Protect the Partrick Wetlands
and our Community

Board of Finance Turns Down Testing
Developer should pay & Test is not good

By Jen Connic

Printed in the Norwalk Hour

WESTPORT — The Board of Finance unanimously rejected a $33,000 proposal to hire an independent expert to test the former F.D. Rich site during its meeting Wednesday night, citing a new ordinance that would put the cost of such studies on developers.

The proposal was made because of an application from ARS Partners that was rejected “without prejudice” by the Planning and Zoning Commission to build 22 single-family homes on the property located between Newtown Turnpike and Partrick Road.

The project would also extend a Norwalk sewer line down Newtown Avenue to the site.

The commission cited that it wanted to hire an independent expert to test the site because of conflicting information presented by the applicant and the neighbors.

Robert Graham, board member and former commission member, said there is always a conflict in testimony, but very rarely is an independent expert hired. He said the commission was doing the applicant’s work.

First Selectwoman Diane Farrell said the application is “incredibly complex” and the site has been a subject of controversy since the 1960s when the Famous Artists School wanted to develop it.

During every juncture of the application’s progress, neighbors questioned if the town was protecting their health and safety by testing the site, she said, and she felt it was right to assure the neighbors a fair and objective analysis of the site had been completed.

Jeffrey Mayer, board member, said the testing is only being done where the soil would be disturbed on the site, and that would not necessarily ensure objectivity.

“There may be preordained findings and there may be misleading results,” he said. “It’s not our responsibility to complete their application. The burden should be on (the applicant).”

Board Chairman Steven Ezzes said the burden is on the developer, and town officials are asking to assist them in the process at the town’s expense. He questioned the precedent funding such a request would set.

Shelly Kassen, board member, said she and others had received a number of e-mails from neighbors saying the study does not go far enough.

She questioned why with the new ordinance, that passes the cost along to the applicant, a more complex study is not being done and the expense being passed along to ARS Partners.

Town Attorney Ira Bloom said the new ordinance does not take effect for a few more days.

Both Graham and Mayer said since there is no pending application before the commission, town officials should wait until the new ordinance takes effect.