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During the COVID-19 crisis, we are seeking to cover everything relate to land use virtually.
We will be "attending" Conservation Commission meetings during this crisis and reporting decisions made and anything else we feel capable of reporting accurately..

Thursday January 20, 2022 meeting item #1:  Election of officers 2022:

We had a conflict with the Board of Selectmen...

Conservation Commission Dec. 16, 2021 at 7:30pm on Zoom

A Public Hearing at Conservation Commission 12-13-21 brings a 6-0 vote to approve Lachat/Offutt Center wetlands application!

Left to right:

Regular Meeting July 22, 2021, 7:30pm to 9:45pm

All three applicants had issues of a different nature.  Left to right:

1.  Complications with initial approvals from Building Dept (Newtown Turnpike) which were discussed with new attorney and engineer and wetlands consultants and approval given with conditions.

2.  Approvals for septic/site work granted but must return for the part of application for new construction (Weston Road).

3.  CC went into executive session on item #3 on the agenda (Norfield Woods Road).

SPECIAL MEETING June 15, 2021 at 7:30pm punts to Wednesday June 30, 2021...

Conservation Commission Thursday May 27, 2021, 7:30pm on Zoom - receipt of Lachat wetlands application.
First on agenda - Town of Weston, CT & The Nature Conservancy of CT [owners], Friends of Lachat, Inc. [agent]; 106 Godfrey Road West; Offutt Education Center at Lachat Town Farm - Construction of multi-use community building and associated parking, storm water detention and septic system [21-09] - received.

To be heard in Conservation Commission Special Meeting June 15th at 7:30pm - a public hearing - June 15, 2021 is a Tuesday.

April 22nd meeting 2021 - EARTH DAY.  What better meeting to attend than...CONSERVATION
Commission looking forward to meeting together again LIVE!!!

CONSERVATION COMMISSION - they protect the environment from construction or destruction.  New Conservation Planner brings new organizational ideas forward.
Thursday March 25, 2021 7:30pm

Agenda had 4 items plus approvsl of minutes. 
First 2 had previous presentations. 
Third one gets quick OK. 
There are standard "conditions" for use depending upon particular recommendations - 4th brings discussion of high water table.

Thursday Oct. 22, 2020, 7:30pm via Zoom.  Ended at 9pm.

"I didn't know" most popular line during this meeting.  Which Commission gets the least respect?  Conservation!  And why is that?  Because possession is nine-tenths of the law and once the contours have been altered it is a lawsuit looming to try to enforce conditions. 

Another application:  Seems that new residents are ignorant of having to apply for permits and once done, don't follow them.  However, this time an approval was obtained.  Discussion of hiring process for Conservation Planner - item added to Regular Agenda to form subcommittee to finalize selection of new hire.  Interviews to come including staff and Town Administrator.

7:30pm via ZOOM -

Unfortunately, a Special Meeting of the Board of Selectmen was posted for this very time...we'll see if meeting minutes (a great secretary to this Commission - former catcher for the WILD THINGS) show up in a while....

Thursday May 28, 2020 at 7:30pm via Zoom

AGENDA:  http://www.westonct.gov/media/file/CCAgenda5282020.

Present:  Tracy, MSW, Sarah, Jim, Mike, Ed, Holly, Ted, Delana. 

11 November Trail; pool, pool house & gazebo. 

Meeting began 7:34pm.

Receipt - above.  Application in order.  Visit in a week from Saturday June 13.  Moved  and seconded.  Unan.

Chair. moves to add to agenda...at the end:  General discussion of follow up and approvals.  Ted, Ed post approval monitoring and investigation - unan. 

In the audience, besides About Town, at the left, above, a young Westonite

Approvals with conditions i.e rain gardens...always excellent input from former Chair. Ed

DISCUSSION OF CC method of calculating implementation.  Monitoring, record-keeping.  Implementation.  Come up with a system.  Staff pull together a monitoring method.  Put it online?  Silt fence (wrong kind).  Commissioners should tell staff and the staff follows up.  CC wants to know about inspections.

Better system?  Spreadsheet of projects?  Rolling list?.  Each month "report" - including "completed" in last month.

1. Wetlands, 2. Code Enforcement and 3. Building Inspector

New permit form?  Can conservation follow up after permit is granted?  JMO - nope.  P&Z subdivision conditions were never monitored.  LOTS OF SWIMMING POOLS coming.  For example, a new approval item - "Reserve the right to inspect in the future" - tied to wetlands protection. Purpose:  ENFORCEMENT AND MAINTAINING STUFF.
Certification.  Can conservation hold up a C.O.?  Leverage?  Fee schedule for violations?  Citation process.

Approval of 2 sets of minutes - wait a month.

Adjourn - motion second unan 8:17pm.

Conservation Commission virtual meeting
Ted, Jim, Mike, Ed, Bob, Sarah;  David, Tracy, team from #2.
April 23, 2020 meeting agenda
ACCEPTED:  Application  for separate garage - "walk" scheduled.
APPROVAL:  A-G plus "H" and "I" - pool & septic repair - landscaping plan (part of the larger presentation).  We had time to research this property while the meeting was going on.  This property is a lot that pre-existed various changes in the zoning and subdivision regulations requiring 1.7 acres of dry land on each building lot...very interesting, at least to me!
EXTENSION GRANTED:  AVCC gets 90 day extension because of COVID-19 complication.
And this brave first "virtual" effort by Land Use Department began...

1.  Receipt of Tiffany Lane application - driveway.  Bob Sarah, unan.

2.  Discussion/Decision on septic and in-ground pool, Old Hyde Road.

Att'y Murphy letter (s).  First discussion.  There was a previous denial.  He is new to the process.  What is new is better "team" - full compliance.  WWHD OK.  P&Z said fine to pool as an accessory to house.  Different septic design.  Wetlands confirmed.  Erosion control new.  Previous denial.  Constraints of other options.  Bob Turner notes all members have received copies.  Replacement of septic in the same location.  Next presenter landscape architect.  He's got IT problem...on to soil scientist. 

We note that "51 Old Hyde Road" was built in 1964 - pre-dating WWHD.  Also before Dominski-Oakrock (which was in 1976) when the environmental parts of zoning we strengthened.

Two more witnesses.  Lang Pools.  First to excavate, put in hay bales.  Vinyl  liner.  No gravel, no drain.  Only 6ft deep.  No draw down in winter.  Pool always maintains water level.  Backyard?  Is it wetlands?  What could go wrong?  Who's going to work on this?
Condition of approval and put them on the plan?  Future owners:  municipal search is part of title search.  Record resolution in the
land records. 

Rain garden must be maintained.  They seem to be ready to write additional conditions...

MOTION:  Jim Smith, Ed - approve pool & recondition septic subject to Grumman Plan2-13-20 rev 3/3/20,  to A-G - "H" disturbance line incorporated.  Plus "I" require ozone closed system pool water.  Will not be changed without coming back; "J" wetlands restoration sign off.  Voice vote.
Turner, Reinrer, Smith, Ed, Sarah, Ted. - unan.

3.  Extension/AVCC Composting Toilets (2) on golf course.  Extended because 90 day expension,  Ted, Jim.  Unan.

4.  Approval of 3 sets of minutes.  Plus site visit.  Unan. except for persons who was not present for some. 

Site walk individually.  Detached garage (item #1 above). From 8-10am

Adjourn.  9:45pm

Before COVID-19, we recorded news of the environment in various places on About Weston. 
This location refers to national recognition of planning for the Eightmile River.  Haddam Land Swap matter.  And also for Oswegathie Hills saga.  Close to us here.



A blast from the past...familiar name.
How is reorganization of government in 2018 Norwalk like 2003 Oswegatchie  Hills?  Do trees have more rights than people? 

PLANNING & ZONING IN CONNECTICUT:  open space v. affordable housing, 2010 decision.

"SHEFF BACK" LATEST - click here.

WHOA - what's this?  New DEEP commissioner wades into Oswegatchie Hills?

Ridgefield First Selectman reports on environmental victory in court.
Please note that photos of Saugatuck Reservoir and its West Branch watershed are illustrations only, and had no significance in the case itself. Link to "Sustainability"


BIG WIN FOR OPEN SPACE:  http://www.theday.com/state-news/20151229/end-of-uncertainty-for-tax-incentives-heralded-as-major-boost-for-land-conservation

National Designation for Eight Mile River?  YES!!!

Is this where to begin learning how to save your river?  Check UCONN/CLEAR for  NEMO Eightmile River Case Study.
GROWTH MANAGEMENT  principles (just like State of Washington) prevailed in CT in 2005!
And what of the Yale golf course issue? 

And a farm preserved. 

Generational change?



