Wetlands Permit Sought-Hook & Ladder Submits Firehouse Application
Wetlands Permit Soughtâ
Hook & Ladder Submits Firehouse Application
By Andrew Gorosko
Newtown Hook & Ladder Company, Inc, #1, which is one of the townâs five volunteer fire companies, has submitted to the Inland Wetlands Commission (IWC) an application for a wetlands/watercourses protection permit as part of its proposal to construct a 11,414-square-foot firehouse on property at 12 Sugar Street (Route 302).
The IWC formally received the application at its July 28 session, and is expected to soon schedule a public hearing on the matter.
The 9.4-acre site is on the north side of Sugar Street, northwest of Sugar Streetâs intersection with Elm Drive. The site lies 950 feet west ofÂ the major intersection of Sugar Street, Main Street, Glover Avenue, and South Main Street.
Under the proposal, the Borough of Newtown Land Trust, Inc, and the R. Scudder Smith Family Partnership would donate land to create the site for the firehouse. The property has extensive wetlands. The undeveloped site is lightly wooded and contains heavy undergrowth. The property has R-1 (Residential) and B-Â½ (Business) zoning.
According to plans submitted to the IWC, approximately 44,000 square feet of the site, or about 1.01 acre, would be physically altered. That work would include the physical alteration of about 4,980 square feet of wetlands.Â
Also, approximately 8,000 cubic yards of earthen fill would be removed/deposited on the site, including about 1,000 cubic yards of fill being removed/deposited in wetlands.
The construction project is anticipated to take about eight months to accomplish.
The IWC application lists 59 property owners who own real estate within 500 feet of the site.
Site plans for the project depict a 11,414-square-foot firehouse, which would have a partial second story, with 8,414 square feet of space on the ground level, and 3,000 square feet of enclosed space on the upper level. The firehouse would have six garage bays facing Sugar Street. There would be 21 parking spaces on the site.
The firehouse would be set back at least 50 feet from Sugar Street, thus eliminating the need for the fire company to obtain a zoning variance for the project from the Borough Zoning Board of Appeals (BZBA).
In August 2009, the BZBA unanimously rejected the fire companyâs request for a zoning variance. That action came amid stiff neighborhood opposition to granting a zoning variance to allow the fire company to build a firehouse closer to the street than the zoning regulations would normally allow.
The fire company had sought a zoning variance from the BZBA to allow it to construct a firehouse that would be set back 20 feet from 12 Sugar Street propertyâs front boundary line. The normal minimum setback distance in that area is 50 feet. The fire company had sought that variance in view of the extensive wetlands on the site.
In their motion to reject the requested zoning variance, BZBA members cited three basic reasons for turning down the application. They decided that a firehouse would not be in harmony with the general character of the residential neighborhood; the presence of a firehouse and its related fire vehicle traffic would create traffic hazards in the congested area; and that a firehouseâs presence would damage property values in the neighborhood.
Although Hook & Ladder does not need a zoning variance for the current proposal, it would need Borough Zoning Commission (BZC) approval for a site development plan.
At a June 9 special meeting, the Police Commission, acting as the local traffic authority, unanimously endorsed a traffic study on the firehouse project prepared for Hook & Ladder by Frederick P. Clark Associates, Inc.
Traffic planning for the firehouse project calls for allowing the fire company to remotely control the functioning of the traffic signal at the intersection of Sugar Street, Main Street, Glover Avenue, and South Main Street.
Such an arrangement would allow firefighters to turn on a âgreen signalâ for the eastbound traffic on Sugar Street. Such a green signal would allow the section of Sugar Street lying between the traffic signal and the firehouse to be cleared of traffic in cases when firefighters would need to travel eastward on Sugar Street while responding to an emergency call. Sugar Street in that area experiences heavy congestion during commuter rush periods.
Last March, representatives of Hook & Ladder and the Board of Fire Commissioners sought financial support for the firehouse project from the Public Safety Subcommittee of the Legislative Council.
The firehouse project has been placed on the townâs Capital Improvement Plan (CIP). Under that spending plan, the town would contribute $1.5 million toward the construction project. The funding would be spread across three fiscal years, through three $500,000 increments.
The fire company has asked that the town provide $1.5 million the toward the overall cost of a $2.6 million firehouse. Through the use of âvalue engineeringâ the fire company is seeking to hold the cost of the project down to $2.2 million or $2.3 million.Â
Hook & Ladder currently operates out of a physically deteriorated, structurally unsound, town-owned red brick firehouse located at 45 Main Street, adjacent to a parking lot behind Edmond Town Hall.
In its application to the IWC, the fire company explains a range of alternatives to its construction proposal for 12 Sugar Street, but concludes that 12 Sugar Street is the best possible location for a new firehouse.
âThe [Sugar Street] site affords a centralized location within the [fire] district and the land is being donated to the fire company,â it states.
Over the years, the fire company had explored a range of alternatives for new quarters.
They include: constructing a new firehouse at its current site; constructing a new firehouse on town-owned land on Queen Street, and creating a new firehouse at Fairfield Hills.
Other locations that the fire company has researched for new facilities include: the former Yankee Drover property on Main Street, the former Grand Union supermarket site on Queen Street, and the former White Birch Inn property on Church Hill Road, among others, according to the IWC application.
In each case, the those locations proved unworkable for practical and/or financial reasons, Hook & Ladder states.
The town has five volunteer five companies â Hook & Ladder, Dodgingtown, Hawleyville, Sandy Hook, and Botsford. Each of the four other fire companies owns its firehouse, while Hook & Ladder operates out of a town-owned building. The Board of Fire Commissioners is an umbrella organization overseeing the five fire companies. The board has a member from each fire company, plus civilian members.