Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Downtown condos denied

By Kym Soper
Journal Inquirer
Friday, April 18, 2008

VERNON — An application that would have led to a developer’s building condos on a steep hill overlooking the downtown Rockville section of town was unanimously rejected Thursday by the Planning and Zoning Commission.

Commission Chairman Lester Finkle said there was no “compelling reason” to approve the bid by Lee & Lamont Realty for a zone change on 15.8 acres of interior land sited on ledge above the Amerbelle textile mill.

“There was concern regarding Rockville, and the impact on the town from the standpoint of the intensity of the development of the site and on the town’s ability to maintain the infrastructure and all that goes with it,” Finkle said, adding that “was the major piece that swayed opinion.”

While they had only requested the zone change for now, developers had intended to build an undisclosed number of single-family attached condos or apartments on the limited access site.

The property is bordered by houses on East Main Street to the south, Pleasant and Ann streets to the west, Lawrence Street to the north, and Snipsic Street at the east, and is currently zoned for a sub-division.

The landowner argued that due to the steep bedrock, existing wetlands, and town zoning regulations governing the space needed for single family home construction, development on the land would be impossible, and thereby made the land useless.

Condos or apartments would take up less space, they said.

The plan drew ire from some neighbors, however, angry that a high-density development was being sited in the wooded area abutting their backyards.

Neighbors claimed the project was not consistent with the town’s plan of development, and major changes to the topography would cause environmental issues for the homes below.

Building on the site would require leveling the hilltop, deforestation of the dense woods, and blasting and drilling of the ledge, which would destroy the ecosystem and potentially damage the foundations of existing homes, their lawyer Dale Roberson said.

And once built, more problems would ensue for neighbors at lower elevations who would have to deal with significant water runoff, he added.

Also Thursday the PZC closed the public hearing on Timber Ridge Landscaping — which remains under a cease and desist order for its Dart Hill Road operation — with plans to begin deliberations at its next meeting.

Earlier this month the commission ordered owner Ben Carlson to shut down the business he’s been running since December near the entrance to a playground and a hiking trail.

Neighbors had complained that Carlson had more of a landfill operation than a horticultural enterprise on the property as the yard had been filled with up to 30 Dumpsters, heavy-duty diesel trucks, and earthmoving equipment.

At their April 3 meeting commission members asked Timber Ridge owners to return with a detailed business plan for the property, which at one time housed a carpet and flooring showroom in the 6,000-square-foot building located at 670 Dart Hill Road.

Timber Ridge has more than 60 Dumpsters it rents out to homeowners and construction contractors. When filled, their staff loads them onto flatbed trucks and hauls them to the landfill.

Neighbors had concerns over noise and environmental issues, which they presented at the last meeting.

Finkle said Timber Ridge provided updated exhibits and an extensive business plan on Thursday, showing a concrete pad where the Dumpsters would be stored and enclosed by 6-foot stockade fences.

They also included an extensive planting and landscaping scheme for the area, filled with arborvitae and spruce to shield the trucks and Dumpsters from the view of hikers and neighbors, he said.

The plan also addressed drainage, as Timber Ridge would install an extensive catch basin filter system, described as the Rolls Royce or Cadillac of systems as it went further than the state Environmental Protection agency requires.

Town staff wanted to take a further look at the plan, and the application was continued to the May 1 meeting. The cease and desist order remains in effect, Finkle said.

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