Wetlands Panel Reviews Mt Pleasant Road Apartments Proposal
Newtown Inland Wetlands Commission (IWC) had an in-depth discussion about apartments being proposed on Mt Pleasant Road during its meeting at Newtown Municipal Center on July 27.
IWC members present were chair Sharon Salling, Craig Ferris, Mike McCabe, Suzanne Guidera, and Scott Jackson, as well as the town’s Senior Land Use Enforcement Officer Steve Maguire.
Before going into the public hearing portion of the meeting, Salling had the guidelines and procedures read aloud to let the public know what conduct is appropriate.
She noted that after the applicant presents, the commission will give feedback, then the public will be allowed to ask questions.
“We are going to have a three-minute time limit on the public speaking this evening. Everyone will have a chance to be heard. If not tonight, then at the subsequent meeting,” Salling said.
She emphasized that the IWC deals specifically with wetlands and waterways regulations. They are precluded from considering or commenting on anything other than that, such as wells, aquifers, traffic, lighting, or building design, Salling explained.
The proposal being discussed at length was IW Application #22-14 by Farrell Building Company. It is for a property located at 90 Mt Pleasant Road, to construct 11 Garden Apartment buildings, one clubhouse, and associated site improvements including driveways, parking, and stormwater management.
Salling mentioned to the public, “I also do want to let you know that Land Use Agency [received] a verified petition to intervene from a resident, Pat Napolitano. Unfortunately, he is not able to be with us this evening and will attend the next meeting.”
The IWC motioned to accept Patrick Napolitano’s position as an intervenor. All were in favor except commissioner Guidera, according to the meeting minutes.
Representing the applicant was Newtown Attorney Robert Hall. He shared that the property was previously approved by the IWC in 2018 for medical office buildings, “which had a lot more impacts on the wetlands than our proposal here.”
Hall informed the commission that he has submitted multiple documents about the 2018 approved application, resumes for the JMC LLC staff for the current proposal project, as well as a request for the IWC to deny Patrick Napolitano’s intervenor status.
He noted Principal Soil Scientist James McManus, MS, CPSS, has submitted a report for the Mt Pleasant Road property.
In addition to Hall, JMC LLC Principal James Ryan, RLA, and Design Manager Paul Dumont, PE, represented the applicant. The latter two gave a PowerPoint presentation.
Ryan started off by mentioning how the Farrell Building Company has previously constructed apartments in Sandy Hook, referring to the complex off Washington Avenue. He said those are “fully occupied and doing quite well.”
The application’s 90 Mt Pleasant Road property is 33.2 acres in size and located east of the intersection of Hawleyville Road, Ryan said.
“The site was previously farmland. There are remnants of a house on there,” he said. There is also an asphalt driveway still on-site.
Ryan added, “There is a [Federal Emergency Management Agency] flood line on that, too … I point that out only because this was documented from a FEMA mapping.”
He said that the overall layout of the plan takes advantage of the natural slopes of the land. “The buildings are in two rows essentially,” Ryan said.
He noted that the proposed plans have no direct impact on the wetlands, besides a “pocket wetland.”
Dumont took over the next part of the PowerPoint presentation to discuss the stormwater management system planned after analyzing the topography of the property.
“We established two different design points where water currently enters the wetlands system now. That was the basis of our design,” he said. What they are proposing to do is have stormwater runoff in the area go into two basins.
“We’re providing water quality treatment through the infiltration basins,” Dumont said. Then, coming out of the basins, they have two conduit level spreaders.
“We designed [an] erosion sediment control plan for the site that will try to mitigate any potential impact to the wetlands, the transfer of sediment, erosion, and try to protect the buffer of the wetlands,” Dumont said.
It will have construction access, silt fencing, swales, check dams, as well as temporary sediment basins. Hall then spoke to the comparisons of the current proposed project and the previously approved application in 2018.
The previous plan had “close to 12 acres of hard, impervious surfaces,” where the majority of that was for the roughly 1,200 parking spaces, he explained.
“The current proposal is for 7.3 acres, so it’s a reduction in the impervious area on the property,” Hall said.
McManus stated he originally set flags on the property in 2015, then a delineation was done by Davis Environmental in 2018.
“I subsequently did another visit in March of this year just to re-familiarize myself with the site and also to add some additional photographs … of the site to update our records,” he said.
McManus said the wetlands are in the western part of the site and a swamp is in the southern portion.
According to the on-site investigation report, “This +/- 34.25-acre site is currently undeveloped with a mix of dense shrubby areas and forested upland and wetland areas, which include an intermittent watercourse … The soil types were found to be undisturbed and disturbed. The disturbed soils were observed mainly in the southern portions of the site adjacent to Mount Pleasant Road and in the vicinity of the recently removed single-family residence.”
