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Teakwood Estates

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INLAND WETLANDS COMMISSION PUBLIC HEARING
ADMINISTRATIVE MEETING

March 20, 2024

The Stratford INLAND WETLANDS COMMISSION conducted a Public Hearing Regular Meeting on Wednesday March 20, 2024 in Council Chambers, pursuant to notice duly given and posted.

Members Present     E. Scinto, A. Capinera, L. Haddad, D. Blake, J. Koripsky, J. Waite

Members Absent:   Dr. Chess

Alternates Present:    C. Blake, G. Pia

Others Present: P. Sullivan, Town Attorney, K. Kerrigan, Inland Wetland

Public Hearing

2023-20: nineteen (19) Lot Residential Subdivision. Address: North of Broadbridge Avenue, West of Ronald Road, West of Teakwood Drive, East of Ridgefield Drive. Assessors Reference: Map 20.13, Block 1, Lot 1. Applicant: Teakwood Estates LLC

In the absence of Attorney Russo, Mr. Pidluski read into record a letter to Ms. Kerrigan concerning the project. Mr. Pidluski, referring to site map, discussed the changes in the application, including conservation easements, storm drainage system, and sewer lines. He noted each lot has 300 sq. ft. of impervious area. He discussed the CULTEC system, noting it will be the obligation of homeowner to maintain. Discussed sediment barriers, reconstruction of Ronald Road, test holes, soil and erosion control.

Editor’s Note:  CULTEC provides a complete stormwater management plan consisting of filtration, conveyance, storage and infiltration. CULTEC’s Stormwater Systems meet the regulations of EPA’s Phase II of the Clean Water Act.

W. Kenney, soil scientist, referred to the site map and discussed the two (2) lots which expose wetland area – trees will be planted and split rail fencing will be installed. He entered into record a revised drawing.

B. Carey, representing LandTech third party review, did not get updated storm plans until Monday and has not had a chance to review. Mr. Koripsky questioned if blasting would be required, fill required and topography post development. Mr. Carey cannot answer those questions.

Following are members of the public who sent communication and/or spoke in favor and opposition to this proposal. Ms. Kerrigan read into record letters from Donna Zingo, Tyler Bunch, Christopher Green and Laura Dancho.

The following members of the public spoke in opposition:

L. Zawadski, 44 Elliot Street                    P. Bowe, 1705 Elm Street (submitted for record)

K. Bowe, 1705 Elm Street                       G. Dancho, 30 Ruby Lane

M. Leigh, 1661 Elm Street

In-person commenters

Lisa Zawadsky:

I’m still opposed to this development. I’ve attended most of these, and last month they were pretty confident in what they proposed. Even the the third party person raised some points, and tonight one of the first things he said was they were asking for 32 more feet into the wetlands because the other option would create a whole slew of problems. There was a phrase he used tonight—‘a whole slew of problems’—at the beginning of this presentation. It is not words anybody should be hearing about their confidence. Phrases such as the hundred-year storm need to be stop being said worldwide, and data certainly shouldn’t be based on it. We’re seeing sever weather more and more frequently, so to base these drainage systems on a 100-year storm that might happen while this project is under construction is frightening. It needs to stop. Who will be responsible for remediation downstream when there is a failure, and there will be a failure that runs into Bridgeport, it runs into Remington Woods. Aside from the immediate homeowners, there’s big potential for damage down the road, and then will Bridgeport come after Stratford for that money? Something I consider. And the other thing is real estate issues. I believe in the last year on one of your agenda points, with somebody who lived on wetlands who took over more land to extend their backyard. So that happens, whether or not they know they’re doing it. A split rail fence is cetainly not going to stop somebody from saying this is my backyard. I can fill it, I can extend it, so what are the repercussions for future homeowners. Perhaps the initial purchases of people buying from the developer will be aware of the ramifications, but as these homes turn over in 20,30,50 years, assuming these homes last 50 years, what will the ramifications be? Are they going to go on vacation and come back and find that their basement is flooded and they’re severely financially responsible? And also, twice tonight at least, it was mentioned the town is going to be financially responsible for different things that had not been mentioned before, so I don’t know that our Public Works is prepared for that. And if there is a failure, does the town have the resources to handle that? And lastly, I just want to say the theatrics of this easel is just silly. You all have printed documentation. We can’t see any of these, and if it’s hidden in our new website, it’s well hidden. So perhaps the path to it on our website can be shared with the few of us who come—and unfortunately, it is a few of us. Kelly, you have all of our contact information to send it to us, if that’s the only way to get it. It’s exhausting fighting for this town. Please, please seriously consider not putting this through. Thank you.

