Protect the Partrick Wetlands
To the Editor
Partrick Wetlands On Radar
Some folks have been asking us lately "what's happening with the Partrick Wetlands?" The short answer, is "Nothing." The property has not been clear cut, excavated, or built on. Credit for that goes directly to all of the citizens of Westport who have helped us to date. The more complicated answer is that the fight continues. Allow me to bring you up to date and assure you that the issue is very much alive.
First, the wetlands still need to be tested for toxic contamination by a "Town" chosen "independent" consultant. Anything other than a third party, doing a comprehensive study, as mandated by the P&Z and RTM decisions, would continue to cast a shadow over the efforts by the Town to ensure the environmental safety of this site. ARS Partners may try to circumvent this requirement, but such action would be questionable, and would not meet or follow the instructions of the simple and fair standard set by the Town.
The second issue, regarding the sewer extension up Newtown Turnpike, to solely serve ARS's proposed project, has been under scrutiny in Norwalk and has been covered frequently in the City's newspapers. Our neighboring Cranbury area residents have been very vocal in their opposition to it. The sewer extension will cause over-development of not just the Partrick wetlands and Westport, but in Norwalk as well.
The sewer is specifically desired by ARS because it allows for greater density, (22 houses on 9 acres) than an on-site community waste system would allow. Without the sewer as the basis for development, 5-7 houses would be viable on this property. This would still be quite a profitable venture for a strong and caring developer looking to protect the environment and the character of a neighborhood.
The original "extension arrangement" was set up in 2000 under the prior Norwalk administration with little involvement from Westport residents or officials. Since that time many prior-proponents of the sewer, elected officials, staff and residents have realized the error of that decision. Norwalk Common Council President Bruce Kimmel, who originally voted in favor of the sewer extension, now says "times have changed" and that the prior arrangement for the "sewer extension be rescinded."
Norwalk Mayor Alex Knopp, set up a Task Force to review the need for this sewer extension. This group has held 3 public hearings, including one with Westport P&Z Director Kathy Barnard as a speaker. A draft analysis from these hearings is pending and public comment will be given by all parties concerned including The Partrick Wetlands Preservation Fund. The final recommendation will be presented to Mayor Knopp and the Norwalk Water Pollution Control Authority for a final decision.
Interesting data points have been brought to light in past month. There have been no unusual septic problems occurring in either Norwalk or Westport, nor have there been any sewer requests to justify extending the sewer under the Norwalk Town Plan, The Westport Town Plan or The Connecticut State Plan. The State Plan specifically seeks sewer avoidance rather than extension as a core principle of Smart Growth, especially in a designated rural area. Westport Town officials have reiterated that the Partrick area is outside the designated Town sewer area for at least the next 25 years.
Once again, the proposed sewer extension only serves one purpose. It is the main infrastructure component that enables the entire ARS development proposal for over developing a piece of environmentally sensitive property for profit. It would not only allow over-development of the wetlands, but of all areas where it passes and is extended to in the future. This is of great concern to everyone in Norwalk and Westport not to mention Wilton and Weston. At a recent hearing held by Norwalk's Planning Commission protecting neighborhoods from over-development was the number one topic and again the sewer extension was cited as something to absolutely avoid.
The issue of whether the sewer line is extended is the foremost question regarding the wetlands and must be resolved before anything else is reviewed, initiated or decided upon.
There are also numerous legal appeals still pending related to the prior Conservation, RTM and Planning and Zoning decisions for the development of the Partrick Wetlands. Given all of the outstanding issues, it would be imprudent for the Town of Westport to entertain any further discussions or activities regarding development of this property at this time. They will only continue to muddy the waters and serve no purpose other than to double the legal expenses and the work load of the town staff, the commissioners and everyone else involved. If a judge has not decided whether there is proper road access to the site, why should any commission review it again only to have it thrown back into court? Westport Citizens' Tax dollars pay the Town's share of these legal bills, and they are Large!
Clearly there are some very troubling issues and questions regarding the future of the Partrick Wetlands. Pure economic opportunity compels those who wish to exploit this area. Not only are they on the radar, they are all clearly in our sights.
For more information on ThePartrick Wetlands please visit www.savewestport.com and join the ranks of people who want to protect what we have left.