Conservation Commission Grants Temporary Site Access To Sanctuary Site
“We’re thrilled,” said Jenny Hubbard as she stepped out of a Conservation Commission meeting Tuesday night, when members moved to approve temporary access to the Catherine Violet Hubbard Animal Sanctuary location for site work. Ms Hubbard is the mother of Catherine, who was one of 26 people killed at Sandy Hook School on December 14, 2012.
Conservation members and others raised concerns two weeks ago when architects first discussed trucking in fill across the bridge spanning Deep Brook to access the site. After roughly an hour of discussion Tuesday evening, however, Conservation Commission Chairman Holly Kocet said, “You’ve given us all we asked for …”
She asked commissioners if they were ready to make a recommendation on the proposed site work. Members were ready. Ms Kocet stipulated, “As long as safety precautions for the stream are taken seriously and monitoring is done.”
She also noted that she felt “rushed” in making a recommendation, but a call for a vote found all in favor, except for Cindy Joyce, who wanted to abstain.
“You need a reason,” said Deputy Director of Planning and Land Use Rob Sibley.
“Then, I need to vote no,” she said.
Protecting Deep Brook
The 34-acre parcel of open space sits on land near Deep Brook, on the opposite side of the stream from the Park and Bark dog park.
Concerns among commissioners and other environmentally conscious residents prompted the Catherine Violet Hubbard Foundation’s architects to establish measures that would protect Deep Brook — a Class One trout management area — from potential damage as large tri-axle trucks carry stone and fill to the sanctuary site. They will be operating on a temporary, four-month permit, which will take place in phases, architect Phil Hubbard (no relation to the Hubbard Foundation) said.
“We’re leveling the topography and creating a plateau,” similar to garden patios and lawn areas, but not building preparation, he said. Plans seek temporary access to the sanctuary to do “limited work” in preparations for future sanctuary construction.
He said they would bring in structural fill, incorporate and compact the fill, and bring in common fill and back fill.
Work taking place is with the intention to “create more momentum, and things will build from a fundraising standpoint,” to build an eventual sanctuary, said Mr Hubbard.
Architectural team Philip Hubbard, Peter Paulos, and Mike Lillis had come up with measures to address some of the commission's primary concerns — silt and runoff compromising the stream health, among them.
Opening the meeting Ms Kocet had said, “We had asked about sediment and erosion control.”
Mr Hubbard said he has asked “Peter and Mike to tackle” the potential problem. He had also met with Pootatuck Watershed Association (PWA) and Candlewood Valley Trout Unlimited (TU) members “and walked the site,” to discuss protective measures.
The team proposed a silt fence on either side of the bridge crossing the low point in the land, where Deep Brook flows.
“The idea is to catch the runoff,” Mr Hubbard said.
He flipped through drawings indicating water stops.
“We created a water trap,” which worked to direct water into a depression, he said. They also proposed cutting through the road to create another water diversion and fill the space with gravel.
Mr Lillis said “earth could be moved to create more water storage.”
Mr Hubbard does not anticipate a need to close the trails where pedestrians and dog walkers hike the open space, Al’s Trail, and access the bridge, he said.
An Acrow Bailey bridge will be assembled over the Deep Brook bridge as a precaution. The bridge, borrowed from the Public Works Department, can be assembled in place and is made of steel.
Explaining the Acrow bridge, Public Works Director Fred Hurley said it would be installed by town personnel. The decking will rest above the existing bridge “and take the full load" of trucks travelling across it.
“It reinforces the capacity of the bridge that’s there,” he said.
Ms Kocet asked about reinforcing the silt fencing in case of a storm.
“We called for hay bales as reinforcement and sand bags to anchor, “Mr Lillis said.
“Contractors who install the fence will maintain it,” Mr Hubbard said.
Ms Kocet mentioned the stream’s importance as a Class I trout habitat
“In October and November they spawn, and now is the worst possible time to [do site work]. Would you consider doing it in the spring?” She said the fish eggs need cool, clear water, and silt and sand will “smother them.”
“We have been as mindful as we can,” Mr Hubbard said. His team had started planning in August. “It’s important to do this if we can — not in the spring.”
Mr Lillis answered questions about water stops, saying some water will be taken up with the crushed stone, “But, the primary function is to shunt water toward sediment fencing.”
Plans all meet or exceed 2002 state guidelines for erosion control, Mr Sibley said. And in a memo sent to commission members, he said the proposed work “does not rise to the level of regulated activity for special amendment to zoning.”
Addressing additional questions about the water stops, Mr Hubbard said, “It’s an effective way to capture water.”
Taking a turn to speak, Newtown resident Joe Hovius, a member of TU and PWA, asked about plans to maintain the roadway, which is already crumbling. He is also “hoping for daily inspections” of work.
Ms Kocet said questions remained, including what would happen if the project ran into the spring if it could not be completed in the winter. She also said, “We have a lot more information now, for sure.”
Mr Hovious agreed, saying, “We’ve come a long way from the last meeting.”
Mr Hubbard again spoke, noting that Mr Hovious had good questions. In particular, he said, “We don’t know how the road is going to behave.” If a problem arises, he imagines using gravel to fill the roadway. He also assured commission members that he does not view the Deep Brook bridge and road as permanent access. The Foundation is working to secure access across land at the end of Commerce Road.
Architects also confirmed that there is no need to take down any trees and shade that contribute to the stream’s health.
Working hours will take place Monday through Friday, during nine-hour work days. The architects are not sure if working on Saturdays is a possibility.