New round of scrutiny for proposal to build Southport seniors complex
A third night of hearings before the Inland Wetlands Commission wrapped up the arguments Thursday both for and against a proposed senior living facility on Mill Hill Terrace.
There was no decision made by the panel on Maplewood at Southport, a 98-unit senior housing facility proposed by the Hunter Gregory Realty Group of Westport on a 27-acre site comprising lots on Mill Hill Terrace and Pease Avenue.
This is the second time around for the application, which the commission denied without prejudice earlier this year, citing concerns about a lack of what is known as “phase two” testing of contaminated soils.
According to John Fallon, the lawyer representing the applicant, such testing has been done to address the only reason given for the earlier denial. The rest of the application remains unchanged.
However, Annette Jacobson, the town’s conservation administrator, has again submitted a report recommending denial without prejudice, suggesting that “feasible and prudent alternatives exist” for the access road, proposed lot lines and phasing, as well as a lack of data on the sanitary sewer lines and insufficient mitigation, among other reasons.
Quoting the recently deceased baseball legend Yogi Berra, Fallon said it was “deja vu all over again” because the commission had rejected these findings as reasons when denying the application earlier this year.
David Rosenstein, an Acorn Lane resident and intervenor in the application, questioned the soil test reports provided by the applicant. He passed out reports from state and federal agencies on acceptable levels of lead, chromium, cadmium, copper and other contaminants found on the site.
He said the levels on the undeveloped site exceed those listed by government agencies, but some on the commission questioned whether the levels Rosenstein used are for drinking water from wells, which is not an issue with this property.
“The application is deficient,” Rosenstein said. “It doesn’t address the type of remediation that is planned in any specifics.” He said the federal Environmental Protection Agency has 20 different ways to remediate contamination. “We don’t know which one will be used.”
Rosenstein also said the application doesn’t address whether there will be repairs to a dam on the property or if it will be removed. Fallon said there are no plans to remove the dam and that the question of who has authority over work to the dam — the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection — was settled at the previous hearing.
Fallon and Rosenstein also were at loggerheads over whether his client is required by law to consider “feasible and prudent alternatives” for such things as the 1,300-foot access road. Fallon said that would be necessary pnly if the commission finds that there is an intrusion into, or destruction of, wetlands.
According to Fallon, of the 7.8 acres of wetlands on the property, “our total activity is in 125 square feet, or 0.006 percent of the wetlands, and that is a temporary disturbance” in a previously disturbed area. He also said the access road was moved in response to a request from conservation staff.
“The application lacks fundamental, critical information,” Rosenstein added, information he said is needed to determine if the proposed development will have an adverse environmental impact.
“They’re going to throw anything against the wall for three nights and see what sticks,” Fallon said of the opponents.
Several neighbors, including two Representative Town Meeting members from District 1, urged the commission to deny the application.
“I’m not an expert when it comes to environmental studies,” Michael Herley, R-1, said. “I read the report once, then twice and by the third time, it became apparent to me” the application should be denied.
David Sprague, a Pease Avenue resident and another intervenor on the application, said he has not seen plans for phased construction of the project. “I have questions,” he said. “Where will I park, where my kids will play, where construction equipment will enter and exit the site? ... We have no details as to how this project will be implemented.”