Wetlands Agency Reviews Sandy Hook School Project

The Inland Wetlands Commission (IWC) this week conducted a public hearing on the wetlands protection aspects of the town’s proposal to construct a new Sandy Hook Elementary School at 12 Dickinson Drive to replace the school that the town demolished last year, following the December 2012 massacre there.

The July 9 hearing was sparsely attended, drawing four members of the public. None of those four people had any comments or questions on the construction proposal.

The IWC closed the hearing and took no action on the redevelopment application. The IWC is scheduled to meet on July 23 to review the application and possibly act on it.

The five members of the IWC also serve as the town’s Aquifer Protection Agency (APA). Following the 70-minute IWC hearing, they then convened as the APA to review the environmental effects of the project on the underlying Pootatuck Aquifer. The aquifer is a major underground water source, providing potable water for two public water supplies and many individual domestic water wells.

APA members endorsed the application, issuing a “finding of no significant impact.” That finding will be forwarded to the Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z), which has scheduled a public hearing on the zoning aspects of the school construction proposal for July 31.

Overall, 13.5 acres of terrain would be modified at the Dickinson Drive site.

The application to the IWC states that 4,969 square feet of existing wetlands would be altered as part of the site’s redevelopment. Construction would occur within the 100-foot-wide regulated buffer areas that surround wetlands.

Stormwater control devices would be installed to control the amount of stormwater flowing off of the property and the water quality of that runoff.

Earthmoving at the site would involve 32,000 cubic yards of cutting and 24,000 cubic yards of filling.

There are two wetlands on the site. The application describes physical measures that would be taken to environmentally protect those wetlands.

The proposed 87,160-square-foot school would have facilities for children from pre-kindergarten to grade 4 within 23 classrooms and other facilities. There would be parking for 150 vehicles.

Svigals + Partners, a New Haven architectural firm, is the lead firm in presenting the application for town land use agency review.

At the July 9 session, architect Julia McFadden described architectural aspects of the construction project.

Landscape architect Bill Richter explained the developmental layout planned for the site. He described traffic flow and parking, among other topics.

Discussion during the July 9 session included erosion and sedimentation control, stormwater control, the presence and eradication of invasive plant species, site access, and the types of plantings that would be made on the property, among others.

Of the aquifer protection aspects of the project, IWC/APA member Anne Peters said that documents presented by the applicant adequately address the environmental protection issues listed in the town aquifer regulations.

IWC/APA Chairman Mary Curran said that the stormwater control design for the project is an environmentally good design.

The school construction project may start sometime this fall. The development application states that construction is expected to be completed 20 months after the work begins.

Last October, town voters approved spending more than $49 million in the form of a state grant designated for the demolition of the former school and the design and construction of the new school.

More stories like this: Sandy Hook School, Inland Wetlands Agency
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