Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
PZC wraps up public hearings on West Street subdivision

By Jason Rowe
Journal Inquirer
September 22, 2006

VERNON - The Planning and Zoning Commission finished hearing testimony Thursday regarding a controversial residential subdivision proposed for land on West Street, with several neighbors speaking out against the plan.

With the public hearing concluded, the commission will likely begin deliberating the application in earnest at its Oct. 5 meeting.

Last month, the PZC began hearing testimony on local developer Kenneth J. Boynton's plans to develop 30 acres at 214 West St. into 28 residential lots. But earlier this month, the PZC was forced to restart the public hearing on the proposed subdivision after questions arose about whether appropriate notification was sent to nearby residents.

The commission also asked the developer to modify his original plans, which called for the residential lots to surround two cul-de-sacs.

At the conclusion of the applicant's testimony on Sept. 7, the commission agreed that they would like to see Boynton offer up a proposal that includes a through street between West Street and Tracy Drive and eliminates cul-de-sacs, which town officials have said are inefficient and pose hazards for emergency and maintenance vehicles.

The through street would be created by connecting one of the proposed cul-de-sacs with a road created by an already approved 13-lot subdivision off Tracy Drive, which was proposed by Boynton last year.

Both the cul-de-sac and the through-street plans were criticized by residents living on nearby Tracy and Kenneth drives. Among them was Frederick Goff of 130 Tracy Drive, who attempted to testify at Thursday's proceedings as an intervenor.

Intervenor status gives private citizens a chance to be a party to proceedings and present their own expert testimony to ensure natural resources remain protected.

Goff, who is involved in a number of legal entanglements with the town regarding its handling of Boynton's proposals, saw his request denied when town staff said his application failed to list specific reasons why he should be declared an intervenor.

In addition to a legal dispute over the existence of a 50-foot right-of-way adjacent to Goff's home, which would be used to access the already approved 13 residential lots, Goff and his wife Barbara have also appealed previous wetlands commission and PZC approvals of Boynton's plans.

On Thursday, Goff told the commission that there were 23 instances where Boynton's plans failed to adhere to town subdivision regulations. He also argued that the manner in which two roads in the development would join at a perpendicular angle violates town regulations.

"A two-way intersection is not in the regulations," Goff said. "It is an oxymoron."

The commission also heard from Kenneth Drive resident Amarjit S. Buttar, who said he was concerned that the new development might hurt the character of the neighborhood. Buttar, who is a member of the town's Board of Education, said property values and quality of life might also be undermined if the commission "upset the apple cart" by approving the development.

Several other residents also spoke against the project, citing concerns about water runoff and negative effects on the neighborhood's character.

But in his rebuttal, Boynton's lawyer, Joseph Capossela, argued that state statues and the town's subdivision regulations allow Boynton to subdivide the property as proposed. Capossela also said the commission has the option to decide if they want Boynton to build the cul-de-sac plan, which the developer prefers, or the through-street plan.

Among the items that the PZC will likely discuss during their Oct. 5 deliberations is how to handle the maintenance of a planned water detention basin. Some commission members have expressed a desire to require Boynton to pay for maintenance costs for the basin over its useful life.

But Capossela has said he doesn't believe the town can legally require Boynton to pay for maintenance of what will likely be a piece of town infrastructure. Although the maintenance costs could be made the burden of a private condominium association, Capossela said his client does not wish the proposed development to be set up in such a way.

Commission members will also have to decide if the proposed grade of one of the proposed streets is too steep to meet town regulations.

©Journal Inquirer 2006