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Residents of East Lyme neighborhood say plan for 25 homes will hurt wetlands

East Lyme – About 50 residents of the Green Valley Lakes Road neighborhood turned out for a public hearing Monday on a developer’s plan to build a road for a 25-lot subdivision within an area adjacent to wetlands and waterways including the Four Mile River, several vernal pools and two ponds.

Attorney Ted Harris, representing developer Bob Fusari Jr., said at the beginning of the Inland Wetlands Agency hearing that the subdivision would be the last phase of a project begun in the 1970s. The proposed road was part of the original plan, he said. The developer is seeking a permit from the wetlands panel for the road project because it is within 100 feet of wetlands and waterways.

Harris said that although the road is within the regulated 100-foot buffer, “there are no direct impacts on wetlands” and neither would the 25 house lots that would be developed later. The application could be denied, he said, only if the wetlands panel determined that the impacts would be “adverse and likely as shown by substantial evidence,” Harris said.

Residents of the neighborhood of about 100 homes, however, are concerned that the subdivision and septic systems for the homes would damage the wetlands. One of the residents, Brian Lepkowski, submitted a petition for intervenor status through his attorney Jason Westcott. Lepkowski contends the development will damage wetlands due to planned clear cutting and paving of the road as well as insufficient stormwater management. Vernal pools would be destroyed and road deicing would pollute remaining wetlands, he said in the petition. He proposed a less intensive development for the area.

Lepkowski’s wife Diane said she and others in the neighborhood have been going door-to-door to alert residents to the plan, started a Facebook page and petitioned for the public hearing.

 “Our house abuts the property,” she said. “When we purchased our property, we were told the area behind us was unbuildable. This would severely impact wetlands and a lot of species.” Salamanders, turtles and many bird species are among the animals that would be harmed by the development, she said.

Residents Nicole Anderson and Kristen Chantrell said they are also concerned about protecting fragile wetlands and the wildlife that depend on them.

 “I know it’s a fine line between ‘not in my backyard,’” said Chantrell. “But we really are looking out for the environment.”

Harvey Beeman said he believes the developer is trying to “get his foot in the door” by proposing a road first and planning to return later with the subdivision plans.

Panel member Harry Clarke told the developer and his attorney that they should not assume that the wetlands agency will agree with their interpretation that the property can support 25 housing lots.

“Your client believes they’re buildable, but that’s our call,” he told Harris. “We have to evaluate what 25 septic systems are going to do to the wetlands.”

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