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Panel Finds Walnut Tree Village Not A Threat To The Aquifer



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Panel Finds Walnut Tree Village Not A Threat To The Aquifer

By Andrew Gorosko

Conservation Commission members have found that the planned expansion of the Walnut Tree Village condominium complex from 80 units to 190 units “will not have any substantial adverse impacts to the Pootatuck Aquifer.”

Following an aquifer protection review of Walnut Tree Developers’ proposal to add 110 new condo units to the Walnut Tree Hill Road complex, Conservation Commission members April 26 unanimously agreed on a “finding of no significant impact,” said town Conservation Official C. Stephen Driver.

The commission’s review of the Walnut Tree Village proposal’s effect on the aquifer is the third such aquifer protection review the agency has performed for the Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) since the town’s aquifer protection regulations took effect last June.

The other aquifer reviews concerned businesswoman Judith Volpe’s proposal to build a 6,000-square-foot office/retail building at 224 South Main Street, just north of Sand Hill Plaza, and Swenson Granite Company, LLC’s, proposal to construct a sales office, garage, and storage yard at 292 South Main Street, just south of Buzz’s Mobil.

Conservation Commission Chairman Sandra Michaud said conservation members are recommending to the P&Z that Walnut Tree Developers take steps to increase the capacity of a planned water runoff recirculation system for Walnut Tree Village. That planned system is designed to divert stormwater runoff from pavement and roofs on the site back into soil on the property.

The Conservation Commission suggests increasing the size of the water runoff recirculation system to reduce the amount of runoff leaving the property. The runoff that stays on the property would be channeled back into the aquifer.

Ms Michaud said the pesticide and fertilizer control plans proposed by the developers describe a very good way to handle those substances on the site.

Conservation members last month received scientific and engineering reports from Walnut Tree Developers in connection with the aquifer protection review.

The developers started construction on the 80-unit complex on an 18-acre site on Walnut Tree Hill Road in Sandy Hook in 1995. They now want to build another 110 units on an adjacent 34-acre site. The new units would be served by a public water supply and sanitary sewers, as are the existing units.

Conservation members have modified and reapproved the developers’ wetlands construction permit and tree cutting permit for an expansion project, which were issued in March 1999. Those permits had been issued when the developers were proposing building 133 new units on the site. P&Z members rejected the 133-unit expansion project last November, resulting in the developers returning to the town with scaled-back plans for 110 units.

The proposed 133-unit expansion project had not been subject to the town’s aquifer protection regulations, which took effect last June.

The modified expansion plans propose 18 new residential buildings, instead of 22 new residential buildings. A proposed private road would be realigned to lessen the amount of earthmoving needed for the project.

The elevations of some proposed buildings would be raised to better balance grading work within the town’s Aquifer Protection District (APD).

The developers propose building the expansion project in three distinct construction phases as a way to limit erosion and sedimentation problems in the area.

 About 9.7 acres of the 34.1-acre development site are in the APD. The 9.7 acres are in the Pootatuck Aquifer’s “secondary recharge area.”

About 19.4 acres of the 34.1-acre site would be disturbed by construction. When completed, 10.3 acres of the disturbed area would be covered with vegetation, and 9.1 acres would be covered by impervious surfaces such as roads, driveways, parking areas, and roofs.

The town’s aquifer protection regulations are intended to better safeguard the quality of existing and potential underground drinking water supplies in the Pootatuck Aquifer, the town’s sole source aquifer. The revised regulations approved last June greatly expand and more explicitly state the rules the P&Z uses to protect groundwater quality in the APD.

The APD, which was approved by the P&Z in 1981, contains the Pootatuck Aquifer, an area of varying width, which generally follows the course of the Pootatuck River through town from its headwaters in the vicinity of the Monroe border northward to Sandy Hook Center. The proposed rules apply to “stratified drift” aquifers, or those such as the Pootatuck Aquifer, in which subterranean water supplies are contained within layered bands of sand, gravel, and boulders.

The regulations seek to protect groundwater quality by prohibiting within the APD land uses that can contaminate groundwater, and by regulating other land uses which may potentially contaminate or downgrade existing and potential groundwater supplies. The aquifer is susceptible to contamination due to its high porosity and shallow water table which is recharged mainly by precipitation that sinks into it from the ground surface above.

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