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Wetlands Commissioners Consider Cluster Housing

Wetlands Commissioners Consider Cluster Housing

Residents and Inland Wetlands Commissioners expected to hear findings from experts the town hired about the impact a cluster housing application could have on surrounding wetlands, but the experts had more questions than answers.

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

In separate presentations to the board, wetlands expert George Logan from REMA Ecological Services and Stephen Benben, engineer and Vice President at Triton Environmental Inc. highlighted parts of the plan where more information is needed from the applicant before they can submit their reports.  Among the items cited were whether the depth of a proposed retaining wall would affect wetlands; the possible lack of space for sidewalks near the proposed community center; if emergency vehicles would have appropriate access; how roadway run-off will be handled; whether septic system drainage would create unhealthy nitrogen levels in the wetlands and how extensive bedrock in the area will affect the project.

Robert Wheway, civil and environmental engineer and Vice President of Codespoti and Associates, and a representative for the applicant, said the project is being set up as three separate parcels of land so it will fall under the jurisdictions of the state and local health departments and not the Department of Environmental Protection.  “There’s been a lot of talk over density and the number of units, but very simplistically, when you look at these leaching systems they are really no different than what comes before this commission on a pretty frequent basis in terms of a residential subdivision.  Basically these units are being designed as they would for a six bedroom house,” he said.

The project has met fierce opposition from residents in the surrounding neighborhoods who fear the density of the project will negatively impact traffic, quality of life, safety and the environment.  Several residents in the audience addressed the board during the public hearing all voicing opposition to the project.  Turkey Hill Road resident Ron Michaels said what he heard from the experts should be cause for concern to the board. “These are the phases that stuck out to me,” he said. “Missing information…unknown impact…concerns about septic issues…non-standard design…change of chemistry of the wetlands…I’m hearing ‘potential disaster.’  You can’t accept the risks of this application.”

Surrey Road resident Dr. Lawrence Messina said if the project is accepted, the town should hold hundreds of thousands of dollars in escrow in the event of a “catastrophic failure” of the development’s septic system.

Salvatore Attianese of Summit Drive questioned what the economic impact would be if the town had to hire more police, fire and public works personnel.  “What would it cost taxpayers?  Will our taxes go up?” he asked.  “I think the commission should deny these people anywhere they want to go.  As a matter of fact, why don’t they just go to Woodbridge and get the hell out of Orange?”

The Commission granted the applicant an extension to address the experts’ requests for more information and to reconvene for a fourth public hearing at 6:30 p.m., December 2 at High Plains Community Center.

By Laura Fantarella – Orange Town News Correspondent

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