Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Developer trims Bolton Lakes area subdivision proposal

By Suzanne Carlson
Journal Inquirer
Published: Friday, January 14, 2011 3:07 PM EST

VERNON — The Planning and Zoning Commission is considering a revised proposal by Capstone Builders for a 16-lot subdivision of single-family homes off Grier Road, but there still is resistance from neighboring residents who say the new development would have a negative environmental impact on the nearby Bolton Lakes.

The project, which first was proposed in September 2005 as an 18-lot subdivision, stalled when the Inland Wetlands Commission voted to reject a permit for the development in early 2006, after which Capstone appealed and a settlement was reached through mediation, according to Dorian Famiglietti, lawyer for the applicant.

After receiving the necessary wetlands permit, Famiglietti said Capstone resubmitted the application to the PZC in April 2007, which was again rejected, forcing all parties, including several objectors, back into mediation.

Rather than continuing with litigation, Capstone decided in 2009 to submit a new application to the PZC.

The revised application, which shaves two lots off the original proposal by combining three lots as part of the court settlement, would be set on 60.5 acres owned by Grier Road residents Mark and Susan St. Germain. The proposed building lots and new cul-de-sac road, Laurelwood Lane, would occupy about 34 acres, while some of the remaining land would be dedicated as open space and some would remain property of the St. Germain family.

At a special meeting of the PZC Thursday dedicated solely to Capstone’s application, Famiglietti, Capstone President Gregory Pinto, and engineer Eric Peterson outlined the specifics of the development. It would be bordered to the east by the Coventry town line, Bolton Branch Road to the south, the town-owned park Camp Newhoca on the west, and Cubles Road on the north.

The parcel is not located in an aquifer protection zone or floodplain, it would satisfy storm-water management requirements, and it has been approved by the Conservation Commission, the North Central Conservation District, the North Central Health District, and the Traffic Authority, Peterson said.

Because the subdivision would be located within the Bolton Lakes Regional Water Pollution Authority sewer district, that agency’s chairman, Robert Morra, said the development would be required to tie into Bolton’s sewers, which have yet to be installed.

Because the developers were waiting for approval from other agencies, site plans for the project have not been finalized, but the developer said that there would be finished plans available in the Town Planner’s office as early as today.

Adding to the confusion is the fact that the developers have offered essentially four separate “options” for the PZC’s perusal, which mix and match configurations for the roadway and open space.

One road configuration has Laurelwood Lane at 1,500 feet, while in the other has a cul-de-sac extending 1,800 feet.

For the two open space options, one grants 9.37 acres of open space, or 15.5 percent of the total parcel area, while the other grants 14.42 acres of open space, or 23.8 percent of the total parcel area. Town zoning regulations require developers to preserve at least 15 percent of a total parcel area as open space.

The difference in the two arrangements is that in the former, the town would receive 5.86 acres by “fee dedication,” making it town-owned property, while in the other 3.52 acres would remain in private ownership with a conservation easement that would prevent future development.

In the higher-percentage second proposal, the town would only control 1.05 acres, while the St. Germains would keep 13.37 acres under a conservation easement for their personal recreation.

After Famiglietti concluded her presentation, lawyer Derek V. Oatis submitted a petition for intervenor status on behalf of Anchorage Road resident Janine P. Gelineau.

According to state law, a resident may intervene in a construction application if they feel they can provide scientific evidence that development would have a significant negative impact on the environment.

Town Attorney Harold Cummings reviewed the petition and found it to be valid, and recommended that the PZC accept information from outside parties.

Among other concerns related to the environment, Oatis contended that because the applicant did not start building activity within two years as required under a mediated wetlands permit, that approval was now moot.

Oatis said he was prepared to appeal a decision by the PZC if he is not allowed to address the issue of wetlands approval, but argued that an appeal would be detrimental for all involved because “appeal means thousands of dollars and many years.”

One resident spoke during the public portion of the meeting to argue that the proposed retention basin for the storm-water management system would be a dangerous addition to the neighborhood.

Faye Risley of Anchorage Road said that the basin would create a drowning hazard for local children, a breeding ground for mosquitoes, and a maintenance burden for the town.

Cubles Road resident Edie Chernack also brought up several environmental concerns in a letter to the PZC, including the impact of runoff from additional impervious surfaces into the Bolton Lakes and why there has not been a comprehensive study conducted of the property by an environmental review team.

Chernack and others have argued that there is a type of seasonal wetland known as vernal pools present on the proposed development site that have not been mapped and are crucial to reproduction for amphibians.

Pinto, however, denied that there are vernal pools on the site. He suggested that the alleged pools are actually remnants of septic system test pits, and also dismissed accusations that Capstone had prevented a regional watershed environmental group from reviewing the property.

The public hearing was continued to the next meeting on Jan. 20 at 7:30 p.m. in Town Hall. The hearing is expected to extend into February to give all parties more time to review finalized plans and complete the intervenor’s presentation.

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