The Inland Wetlands Commission (IWC) has scheduled a public hearing on a proposed 23-lot cluster-style residential subdivision for late August.
IWC members decided at a July 28 session to hold the public hearing on The Preserve at Newtown proposal on Wednesday, August 27. IWC hearings typically are held at 7:30 pm at the Newtown Municipal Center at 3 Primrose Street.
At a July 23 session, when IWC members received engineering drawings for the Preserve project, they initially had tentatively scheduled the hearing for August 13.
But Rob Sibley, town deputy director of planning and land use, said that holding the hearing later, on August 27, would provide sufficient time for legally required notices of that hearing to be filed.
Two development firms are proposing the construction of the subdivision on a 167-acre tract.
The project is proposed by developers KASL, LLC, and IBF, LLC. The firms are represented by local developer/builder George L. Trudell.
The cluster-style development, technically known as an “open space conservation subdivision” (OSCS) is designed to cluster its houses in two separate areas of the sprawling site.
About nine house lots would be created along Robin Hill Road #2, which extends northeastward from Rock Ridge Road near Rock Ridge Country Club in Dodgingtown.
Another cluster of house lots would be constructed on a new dead-end street known as Deer Hill Drive extending southeastward from Scudder Road, south of Ferris Road.
By clustering the houses on relatively small lots, the plans allow 84 acres, or about half of the 167-acre site, to remain undeveloped and protected as open space land.
IWC Chairman Mary Curran told IWC members at the July 28 session that the Preserve subdivision proposal marks a “significant application.”
“I think it will have public interest,” she said of the likelihood that the hearing would attract people interested in learning about the development proposal.
“I hope so,” added IWC member Anne Peters.
As part of their technical review of the application, IWC members will tour the site to learn how the project’s engineering design would provide environmental protection for wetlands and watercourses there.
The IWC’s regulatory role is to review development plans with an eye toward requiring steps to environmentally protect wetlands and watercourses.
After such a development project gains IWC approval, it typically is submitted for a planning review by the Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z). The P&Z also holds public hearings on such applications.
In the past, virtually all major residential subdivision proposals submitted for town land use agency review involved “large lot” development. Such large-lot development commonly included building lots that were at least two acres or three acres in area, depending upon the residential zone within which a development tract was located.
In 2004, after nearly two years of review, the P&Z approved a specialized set of land use rules for cluster housing developments, known as the OSCS regulations. Those regulations include both zoning rules and planning rules intended to maximize the amount of undeveloped open space land that would be preserved in new subdivisions of single-family homes, thus serving as a mechanism to curb “suburban sprawl.”
The P&Z later modified the OSCS regulations at the request of developers who said that the regulations needed to be more flexible to make them workable.
The minimum size for building lots at the Preserve would be 35,015 square feet, which is about four-fifths of an acre.
The Preserve is the largest residential subdivision proposed in Newtown since Sherman Woods. The Preserve is the second subdivision proposed locally under the terms of the OSCS planning regulations, with Sherman Woods having been the first.
Last October, IWC members approved Sherman Woods, a proposed 42-lot cluster-style residential subdivision on a 158-acre site off Sherman Street in Sandy Hook.
In 2009, Sherman Woods initially had been proposed as a conventional large-lot subdivision. But IWC members rejected that design citing environmental concerns, resulting in the developer filing a court appeal which then took four years to resolve.
The Sherman Woods project remains unbuilt because its developers have not yet submitted a subdivision construction application to the P&Z.
The OSCS development rules are intended to reduce suburban sprawl by providing a developmental alternative to conventional large-lot subdivisions. When building lots in OSCS developments are relatively smaller, relatively larger amounts of open space are preserved on a site.
The OSCS rules require that at least 50 percent of a site be preserved as open space. By contrast, conventional large-lot subdivision projects must preserve a minimum 15 percent of a development tract as open space.