Connecticut Appellate Court Upholds CFE Position in Eureka Case

Yesterday, the Connecticut Appellate Court officially released its decision in Eureka V, LLC v. Planning and Zoning Commission of Ridgefield et al., upholding CFE’s position that the development must be subject to the one unit per two acres limitation in a drinking water watershed.

Eureka originally proposed a high-density development in the Saugatuck River Watershed twice as dense as the maximum that is recommended for drinking water watersheds. This proposed development posed a genuine threat to our public drinking water supplies and would have set a dangerous precedent for public drinking water supplies in Connecticut.

A map of one of the proposed Eureka developments
Map courtesy of the Ridgefield Press

Clean and safe public drinking water has been a priority of the state for years. Approximately 530,000 acres of land in Connecticut is classified as public water supply watershed land.  The development and maintenance of watershed lands has a direct impact on drinking water quality because watershed lands act as natural filters, trapping sediment, chemicals and other pollutants in the water. Connecticut watershed lands are threatened by development pressure. Nearly half of the watershed lands in Connecticut – more than a quarter of a million acres – are not permanently protected and are susceptible to development. Land use decisions over the next several decades are significant and will have an enduring effect on drinking water quality and public health.

A map of drinking water watersheds in Connecticut
Map courtesy of The Trust for Public Land

In January, we filed an amicus brief in this case, arguing that development in the Saugatuck River Watershed, if approved, must be limited in density to one unit per two acres. That is the maximum density supported by the Connecticut Department of Public Health, Aquarion Water Company, the state’s existing Plan of Conservation and Development, sound science, and established principles of watershed management. CFE initially intervened in the Eureka proceedings in September 2007.

The Eureka decision is a balanced one that reaffirms the importance of our drinking water lands and the need to protect them from intensive development. While it did not ban development in the drinking water watershed all together, it limited development to reasonable densities that have been found necessary to protect drinking water quality. This is a victory not only for our environment but for the residents in the Saugatuck River Watershed who depend on the availability of and accessibility to clean drinking water.

Posted by Lauren Savidge, legal fellow for CFE/Save the Sound

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