OLD LYME — Keystone Capital Corporation has proceeded with construction of a nine-lot subdivision at 16 Neck Road after receiving approval from the Planning Commission on Sept. 29.
The 12.30-acre parcel was the site of a proposed 8-30g affordable housing development that was approved, but never built, after packed, controversial public hearings in 2018.
The site is visible from the Neck Road near the Exit 70 off-ramp from I-95 North and has been regraded and cleared of a significant number of trees to make way for a 900-foot roadway with common driveways, a cul-de-sac at the end and stormwater management.
Eric Knapp, the zoning enforcement officer for the town, told CT Examiner on Tuesday that he had observed no apparent erosion on the site, but that he planned to call the developer to ensure that erosion measures were in place in compliance with the Planning Commission approval, which required that “all sedimentation and erosion controls shall be in place prior to the start of construction”
Because the project is a subdivision, approval for the work at this point was required only from the Planning Commission – not the Zoning Commission.
“Subdivisions – just the dividing of land – is statutorily a Planning Commission’s domain,” Torrance Downes, staff member at the Connecticut River Gateway Commission, told CT Examiner.
Individual proposed houses on the site will be approved administratively unless they are more than 4,000 square feet in area, which triggers the threshold for a Zoning exception and Gateway approval, he said.
Even though the property is within the river viewshed, Downes said that Gateway had no authority over the project.
“This was unique for Gateway because if you look at Gateway statutes, it has no authority over subdivision of land,” he said.
Downes said he wrote a letter to Harold Thompson, chair of the Planning Commission, asking that the commission place conditions on the project to minimize tree removal and requesting a 75-foot riparian conservation easement.
At the Sept. 29 public hearing, Seamus Moran, of H+H Engineering Associates in Mystic, who represented Keystone, said the application for the project originally proposed a fee in lieu of open space. By statute, the Planning Commission could request up to 10 percent of the assessed property value of $1.05 million – or $100,000 – funds that would have been deposited in the town’s Open Space Acquisition fund.
But, Moran said that “because of the letter received from Mr. Downes dated September 8, 2022, the applicant has elected to go with a conservation easement dedication,” according to minutes from the hearing.
At the hearing, commission member Jim Lampos said the 75-foot conservation easement was insufficient and needed to be expanded to 500 feet to better protect the environment – which also would have reduced the site by one or two lots. But the other four commission members said they were satisfied with the 75-foot conservation easement.
The application received approval in a 4 to 1 vote with Lampos opposing.
Editor’s note: Torrance Downes is a staff member at the Connecticut River Gateway Commission and not deputy director as was previously published.