Marca Leigh:

I still oppose this development for a lot of reasons, but I will start with the flooding problems that this neighborhood already has, and which will be exacerbated by building in the area, by paving over soil that absorbs rainfall. Again, with the 100-year storms, we’re hearing this is happening way more often. I just found a quote by the NOAA, the National Oceanographic Association. ‘Connecticut now sees an annual 38% increase in precipitation, which makes for new weather patterns and expectations. Storms are becoming more intense, increasing in frequency and the amount of water provided with each storm.’ That’s a quote. I also oppose it because the chemical runoff that will make its way into the wetlands and eventually our groundwater, regardless of what ever plans this developer has in place. I don’t have confidence in the filtration system that has been presented because aside form the goal of filtering runoff, it’s going to filter the rainwater that provides nutrients to the wetlands in order to sustain it and keep that ecosystem healthy. And we heard the gentleman say that just because you change the water flow doesn’t necessarily mean harm will come. But the words that weren’t spoken were that it could. There a strong possibility that it will, and that is my opinion, from a person that studies nature and has witnessed adverse effects on nature and flooding in other parts of Stratford, other towns, and other states. I also understand that now the town would be responsible for the filtration system, which sounds obviously very costly, and a recipe for disaster. The town equals taxpayers, if I’m not mistaken, that’ll kind of be on me, too, right? Almost all of the jerry-rigging I just heard from this presentations is going to create a huge mess. Conservation easements sound really great on paper. That phrase was uttered a lot, but what you’re actually doing with all these walls and pumps and systems is destroying the nature and the trees and the land and the wildlife that work along with the wetlands. These are woods. It’s not an empty lot. You’re going to destroy an entire ecosystem. There’s nothing conservative about this project—especially the part where you’ve requested to destroy 40 feet of actual wetlands. You’ve go to be kidding me. I appreciate that this land was purchased as private land in order to develop it, but there are rules and laws that go along with owning property. And one of those rules is protecting the wetlands 100%. Not maybe protecting them. Not kind of protecting them. Not hopefully protecting them, but protecting them. I don’t trust what I’ve seen or heard so far in regards to keeping them safe. I urge you to protect this place or we’ll have yet another costly remediation project on our hands down the future. Just what Stratford needs. I urge the wetlands commission to deny this development and create a land trust for this area. Thank you.

Peter Bowe:

