Conservation Commission raises issues with 41-acre Hawks Ridge plan in Shelton

The Shelton Conservation Commission has raised some concerns about the proposed 41-acre Hawks Ridge mixed-use development for the Wells family land.

In a letter, Conservation Commission Chairman Thomas Harbinson said the main issues involve a possible “through” road, conservation easements, stonewalls, fish habitat and future hiking trail.

Harbinson’s letter was submitted to the Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) and made a part of the public hearing record on the Hawks Ridge application. The P&Z is likely to vote on the application in March.

The Conservation Commission is an advisory board on land-use issues and does not have to approve projects, but its input often is considered by the regulatory boards covering zoning and wetlands.

Homes, condos, assisted living facility

Hawks Ridge would include 54 single-family homes, a 57-unit condominium/townhouse complex, and a 196-unit assisted living facility on property now zoned for light industrial use.

The developer is seeking conceptual approval to create a Planned Development District for the parcel.

The site is bordered by Long Hill Cross Road to the north, Route 8 to the east, and Beard Sawmill Road to the south, and is close to Bridgeport Avenue to the west. It is essentially in back of Wells Hollow Farm.

Impact of having a ‘through’ road

The developer’s original proposal would include a series of roads that would connect Long Hill Cross Road and Beard Sawmill Road.

The Conservation Commission believes such an extensive road system could have a detrimental impact on the environment, and prefers that the entry roads for the housing part of the development off Long Hill Cross Road and the assisted living facility on Beard Sawmill Road not be connected.

“It would be preferable from an environmental standpoint not to build this road since it would increase the site disturbance,” Thomas Harbinson wrote on having a “through” — or connecting — road within the development.

The developer has indicated it is open to the idea of not having a “through” road. But dead-end roads can raise public safety concerns due to access issues for emergency personnel.

Formal conservation easements

Harbinson wrote that any designated “conservation areas” within the development — these are areas not to be developed for environmental and related reasons — have formal conservation easements with the city.

He stated that some of these proposed designated areas are “not realistic and inevitably would be cleared” by future Hawks Ridge residents, partly due to proximity to structures, and formal conservation easements should better prevent that from happening.

Harbinson said stonewalls on the land should be used to delineate conservation areas, and when stonewalls must be moved they should be rebuilt elsewhere on the property to serve this same purpose.

Protecting a fish habitat

The letter also addressed the fact that the nearby Far Mill River is a trout habitat, and therefore “sensitive to water temperature.”

Harbinson said “special attention” should be paid to how water run-off from roofs and parking lots would be released into waterways to protect the fish from warming temperatures.

Storm water management systems are designed to cool water from such run-off before being released into waterways because of the damage that warmer-than-usual water can do to the environment, including fish.

Hiking and ‘scenic character’

As for a hiking trail, the Conservation Commission has been working to rebuild the Paugussett Trail through the city, from Monroe in the north to Stratford in the south. The new trail is likely to pass near the Wells property after crossing Bridgeport Avenue from wooded areas near Mill Street.

In this immediately vicinity, the trail may have to involve walking on Beard Sawmill Road due to the lack of a better alternative.

Harbinson said for this reason, the Hawks Ridge project should be designed to “minimize the impact on the naturalized scenic character of this road.”

According to the concept plan, the assisted living facility would be built near Beard Sawmill Road, being essentially behind the Wells family’s existing farm.