Old Lyme health director says sewers are solution to contaminated groundwater
By Kimberly Drelich
Published January 16. 2016 5:46PM | Updated January 16. 2016 5:47PM

Old Lyme — Weighing in on a debate about Hawk's Nest, the town's director of health said sewers are the answer to a "threat to public health of contaminated groundwater" in the neighborhood and nearby beaches...story in full: 

Can you find a former guest of About Town in the linked picture?

Canton Republican Calls for Constitutional Amendment to Protect Open Space
by Steve Majerus-Collins | Jan 14, 2016 5:30am

...David Leff, a former deputy commissioner for the state Department of Environmental Protection, said that people who want to save their favorite hiking trails, fishing holes, and recreational space for the future should get behind the proposed amendment...http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/canton_republican_calls_for_constitutional_amendment_to_protect_open_space/

Commission conditionally approves preliminary plan for Oswegatchie Hills
By Kimberly Drelich, DAY
Published August 20. 2015 9:58PM
Updated August 20. 2015 10:43PM

 East Lyme — The Zoning Commission on Thursday conditionally approved Landmark Development's preliminary plan for an affordable housing development in the Oswegatchie Hills.  Landmark has applied to rezone 123 acres in the hills as an affordable housing district, reserving 36 acres for development and 87 for open space.

The Middletown-based company, under developer Glenn Russo, also submitted a preliminary site plan to build 840 housing units within 24 buildings.

The commission decided Thursday that only the acreage that falls within the town's sewer service district will be rezoned as an affordable housing district.  The commission also said the developer must incorporate several modifications while, or before, moving to the next step of submitting a final site plan.

...Roger Reynolds, legal director for CFE and Save the Sound, called the proposal "premature."

"Without crucial information about wetlands and how sewage will be handled, the application is so preliminary as to be virtually meaningless," he said in a statement. "We will review the decision in detail to do what is necessary to protect the statewide environmental treasures that are the Oswegatchie Hills and the Niantic River."

Story in full:  http://www.theday.com/local/20150820/commission-conditionally-approves-preliminary-plan-for-oswegatchie-hills

East Lyme commission continues deliberations on Oswegatchie Hills proposal
By Kimberly Drelich, DAY
Published August 06. 2015 9:45PM
Updated August 06. 2015 9:47PM

East Lyme — The Zoning Commission continued Thursday to discuss Landmark Development's application for affordable housing in the Oswegatchie Hills, but did not reach a decision.

The commission is expected to take a vote either next Thursday or on Aug. 20...story in full:  http://www.theday.com/local/20150806/east-lyme-commission-continues-deliberations-on-oswegatchie-hills-proposal

‘Silver tsunami’ threatens Connecticut’s woodlands
Staff report, CT POST
Published 5:00 am, Monday, June 29, 2015    

A recent study by Yale University School of Forestry & Environmental Studies took a look into Connecticut’s private land ownership. The study entitled “Understanding Connecticut Woodland Owners” is a first-of-its-kind analysis of the attitude, values, and challenges of people who own woodlands in Connecticut.  The report concludes that private landowner management and ownership has enormous influence on the quality and extent of Connecticut forests - as families own half of the approximately 1.8 million acres of woodlands in our state.

The Yale report also highlights a phenomena known as the “silver tsunami,” the threat of the sale of interior woodland for development, as 85 percent of Connecticut woodland owners are over 50 years old...

Story in full:  http://www.ctpost.com/news/article/Silver-tsunami-threatens-Connecticut-s-6353297.php

Open space proposal to go before East Lyme selectmen
Published May 18. 2015 7:16PM
By Kimberly Drelich 

East Lyme — A Massachusetts foundation wants the town to help pay to conserve about 166 acres of forest at the headwaters of the Niantic River.

The New England Forestry Foundation would manage the land under a sustainable forestry plan. In the past, land in that area was part of the greenway plan accompanying a design for the long-stalled extension of Route 11.

The proposal to preserve the undeveloped parcel, with an entrance at 29 Goldfinch Terrace, is slated to come before the Board of Selectmen Wednesday. The selectmen heard presentations on the open-space proposal last year and again this spring but have not taken a vote.

The parcel, adjacent to the Heritage at East Lyme subdivision, is north of Interstate 95 near the town's border with Waterford.

The proposal asks the town to contribute $350,000 for the parcel, part of a 200-acre property owned by KSK Associates LLC. A $500,000 state grant and the foundation would cover the remainder. KSK is asking $1.225 million, said managing member Stephen Harney.

The New England Forestry Foundation would own the land, to be called the Niantic River Headwaters Preserve, while the state and town would hold conservation easements on the property...CONSERVATION EASEMENTS NOTHING NEW TO...WESTON!

Story in full:  http://www.theday.com/local/20150518/open-space-proposal-to-go-before-east-lyme-selectmen

Latest development plan for Oswegatchie Hills calls for 840 housing units
By Kimberly Drelich, The Day
Published March 17. 2015 12:08AM   

East Lyme - Following the town's revision of its affordable housing rules two years ago, Landmark Development is now outlining "the parameters" of plans to build a residential complex within the Oswegatchie Hills near the Niantic River...story in full:  http://www.theday.com/local/20150317/latest-development-plan-for-oswegatchie-hills-calls-for-840-housing-units

East Lyme, developer to sign memorandum of understanding over Oswegatchie Hills
By Kimberly Drelich, DAY
Published May 06. 2015 10:38PM
Updated May 06. 2015 10:56PM

East Lyme — Representatives for the town and Landmark Development are expected to sign a memorandum of understanding in which both would "sit at the same table" to see if they could find another land parcel in exchange for development rights in the Oswegatchie Hills.

For more than 15 years, Landmark Development, a Middletown-based company under developer Glenn Russo, has been trying to develop 236 acres it owns in the Oswegatchie Hills. Landmark has filed several applications, as well as lawsuits, concerning building affordable housing there.

On Wednesday, the Board of Selectmen praised the idea and unanimously voted to authorize First Selectman Mark Nickerson to sign the memorandum.

Nickerson said he and Russo will sign the memorandum at a yet to be determined time...story in full:  http://www.theday.com/local/20150506/east-lyme-developer-to-sign-memorandum-of-understanding-over-oswegatchie-hills

For those who may not remember all of this...21sr century challenge with three appeals, so far.

East Lyme Board of Selectmen about to make a fateful decision...interesting case as to who holds the easement, who owns the property.

NEXT TRY:  http://www.theday.com/local/20150317/latest-development-plan-for-oswegatchie-hills-calls-for-840-housing-units

East Lyme commission discusses Landmark lawsuit behind closed doors
Kimberly Drelich, DAY
Article published Aug 26, 2014

East Lyme — The Water and Sewer Commission met in closed session Tuesday to discuss litigation from Landmark Development Group, the Middletown-based company that is proposing to build a residential complex, including affordable units, in the Oswegatchie Hills.

Town attorney Edward O’Connell said before the executive session that the commission was not planning to take action on Tuesday.

Landmark has been appealing in state Superior Court the commission’s 2012 decision to deny its request for 118,000 gallons of sewage capacity per day for the proposed development. At the time, the commission said the request would claim a “disproportionately large” amount of the town’s sewage capacity.

As part of the appeals case, the court directed the commission in January to specify how much sewage capacity it would allow Landmark. The commission voted in February to allow the developer 13,000 gallons per day.
Judge Henry S. Cohn ordered in June for the commission to reconsider the sewage allotment for Landmark. He said the allotted sewage capacity was “inappropriately low,” for reasons that include the commission’s use of data from 2004, which he said was not current, according to court documents.

Court documents show that the case in ongoing, with a hearing scheduled for Sept. 4.

Or is that re-enlist?
Hikers enlist in cause of saving Oswegatchie Hills
DEEP commissioner joins students, says state should kick in
By Judy Benson Day Staff Writer
Article published Jun 10, 2014

East Lyme — In the 15 years since the Friends of Oswegatchie Hills formed to preserve the rocky wooded slopes along the Niantic River and fight development of the area, the group never attracted a hiking-boots-on-the-trail ally like the one who came to town Monday, nor the crowd of potential enlistees who followed him.

"I'm glad I got to see the property. It's the kind of place we're interested in preserving," Rob Klee, commissioner of the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, said Monday, as he trekked the blue trail on the return leg of an hourlong hike in the 420-acre Oswegachie Hills Preserve. With him were 90 seventh- and eighth-graders from East Lyme Middle School and two of his senior staff members, plus First Selectman Paul Formica, state Rep. Ed Jutila and several members of the Friends group and other conservation organizations...

Before the hike, Klee, DEEP Policy Director Jessie Stratton and Graham Stevens, director of DEEP's Office of Constituent Affairs and Land Management, traveled up the Niantic River on a marine patrol boat to see the woodlands from the water, hearing a pitch for preservation from Dunn and others along the way. The purpose, Dunn said, was to impress on the commissioner what is at stake if the Landmark property were developed. The 236-acre parcel includes a mile of shoreline and steep forest with a shallow layer of topsoil over bedrock...

