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Developers appeal after Stonington rejects plan

By Joe Wojtas

Publication: The Day

Published January 30. 2014 4:00AM   Updated January 30. 2014 1:02PM

Mystic - Toll Brothers, the firm developing a luxury housing project of 48 homes off Pequot Trail known as Old Mystic Estates, has appealed a decision by the Stonington Planning and Zoning Commission rejecting its design for a revised drainage system.

Problems with the existing system have not only caused serious erosion and flooding problems for some neighboring property owners but restricted Toll Brothers from developing 27 of the lots and some roads. Toll Brothers is asking a New London Superior Court judge to invalidate the commission's denial and order it to approve the plan.

Despite the appeal, Town Planner Keith Brynes said this week that Toll Brothers is also trying to find a new solution or revise the rejected plan.

The project has been a controversial one dating back to 2004, when the Planning and Zoning Commission approved plans by the previous developer, Meehan Group, for the cluster subdivision.

The approved application included a drainage plan created by a licensed professional engineer hired by Meehan. He assured the commission his design could handle rainfall without impacting neighboring properties.

The commission did not have its own engineer conduct a review of the drainage plan but relied on the report from the developer's engineer.

Neighbors who appealed the 2004 approval to Superior Court had warned the commission about problems such as drainage runoff and traffic safety.

Even though a judge rejected the neighbors' appeal, the project never went forward because of the recession.

In 2010, Toll Brothers bought the approved project from Clairemont LLC, which succeeded the Meehan Group, and began to build roads and homes.

It was at that time the town discovered a problem with the design of an outlet pipe to a drainage pond and ordered all work to stop in the area served by the pond until the problem was fixed.

Toll Brothers submitted a revised drainage plan last year, which was met with initial support from Town Engineer Larry Sullivan and the Inland Wetlands Commission.

During a public hearing on the drainage plan last September, an engineer hired by those opposed raised questions about the effectiveness of the plan.

The town then hired a consultant who also criticized the plan. That report was then presented to the commission while Sullivan reversed his support for the plan.

Toll Brothers alleges in its suit that the town acted illegally, in part because it received the report after the close of the hearing, which is not allowed by state law and which did not give it a chance to refute its conclusions. It also points out the town attorney's office had recommended the commission not consider the report. After reviewing the report, the commission voted unanimously to deny the modification.

In the appeal, Toll Brothers lists other problems it says it has with the commission, basing its denial on the consultant's report. The appeal also states that Toll Brothers relied on the 2004 approval to make a substantial investment in the project, and the commission's denial of the modification now interferes with its ability to sell and develop the remaining lots.

j.wojtas@theday.com

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