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Shelton Inland Wetlands to hire own engineer to review Shelter Ridge

June 29, 2018

SHELTON-After listening for hours during public hearings that have spanned months the Inland Wetlands commission decided to hire their own engineer to review development plans for the massive Towne Center at Shelter Ridge project.

“We’ll be looking for an engineer with a wetlands background,” said Gary Zahornasky, Inland Wetlands commission chairman following Thursday night’s latest segment of the ongoing public hearing. “We’ll put out an RFQ (request for qualifications).”

But before that happens Zahornasky said they will confer with Fran Teodosio, the city’s corporation counsel. Attempts to contact Teodosio by phone Friday were unsuccessful.

Zahornasky could not estimate how long this process will take. As a result the commission decided to keep the public hearing open so engineers on each side could review and then comment on the eventual commission’s engineer’s findings, whenever that happens.

“We have no problems with that,” said Greg Tetro, a leader in Save Our Shelton which has sued the Planning and Zoning Commission over the zone change which permitted the massive 123-acre Towne Center at Shelter Ridge mixed use development to begin. “It’s in the best interests of the city to get the most information possible.”

No dates for hearings or a trial of Save Our Shelton’s suit have been scheduled.

Shelter Ridge, heralded as one of the largest ever in Fairfield County, calls for building 375 upscale apartments, a retail outlet rivaling Clinton Crossing and medical and professions offices on what has been farmland and forest abutting the Paugusett Trial. It requires blasting rock, flattening steep slopes, clearing trees and redesigning roadways. Sirjohn Papageorge of Trumbull is the developer.

But before Papageorge can begin work he needs Inland Wetlands permission to excavate 1,160 square feet of wetland on the eastern side of the project and fill another 1,000 square fee on the western side.

City Engineer Robert Kulacz reiterated his recommendation that Inland-Wetlands deny the project’s application.

In a letter to the commission, Kulacz repeated his concern that storm water runoff from Shelter Ridge could flood homes at 77,79, 91 and 97 Mill Street.

He also expressed concern there is no correspondence from the state Department of Transportation indicating approval for widening Bridgeport Avenue.

“Widening Bridgeport Avenue to the west will require the relocation of at least nine electric utility poles and nearly 2,000 feet of major overhead electric distribution wires,” Kulacz said. “Without concept approval from ConnDOT for the required widening of Bridgeport Avenue the commission will not know the environmental impacts to Wells Hollow Brook and its tributaries which will receive runoff from the project site.”

For the last several months the Inland-Wetlands commission has been listening to verbal sparring between engineers—James Swift for Towne Center and Steven Trinkaus for Save Our Shelton.

On Thursday night both sides rebutted each other’s claim regarding impact the five building project would have on the wetlands inside it.

Trinkaus claimd pollution from phosphorus and nitrogen found in fertilizers, metals like zinc, copper and cadmium and petroleum hydrocarbons from cars and steaming water draining from hot roofs during summer storms would have severe impact on fish, aquatic organisms and wildlife.

Swift maintained that the collection and filtration systems he designed will alleviate these concerns. He also chided Trinkaus for not providing specific data or calculations relevant to this project for his claims.

Dominick Thomas, the land use lawyer representing Papageorge again pointed out that 25 acres of open space is being provided.

However that contribution does not impress Thomas Harbinson, the city’s Conservation Commission chairman.

“The open space as proposed is not in the public interest and we do not support it,” Harbinson said in a letter to Inland Wetlands. “...The majority of the open space would consist of steep slopes, areas of disturbance, fill slopes, wetlands, a wetland mitigation area, a gas pipeline and high tension wires. These area would be located immediately below major buildings and parking areas.”

Harbinson said “if this were a conventional subdivision, much of the land could not be used to comply with the open space requirements.”