Please search the Hartford Courant archives for the remainder of this story.

Developer Suggests State's Controversial Land Swap May Be Revived
Hartford Courant
Jon Lender Government Watch
4:25 p.m. EDT, March 30, 2013

Last year, conservationists celebrated the death of the so-called Haddam land swap — a controversial deal approved by the state legislature in 2011 to let private developers acquire 17 acres of state-owned land overlooking the Connecticut River in exchange for 87 acres of woods they owned elsewhere in town.

But the deal — which grew to symbolic importance for its opponents in the environmental movement — may still have a heartbeat.

At least that's what Steve Rocco, a member of the development group that announced last April that it had pulled out of the deal, told a legislative committee in Hartford last week. Rocco showed up at a hearing to testify against a new bill, sought by conservationists, to erase from state statutes the 2011 enabling language for the land swap

"This is unfinished business," Rocco, one of the partners in Riverhouse Properties, told the General Assembly's government administration committee at a public hearing.
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Noting that the swap was killed last year by unfavorable property appraisals, Rocco said: "The partners of the Riverhouse have not come to a conclusion about whether or not to go back to the [state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection] or pursue a challenge of the appraisals legally, or other methods available."

That was a big uh-oh for some Haddam residents and conservationists from elsewhere in the state, about 30 of whom submitted written testimony in favor of repealing the enabling language...

Please search the Hartford Courant archives for the remainder of this story.

Developers pull out of Haddam land-swap deal
Apr 4, 2011 5:54 AM EDT

HADDAM, Conn. (AP) -- Developers have pulled out of a deal with the state to swap land they own for 17 acres of state-owned property along the Connecticut River in Haddam, where they had talked about building a hotel and entertainment venue.

Riverhouse Properties told the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection on Tuesday that it wasn't going through with the deal because of land valuations. The developers wanted to trade 87 wooded acres they owned in Haddam for the riverside property, but the state's land was appraised at $1.3 million more than the developers' property.

Under the agreement approved by state officials last year, the developers would have had to pay the state the difference between the land valuations and they said Tuesday they couldn't do that.  Environmental activists opposed the deal.

"Absolutely the right choice..."

Commissioner Dan Esty’s Recusal List:  Anybody missing?  As of Oct. 3. new Office of Consumer Counsel
Alcoa, BP, CH2M Hill, Coca-Cola Enterprise, Connecticut Fund for the Environment, Disney, ESPN, Dow Chemical, FedEx, General Electric, IBM, Ingersoll-Rand, Johnson & Johnson, Motorola, Naya Waters, Nestle Waters, Nokia, Procter & Gamble, Personal Care Products Council, SC Johnson, Scotts Miracle-Gro, The Nature Conservancy, Timex, Unilever, Walmart, Waste Management, Yale University,  Xerox.

Esty Backed Legally By AG In CL&P Case, Collects $15,000 Speaker's Fee In Cleveland
The Hartford Courant
By JON LENDER, jlender@courant.com
11:19 PM EDT, October 3, 2011

HARTFORD — Daniel C. Esty, state energy and environment commissioner, broke no regulation with his controversial intervention to halt utility regulators' review of Connecticut Light & Power Co.'s multimillion-dollar application to install "smart meters," Attorney General George Jepsen said Monday.

CL&P had applied to install 1.2 million advanced "smart meters" — which can record energy consumption in small time periods and great detail — at customers' homes and businesses. But a director for the Public Utility Regulatory Authority urged rejection in an Aug. 29 "draft decision" saying that the expensive CL&P proposal offered scant consumer savings.

However, a day later, Esty — who was paid $205,000 by CL&P's corporate parent, Northeast Utilities, for consulting work from 1997 to 2005 — formally requested that the CL&P proceeding be suspended while a new policy for "smart meters" was developed. The case was put on hold.

Esty's move was called "troubling" by the House Republican leader on grounds that it interfered with what had been an independent utility regulator until it was absorbed July 1 into Esty's newly created agency, the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. The state's consumer counsel then asked Jepsen for an opinion on the legality of Esty's intervention and the merger of PURA into DEEP.

Monday, Jepsen wrote: "We conclude that DEEP's actions in this proceeding were entirely consistent with Public Act 11-80 and the Uniform Administrative Procedures Act."

Jepsen's office said the public act that created DEEP authorized Esty to set energy policy through the Comprehensive Energy Plan and the Integrated Resources Plan, adding that PURA is to be "guided by the goals of DEEP and by the goals of those plans."

Last week, Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy defended Esty, saying he did not believe his $205,000 in consulting work for NU resulted in a conflict of interest and that Esty disclosed his work for NU while being considered for his current post.

Esty has disqualified, or "recused," himself from issues involving 28 companies or groups with which he had relationships. He said he made that "recusal list" based on relationships less than 5 years old, and left NU off it because his work for the utility ended more than five years ago. He said he'd checked with the Office of State Ethic about it...

Please search the Hartford Courant archives for the remainder of this story.

Esty Was Paid $205,000 By CL&P's Corporate Parent
Energy And Environment Commissioner Intervened In Multimillion-Dollar Application By Utility
Hartford Courant
Jon Lender, Government Watch
10:18 p.m. EDT, September 23, 2011

State energy and environment Commissioner Daniel C. Esty — who sparked some official concern in recent weeks by halting state regulators' deliberations in a multimillion-dollar application by Connecticut Light & Power Co. — was paid $205,000 as a consultant from 1997 to 2005 by CL&P's parent company, Northeast Utilities.

Esty acknowledged his eight-year financial connection with the utility company in response to questions from The Courant, and that acknowledgment may spark questions of whether he should have intervened in a pending public utilities case involving such high stakes for the huge subsidiary of the corporation that paid him.

All of this arises after The Courant made follow-up inquiries on disclosures in a Government Watch column last Sunday. That column reported that on Aug. 29 — a day before Esty injected himself into the matter — a state utilities regulator had issued a "draft decision" that recommended rejection of the pending CL&P application to install 1.2 million advanced "smart meters" costing hundreds of millions of dollars at customers' homes and businesses.

Esty, 52, a longtime Yale professor, corporate environmental consultant, and nationally publicized author, has been called a star appointee in the new Democratic administration of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy...

Please search the Hartford Courant archives for the remainder of this story.

Environmental Commissioner Recuses Himself From Working On Housatonic Clean Up
Dan Esty won't do work related to General Electric & 28 other firms.
By Nancy Eve Cohen,CPTV, WNPR
Published: Jul 12, 201

The Connecticut Commissioner of Environment and Energy has recused himself from doing work related to General Electric and to more than two dozen other companies. As WNPR’s Nancy Cohen reports this means Dan Esty will not weigh in on the clean up of the Housatonic River.

Before taking the job as Commissioner, Dan Esty directed the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy and was co-director of the Center for  Business and the Environment at Yale. Esty says he recused himself from working on any issues related to General Electric because he knew a number of G.E. officials and had received funding from the GE Foundation for his projects at Yale.  Esty even wrote about G.E.’s  battle over PCB clean up in the Hudson River in one of his books...

Please search the NPR archives for the remainder of this story.

Too busy "solving" the problems of Connecticut?  A "long view" of what kind of place CT should be?  The Haddam Land Swap may come back to bite this administration.

Hotly Disputed Haddam Land Swap Is Dead
The Hartford Courant
By JON LENDER, jlender@courant.com
9:36 PM EDT, April 3, 2012

The Haddam land swap is dead.

The controversial deal that a powerful state senator pushed through the General Assembly last year — infuriating environmentalists and putting them at odds with the state's new environmental commissioner, Daniel Esty — died quietly Tuesday of complications caused by legal provisions and land valuations...

Please search the Hartford Courant archives for the remainder of this story.

Showdown on citizen environmental action statute
Jan Ellen Spiegel, CT MIRROR
March 9, 2012

Environmental and business groups are marshalling forces for an anticipated showdown Friday that pits part of the cornerstone of state environmental law against development and job creation. At issue is legislation that would restrict using environmental grounds to block development projects...

The Fund for the Environment's Reynolds said there are existing statues that address baseless claims, pointing to large judgments against Westfarms Mall for bringing frivolous actions against the developers of Blue Back Square in West Hartford.

He also rejected assertions by legislation supporters that the statute has been widely abused, pointing to a 2010 report by the then Department of Environmental Protection that looked into the concern and found: "CEPA intervention in the Department's permitting process is rare."

It went on to quantify that intervention was used 0.2 percent of the time when a department permit was required, although admitted it could not calculate its use at the local level. The report also said there was at least a perception that interventions under CEPA made the state a difficult place to do business.

