Protect the Partrick Wetlands
and our Community

Partrick Settlement Announced by Farrell

Printed in the The Hour

WESTPORT- First Selectwoman Diane Farrell said the Planning and Zoning Commission this evening will have only one item on its agenda- act on the settlement agreement regarding the partial development the Partrick Wetlands.

The 55-acre parcel has been the subject of contentious debate for roughly 40 years and the substance of six lawsuits as residents and the ever-changing landowners disputed the future usage of the estate.

Laurence Bradley, director of the Planning and Zoning Commission; Town Attorney Ira Bloom of Wake, See, Dimes & Bryniczka ARS Partners LLC, who currently owns the property; and Matthew Mandell and Sean Timmins of the Partrick Wetlands Preservation Fund, announced Wednesday that a resolution had been reached.

"This agreement comes out of a court-sponsored mediation where the Partrick Wetlands Preservation Fund, Arthur (and Claudia) Cohen and ARS took nine months of working together to see if we could find a settlement," said Mandell, director of the Partrick Wetlands Preservation Fund and District 1 representative.

Under the parameters of the settlement, which Bloom said is 98 percent complete, the PWPF (correction) will receive 22 acres of the 55-acre parcel to be reserved as open space.

"We have probably 98 percent of the details worked out," Bloom said. "We're still working on the last 2 percent and, as soon as we have that, there will be document of the stipulations that will be presented publicly and will be discussed tomorrow (Thursday) night at the P&Z, or sooner if we can get it all finalized."

The 22 acres, which include Poplar Plains Brook, will be donated to the preservation fund and preserved in their entirety as an undeveloped property.

Furthermore, ARS Partners LLC acquiesced to the development of 13 houses on roughly six or seven acres, said attorney Lawrence Weisman of ARS Partners.

Initially, ARS requested the construction of 22 homes on nine acres. However, prior to that proposal, ARS applied for the development of roughly 31 homes and the request was denied.

"This will be a court-stipulated agreement," Farrell said. "As a consequence of the six lawsuits that have been brought against the town, the Planning and Zoning commission tomorrow evening will need to untimely approve this because they are the actual, named defendants in the case and then the court will review the findings."

"Our experience," Farrell added "has been when you have all parties agreeing on a solution, the court is also very much inclined to go along."

Bloom and Farrell said the Board of Selectmen, which acts as the town's Water Pollution Control Authority, would adopt a sewer avoidance policy to ensure that the sewer line, which will be designed for the sole use of the 13 homes remains as such.

"We are in process of constructing new wastewater treatment facility," Farrell said, "so the Board of Selectmen will adopt a policy similar to Torrington and other committees in Connecticut to very clearly delineate the reasons for connecting someone to sewer versus encouraging them to remain on septic."

Among other intentions, the sewer avoidance policy seeks to prohibit the connection of entities such as the Young Men's Christian Association from connecting to the proposed sewer line when, and if it relocates to the 32-acre Mahackeno property it owns to build a 100,000-square-foot fitness facility.

"We're happy that its come to an understanding. We've been five long years in the process," said ARS principal Ralph M. Grasso, "and it's done and I think the resolve is a good one for both sides."

The Planning and Zoning Commission will meet tonight at 7:30 in the auditorium of Town Hall.