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Major Industrial Project Gains Wetlands Approval

Published: July 13, 2018 at 12:00 am

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Following a third public hearing, the Inlands Wetlands Commission (IWC) this week approved a wetlands/watercourses protection permit for the developer of a proposed industrial/commercial complex at a 140-acre Hawleyville site near Exit 9 of Interstate 84, in which four buildings would enclose a total of 490,000 square feet of space.

At a July 11 IWC session, Chairman Sharon Salling, Craig Ferris, Michael McCabe, and John Davin voted to approve the permit for Hawleyville Properties LLC, with Suzanne Guidera abstaining. Ms Guidera did not attend the second public hearing on the project, and thus did not vote.

The project, which would include 240,000 square feet of medical office space within three buildings and 250,000 square feet of warehousing space in a separate structure, represents the largest development of its kind locally in memory. The development proposal still requires various approvals from the Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z), which would hold public hearings on the project.

The sprawling site, which includes 90 Mt Pleasant Road, 10 Hawleyville Road, and 1 Sedor Lane, has long been eyed by local officials as the site for local economic development, when considering the property's proximity to an interstate highway interchange. The town's 2016 expansion of the Hawleyville sanitary sewer system was intended to spark economic development in that area.

The site is bordered on the north by eastbound I-84 and its Exit 9 onramp, on the northeast by agricultural open space land, on the southeast by the residential Whippoorwill Hill Road, on the south by Mt Pleasant Road, and on the west by Hawleyville Road. The site's steep, rugged terrain and extensive wetlands are considered to be factors that have deterred its development until now. The site is in a M-2A (Industrial) zone.

The three medical office buildings would be served by a dead-end street extending onto the site from Mt Pleasant Road, just west of Whippoorwill Hill Road. The warehouse would be served a separate dead-end street extending onto the site from Hawleyville Road, across that road from Covered Bridge Road.

The 140-acre site contains approximately 15 acres of wetlands and 31 acres of "upland review areas." Those review areas lie within 100 feet of wetlands and are subject to IWC regulation.

Following the IWC's July 11 vote to approve the permit, Ms Salling thanked the developer's three representatives for significantly revising the initial development plans that had been submitted for the site.

The revised plans, which were presented at a second public hearing on June 27, were thorough and suitably addressed IWC members' environmental concerns about the project, according to Ms Salling.

The initial plans had called for 275,000 square feet of medical office space, which is 35,000 square feet more than the revised plans propose. Reducing the size of the proposed medical office buildings reduced the number of parking spaces proposed for the overall project from 1,514 to 1,357 spaces, thus cutting the amount of proposed paved area.

The revised plans eliminated "direct impacts" to wetlands and also increased the size of environmental buffer areas between developed areas and the wetlands. Initially, the applicant had proposed the earthen filling of some wetlands at the property, but the revised plans eliminated such filling.

The revised construction proposal reduces the height of retaining walls, the amount of grading required, and the steepness of graded slopes.

 

Public Comment

At the July 11 public hearing, three Whippoorwill Hill Road residents posed questions about the proposed development's effects on the terrain.

Those questions concerned the steepness of graded slopes on the site after construction is completed, the project's effects on local wildlife, and whether the project would result in stormwater flow problems on adjacent Whippoorwill Hill Road residential properties.

In response, the developer's representatives explained the slope grading/retaining wall components of the project. Also, a review of a natural diversity database indicates that the project would not adversely affect any threatened or endangered species, according to the applicant. Thirdly, the development site is downgradient of Whippoorwill Hill Road, and thus stormwater from the site would not flow toward Whippoorwill Hill Road, according to the developer.

At the two previous public hearings on the project, Whippoorwill Hill Road residents had posed questions about the project's potential adverse effects on their domestic water wells' water supplies, and also about the effects of increased traffic in the area, but Ms Salling had responded that such matters lie outside the IWC's relatively narrow jurisdiction. She told the residents that such issues could be raised during the upcoming P&Z review of the project.

In approving the wetlands/watercourses protection permit, IWC members placed eight conditions on that endorsement.

Those conditions include that erosion and sedimentation controls must be installed before construction starts and must be maintained as required by the town; the town must inspect and approve the marked limits of physical disturbance at the site before any activity occurs there; the wetlands/watercourses site plans cannot be modified unless approved by the town; an environmental management consultant must be hired by the developer to supervise the project's erosion/sedimentation controls; and permit violations can result in the IWC requiring a second permit application for resolving environmental problems created by such violations.

 

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This Week's Poll

Newtown Cultural Arts Commission is presenting or coordinating on six weeks of special events. Which event are you looking forward to the most? (Visit our Features page for a full story with details about all of these events.)

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The Lords of 52nd Street concert, September 14
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Newtown Arts Festival weekend, September 15-16
33% (1 vote)
“An Evening of the Arts,” September 15
33% (1 vote)
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33% (1 vote)
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The 3rd Annual Newtown-Sandy Hook Restaurant Week, October 8-14
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Basket weaving workshop with Tina Puckett, October 13
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“Courageous Conversations in A Complex World,” October 17
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Live at ETH: David Wax Museum concert, October 19
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The 2nd Annual Fall Carnival at Fairfield Hills, October 19-21
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Natalie’s Open Mic, October 21
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“The Wordsmiths,” October 24
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Total votes: 3