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Polastek v. Conservation Commission of Town of Fairfield

Superior Court of Connecticut, Judicial District of Fairfield, Bridgeport

August 24, 2015

Scott Polastek et al.
v.
Conservation Commission of the Town of Fairfield

Filed August 25, 2015

MEMORANDUM OF DECISION

Dale W. Radcliffe, J.

FACTS

This appeal concerns a 2.1-acre parcel known as 2155 North Street, Fairfield. The owner of the property, Ruby Spencer, is seeking to replace an existing dwelling built in 1927, with a new home, a pool, and a tennis court.

In order to accomplish the property improvements, an application was tendered to the Defendant, Fairfield Conservation Commission, the municipal wetlands agency of the Town of Fairfield, for permission to " construct new house, pool, tennis court and subsurface disposal system within a regulated area." The application (ROR 1), was dated April 28, 2014, and was received on April 29, 2014.

Ruby Spencer's application was before the Conservation Commission on May 1, 2014 (ROR 7), at which time the Commission's staff recommended that a public hearing on the application be noticed for July 10, 2014. The Commission voted to schedule the hearing, after determining that the proposal involved a significant activity. (ROR 8; ROR 9.)

During the public hearing convened on July 10, counsel for Ruby Spencer explained the proposal. (TR, 7-10-14, p. 1-3.) A new five-bedroom residence was contemplated, to replace the existing home. The existing structure, which had been used as a single-family residence, would remain, but would be converted into a " pool house" with no living or kitchen facilities. A swimming pool, gravel driveway and tennis court were proposed, along with a sub-surface sewage disposal system, complete with a reserve system.

The regulated area on 2155 North Street consists of inland wetland soils. A small portion of the parcel is encompassed within the 95-foot upland review area of the Sasco Brook Watershed. The northwest corner of the property is within the upland review area of an intermittent watercourse, located on a neighboring property. (ROR 19.)

The applicant agreed to establish a " conservation easement" on the property, and to accept recommendations from the Commission's staff, dated July 2, 2014 (ROR 19) with slight modifications. (TR, 7-10-44, p. 2.)

The Plaintiff, Scott Polastek, addressed the Commission, and questioned the proposed location of the septic system, and the impact of water runoff on adjacent properties. (TR, 7-10-14, p. 9-11.)

Neal Jain, a land surveyor engaged by the applicant, explained that Town Engineer Laura Pulie had recommended that test holes be dug on the site. The applicant's representative agreed to perform the tests, and to add cultec rechargers in order to enhance drainage. (TR, 7-10-14, p. 12-14.)

The hearing was continued, to allow additional information to be compiled, and provided to the Commission.

Additional comments were received concerning the drainage system modifications and the percolation tests conducted on the property subsequent to July 10, at the resumed hearing on August 7. (TR, 8-7-14, p. 3-7.) The public hearing was continued until September 18, 2014.

At the September 18, 2014 public hearing, the applicant presented testimony from three expert witnesses, Neil Jain, a licensed surveyor, Hem Khoma, a licensed professional engineer, and William Kenny, a soil scientist and landscape architect. (TR, 9-18-14, p. 6-18.) Changes in the initial submission were explained, and a new drainage computation report was presented. (TR, 9-18-14, 1-2.)

The tennis court, initially proposed as an impervious surface, was redesigned as a grass court, gravel driveways were proposed, and drainage from the residence was moved to the rear of the property.

Opponents focused on the design and location of the septic system, and the Commission received a written report from a licensed professional engineer, one Plato Doundoulakis, who, it was admitted, had not examined the property and did not attend any of the public hearings. The report was accepted by the Commission, " for what it is worth." (TR, 9-18-14, p. 30.)

Prior to the September 18, 2014 public hearing, but subsequent to the receipt of additional information, the Commission's staff again reviewed the proposed plans, as revised to August 12, 2014. Drainage computations compiled by H.K. Associates following the July 10 public hearing were also included in the review. Approval was recommended. (ROR 37.)

Following the close of the September 18 public hearing, the Commission unanimously approved the application " as recommended by staff in the September 11, 2014 revised staff report with conditions as modified." (ROR 39.)

In its decision (ROR 42) the Commission made specific findings of fact, following three nights of public hearings, including:

1. The proposal, as revised with appropriate conditions, is not expected to cause significant adverse or unnecessary impacts to the regulated area.
2. The mitigation (conservation easement to the on-site wetland plus some upland buffer, stonewall, invasive species control and re-planting) will mitigate anticipated adverse impacts of the proposal on the regulated area.

The Conservation Commission also made specific findings in accordance with Section 10.2 of ...


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