Reynolds also noted that applicants have been known to abuse the permitting process, appealing zoning or wetlands rulings when there is no basis, but counting on concessions from municipalities that would rather give in than submit to expensive litigation...

Please search the CT MIRROR archives for the remainder of this story.

DEEP chief goes fishing, catches heat for land deal
Criticism of Haddam property swap heard on day for marine-related issues
By Judy Benson Day Staff Writer
Article published Sep 13, 2011

New London - In a day slated to bring attention to marine-related issues, state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Daniel Esty fielded questions Monday about pending reductions on catch limits for blackfish and marina dredging.

But Esty also ended up defending his actions regarding a land swap deal in Haddam.  The questions came from the approximately 40 members of the public who attended a "Commissioner in Your Corner" session with Esty at Fort Trumbull State Park, one of a series of forums he has been conducting at state parks.

The forum came after Esty, along with DEEP staff who deal with fisheries and water quality issues, traveled aboard the research vessel John Dempsey to view the shoreline from Old Lyme to New London with local legislators. They discussed topics ranging from damage to coastal parks caused by Tropical Storm Irene, turbidity and debris in the Connecticut River since the storm, and fisheries management issues.  During the boat trip, state Sen. Andrea Stillman and state Rep. Betsy Ritter, both Waterford Democrats, each caught a scup off rods baited for them by DEEP staff...

Please search the New London DAY archives for the remainder of this story.

Malloy OKs Haddam conservation land trade
New London DAY
Judy Benson
Article published Jul 15, 2011

Haddam - Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has signed into law a bill that will enable the state to swap 17 acres of conservation land overlooking the Connecticut River for 87 acres that adjoins Cockaponset State Forest.

The land swap measure, part of a larger bill that pertains to several other state land transfers, was strongly opposed by a host of conservation groups. More than 800 people opposing the swap signed a petition submitted to the state legislature. Opponents feared it would establish a dangerous precedent that would dissuade people from donating land to the state for conservation.

In the proposed swap, the 17 acres, now part of the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection's Clark Creek Wildlife Area, would be given to Riverhouse Properties LLC, which is seeking to build a hotel and retail complex with a theater or other entertainment venue. In exchange, Riverhouse would give the state 87 acres it owns next to the state forest. Malloy signed the bill last Friday...

Please search the New London DAY archives for the remainder of this story.

NEXT:  How about a private housing/golf course on the State of CT piece of Trout Brook Valley?
Haddam Land Swap Dodged Real Scrutiny
Deal Approved Despite No DEP Assessment And Only Token Public Discussion
The Hartford Courant
July 3, 2011

In a time when trust in government is at an all-time low, it is sinking further with the unethical handling of the proposed swap of 17 acres of state-owned land overlooking the Connecticut River in Haddam.

Under the deal, approved by the General Assembly and awaiting the governor's signature, the land overlooking the river would be traded for 87 acres of woodland in Haddam's Higganum section. The 17-acre parcel would be owned by the Riverhouse at Goodspeed Station, which owns an adjoining parcel and wants to commercially develop the state-owned site.

Sen. Eileen Daily, D-Westbrook, backed the swap and said, "Thorough scrutiny of government and its transactions has always been part of the Connecticut landscape..."

See Courant for article in full.

Melissa Schlag lives in the Higganum section of Haddam and is a co-founder of Citizens for Protection of Public Lands. Rob Smith of East Haddam is a member of the citizens group and a retired assistant state parks director for the state Department of Environmental Protection.

New London DAY
Article published Jun 28, 2011

Hartford - Connecticut's top environmental official says he did not get involved in a contentious land swap because he did not research the matter fully. Environmental Commissioner Daniel Esty says in an interview with The Associated Press on Monday he did not have the opportunity to dig into the details enough to make an informed decision. The plan, which has been approved by the legislature, will exchange a 17-acre site on the Connecticut River in Haddam for 87 acres adjacent to a state forest several miles away.

DEP Chief Talks Of 'Dodging' Land Swap Issue
Some Suggest Agency And Governor Playing Politics With Environmental Issue
Hartford COURANT
Jon Lender, Government Watch
June 26, 2011

"I cannot dodge this much longer," Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's new appointee as environmental commissioner, Daniel C. Esty, wrote in an uneasy-sounding e-mail to a subordinate on April 1...

Please search the Hartford Courant archives for the remainder of this story.

We note that the 2011 Long Session is over for now...

Struggle to fix state's finances gave Malloy his victories and losses (our suggestion that the Haddam Land Swap was a "loss")

Keith M. Phaneuf, CT MIRROR (in part)
June 9, 2011

Looking back on the just-ended 2011 legislative session, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said today the struggle to put Connecticut's fiscal house in order and invigorate its economy created most of  successes as well as his one disappointment.

Malloy, who fielded reporters questions nine hours after the legislature adjourned, said he and lawmakers made "a sizable down payment" against unemployment with new job creation tax incentives, an $864 million plan to expand the University of Connecticut Health Center, and a new authority to market Bradley International Airport.

But perhaps the most important step the new administration and the legislature took to get Connecticut's economy growing again was to quell the uncertainty about the future created by filling the $3.67 billion deficit built into the next budget when Malloy took office in January, the governor said.

"It is an honest budget, a straightforward budget," he said of the $40.54 billion, two-year plan that raises $1.5 billion in new state taxes in 2011-12, seeks $1.6 billion in labor savings over two years and consolidates more than 80 agencies down to less than 60.

A bill that requires most companies to provide paid sick leave has been decried by the Connecticut Business and Industry Association as a dangerous mandate that will scare companies away from the state, but Malloy rejected that premise. "CBIA tends to see the glass as half empty," the governor said, adding it was important to give all residents a basic benefit that more than three-quarters of Connecticut workers already enjoy. CBIA officials "warn people of threats that don't exist and they are pretty good at it."

Still, the governor announced he would work with his department heads and private business leaders all summer developing more initiatives to create jobs, and then call lawmakers back into special session this fall to enact them.

"We need to come back and work on jobs," he said, calling it his one disappointment that more wasn't done to accelerate Connecticut's recovery from the last recession...

"It was the best session I ever had," quipped the governor, who never served in state government before this year.

Malloy also said that "in all probability" he would sign a controversial bill that swaps 17 acres of state land near the Riverhouse at Goodspeed Station in Haddam for 88 acres adjacent to the Cockaponset State Forest, also in that community. A private firm wants to use the state land, which has been preserved for its environmental value, for industrial development.

The governor and his administration had been relatively silent about the proposed deal during the session, and Malloy said Thursday that "I really hadn't had a lot of time to work on that issue."

HOW THINGS MAY CHANGE:  When DEP has become, assuming that it will, DEEP, expect more of this...affordable housing takes a back seat or not?

Conservation groups oppose land swap;  Hotel-retail complex developer dealing with state

By Judy Benson Day Staff Writer
Article published Jun 7, 2011

As the state legislature winds up business for the regular 2011 session this week, a bill that would allow the state to swap 17 acres of conservation land for 87 acres owned by a developer next to a state forest is the subject of intense eleventh-hour lobbying and maneuvering by supporters and opponents.

The developer, Riverhouse Properties LLC, is seeking to build a hotel and retail complex with a theater or other entertainment venue on the 17-acre site overlooking the Connecticut River across from the Goodspeed Opera House on the eastern side of the river. The parcel is next to its Riverhouse at Goodspeed Station banquet, conference and catering center. The 87 acres abut Cockaponset State Forest.

The 17 acres is part of the state Department of Environmental Protection's Clark Creek Wildlife Area. Tracks used by Connecticut Valley Railroad State Park run between the parcel's east side and Eagle Landing State Park on the west bank of the river.  While both properties are in Haddam, representatives of the more than two dozen statewide environmental organizations, local land trusts and other groups that have joined the opposition say the outcome could affect the fate of conservation land statewide.

"I walked the (17-acre) property and it sealed the deal for me," said Melissa Schlag Proulx of Haddam, who created a website, www.landswap.org, for a group calling itself Stop the Swap, and was at the state Capitol Monday to submit a petition signed by 640 residents of more than 40 towns. She was involved in two opposition rallies...

Please search the New London DAY archives for the remainder of this story.


Housatonic Valley Looks at Environmental Issues From Watersheds to Bottles
A Superior Court decision to protect the Saugatuck Watershed has town officials including First Selectman Rudy Marconi considering the impact on public drinking water

Affordable housing efforts have benefited greatly from Section 8-30g of the state code as the law allows builders lenience when bringing the affordable units into town — but higher density is not always a good thing.

When it comes to protecting the watershed, Judge Henry S. Cohn of the State Superior Court writes, "The protection of a source of public drinking water clearly outweighs the need for affordable housing."

