WATERFORD – A year after a Norwich developer floated an 8-30g proposal to build 47 manufactured homes on Clark Lane, neighbors showed up at a public hearing to oppose the project a second time – again citing environmental, safety and density concerns.
Mark Branse, an attorney with Halloran Sage, who represented Kingstown Properties at the Conservation Commission hearing Thursday night, said the homes will be rentals and will include 14 affordable units – comprising 30% of the development under the state affordable housing statute.
The complex is slated for 8 acres that stretch behind a dozen houses that front Clark Lane just north of the town’s middle school. The property consists of two parcels totalling 16 acres, of which six acres that abut Bates Woods Park in New London would go into a conservation easement. An area of wetlands on the property would be bordered by a 50-foot buffer.
During public comment, resident Nick Gauthier said the entire property “basically functions as wetlands,” and “that should be enough to reject the project because of environmental concerns.”
Gauthier asked why the project needed to be built on property that naturally provides an area for runoff during storms and floods, which he said will increase with climate change.
“Why does it have to be this specific area? There are already places around town that are paved over. It doesn’t need to be this specific area that has benefit from an environmental perspective,” he said.
Preceding public comment, David Held, a land surveyor with Provost and Rovero, who represented the applicant, said a large retention basin would be built for stormwater treatment with a hydrodynamic separator that had been “sized to remove 80 percent of the solids” since “a lot of pollutants adhere to solids.”
“All impervious surface water will be captured and run through treatment… It’s a belt and suspenders approach before discharging to the wetlands,” he said, of controlling water traveling from Clark Lane to the middle school property as it flowed toward the areas of Fenger Brook and Jordan Brook.
“If we cut our development density in half, it wouldn’t necessarily impact the size of the detention basin because we have to account for all water coming from outside of the site,” Held said.
Resident Sigrun Gadwa, who said she was a wetlands consultant and botanist, spoke in opposition to the project, especially about the impact on water quality in both Fenger and Jordan brooks.
“Fenger Brook has riparian wetlands, it’s a network of rivulets and small streams that are groundwater fed and depend on shallow groundwater,” she said. “I’m concerned that the stormwater management system is too large. It will handle all that water that went into the upland soils, joining groundwater, seeping toward the wetlands.”
Gawda said that water will be redistributed – “drier on the upper part, wetter on the lower part” – resulting in significant tree mortality and adverse effects on the wetlands.
She also said the development’s steep embankment “on the eastern edge of the trailer park development” will be an invitation for dumping – “it’s scary for children, it’s a safety issue.”
Resident Christine Haase, a homeowner on Clark Lane, echoed Gawda’s concerns about the steep embankment, and said the project would add 10-foot light poles that would run all night long, affecting neighboring nocturnal wildlife.
“The football-size detention basin, located directly next to the middle school” would have standing water, which she said was a potential breeding ground for mosquitoes, and that mosquito-related diseases had shut down school sports activities in Waterford for a number of seasons.
“Why should kids suffer for 47 units?” she asked.
Robert Roselund, a lifetime resident of Clark Lane, who objected to the density of the project, said “the houses will be five feet from my property, two feet from each other.”
At one point town attorney Michael Perry interrupted the public comment and warned that “references to trailer parks and affordable housing not be made.”
“It’s irrelevant to the wetlands proceeding. Comments of this nature can be taken to be beyond the pale and potentially held against the town. There is no reason to be talking about trailer parks, or affordable or not affordable,” he said.
Resident Arlene Sherman said the spreader mechanism in the retention basin had multiple flaws and would be “unable to polish the remaining pollutants.” She said that the clearcut trees would be replaced only by shrubs, which will increase the heat in the summer.
“I’m aware that development is inevitable but the developer is attempting to put a square peg in a round hole. The wetland must be protected. There is not enough room for what he has in mind economically.”
Residents Robert Roselund Jr., Elizabeth Carlson and Carolyn Yost spoke of the great loss of natural habitat the neighborhood would experience.
“If this is built, it would be a huge loss not only environmentally for my children and my children’s children and everyone else’s children who grow up on Clark Lane,” said Roselund.
No one from the audience spoke in favor of the project.
The public hearing will be continued on Feb. 9.