East Lyme residents oppose revised 'Twin Valley' application; developer says no impact on wetlands

East Lyme — More than 15 residents on Monday spoke in opposition or called for changes to a proposed 23-lot re-subdivision at Green Valley Lakes and Spring Rock roads, a revised application from the one the Inland Wetlands Agency had denied last year.

Bob Fusari Jr. of Real Estate Service of Conn. Inc., based in Old Saybrook, had appealed in Superior Court the commission’s decision last year to reject an application for a permit to build the road and infrastructure for the 25-lot "Twin Valley" re-subdivision near the Four Mile River that would extend an existing development.

He recently submitted a revised application for a permit “to conduct regulated activities within the 100-foot upland review area from wetlands and watercourses associated with construction of a road" for a 23-lot re-subdivision. Two of the lots proposed as building lots in the original application would instead serve as drainage areas under the revised plan. The application concerns the road, and development of the individual lots would require further approval.

During a continued public hearing on Monday, neighbors raised concerns over the proposal's impact on wetlands, the Four Mile River, and natural resources, or said the application crammed too many lots on the property. More than 35 people attended the hearing.

Gerard Goldstein, a neighbor, questioned why, with so much buildable land in the state, someone would want to build so close to wetlands. He said the 23 homes would bring 23 septic systems.

"Once the damage is done, no matter the degree, there is no going back," he said.

Brian Lepkowski, a nearby property owner and intervenor in the application, had submitted written comments from engineering and environmental professionals with concerns over the proposal. Soil and wetlands scientist Steven Danzer said that a vernal pool on the property near the proposed cul-de-sac, and potentially others, would be threatened by the proposed development. Lepkowski said there are "feasible and prudent alternatives" to the current application that wouldn't damage wetlands and natural resources.

His wife, Diane Lepkowski, showed the Inland Wetlands Agency several photos, including of salamanders she found in her front yard; vernal pools and egg masses from the commission's site walk last year; and a four-toed salamander found during this year's site walk. She expressed concerns over dividing the wetlands system on the property.

"These wetlands work together," she said. "If there is suddenly a road dividing them, they won't function the same. I'm no scientist but this is very clear to see. The developer and his team could choose to make less of an impact on the area by reducing the number of lots, protecting the two wetlands areas, and working with the concerns of the neighborhood."

After public comment, the Inland Wetlands Agency gave the applicant's experts time to respond to the comments.

Representatives said the proposal addresses concerns that the commission raised in its denial of the initial application and would have no impact on the wetlands.

Robert Russo, a soil and environmental scientist with CLA Engineers, disputed that there are vernal pools on the site.

He also responded to the proposed alternative, from the intervenor's expert, to relocate the proposed road and change the stormwater basin configuration to mitigate the impact on wetlands. Russo's position, in his written comments, is that the alternative would have a greater likelihood of an impact on wetlands.

Russo also said there would only be a need to research alternatives if the proposed re-subdivision had an impact on wetlands, but it's his contention that there will be no impact.

"We have no direct wetland impacts," Russo said, adding that the proposed development would properly manage stormwater and keep shade over the wetlands where needed. 

Joe Wren of Indigo Land Design said the existing neighborhood area, with homes and roads, drains into the same Four Mile River watershed as the proposed re-subdivision and has a very small percentage of open space, based on the number of lots, compared to the open space proposed in the re-subdivision.

Pointing to comments from neighbors that there are salamanders and other wildlife, he asked: "If that neighborhood as it sits today doesn't adversely affect the area, then how will this, with 72.8 percent protected open space?"

The Inland Wetlands Agency voted late Monday to continue the hearing until 7 p.m. July 16 at Town Hall. The continued hearing will be reserved for a representative of the intervenor to respond to comments made Monday, for the developer's side to then respond to those comments, and for the developer's attorney to present closing comments.

k.drelich@theday.com

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