The court overruled an appeal by the Eureka building company to amend the zoning map in order to build units at a site on Bennett's Farm Road in Ridgefield because 67 acres of the property were in the Saugatuck Watershed, which supplies the public drinking water in the Saugatuck Reservoir.

Ridgefield First Selectman Rudy Marconi backed the decision at the Housatonic Valley Council of Elected Officials Thursday and introduced state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) representative MaryAnn Nusom Haverstock to speak about some of the region's efforts in terms of protecting watersheds.

"A watershed encompasses many towns," Haverstock said. "If we can get not one town but several towns coming together to look for funding, we can bring low-impact development to planning and zoning."

"The bottom line," Marconi said, "is that water is the next oil," with agreement from the HVCEO table, which included selectmen from New Milford, Brookfield, New Fairfield and other towns in the region...

First Selectman Rudy Marconi of Ridgefield.

Saugatuck watershed protection blocks housing plan in Ridgefield
Danbury News-Times
Robert Miller, Staff Writer
Published: 10:08 p.m., Friday, November 12, 2010

RIDGEFIELD -- Developers of the proposed housing development on Bennett's Farm Road cannot build any units on land that is part of the Saugatuck River watershed, a state Superior Court judge has ruled.

"The protection of state water resources is not only consistent with, but a focus of state laws," Judge Henry S. Cohn wrote in an Oct. 20 decision. "The protection of a source of public drinking water clearly outweighs the need for affordable housing."

Cohn also ruled that Eureka V cannot build an on-site septic system or even run sewer line across the watershed property.  First Selectman Rudy Marconi said the decision proves state laws value watershed land enough to override the need for affordable housing.

"This is a huge victory," Marconi said Wednesday...

"It's a split decision," Ellen Burns, president of the Ridgefield Open Space Association, said of Cohn's opinion. "He upheld the town as far as the Saugatuck watershed is concerned. But he threw the Norwalk River under the bus."

A spokesman for Eureka was unavailable for comment Thursday.

The case has been in court since 2008, when Eureka sued the Planning and Zoning Commission over its rezoning of the 153-acre site, creating a Housing Opportunity Zone.he site is at the top of a hill, with about 86 acres that have drainage into the Norwalk River, while 67 acres are part of the Sauagtuck River watershed...

Please search the Danbury News-Times archives for the remainder of this story.

Eureka Withdraws Affordable Housing Appeal
"Bizarre case" from developer challenged 2007 changes to zoning regulations.
By Kira Goldenberg, Ridgefield Patch
July 22, 2010

Long entrenched in multiple lawsuits against the town, the owners of 153 acres on Bennett's Farm Road appear to be ditching at least one of their major cases.

Eureka V, LLC, has filed a motion to withdraw a superior court appeal from 2007 protesting that what were then new changes to the town's zoning regulations would unfairly prevent the developer from building affordable housing on the site, court documents show.

Eureka V is a limited liability corporation of the New York-based Milstein Properties.

"I thought it was a bizarre case to begin with," said First Selectman Rudy Marconi, who has two cabinets and a large box in his office devoted to storing Eureka-related documents. Neither he nor Town Planner Betty Brosius knew why the developer decided to withdraw the appeal now...

Please search the Ridgefield Patch archives for the remainder of this story.

NOTE:  We have left the full story for this issue online to be sure we have not further complicated this matter.

Developer to refile suit against East Lyme over housing proposal;  Russo has alleged town shutting out minorities
By Amy Renczkowski, New London Day Staff Writer
Article published Jun 25, 2010

East Lyme - An attorney for developer Glenn Russo said Thursday he will refile a lawsuit accusing the town of racial discrimination through its rejection of an affordable-housing development proposal, just months after a U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals judge dismissed the suit.

The federal civil rights lawsuit filed by Landmark Development Group LLC, headed by Russo, dates back to 2003 and alleges the town was purposefully preventing minorities from coming to East Lyme by rejecting affordable housing. On March 10, an appellate court judge upheld a federal judge's previous decision to dismiss the lawsuit.

Christopher Rooney of Carmody & Torrance LLP, based in New Haven, said Landmark did not appeal the decision any higher because it was unlikely the case would have been heard by the U.S. Supreme Court. Instead, Landmark will refile its case in the U.S. District Court in Hartford.

"Although it's a final decision on the matter, it does not block further litigation," Rooney said.

Reached Thursday evening, First Selectman Paul Formica was surprised to hear about Russo's plans to restart litigation. He said it was his understanding that the deadline had passed for Landmark to appeal to the Supreme Court and the opportunity to refile the suit has passed with that deadline.

Several phone calls placed with Deborah Etlinger of Hartford-based Wolf Horowitz & Etlinger LLC, who is representing the town in the lawsuit, were not returned Thursday night.

Since 2000, Russo, a Middletown-based developer, has submitted four separate applications to build condominiums on more than 240 acres in the northern end of the Oswegatchie Hills. The last application proposed 1,720 units, a third of which would be deemed affordable under state statutes.

The town rejected each application, and Russo appealed each one in Superior Court. The court twice upheld the town's position, and the other two appeals are pending.

Formica said the town has spent a minimal amount on legal fees to fight the federal case. The town is covered by its insurance company, which hired Etlinger. He said he wasn't sure how much the town paid in previous years in legal fees to fight the other appeals.

Oswegatchie Hills includes approximately 700 acres of woodland that front the Niantic River. Residents have, since then, approved the purchase of nearly half of the acreage in Oswegatchie Hills to preserve as open space.

Since Russo filed the civil rights lawsuit, the town has approved two affordable housing developments and has more clearly defined its affordable-housing regulations. The Zoning Commission established a subcommittee last year to look at the possibility of creating incentive housing zones to make it easier to develop affordable housing in town.

Incentive housing zones, which give towns control, exempt them from the state's 10 percent affordable-housing goal for towns and provide cash incentive payments.  The special incentive housing zones allow for denser-than-normal housing with the idea of stimulating the town's economic growth by increasing the number of retail and business customers as well as attracting additional grant money.

Jane Dauphinais, director of the Southeastern Connecticut Housing Alliance, said last fall that about 5 percent of East Lyme's total housing units are designated as affordable. Most towns in the area have between 2 and 3 percent, she said.

Larger cities and towns in the area, such as Norwich, New London and Groton, have about 20 percent of their total housing units considered affordable.

In Desegregation Pact, Westchester Agrees to Add Affordable Housing
Dated online as August 11, 2009

Westchester County officials have entered into a landmark desegregation agreement that would compel the county to create affordable housing in overwhelmingly white communities and aggressively market it to non-whites in the county and in neighboring New York City.  The agreement, to be formally filed Monday in Federal District Court in Manhattan, would end three years of litigation by the Anti-Discrimination Center over Westchester’s responsibility to enforce fair-housing goals.

“Residential segregation underlies virtually every racial disparity in America, from education to jobs to the delivery of health care,” said Craig Gurian, executive director of the Anti-Discrimination Center, which filed the suit under the federal False Claims Act...

Preserve Oswegatchie Hills 
DAY editorial
Published on 5/16/2009

Once again a judge has ruled against developer Glenn Russo in his protracted legal fight to build affordable housing in East Lyme's Oswegatchie Hills, and once again Mr. Russo has vowed to appeal.
While we agree that East Lyme, like most suburban towns in New London County, should offer a broader range of housing options, we also believe that no homes of any kind, be they raised ranch or Tudor mansion, belong in Oswegatchie Hills, a pristine expanse of forest and ledges that offers dramatic views of the Niantic River Valley.

And so once again we urge Mr. Russo to drop his appeal and abandon his plans, thereby allowing the town and conservation organizations to pursue preserving the property, as they have with adjoining parcels. A consortium of public and private groups has in recent years managed to create the 400-acre Oswegatchie Hills Nature Preserve, which has five miles of hiking trails and will remain as open space for the enjoyment of future generations.

Since 2000, Mr. Russo has been seeking to build condominiums on 240 acres that his company, Landmark Development Group LLC, owns at the northern end of the hills. His most recent legal strategy has been to file a federal civil rights lawsuit accusing East Lyme of trying to block minorities from coming to town by turning down Landmark's affordable housing proposal - a specious allegation rejected twice in state Superior Court and now tossed out in U.S. District Court.

In granting the town's request to dismiss Mr. Russo's lawsuit, Judge Robert Chatigny noted that the two minority plaintiffs who initially professed to have wanted to move to East Lyme now say they have found other accommodations and have withdrawn from the litigation. But John Brittain, a prominent civil rights attorney representing Mr. Russo, says he has lined up other minorities to take their place as plaintiffs and will file an appeal in two or three months.

