Agency hears mixed views on subdivision

By Rachael Scarborough King, Register Staff
April 10, 2008

NORTH BRANFORD — The town’s Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Agency saw another night of alternating testimony on a controversial proposed residential subdivision Wednesday.

The agency held an initial public hearing in February. It was scheduled for a possible vote Wednesday. No vote was taken at press time.

Wallingford-based Sunwood Development Corp. wants to build homes on 34 lots on 64 acres of the Shanz Farm property, which the Farm River bisects.

The construction would involve wetlands in the area, which is why the proposal has come before the town’s Inland Wetlands and Watercourse Agency.

Housing developments on the same land have been the topic of discussion in front of town commissions for years. Sunwood Development had scaled back the plans from an initial proposal of 116 homes to about 75, then to a current plan of 34 residences.

In 2000 and 2001, the Planning and Zoning Commission twice rejected a proposal from a different developer to build more than 200 homes for residents age 55 and older on the same property.

On Wednesday, engineers for the developers told the commission they had revised the plans based on earlier questions from commissioners and the public.

John Milone, of Milone & MacBroom in Cheshire, said they provided more information on several items, including the potential for flooding, the site’s biological features, and the use of low-impact design features.

Plan modifications included relocating two stormwater management basins and reconfiguring some of the planned lots to allow for more open space. Milone said all the houses would be located in “high and dry” areas.

Engineer Matthew Sanford of Milone and MacBroom said he does not believe the development — which would include a bridge over the Farm River — would adversely impact local ecology. But a wetlands ecology specialist testifying for the interveners opposing the application said he thinks that the potential homeowners’ lawns and other uses could damage the wetlands.

“I think that the application has some merits; I think that the site may be able to be developed,” Richard Orson said. “The changes in my view that would be required to turn this around from a marginal development to one that could be beneficial to the town as well as the Farm River would require a new application and so I ask that you deny this application.”

The agency’s next meeting is scheduled for April 23.

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