Oswegatchie Hills: Letter to East Lyme commissions asks for environmental review

Landmark Development Group asks for 840-unit development; public hearing scheduled May 21

April 30, 2015

Sarah Ganong, Connecticut Fund for the Environment, (203) 787 0646 ext. 128

New Haven, Conn.—This morning, Connecticut Fund for the Environment and its bi-state program Save the Sound submitted a letter to the Town of East Lyme’s Zoning Commission and Inland Wetlands Agency asking them to deny an application for the rezoning and preliminary site plan (PSP) seeking approval for construction of an 840-unit housing development in the Oswegatchie Hills. This letter is supported by the Friends of Oswegatchie Hills Nature Preserve and Save the River – Save the Hills.

The letter states the present application should be rejected because:

  1. there was no submission of the site plan to the Inland Wetlands Agency as required by statute,
  2. the plans submitted inadequately described how wastewater will to be treated or disposed of, and
  3. the applicants failed to submit information required to evaluate coastal impacts under the Connecticut Coastal Management Act.

The letter also asks the East Lyme Inland Wetlands Agency to assert its jurisdiction prior to a site plan review as the plan will have an adverse impact on the wetlands.

CFE's Roger Reynolds (second from right) joins other activists at a folk concert in support of Oswegatchie Hills.
CFE’s Roger Reynolds (second from right) joins other activists at a folk concert in support of Oswegatchie Hills.

A coastal forest on the Niantic River estuary, Oswegatchie Hills is an environmental treasure. The Hills serve as a source of clean water feeding into the estuary and are a valuable recreational space for residents and visitors alike. As the Niantic River flows directly into Long Island Sound, runoff from the proposed development would further degrade the Sound’s water quality.

An application and preliminary site plan for rezoning the 123 acres to Affordable Housing Development was submitted to the Zoning Commission on March 4, 2015, by Landmark Development Group LLC and Jarvis of Cheshire LLC. The development would consist of 840 multi-family housing units, to be built on a steep slope near the top of the Hills directly uphill from several wetlands and the Niantic River. The Water and Sewer Commission previously approved only 14,434 gallons of sewer capacity per day, but the application relies on 118,000 gallons per day.

“This application lacks the most basic information required for a meaningful review of environmental impacts by the Zoning Commission, the Wetlands Commission, or DEEP,” said Roger Reynolds, legal director at CFE/Save the Sound. “We hope the town will require compliance with state law, local zoning, and wetlands regulations and a previous court decision in this case and require the information necessary for an appropriate and thorough review of the impacts on this irreplaceable environmental resource.”

The next step in the process is a public hearing, scheduled for May 21 at Nett Hall, Camp Niantic Army National Guard Site in Niantic. Members of the public are encouraged to attend to learn more about the plans for development and to speak to their elected officials.

“For more than ten years, our organization has been advocating for the protection of the Niantic River and Long Island Sound from increased pollution,” said Fred Grimsey, president of Save the River – Save the Hills. “It is gratifying that CFE/Save the Sound’s attorneys have pointed out that Judge Frazzini, as part of his remand, has directed Landmark to submit a plan to provide this protection before the Zoning Commission can consider a zone change.”

“When I think about the devastating impact the development of Oswegatchie Hills would have on this environmental treasure, the preliminary site plan is horrifying,” said Kris Lambert, president of the Friends of Oswegatchie Hills Nature Preserve. “And the proposal is only for half of the acreage Landmark owns – who knows what might be in store for the remaining 113 acres bordering on the river.”


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