We urged Mr. Russo to drop his plans a year ago after the second Superior Court ruling. At the time, Judge Eliot Prescott properly ruled that the state law intended to encourage affordable housing was less important than the need to protect a “unique and important environmental setting.”

Since then, it's worth noting, the real estate market has collapsed and there's an unprecedented glut of houses on the market, so one could argue that the professed need for new homes cited in Mr. Russo's lawsuit is considerably less urgent.

Some speculate that the real intent of Mr. Russo's legal challenges has been to drive up the selling price of his land, but whatever his motives we fervently hope he sees the light before proceeding with an appeal. It's time for him to move on, and for all of Oswegatchie Hills to be protected.  

Judge dismisses Oswegatchie Hills lawsuit against East Lyme;  Developer files appeal in affordable-housing case 
By Karin Crompton     
Published on 5/14/2009 

East Lyme - A judge has granted the town's motion to dismiss a federal civil rights lawsuit that had alleged East Lyme purposefully tried to block minorities from coming to town by rejecting affordable housing.


Year - Total Assisted - Percent of Total Housing

2002 - 375 - 5.03

2003 - 299 - 4.01

2004 - 286 - 3.83

2005 - 308 - 4.13

2006 - 314 - 4.21

2007 - 373 - 5.00

2008 - 390 - 5.23

Assisted or affordable units include governmentally assisted units, deed restricted units and CHFA mortgages. The percentage equals the number of total housing units in town (7,459), as per the 2000 Census, divided by the number of affordable/assisted units.


Program hits milestone by preserving 250th farm 
Published on 4/25/2009

Gov. M. Jodi Rell and state Agriculture Commissioner F. Philip Prelli announced Friday that the state's Farmland Preservation Program reached a milestone this week by preserving its 250th farm, the 181-acre Wisneske Farm, in Norwich and Franklin.
The property is part of an agricultural cluster of more than 800 acres of preserved farmland. It represents the first joint acquisition by the state, a statewide land trust partner and a federal agency, according to a news release from Rell's office.

”Agriculture contributes $2 billion to our economy each year and it is essential we retain the ability to produce local food, create jobs and preserve our agriculture heritage,” Rell said.

The Wisneske Farm lies along a scenic ridge on Plain Hill Road and is adjacent to Bog Meadow Reservoir and other protected farmland. It contains about 100 acres of cropland. Eugene Wisneske grows hay for livestock and leases a portion of the cropland and pasture to a local dairy, the Spielman Farm.

The protection of Wisneske Farm was a $757,500 joint purchase of development rights between the state of Connecticut, the nonprofit Connecticut Farmland Trust and the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service. The state contributed just under $707,500 from the $5 million lump sum bond allocation approved by the State Bond Commission. The farmland trust contributed $50,000 through private fundraising efforts. The state will receive reimbursement for 47 percent of the cost through the federal Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program administered by the conservation service.

The state's farmland preservation goal is to preserve 130,000 acres of farmland, with 85,000 acres of active cropland. To date, about 25 percent or 254 farms totaling 34,500 acres have been approved for protection by the Farmland Preservation Program. 

Nature Conservancy Acquires Eightmile Conservation Easements On 600 Acres 
Published on 3/25/2009

Salem - The Nature Conservancy, partnering with the Salem Valley Corporation, Connecticut Farmland Trust, Natural Resources Conservation Service and Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection, announced Friday it has just acquired conservation easements on approximately 600 acres in the Eightmile River watershed.

The acreage is in two properties, one of which, at 550 acres, is among the largest unprotected parcels remaining in the watershed. The properties connect to 7,500 acres of conserved lands, including Devil's Hopyard State Park, the Nehantic State Forest, and numerous Conservancy preserves.

Preservation of these lands also adds nearly 3 miles to the existing 10 miles of protected river corridor, located chiefly along the East Branch of Eightmile River. The lands also add to the watershed's protected farmland.

The two properties are in managed forest and in agriculture. The farmland is used for hay production and pasture, and leased by area farmers. It includes 121 acres of prime and important agricultural soils.

The Farmland Trust and Conservation Service will hold the primary easement and The Nature Conservancy will hold a secondary easement on the agricultural lands, which will remain as working farmland.

The Conservancy will hold a forest easement on the remaining 370 acres of forested and wetland acres. Eventually the easements will be transferred to the state.

The Salem Valley Corporation last year donated to the Conservancy a 34-acre parcel adjacent to the Walden Preserve. The Conservancy is also working with the corporation to protect a 118-acre property. Completion of this fourth project would bring the size of the corporation's protected lands to 730 acres. 

Don't you think ONE of these shots in the dark will eventually find the right judge?  Then, after appeals, it's off to the U.S. Supreme Court!

Leave The Hills Alone 
DAY editorial
Published on 2/7/2008 

Developer Glenn Russo should call off his relentless effort to develop housing in the Oswegatchie Hills in East Lyme and work with conservationists who want to buy the property and preserve it as open space.

Mr. Russo's Landmark Development Group has been trying since 2001 to win approval for the condominium project that would include affordable housing. In challenging the town's refusal to approve his plan, Mr. Russo points to a state law intended to assist developers overcome zoning regulations that exclude affordable housing.

Last week, for the second time, a Superior Court judge rejected Mr. Russo's appeal. Judge Eliot Prescott correctly found that the state law intended to encourage affordable housing was trumped by the need to protect a “unique and important environmental setting.”

Unfortunately, that does not appear to be the end of the matter. Mr. Russo has two other state court appeals pending and has also filed a civil rights lawsuit in federal court alleging the town is discriminating against poor and minority families by not allowing the affordable housing project to move forward.

The evidence simply does not support such claims. All the evidence suggests instead that the public's interest is to preserve these vital woodlands overlooking the Niantic River. The town, state and private groups have worked together to begin buying up open space in the Oswegatchie Hills and want to acquire the property from Mr. Russo, should he abandon his plans.

There is surely a need in this region for more housing that working families can afford, but there are plenty of places to build it that make far more sense than in the Oswegatchie Hills.

Russo Loses Oswegatchie Hills Appeal:  Developer now 0-for-2 on appeals in quest to build condominiums 
M. Matthew Clark    
Published on 2/6/2008 

East Lyme — For the second time in six years, a Superior Court judge has rejected an appeal by Glenn Russo, the developer who has tried for years to build affordable housing condominiums in the Oswegatchie Hills...

Developer's 4th Attempt To Build Affordable Units Is Derailed By Zoning Panel 

By M. Matthew Clark     
Published on 11/2/2007 

East Lyme — For the fourth time in five years, the Zoning Commission Thursday unanimously rejected an application for an affordable housing project in the Oswegatchie Hills...

Russo Augments Civil Rights Lawsuit Against East Lyme; Developer Trying To Prove The Town Is Blocking The Plan Because It Wants To Keep Out Minorities 
By Karin Crompton    
Published on 9/20/2007 
East Lyme — The would-be Oswegatchie Hills developer who filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the town is trying to amend the complaint, filing a substitute version that goes into much greater detail about the ways in which he thinks the town conspired against him and the project...

Russo had first approached the Zoning Commission in the late 1990s with a proposal to build a golf course and senior citizen community. The commission denied his plan, saying, among other things, that the run-off from the greens could pollute the Niantic River.

In June 2002, he proposed creating an affordable-housing district. As part of his application, he presented plans for an 894-unit housing complex called River Views Estates. The commission rejected it. In addition to the water and sewer issue, the panel decided that preserving the Hills was a higher priority than establishing an affordable-housing district there.

Lawsuit Against E. Lyme Lurches To Life;  Waiting May Be Nearly Over In Developer Russo's Civil Rights Suit 
By Karin Crompton    
Published on 7/28/2007 

East Lyme — In October 2003, a Middletown developer filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the town, alleging that East Lyme purposefully tried to block affordable housing — and, by extension, minorities — from coming to town...

Sheff Case Returns To Court
School Desegregation Issue Had Been Stuck In The State Legislature
By ROBERT A. FRAHM | Courant Staff Writer
July 6, 2007

The struggle to desegregate Hartford's public schools is back in court...

Gaffey, D-Meriden, said he plans to schedule a hearing to review questions about the Sheff proposal, including whether it complies with last week's U.S. Supreme Court ruling prohibiting schools from assigning students to schools on the basis of race.

Although the goal of the Sheff settlement is to reduce racial isolation, officials have said the Sheff programs are not affected by the Supreme Court's ruling because students are selected for schools based on where they live, and are not singled out by race.

Gaffey also said lawmakers want to know why Hartford officials did not sign on to the latest tentative agreement.

Although Hartford plans to comply with the terms of the Sheff agreement, officials decided not to sign because of the cost of busing students and building new magnet schools under the original agreement, Hartford Corporation Counsel John Rose said. Under the original settlement, the state paid the bulk of the cost, but Hartford also spent millions of dollars, he said.

