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Open space preservation urged as well as Sewer Avoidance

By Andrew Ragouszeos
Norwalk Hour 6/9/04

NORWALK -- Calling for preservation of open space, a ban on sewers in some areas and an end to out-of-context development, Cranbury residents said their peace Tuesday about the city's drafting of a new Master Plan of Conservation and Development.

Held at the Roosevelt School, the northeast quadrant public meeting -- the fourth and final neighborhood-specific meeting the Planning Commission will hold before drafting its master plan -- carried a similar anti-overdevelopment and pro-natural resource stance the three previous geographic quadrant meetings held. Areas of concern unique to residents of Cranbury --an area bound by the Wilton and Westport town lines to the north and east, to the south by Murray Street and the west by West Rocks Road-- are the undeveloped, 18-acre White Barn Theatre property and a proposal by developer ARS Partners LLC to build a sewer line up Newtown Avenue that will serve 22 homes in Westport.

As illustrated in a bullet-point presentation from the Save Cranbury Association civic group, the majority of residents would like to flush the sewer proposal and preserve the White Barn property as undeveloped.

"The 18-acre (White Barn property) used to house a historic theater and is now one of the largest pieces of undeveloped private land left in the entire city," explained Save Cranbury Association member Celia Maddox-Gable. "I assure you that if we allow those acres to be redeveloped, we will live to regret it one day." Save Cranbury Association has been trying to purchase the land from its owner, White Barn Theatre Foundation Trustees, who has publicly endorsed turning the property into 13 homes and an art school.

Speaking on the sewer proposal facing the city, Save Cranbury Association's Diane Lauricella recommended that the city establish sewer avoidance areas and encourage local residents to continue using septic tanks while educating them about tank maintenance. "With nonprofits, the Conservation Commission, the Health Department and us, we can be like an army of educators informing residents of septic system care and well water protection with all Cranbury citizens," Lauricella said. Other recommendations in the bullet-point presentation included a plan to restrict leaf blower use to designated times, adding bike lanes for recreation, commuting and traffic calming, and working with the DEP to limit waste and fertilizer runoff into the 14 Acre and Woods ponds.

Regarding development, Bill Wrenn, president of the Norwalk Land Trust, said he would like to see developers given incentives for maintaining open spaces in their projects.

"We've done a great job planning for development in Norwalk, but if we want a great diversity of species passed on to next generations, we need to plan for conservation as well," Wrenn said. Walter Briggs, Planning Commission chairman, said the commission will be holding two public hearings to discuss the totality of all four quadrant meetings before drafting the master plan.

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