I’m also a biology professor at Housatonic. Teakwood has a mature forest and sensitive
wetland at the headwaters of a stream that flows into Remington Woods, and eventually
the Sound. These 19 homes would be in addition to about 25 existing homes
surrounding the wetland. Why is this of concern? Stratford is within the Housatonic
watershed, and within Stratford there are many many watersheds. Well, what’s a
watershed? The EPA defines it as a land area that drains into a wetland, a stream, a
lake or a river. These are places where the water table reaches the surface. What we
don’t see is the slow moving groundwater. A problem at one site can have a profound
impact miles away. Teakwood is only three miles from the Sound. Lake Success,
directly across the street, is only 16 feet above sea level. Teakwood has a steep contour
gradient. Any disruptions to that bedrock could release potentially dangerous metals
such as manganese and iron, contaminating the groundwater from the site to the
Sound. Lake Success is already a powder keg, devoid of fish, contaminated with toxic
sediments, volatile organic compounds, lead and arsenic, as stated by the
Environmental Protection Agency. Water flow from Teakwood Estates could detonate
that powder keg. Deforestation of 11 acres would have a devastating impact on the
water flow. Landscaping designs for the site might be aesthetically pleasing but would
disrupt that flow. Why are the trees so important as well? The National Forest Service
data estimates a mature oak tree can absorb 40,000 gallons of water per year, most of
which is released into the air via transpiration and the leaves. As a conservative
estimate of 60 trees per acre, that would yield 26.4 million gallons per year. Where
would the water go without the trees. this would overwhelm the area, cause additional
flooding to local residents, Lake Success, and residents downstream. Will that flooding
flush those toxins from Lake Success. The proposal stated that homeowners would be
responsible for maintaining the drainage basins. Who will enforce it if my home is
flooded and contaminated? Who do I sue? the property owner? The developer? The
town? Or all of the above? Non-point pollution, contaminants, such as road salt,
insecticides, vehicle oil and household products would exacerbate the problem. I’ve
witnessed both responsible and irresponsible development in our town. This proposal is
clearly irresponsible. I’m tired of seeing our town being decimated by outside
developers for their financial gain. I say ‘no more’. Deny the proposal. I have a transcript
of my statement. Thank you.

Katie Sparer:

So, science isn’t what I can really talk to. It seems to me, I think I’ve been here like three times. Another time the people [developers] didn’t show up. Other times, any kindergartener would know by now that this is not a good idea, right? I mean, you don’t need any more signs to tell you that. I came here last time and I mentioned something called 1984, which was written in 1938. This time I’m talking about a play, because this used to be a theater town until the theater burned down, a play written in 1882 by Henrik Ibsen called An Enemy of the People. There’s a big Broadway adaptation going on right now. In short, it’s all about this town where they open up this spa that’s going to make their fortune. the chief medical officer discovers that there’s contaminants and bacteria, which was a new thing discovered in the spa. He wants to close it. By the end of the play he has been kicked out of town. His father-in-law has kicked him out; his wife had her job taken away; his family has been driven out. He states that considerations of expediency, in this case persona profit, turn morality and justice upside down. Teakwood Estates will benefit the builders and the builder, those that employs. They don’t really care what happens to this town. They don’t care what the drainage will do to Stratford. They don’t live here. They want to make the money off of this, and that’s what they’re interested in. So please, please, do not allow this to go forward. It’s clear that it is not safe for the environment or the people who live here. And it’s just crummy. Thank you.

Greg Dancho:

I’d like to say my wife would like to have been here today, but she’s recovering from pneumonia, so she was able to write that testimony.Thank you Kelly for reading it. We did take a walk around like it was mentioned. Not on the property, but around the streets, and like we do normally, around our neighborhood. And what we usually do is just at this time of year, to take in the sounds of nature. Now, again, I truly appreciate the testimony that’s been given today from people opposing this project, like I am, and so I’m not going to, and I’ve done this before to you guys, so I’m not going to bore you with his, but as we’ve been walking around the property for many many years, over 20 years, actually. I grew up on the property, right there on Silver Lane, and so I’ve been in the same area for over 50 years. The sounds of nature are disappearing, and those sounds are usually my harbinger of spring. Now the reason is, it’s all kinds of different reasons, but a lot of it is development and nature is not finding a place around manicured lawns and manicured houses to survive, so I think that when we look at the sounds of spring, and I just really want to indulge you for a second because while we’re on that property, the neighbor’s property, I was able to record in the water area around [plays recording of birdsong from the property] And all different types of other birds. that is literally right on the edge of the property there, off of Broadbridge Avenue, and those peepers. People say, well, the wetlands. If we’re talking about saving wetlands, fine. You’re going to impact the wetlands a little bit, but those peepers don’t live there. they live in the Uplands, so they move down to the wetlands for breeding. They’re hearing the breeding calls right now, so once you eliminate all those woods that are up there and develop those houses and develop those lawns, the peepers have no place to go, and that’s it. So I know this because other parts of that neighborhood I walk around I don’t hear the peepers anymore. I used to hear them, but they’re gone. Because those areas that are supposed to be protected, like my wife mentioned in her letter, have filled in. The water’s gone away, and when the water goes away, and the land’s gone away, peepers are gone away— is that a big deal. It’s a big deal, like the sea stars, it’s a big deal for some. It’s a big deal for us because and especially today. Does anybody know what today is? It’s World Frog Day, so I think it’s important for us to just look at his. Not agains housing, not against people living, but we all have to live with nature, so again I don’t want to get into too much of the details as a lot of people already did, but I thank you for your indulgence and happy Frog Day.