If the city had received guarantees that those costs would be covered completely by the state under the new tentative settlement, "we would have signed off," he said. "That's really what it's about."

Although the court allowed city officials to take part in settlement negotiations, the settlement was between the plaintiffs and the state. The city could have signed on, but its approval was not required.

Russo Buys 148 Acres In Oswegatchie Hills;  Developer Pays $1.8M For Controversial EL Land
By Karin Crompton
Published on 9/23/2006
East Lyme — Glenn Russo, the developer with the controversial plan to build condos in the Oswegatchie Hills, has purchased 148 acres in the Hills on which he had previously held an option...

Hearing Speakers Pan Oswegatchie Hills Housing Proposal;  Plan marks fourth try for Landmark LLC
By Katie Warchut
Published on 4/21/2006

East Lyme — A cloud of criticism hung in the air Thursday night surrounding an affordable-housing development proposal.

Instead of describing his development plan in the Oswegatchie Hills, developer Glenn Russo reiterated an offer: to sell at least the waterfront portion of the property for fair market value. He said he has had no success in selling to the town or the state...


New Oswegatchie Plan Twice The Size;  Developer files new proposal for homes along river
By Karin Crompton
Published on 2/5/2006

East Lyme — In his latest application, the developer seeking to build affordable housing and market-rate condominiums in the town's Oswegatchie Hills section is proposing 1,720 units.  Glenn Russo, who owns Landmark Development LLC of Middletown, has submitted a fourth application for Oswegatchie Hills, this one calling for development of more than 240 acres in the northern part of the wooded expanse that fronts the Niantic River.

The application has been filed in Town Hall but has yet to be officially accepted by the Zoning Commission...


'Oswegatchie Hills Preserve'
Unfettered public interest embraces one of Connecticut's most precious stretches of unspoiled nature.

Editorial from New London DAY 
Published on 11/23/2005

Even as recently as 10 years ago, the idea was unimaginable: A public nature preserve in the Oswegatchie Hills of East Lyme, stretching across 700 acres from a location near Pennsylvania Avenue in Niantic north to the headwaters of the Niantic River in Golden Spur. Up to that point, the most effective protections for the expanse of woodlands, quarries and bluffs overlooking the Niantic River were downturns in the real estate market.

But the ambitious vision of Friends of An Oswegatchie Hills Nature Preserve and other conservationists is taking solid form. Land is changing hands from private to public ownership, accompanied by a cascade of federal, state, local and private funds. The progress, remarkable for only a few years' efforts, is a strong measure of public support for the preservation of this land, which is under assault from Middletown developer Glenn Russo.

Mr. Russo has been relentless in his attempts to build hundreds of housing units in the northern end of the Oswegatchie Hills. But the conservation movement has been just as persistent. The East Lyme Land Conservation Trust and the town have acquired, independently of each other, nearly 200 acres and the town is moving close to adding 157 acres to this open space at the Niantic end. The town will vote on that $1.5 million acquisition early next year. If the purchase is approved, more than half the Oswegatchie Hills will be under public trust.

Money is also pouring in. The effort has yielded, so far, a war chest of $5.5 million in federal, state and local financial commitments. The Friends group has raised nearly $500,000 toward a goal of $2 million. The funds will bankroll an effort to acquire three additional parcels of land and the property Mr. Russo owns or has an option to buy, should he abandon his plans. The land still in private hands extends to the west of Quarry Dock Road into the granite quarries that overlook the Niantic River.

Were the preserve to materialize completely, the public would have access to the land from the south end, near Veterans Memorial Field, and to the north, as well as from the west, through the land acquired by the East Lyme Land Conservation Trust. Hikers and mountain bikers will be able to ascend without trespassing on private property to the ridge of the hills, or travel along past the outcroppings to Turkey Point and Golden Spur. This area is one of the most beautiful stretches of nature one can find anywhere.

More important, the land, which is the last undeveloped stretch of woodland still protecting the Niantic River from pollution from septic systems, lawn fertilizers and other poisonous run-off, will no longer be at the mercy of private property owners and the real estate market.

Mr. Russo has submitted his third plan. Two others have been turned down, one of which is under appeal in Superior Court. Mr. Russo also has launched a civil-rights lawsuit in federal court, charging that the town has denied poor and minority families their rights to affordable housing (a portion of his plan calls for affordable housing).

It is nonsense to suggest that the town has been motivated by social exclusivity to fight Mr. Russo and earlier developers who proposed large-scale developments in the Oswegatchie Hills. The most compelling evidence of this is in the massing of public interests that are assembling to Mr. Russo's south: the town government of East Lyme, Friends of an Oswegatchie Hills Nature Preserve, the East Lyme Land Conservation Trust, the Connecticut General Assembly, the state Department of Environmental Protection and the federal Trust for Public Land. In addition, Waterford and East Lyme are partners in protecting the Oswegatchie Hills through the Niantic River Gateway Commission. Now millions of dollars are flowing into the effort.

If that's not a strong message, what is?

Compromise could Temper Oswegatchie Hills Dispute;  Negotiations Are Possible On Plan For Development
Day Staff Writer, East Lyme/Salem
Published on 12/6/2005

East Lyme —For years, discussion of whether to allow development in the Oswegatchie Hills has, for the most part, been an all-or-nothing debate: either the Hills would be preserved, completely, or hundreds of condominiums would dot the landscape that fronts the Niantic River.  That may have changed last Thursday night...

Developer Submits 3rd Try For Oswegatchie Hills;  Landmark's application is for 840 condominiums
Day Staff Writer, East Lyme/Salem
Published on 6/17/2005

East Lyme — The developer who has twice wrangled with the town over putting housing in the Oswegatchie Hills has submitted a third application, this time for 840 condominiums in the Hills.  Glenn Russo, owner of Landmark Development LLC of Middletown, said the application addresses the issues of sewer, water and equality that have been of concern to the town's Zoning Commission...

Developer Appeals EL Affordable-housing Denial;  Landmark Files Suit After Zoning Board's Rejection Of Its Latest Application

Day Staff Writer, Lyme/Old Lyme
Published on 1/28/2005

East Lyme — The developer who hopes to build condominiums and affordable housing in the Oswegatchie Hills has filed a lawsuit to appeal the Zoning Commission's denial of his most recent application.

Glenn Russo, the owner of Landmark Development LLC of Middletown, filed the lawsuit in New London Superior Court on Tuesday. It names the town's Zoning Commission as the defendant...

Conflict Growing In Unspoiled Forest;  Affordable Housing At Odds With Preservation

Hartford Courant, January 18, 2005

EAST LYME -- Perhaps the one thing people agree about when it comes to the Oswegatchie Hills is that their value is too great to measure...

"In the civil rights movement, there is a saying: `Freedom is good, but freedom ain't free.' It costs. Natural land use preservation, a land trust, is good, too. But it, too, is not free," Brittain said. "So you have two competing interests with the natural preservation of Oswegatchie Hills."

Competing Needs

Two of the state's most thorny problems - the preservation of open land from sprawling development, and the sifting of Connecticut's cities and towns into haves and have-nots - are colliding on the Oswegatchie Hills...

John Brittain & Oswegatchie Hills;  A Determined Strategist Leads A Fight For Racial Equality In Housing
By ALLISON FRANK, Day Staff Writer, East Lyme/Salem
Published on 1/11/2004
Atlanta -- Last Saturday evening in downtown Atlanta, attorney John C. Brittain broke away from a law school conference and
retreated to a posh lounge reserved for Hilton Hotel club members. In tailored suit and striped bowtie, he reached for an ashtray, moving it to the center of a glass-topped table like a piece in a chess game.

“This is the Oswegatchie Hills,” he said, stretching the name to “Ozz-a-wa-gat-chie,” rolling out the syllables like a jazz song...

Bush Signs Bill That Will Protect Eightmile River
By DAVID FUNKHOUSER | Courant Staff Writer
May 9, 2008

LYME — - Nathan Frohling stood next to the Eightmile River near the East Haddam-Lyme border and pointed to a shrubby clearing in the woods. "This was going to be a six-lot subdivision," he said...

'Heart' Of Local Watershed Joins Protected Status; Nature Conservancy to buy 706 more acres along Eightmile River 
By Judy Benson    
Published on 2/13/2008 

Salem — The Nature Conservancy has reached an agreement to ensure that one of the largest remaining swaths of unprotected land in the Eightmile River watershed will not be developed...

Pair Awaits Ruling On Lawsuit Over Disposal Of State-owned Land; Bingham, Fromer seek role in legal debate on environmental issues
By Karin Crompton       
Published on 1/9/2008

David Bingham and Robert Fromer are awaiting the state Supreme Court's ruling on a simple question that could lead to a complex court case — all of which could affect the future of the former Norwich State Hospital site in Preston and Norwich and the former Seaside Regional Center in Waterford...

