir East, and the Tankerhoosen River.

• The development would result in significant effects on the downstream flow of the Tankerhoosen River, resulting in flooding, erosion, and sedimentation of watercourses.

The commission also found that the developers could mitigate the damage to surrounding wetlands by connecting the property to town sewers, reducing the size of the proposed structure, reducing the size of the parking lot, redesigning the storm-water drainage system, and eliminating the planned 28,700-square-foot garden center.

"There was no new evidence, no new information that was looked at by the board," Cummings said. "What you have here is a very detailed, very explicit cross-reference to the record."

With the commission's deliberations completed, Cummings said, the developers are likely to ask the court to decide if the commission's reasons for denying the application are legitimate.

Depending on the court's decision, Cummings said, the case could continue on to the state Appellate Court.

Amy Blaymore Paterson, a lawyer who represented three opponents of the store, said she was pleased with the level of detail in the commission's findings.

"I think they did a thorough and complete job," Paterson said.