When Joanne Owens moved into her home on Tait Road, she and her husband knew how lucky there were to having the running water of the Pequonnock in their back yard and, across the river, picturesque woods.
They also knew it might not last.
Owens and her husband were well aware that the property across the river, visible from the rail trail on Tait Road, was privately owned and could be developed. However, Owens and many other residents who live around the 10-acre property say they are worried about much more than a changing view.
The application for a single-family home subdivision is now before the Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Commission. A public hearing was held earlier this month and has been continued to Feb. 3. The proposal is now for 15 single-family homes on half-acre lots, called River’s Edge Homes. The initial proposal included a 16th home, but it was eliminated after the applicant spoke with town officials who had concerns the home was being built in a floodplain.
Currently the property is home to one single-family house and some outbuildings, and is known around town as the Mallett property.
Owens said an email list of those against the proposal has grown to about 90 people. The neighbors have hired an attorney to represent them and met with First Selectman Tim Herbst to share their concerns. Owens also recently started a Facebook group, called “Protect Trumbull.”
Owens said that when the proposal first came up, emotions were high. Some feel the owners of the property are not honoring the legacy of the Malletts.
“Many people who knew them felt this wasn’t fulfilling their wishes,” Owens said.
Protecting homes, resources
While there are many who would prefer the land to remain open space, the neighbors feel the plan, as is, is just too dense.
“It’s designed to squeeze in as many houses as possible,” Owens said.
Flooding and protection of the environment are major concerns for the group.
Owens said that by today’s standards, her home, and others along the river, would never have been built, but the homes are there now and vulnerable to the rising waters of the river.
David Bjorklund, president of Spath-Bjorklund Associates, has been representing the applicant at the meetings. According to minutes from the Inland Wetlands Jan. 6 meeting, Bjorklund explained that the design should actually help stop flooding that many residents of Vista Place already experience.
Part of the plan is to add swales, or two-foot trenches, in each home’s back yard that would help pick up runoff.
“The responsibility of the maintenance of the swale will be depicted in a deed of whose property it is on, the homeowners will serve a joint responsibility for the swale,” according to meeting minutes. “The swale goes into a pipe, it is a combination of a swale and a pipe network, there shouldn’t be specific problems with a pipe system, if something does come up they will have a joint responsibility and as depicted in the homeowners’ deeds.”
It’s unlikely that all homeowners will keep the swales clear of leaves or notice a problem right away, Owens argues. Neighbors are worried this could lead to flooding issues, including potentially damaging the old Riverside Cemetery.
The plan also adds a large detention pond near the river that will absorb runoff and slowly release it.
While the development is referred to as “River’s Edge Homes,” many of the homes are a good distance from the river, and Owens and others worry about the impact on the river quality and environment.
“When I’m gardening, I’m listening to the river,” Owens said. “But will these people worry about what they put on their lawns the same way, or will they feel no connection to the river?” she asked, looking at the proposed subdivision.
The neighbors have made suggestions for what can improve the plan. They ask that the river buffer be significantly enhanced to give vegetation a chance to slow erosion. They want to see a 120-foot-wide detention pond moved farther away from the river to allow natural planting to be kept or added around the large area that must be clear-cut for the pond. They are also asking for an increased peak flow rate to ensure the safety of downstream structures and require the developer to analyze the downstream impact of the development. Finally, the group would like to see alternate plans that would reduce the impact on wetlands and waterways. For example, the idea of a Low Impact Development model was suggested.
The Times contacted Bjorklund about the application but he did not return a call before press time.
Concerns stretch well beyond issues that are under the purview of Inland Wetlands. If and when the application gets approval from Inland Wetlands, it will go to the Police Commission for a traffic analysis and head to Planning and Zoning, where neighbors say they have other concerns they would like to raise.
Traffic is a big one, for those on or near that section of Daniels Farm Road, Owens said. Vehicles from the 15 proposed homes would directly enter Daniels Farm Road from a new road to be built between Vista Place and Ward Place. Neighbors also worry about the development causing a burden on town services, with new children heading into the schools and new roads for the town to maintain. Many would also like an environmental study of the area completed.
Owens said the group of neighbors have nothing personal against the developer or property owner. They are also grateful for the diligence shown by members of the Inland Wetlands Commission and town staff.
“No one wants this to go on for five years,” Owens said.
The group has hired an attorney to keep its options open, she said.
“There has to be a way for the owner to make a profit, for the developer to make a profit and for Trumbull to be able to maintain some of its environmental beauty and assets,” Owens said.
The next meeting on the application is now scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 3, at 7 p.m. in Town Hall.