Greg Fedus, of Fedus Engineering in Mystic, points to wetlands map at meeting on Monday night (CT Examiner/Hewitt)

Wetlands Approval Poses Dilemma for Chester Housing Developer

CHESTER — At its meeting on Monday, the Inland Wetlands Commission said the developer of Falcon Crest, a proposed 55-and-older residential complex at 88 Winthrop Road, will need to obtain a subdivision permit from the town before the commission will proceed with its recommendation on the project.

If the town grants the subdivision permit, then developer Joseph Mingolello, principal of Connecticut Concrete Solutions LLC of Higganum, will be required to come before the Inland Wetlands Commission for approval of each of the project’s five lots proposed for the 34-acre triangular-shaped parcel bordered by Winthrop Road/Route 145, Butter Jones Road and Deep River’s town line.

But the order of the approvals, especially regarding the road crossings over the site’s wetlands, may have created a tangle of problems for the project in terms of risk, according to Mingolello’s attorney, Joseph Rini.

The project would construct about 80 two-bedroom condominiums and/or apartments, with two 8-unit buildings per lot depending on the proximity of wetlands, which are located mostly along the center of the parcel. The buildings were previously proposed as 10-unit buildings.

At the meeting, Greg Fedus, of Fedus Engineering in Mystic, presented drawings showing the locations of wetlands on the site and the outlines of the five lots. He said the town’s Planning and Zoning Commission recommended access to all five lots from an existing driveway on Winthrop Road, which would require building interior roads that would cross the wetlands on the site. To avoid crossing the wetlands, some of the lots could be accessed from Butter Jones Road, Fedus said.

What if the project receives the subdivision permit, but then the commission doesn’t approve the wetlands crossing design, asked Fedus.

Chairman Al Bisacky said the regulations state that any activity within a wetland requires a permit and any activity within a 100-foot setback requires a review to see if it needs a permit.

“If there is a significant activity within the wetlands, like filling or excavacation of the wetlands, that is typically determined to be a significant activity, there could be a public hearing and we would expect that if you make an application that it would be complete, showing all the septic systems, all the wells, and the stormwater management,” he said.

Fedus said the only project activity in the wetlands will be in the crossing but Bisacky said other factors could affect the wetlands such as drainage discharge or the location of utilities.

“For any approvals that we would have to give, it’s not just the crossing, it’s the septic systems, it’s the wells,” Bisacky said. “So when you say, what if we don’t get the crossing, it’s the whole package.”

Fedus said wetlands approval on the crossing is necessary prior to applying for the subdivision permit otherwise it puts the developer at risk.

“The last couple of wetlands applications I did for subdivisions required wetlands approval prior to when I had a wetlands crossing, so I guess I don’t want to be caught in that catch-22, so it would seem that if we’re proposing a crossing that it would be part of the subdivision approval otherwise we could reconfigure out lots and do something different,” said Fedus.

But Bisacky said an approval for a wetland crossing would not be part of the commission’s referral to Planning and Zoning.

Fedus asked again whether there was a way to approve a wetlands crossing in advance, so that the developer would be assured the lots are viable..

To achieve that end, Bisacky said the developer would have to show the full intent and impacts of the project.

“We hear that you want to develop five lots of maybe four to 12 units per, so that means a lot of septic systems, a lot of wells, a lot of stormwater, so we would want to see what the potential impact would be for any wetland crossing … We need to see the overall plan and I don’t think we can just deal with just part of it now and the rest later. We need to know where you’re going with this,” he said.

After the meeting, Mingolello, Rini, Fedus and Tina Good, a realtor with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices in Colchester who is working on the project, discussed the options on how to proceed.

“We’re just going back and forth on which do we go to first,” Rini said. “Zoning is saying you’ve got a difficult issue here because we are crossing the wetlands and the question is how do we [go back to] P&Z if we haven’t come here and gotten approval for the crossing. It’s a chicken and egg question.”

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