On Feb. 22, a public hearing of our Inland Wetlands Commission was held to allow the Shelter Ridge developers to present their proposal. It was illuminating. Brought to light were almost 100 error and omissions, four failures to comply with process requirements, and four wetlands directly impacted.
Here are some of the highlights:
The proposal alleges that a large portion of the water runoff – created by 95% pavement coverage on the site – would dump into Wells Hollow Brook, when in fact it will head for the Far Mill River and the officially designated scenic road that runs alongside it. No matter what laws anybody involved in this process might seek to circumvent, the law of gravity cannot be one of them. Water runs downhill.
Once you face that reality, there is “no physical way…without flooding and other severe impacts” per Robert Kulacz, Shelton’s own City Engineer, and it “should not be considered reasonable in any way, shape or form” per Shelton’s own WCEO.
So how does the developer propose to deal with the runoff that he admits will go to Wells Hollow Brook? “Somehow”, said Jim Swift, engineer for the developer. Yes, that’s a quote; no, it’s not taken out of context.
The Shelton Wetlands Regulations (Section 17-135) detail ten required stormwater standards. Of those ten, “this proposal complies with none of them”, per Steve Trinkaus, licensed engineer for Save Our Shelton. “There will be a significant cut near wetlands”, says Jim Swift for the developer; “We think it’s stable.”
Shelton’s own attorney has stated that the developer is required by law (state statute 8-3) to provide proposals such as this to Inland Wetlands at the same time Planning and Zoning gets them. That would have been more than two years ago. Inland Wetlands should have had input prior to P&Z’s approval.
The parking garage, as proposed, has runoff including road salts, car oils, and nitrogen buildup, running directly into our brooks and river, in violation of Connecticut DEEP standards. Our Inlands Wetlands Commission cannot possibly approve this proposal; it is genuinely laughable. Nonetheless I am not laughing.
The trouble is, it was equally ridiculous when presented to our Planning and Zoning Commission. All the same, four of our then-sitting Commissioners voted to approve it. Despite the opposition of the vast majority of people they represent, and under circumstances that don’t appear to stand up to scrutiny.
So we need to ask ourselves some uncomfortable questions: What would lead this developer to believe he could present such a totally inadequate proposal to Inland Wetlands and have a prayer of success?
Why is anybody even pretending it’s a credible proposal? Is our Wetlands Commission that much of a “rubber stamp”?
Our Inland Wetlands Commission was put there because the State of Connecticut requires it to be. Its mandate is to protect the town from wholesale disasters like…well…this. Unfortunately, they are not elected by us but instead are appointed by our Mayor. It’s a flaw in our Charter; this “watchdog” commission is much too important to be politicized. It should be evaluating proposals like this based upon nothing but the merits of the proposal.
There are two things you can do:
1) The hearing has been continued to March 15, 7 p.m. Residents will be given a chance to speak out against Shelter Ridge, and implore our Inland Wetlands Commission to do the job they were put there to do. Come to the meeting and speak up! The primary concerns are: open space, water control and quality, vehicles, erosion control, and the runoff from parking lots and the parking garage.
2) Write a letter to your Mayor. Tell him you want your Wetlands Commission to be encouraged to function independently as it must, without fear of being treated like what he calls “the enemy within.” And you may want to mention what a bad development Shelter- Ridge would be for our city.