Write-in commenters

Tyler Bunch:

This letter is presented as a strong objection to the development plan currently called Teakwood Estates. Any construction on the site in question will impact the local population of flora and fauna that resides in and around the nearby wetland area.

Added noise pollution, light pollution and physical pollution will in fact impact the entire region. Construction and more human residents equal more noise and more nighttime light. The amount of proposed impermeable ground cover, pavement and structures will alter the water composition that currently flows through a natural landscape into the wetland, and all areas downstream. While the developers claim that rainwater will be contained and cleaned before being released the water that now flows has large amounts of natural detritus which contributes to the surrounding ecosystems and should not be cleaned. The natural process that currently exists will be negatively impacted by the proposed systems as the water quality will change, per the developer’s own admission. The plants and animals that live in the area should not be displaced or have their current ecosystem altered because of this proposed development. Reject this proposal.

Donna Zingo:

The Teakwood development absolutely should not happen. The wetlands and surrounding woods near Broadbridge Avenue and Teakwood Drive should be left alone to absorb rainfall and be home to the wildlife that live there now. Not only will the structure aggravate flooding in the surrounding neighborhoods, I am not confident that the water flow and quality won’t be compromised. Hundreds of animals would be displaced, putting them in the surrounding neighborhood in jeopardy. This is a matter of safety. Water already floods these neighborhoods and more construction will only exacerbate the situation. Enough already. A development here will only worsen conditions of land already stretched to capacity. I bet this is the same developer who attempted to put condos on Broadbridge Avenue and lost that fight. He was then granted the okay to build some houses in the same area. Since they widened Broadbridge Avenue it has become a Speedway. More housing would put even more traffic on an already overburdened road. It seems to me that it will lead to even more accidents. Let the developers seek other areas and leave nature alone, please. Somehow I feel that the town is just considering the increase in revenue for their coffers from this, or any new development, and not the comfort, safety and security of neighboring residents. Politicals claim that we must stop global warming, but yet they constantly sell the ecological environment to the highest bidder. Let’s consider the future for once. Maybe whoever it is can expand his developments in his own backyard. No developments on or anywhere near the wetlands near Teakwood Drive. Thank you.

Laura Dancho

As state representative and former council person for this area, I am speaking in opposition to the Teakwood Estates proposed development. Last week my husband and I decided to take an early evening walk to enjoy the extended daylight, and we walked to the Teakwood property. We were met by neighbors at 3572 Broadbridge who offered to show us the back of their property, which extends several hundred feet back to his chain link fence, designating the end of his property, to the stream that drains from the area of the Teakwood development. The fence is also protecting individuals from accessing the stream from his yard. However, it is accessible from Ridgefield Drive on the other side the stream, then enters a culvert through through a rock cropping on this property, and then proceeds underground through an easement running under the pool of the property at 80 Emerald Place, and then must connect to several storm drains on Emerald, down Eastgate with Topaz Place at the very bottom. These street storm drains always have fast running water, however all were clogged with debris, preventing much drainage from the road. The storm drains as well as culverts need regular attention for cleaning to be effective. Sometimes residents use wooded areas including wetland and rivulets to dump their yard debris. It’s important to know that the town picks up yard debris every two weeks throughout three seasons of the year. Residents may think it will eventually biodegrade, but it mostly causes blockage. This happened during the rain event we had a few weeks ago. This culvert by Teakwood became blocked and the water was rising enough to cause several surrounding backyards to become flooded with the potential for water to spill over into the lower yard with the pool with overflow. This issue caused a call to town official who came to the site to assess in an effort to remove the blockage. The crew needed to be harnessed in for safety, as the water was running so fast. If someone were to have fallen it would cause serious injury or worse. My husband and I witnessed a similar backyard culvert issue several years ago at 3750 Broadbridge. This was an elderly couple with a tomato garden in the back. We witnessed the water so high and rushing so fast into the culvert that you could only see the top four inches of the tomato stakes. This was an extremely dangerous situation to

