New Application Submitted
By Barbara Heimlich
Source: Richard Chumney, Staff Writer Connecticut Post
Mountain Development Corporation, a New Jersey-based company responsible for the Merritt 8 Corporate Park, have submitted a new application seeking the town’s approval to construct a four-story building on a largely undeveloped plot of land off Hawley Lane. The original project proposed by Mountain Development was rejected by town officials over environmental concerns.
At the recent Inland Wetlands Commission meeting discussing the construction of 110,000 sf 129-unit residential apartment complex with 2,500 sf community building and associated parking and infrastructure at 99 Hawley Lane, Attorney Christopher Russo, representing Mountain Development Corporation, discussed revised plans which will address Commissioner’s comments. Attorney Patricia Sullivan, representing Stratford, noted that by receiving this application it will give Kelly Kerrigan, Stratford’s Environmental Conservation Superintendent, ample time to review and schedule a Public Hearing for February. Kerrigan reported she had received a telephone call in regards to violations at 577 Hawley Lane.
Mountain Development claims the new proposal has some changes that should address officials’ concerns.
The Stratford Inland Wetlands Commission, a seven-member body charged with determining whether construction projects follow local environmental regulations, voted in mid-2022 to deny the initial application. In a letter issued at the time, commission staff members wrote that the board rejected the 110,000-square-foot complex after determining the construction plan does not include enough protections for local wildlife and safeguards in the event of a storm water system failure.
Christopher Russo, an attorney representing Mountain Development, told commission members last week that the updated plans were designed to address those concerns. He noted the revised application includes changes to a pump station, a plan to restore more than an acre of wetlands, and protections for vulnerable animals, such as box turtles.
“We’re making revisions to the plans,” Russo said. “It has taken us a bit of time to get some of those materials together.”
After the denial last year, Mountain Development sued the commission in state court and asked a judge to reverse the decision, claiming the board failed to consider expert testimony that the project would have no significant impact on the local environment.
Since then, Mountain Development and land use officials have discussed reaching a settlement in the case that would allow the project to move forward, though no official agreement has yet been made.
Site plans submitted to the town show the company plans to build the apartment complex, which Russo has described as a U-shaped building, east of the existing Merritt 8 office park and south of the Big Y supermarket.
The proposed site at 99 Hawley Lane stretches across nearly 34 acres and contains about 10 acres of diverse wetlands on its southern end. The wetlands are largely dominated by red maples and yellow birches, and the wildlife has been known to include eastern box turtles, according to documents submitted with the original application.
When the project was first proposed, some residents expressed concern the building would lead to an increase in traffic and would harm the local ecosystem. Before the commission’s rejection, nearly 700 people signed an online petition urging the developer to sell the property to a land trust. To date there has been no funding relegated to developing a Land Trust, just a petition.
Under the initial plan, the apartments would be built directly north of the wetlands. The application states a natural buffer of trees and other vegetation would shield the wetlands from the construction work and the finished building.
In addition to the four-story building, the proposed complex would include a 2,550-square-foot community building and an outdoor pool for residents. The larger building would be surrounded on three sides by more than 300 parking spaces.
Patricia Sullivan, an attorney for Stratford, said during the commission meeting that the board could review the application during its regular meeting in February. She added that the commission could also opt to solicit public feedback for the project, though it’s not yet clear if there will be a public hearing.
“It was a large project the first time, it’s still a large project,” Sullivan said. “My expectation is that it will go to a public hearing, but that’s up to the commission.”
At the recent Inland Wetlands Commission meeting discussing the construction of 110,000 sf 129-unit residential apartment complex with 2,500 sf community building and associated parking and infrastructure at 99 Hawley Lane, Attorney Russo, representing Mountain Development Corporation discussed revised plans which will address Commissioner’s comments. Attorney Sullivan noted that by receiving this application will give Ms. Kerrigan ample time to review and schedule a Public Hearing for February. Kerrigan reported she had received a telephone call in regards to violations at 577 Hawley Lane.