Eightmile River Closer To National Designation;  House passes bill introduced by 2nd District's Courtney 
By Judy Benson    
Published on 8/1/2007 

The Eightmile River and its watershed are now within one vote of finally becoming part of the National Park Service's Wild and Scenic Rivers System...

‘Friends' Raise Funds To Preserve The Hills;  Oswegatchie Development Plan Drives Volunteer Partnership

By KARIN CROMPTON, Day Staff Writer, Lyme/Old Lyme
Published on 12/5/2004
East Lyme -- For the generations of hikers who scrambled along the ledges and explored the trails of Oswegatchie Hills, one assumption prevailed: The Hills would never change.   So when developer Glenn Russo came to town with plans for a development of hundreds of condominiums and then challenged the Zoning Commission's denial of his application in state and federal courts, it sent a jolt throughout the community.

Tuesday October 26, 2004 New London DAY:
Open-Space Advocates Eye Oswegatchie Hills;  Group Looking To Preserve 700 Acres With Walking Trails, Access To Water
Waterford —A public-private partnership is organizing to buy 700 acres in the Oswegatchie Hills and preserve the land as open space.  Local, state and federal officials attended a public rally at Sandy Point Beach on the Waterford side of the Niantic River Monday morning to promote buying and preserving the land on the opposite shore in East Lyme.

The goal is to purchase 10 privately owned, undeveloped parcels at fair market value. The land would become a nature preserve that would include a mile of waterfront and would stretch from Veterans Memorial Field in East Lyme north to The Golden Spur, adjacent to Route 1. The linked properties would include walking trails and access to the water...

Bill would protect  Eightmile River
New London DAY
By Susan Haigh, Published on 3/10/2001

A congressional subcommittee will hear testimony next week on why the unsullied Eightmile River, which winds its way through East Haddam, Salem and Lyme, should be protected as part of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System.

U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons, R-2nd District, announced this week that the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Recreation and Public Lands will conduct a hearing Tuesday on his bill authorizing the National Park Service to study granting the Eightmile River the special designation...

State Fares Well In Sheff Hearing
June 21, 2005
By RACHEL GOTTLIEB, Courant Staff Writer

NEW BRITAIN -- The plaintiffs in the landmark Sheff vs. O'Neill lawsuit to desegregate Hartford's schools were in court Monday accusing the state of breaching the settlement in the long-running case by falling woefully behind in enrolling students in new Hartford magnet schools...

Sheff Plaintiffs Not Satisfied:  Dispute State's School Desegregation Efforts

August 3, 2004
By ROBERT A. FRAHM, Courant Staff Writer

Plaintiffs in a Hartford school desegregation case will return to court today to contend that the state has failed to enroll enough children in new city magnet schools to comply with a court-approved settlement last year...

Panel Rejects Application For Oswegatchie Hills Plan;  EL Zoning Commission unanimously turns down Landmark LLC proposal
Day Staff Writer, Lyme/Old Lyme
Published on 1/7/2005

East Lyme — The town's Zoning Commission on Thursday night unanimously rejected a controversial application for 352 units of housing in the sprawling Oswegatchie Hills woodlands alongside the Niantic River...

Oswegatchie Hills Developer Offers East Lyme Land;  Town Would Have To Purchase The Property From Landmark LLC
Published on 8/20/2004

East Lyme— A representative for Landmark LLC Thursday offered to sell the town some of the land the company owns in the Oswegatchie Hills...

New Proposal Submitted For Oswegatchie Hills;  Plan would phase in some housing units
Day Staff Writer, East Lyme, Salem
Published on 8/6/2004

East Lyme— The Zoning Commission heard a revised proposal Thursday from Landmark LLC to develop land in Oswegatchie Hills...

Oswegatchie Hills Development partly In East Lyme Sewer Area
By ETHAN ROUEN, New London DAY, October 1, 2004

East Lyme — A Department of Environmental Protection official has determined that part of the proposed development in the Oswegatchie Hills falls within the town's sewer-service area, contradicting one of the town's strongest arguments against developing the land.

In a letter to town Planning Director Meg Parulis that was read into the record at a Zoning Commission public hearing Wednesday, a DEP engineer said his 2002 assessment that the hills were not in the sewer-service area was incorrect.

“I can now state that a portion of the project known as Riverview Heights is within the ultimate tributary area ... for the East Lyme sewer system,” wrote Dennis Greci, the DEP engineer.

Landmark, which owns or has options on about 230 acres in the hills, applied to the Zoning Commission in 2002 to build an 894-unit housing complex with affordable housing in the hills. The commission denied the application, citing a lack of the water and sewer services and a desire to protect the land as open space.

In response, Landmark and its owner, Glen Russo, filed two lawsuits against the town. The first was decided last month in Superior Court in favor of the town. Russo argued that the town used false information about its water and sewer systems when denying the application. In her ruling, Judge Barbara Quinn wrote that the commission's decision, based on potential environmental damage, a lack of sewer and water resources, and traffic problems, was correct, and that the potential harm to the land outweighed the town's need for affordable housing.

Landmark also has a federal discrimination lawsuit against the town, the Zoning and Water and Sewer commissions and four town officials, claiming that the Zoning Commission's denial of the proposed housing complex was racially motivated. Blacks and Hispanics dominate Connecticut's affordable-housing market.

Some town officials have insisted for several years that Russo's property is not within the sewer- service area, known as the sewer shed. Greci said his initial findings on the hills were based on information provided by the town.

In letters from 2002 and August 2004, First Selectman Wayne Fraser said the area is excluded from the sewer shed.

Frederick Thumm, the director of public works, said in a 2001 letter that the hills were not in the sewer shed, but wrote in an August letter that, “my review suggests that a majority of the area is outside the sewer shed.”

“That goes to show how misinformation led to that decision,” said Russo's attorney, Michael Zizka, of the Superior Court's ruling...

‘Friends' Raise Funds To Preserve The Hills;  Oswegatchie Development Plan Drives Volunteer Partnership
Day Staff Writer, Lyme/Old Lyme
Published on 12/5/2004

East Lyme -- For the generations of hikers who scrambled along the ledges and explored the trails of Oswegatchie Hills, one assumption prevailed: The Hills would never change...

With An Eye To The Future;  Land Preservation Will Ultimately Benefit Entire Region, Say Lyme Officials
Tuesday, 10-12-04 DAY
Lyme— While other southeastern Connecticut towns may look for developers for their unused land, the 2,016 residents of Lyme seem to want to make time stand still...

Golf Course Proposal Hits Bump

August 16, 2005
By RINKER BUCK, Courant Staff Writer

In a major setback for one of America's blue-chip developers, the state Department of Environmental Protection filed a tentative determination on Monday to deny the water permits needed for the controversial Yale Farm Golf Course in Litchfield County.

Roland W. Betts, a close personal friend and former business associate of President Bush, has spent the past four years attempting to secure permits for a championship, 18-hole course on the grounds of a historic, 780-acre estate in Norfolk and North Canaan. The property straddles two crucial brooks feeding the Housatonic River watershed and scenic Campbell Falls State Park.

A well-financed group of abutting landowners and a growing coalition of environmental groups have marshaled a host of scientific studies against the project and battled the Yale Farm developers before regulatory agencies and in the courts. This effort seems to have convinced increasingly skeptical state and federal regulators that too many questions remain about the golf course's effect on a sensitive rural area and its water supply.

In August 2004, the federal Environmental Protection Agency, saying that 10 of Betts' 18 holes would directly affect wetlands on the Yale Farm property, recommended that his permit be denied. A Litchfield County Superior Court judge also invalidated the permits Betts received from the North Canaan Inland Wetlands Conservation Commission over the location of a mitigation pond...

Neither Betts nor the project manager for the golf course could be reached for comment Monday. Yale Farm's battery of environmental engineers, lawyers and golf course designers are not allowed by the developer to speak with reporters.

Falls Village farm to remain undeveloped
Waterbury Republican-American
Thursday, January 10, 2008 7:18 AM EST

FALLS VILLAGE -- Farmed for the better part of 260 years, Grassy Hill Farm will retain its agricultural heritage thanks to a 38-acre easement granted to the Connecticut Farmland Trust by the property's owners.

Richard and Mary Lanier donated the easement on Brewster Road, assuring that the land always will be used for agricultural purposes and cannot be developed.

Grassy Hill is the 14th farm to be preserved by the Connecticut Farmland Trust, which has protected 1,100 acres of farmland in the state since 2002. Connecticut Farmland Trust is the only private, statewide, nonprofit, conservation organization dedicated exclusively to protecting Connecticut's working farmland.