be around, let alone happening in someone’s yard. The town is currently undertaking repairing the covert previously mentioned at another public hearing at the Perry Lane development, which caused serious erosion to the homes below the development on Canon Drive. Pictures today show the repair was breached and the erosion continues. These are examples of developments that should have never happened and probably would never have happened with the regulations we have today. But this is exactly what this developer is asking several of the 11 new residents to do—to have and maintain

culverts on property. These would all be well above current residents on Emerald,

Eastgate, Topaz and Broadbridge, among others in the FEMA flood zone. These are dangerous, can be potentially life-threatening, and the expectations of future maintenance once the developer leaves the premise is not clear. Is this a resident responsibility? Is this a town responsibility? Is this a town liability? Who enforces this type of maintenance or do we wait until something becomes ineffective and causes a safety issue, as we’ve done in several cases before following through on a repair. A proposed Pump Station would effectively destroy the wetland. This should not be the

goal of any new development. I continue to oppose development of natural land space in District 10 or anywhere that affects water tables, reduces the forest canopy, increases flooding, and is not only detrimental to the health and well-being of the surrounding wetland, but to our current taxpaying residents as well. I respectfully request this

application be denied.

Christopher Green

I just wanted to write to voice my formal opposition to the Teakwood Estates development. More housing in Fairfield county is needed, but intruding into wetlands and forests in ways that will exacerbate flooding and damage our water tables is not the way to get there. I hope we can instead prioritize housing by redeveloping existing underutilized structures in ways that won’t expand our footprint, reduce our open spaces or upset our ecosystem.

In rebuttal, Mr. Pidluski can understand the concern by neighbors. Mr. Giancolo, one of the partners of Teakwood Estates, noted he lived in Stratford and attended Bunnell High School.

Seeing no other members of the public speaking in favor or opposition, Ms. Capinera made a motion to close #2023-20. The motion was seconded by Mr. Waite. The motion carried unanimously.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Stratford is blessed with a number of very knowledgeable citizens when it comes to our ecology. Many thanks to those who came out and testified and sent in their comments to be read. It has been an education just to read the comments contributed here. Thank you all for speaking out in defense of our precious environment. Truly impressive!!

  2. Stratford has very few natural places left where wildlife can exist peacefully. Wetlands are one of our most ecologically sensitive areas and we are blessed to have them here.Stratford must take a stand both from both leadership and residential to protect what we have before it’s gone forever. There are other places to build in town: we can revitalize existing structures and make other already developed areas more efficient.
    The true jewels in Stratford are in our unique coastal beauty: beaches, inland wetlands, woods, estuaries. They are all connected. Our water flows deep beneath us as our wetlands filter and cleanses it.
    The proposal of building homes that would create chemical runoff, the filtration system that would kill off the nutrients brought in by rainfall, the digging, blasting etc all would be absolutely disastrous to this last remaining place. These woods should never have been up for sale to developers in the first place. I urge our town to buy this land and preserve it. Otherwise the legacy of this leadership will be the destruction of nature

  3. This area is a watershed. Any disturbing of this area would open up a Pandora’s box of water problems. Watch out down below! Another water problem we don’t need. When would it be safe to conclude that Stratford is built out? Another warehouse??? How about another storage facility??? I know, another coffee joint! We are breaking the backbone of what used to be “small town appeal” here in Stratford. That is what I have witnessed the past 60 years.

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