Protect the Partrick Wetlands
and our Community

ARS Partners Launch New Bid at F.D. Rich Site
Same Intensive Plan, Defied P&Z and still need a Sewer

By Don Casciato

Printed in the Westport News

In response to a report that ARS Partners has filed a new application with the town's Planning and Zoning Commission to put houses at the former F.D. Rich property, the opponents of the project announced yesterday that they are ready once again to fight against it.

"The Partrick Wetlands Preservation Fund Inc. and the residents of Westport and Norwalk are ready to again defend our natural resources, our open space and our communities," said Matthew Mandell, director of the Partrick Wetlands Preservation Fund, in an e-mail sent to the Westport News.

"ARS Partners Inc. had the opportunity to lessen the impact on the wetlands and surrounding neighborhoods with their new application, but stridently resubmitted the same proposal for 22 clustered houses on nine acres. They clearly chose not to hear what over 2,500 residents had been calling for; less development, more open space, the protection of the Partrick Wetlands and a stop to the sewer extension from Norwalk."

Those who have seen the most recent ARS proposal said it resembles the first plan for 23 homes on land between Newtown Turnpike and Partrick Road except that more environmental testing is expected this time.

One key factor in the application is a sewer for the development.

The Westport News reported in early July that some Norwalk residents are worried a proposed sewer extension from Norwalk could lead to over-development of the area near the former F.D. Rich property.

Some Norwalk homeowners have joined together to form the Save Cranbury Association.

Gail Wall, a co-director of the group, is also on the Norwalk Cranbury Task Force, a committee appointed by Norwalk Mayor Alex Knopp to research and evaluate the concerns of the rural neighborhood regarding the sewer and any further build-out.

Part of the task force's job is to evaluate whether the sewer extension is necessary, according to Wall. "There are no reports of septic failure in the area to justify extension of the sewer," she said. "ARS has a choice. They can put in a private [on-site community waste system]. Of course, it's very expensive and would also limit the number of houses they could crowd into that project."

On the sewer issue, Mandell stated: "We ask that the Westport Planning and Zoning Commission staff look at this sewer issue closely when determining the completeness of this new application. The sewer approvals are in flux, no contract for the sewer exists and piling more conditions on conditions to allow for hearings is not in the best interests of the commission, the residents, our towns or the environment.

"We [also] urge the Norwalk Cranbury Task Force to expedite their decision making process. It would be a terrible injustice to allow this unneeded and unwanted project to slip in through the different jurisdictional cracks."

In a recent letter prior to the ARS announcement, Sean Timmins, co-director, of the Partrick Wetland Preservation Fund, stated: "The sewer is specifically desired by ARS because it allows for greater density (22 houses on nine acres) than an on-site community waste system would allow. Without the sewer as the basis for development, five to seven houses would be viable on this property."

Mandell called the ARS plan a "rehashed proposal," based on a sewer line extension from Norwalk, which would "allow for over-development of the Wetlands, bring sprawl and traffic congestion and change the character of this entire region forever.

"Thankfully, the sewer extension is under review by Norwalk and its very existence is in question. Norwalk Mayor Alex Knopp called together a nonpartisan Task Force to determine the need and impact of this sewer line. Hearings are ongoing and a decision is pending."

Last August the Westport Planning and Zoning Commission rejected the ARS Partners plan.

However, ARS has emerged victorious with decisions that have been rendered by the courts. In June, an appeal of the development by Arthur and Claudia Cohen was dismissed by Stamford Superior Court Judge Dale Radcliffe.

According to a member of the Partrick Wetlands Preservation Fund, Radcliffe's ruling is being appealed.