The document goes on to state, “Typical vegetation observed within the regulated areas include such species as red maple, American elm, yellow birch, Japanese barberry, multiflora rose, honeysuckle, silk dogwood, autumn olive, skunk cabbage, soft rush, sensitive fern, jewelweed, tussock sedges, fringe sedge, Canada mayflower, stinging nettle, Asiatic bittersweet, goldenrods, and poison ivy to name a few.”
McManus concluded his detailed report by saying that “with diligent monitoring of the erosion sediment controls there will be no significant adverse short-term or long-term impacts on wetland resources or functions.”
McCabe wanted to know more about the stormwater management plan, specifically about the flows going into each of two retention basins.
Dumont read through a portion of the submitted plan. To confirm, McCabe asked, if there is no additional flow going into the wetlands, is there a reduction in flow to the wetlands?
Dumont said there is a reduction in the volume, but not the rate of flow. Salling said her concern was if the hydrology is reduced to certain areas, they might dry up.
Dumont replied, “The volumes are being maintained, we don’t want to deplete the volume into the wetlands … the rates are reduced.”
Salling then inquired if McManus was satisfied with the plans to preserve the wetland hydrology, and he responded that he was satisfied.
Ferris asked if fertilizers will be used and how it will affect the water quality. Ryan said there will be a management treatment plan that Farrell would have to maintain.
Guidera queried, “Have you given any consideration to removing the invasive species in and around the wetland area?”
Ryan said they can develop a program.
Maguire started off by saying that he had a few questions.
To McManus, he asked, “Obviously that small pocket wetland came up. Are you confident the rest of the site — I know it’s very overgrown — that there are no other wetland resources that are missed?”
McManus said, “I gave it my best shot. With a site this dense, it’s hard to say. But I will say, I did my best.”
When discussing the topic of erosion, Maguire wanted to know if the team is confident that the basins will “adequately recharge the area and maintain the hydrology.”
McManus and Ryan agreed they were confident. Maguire then asked if there is a spec sheet of the composition of the basin.
Dumont said it is outlined in the landscaping plan and that the basin is not stone-lined. Ryan noted that the slopes will be mowed annually to ensure no tree growth.
When asked if the project would be done in phases, Dumont said it would not be phased.
Pond Brook Road resident Gary Tannenbaum expressed his concerns about the project impacting the Pond Brook aquifer.
“Pond Brook aquifer constantly is getting lower and lower because of all the development upstream, like Covered Bridge. We keep having these ‘great’ systems to infiltrate the ground and we know systems fail,” he said.
Tannenbaum recommended they put in a condition to future tenants to maintain the hydrodynamic separators and infiltration basins.
He added, “This [project] comparison between 2018 and 2022, I totally ignore, because the project in 2018 was for two parcels combined. They are not showing the two parcels combined and what you approved.”
As his three-minute time limit went off, Tannenbaum concluded that he has updates to recommend to help the project.
Newtown resident Michael Crisculo asked the commission if this application will “protect/preserve the natural habitats, minimize pollution, protect the water supply, and prevent damage to the environment to erosion, as well as protect wildlife and vegetation, per regulation 1.1?”
He said that the last engineering assessment appears to have been done in 2018 and that the IWC has the authority to have an independent assessment done. He believes doing one would be necessary to have the most up-to-date engineering to make an informed decision.
Crisculo brought up more concerns, including about the project’s impact on wells, but was informed by Salling that the topic was not applicable to the IWC.
A full list of his concerns is recorded in a letter attached to the meeting minutes.
Newtown resident Mark D’Amico submitted a notarized “Verified Petition to Intervene” document, and a document for the record, titled “Newtown Commons Potential Stream and Wetland Impacts,” dated July 18, 2022.
D’Amico stated that this project is not looking to improve the wetlands, but to work around it. He cited how the slope on-site creates a lot of surface water and it would be impacted with the creation of the impervious surfaces.
He voiced that the plans show inconsistencies, specifically that wetlands identified in 2015 are not included on the applicant’s plans.
“The plans are effectively inaccurate, and I think there is definitely consideration to be made there,” D’Amico said. He, too, asked the commission to get a third party to verify the information since there is “conflicting evidence.”
D’Amico suggested that just because they cannot see an area does not preclude them from reporting on it. With that all in mind, Salling said that the commission will continue the public participation to the next meeting.
The public hearing will continue to the next regularly scheduled IWC meeting on Wednesday, August 24, at 7:30 pm, in the Council Chambers at the Newtown Municipal Center, 3 Primrose Street.
For more information, visit newtown-ct.gov/inland-wetlands-commission.
Reporter Alissa Silber can be reached at email@example.com.