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Wetlands Board Says No To Cluster Housing Project

Wetlands Board Says No To Cluster Housing Project

In a Draft Resolution of Denial prepared by Attorney Barbara Schellenberg, Inland Wetlands commissioners outlined the reasons they voted unanimously to deny a plan to build cluster housing off Turkey Hill Road.

The application for Turkey Hill Crossing, submitted by Miland LLC, NB LLC and Genvest, LLC, proposed a residential development of 10 multi-family buildings with up to 60 bedrooms and a single community building on more than 22.5 acres.  The parcel, which contains nearly two acres of wetlands, adjoins the Wilbur Cross parkway which fronts on Turkey Hill Road and includes an undeveloped portion of Cranberry Lane.

Jeff Gordon, president, Codespoti Associates; and a representative for the developer said he was disappointed but not surprised the board denied the application, even though the town’s own consultants deemed it a sound plan.  “The town required the applicant to pay tens of thousands of dollars for town consultants who addressed their questions and concerns,” he said.  “It’s nice they went through the motions of a process before coming up with a denial.  The fact is, it was a good application that even their own consultants had no objections to, but they chose to either ignore their findings or not believe them.  At least they gave us the dignity of a hearing.”  Codespoti predicted this is probably not the last the town will hear of this development as the applicants will likely pursue its options.

Among the reasons cited in its three-page denial was concern about inadequate buffers for a portion of the wetlands, lack of detailed construction plans for retaining walls in close proximity to wetlands, “data gaps” in the application, insufficient information on leaching fields, questions regarding the operation and maintenance of septic systems and lack of adequate and/or sufficient information to determine the impact on wetlands and watercourses.  “Due to the incompleteness of the application the Commission lacks adequate and/or sufficient information to determine whether the applicants’ proposed development will cause unreasonable pollution, impairment or destruction of the public trust in the air, water, or other natural resources of the state,” the resolution stated.  Chairman Rick Mangione declined to comment further on the board’s decision.

The decision follows months of public hearings that at times were attended by over 100 residents, most of whom vehemently opposed the project, fearing it would change the character of their neighborhoods and the town.  Several neighbors even hired Attorney Bryan LeClerc to present their concerns to the board.

First Selectman Jim Zeoli said neighbors had expressed their opposition to the project personally to him and “came out in droves” to oppose the plan at the public forums.  “This was an extremely potentially volatile situation and I was concerned by the density of the project,” he said.  “While I recognize the need for different types of housing for residents, the density of the project in that location was not something the town had planned on.”

Alluding to the possibility that the principles of the Turkey Hill Crossing project could appeal the Commission’s decision in court, Gordon recounted several recent projects his firm has been involved in in Orange that have resulted in litigation.  Applications originally denied by the Town’s Plan and Zoning Commission included a four-lot subdivision off Narrow Lane; and a proposal to construct a multi-family mixed use building on Marsh Hill Road by the new Homewood Suites.  “The town ultimately settled the subdivision denial and the homes are currently under construction and the court ruled in favor of the Marsh Hill Road project which is now slated for a permitted warehouse industrial use,” Gordon said.

By Laura Fantarella – Orange Town News Correspondent

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