Welcome to STOP THE PIT.
This blog contai
ns information about a gravel pit and mining
operation proposed for Whitney Avenue in
Hamden, Ct., and suggests specific steps you can take to effectively register your opposition to the project. Please feel free to contact Sarah Clark and Gus Spohn at 203-248-8181 or Gail and Jim Traester at 203-288-6648 with your ideas, comments, and questions.OUR CONCERNS.
A proposed gravel pit and mining operation, scheduled to go to public hearing before the Hamden Planning and Zoning Commission on Tuesday, Oct. 10
, presents serious health and safety issues not only to neighbors who live near the project’s site on northern Whitney Avenue (Route 10), but also to citizens throughout Hamden, in Cheshire, and beyond. If approved, the project, which is slated to take two years, will create constant truck traffic up and down the already heavily traveled Route 10; spread dust, noxious fumes, and noise throughout the region; and leave behind an environmentally degraded site.
One of the primary concerns of the many people in Hamden, Cheshire, and other communities who are speaking out against the project is its potential impact on the region’s water supply: the entire 40-acre site lies within an Aquifer Protection Zone, is crossed by both Jepp and Willow Brooks (Willow brook is a tributary of the important Mill River), contains extensive wetlands, and is steps from Water Company property and wells. Part of the site also lies within a Special Flood Hazard Area.STOP THE PIT
is a grassroots organization of concerned citizens who want to protect the health and safety not only of those who live near the proposed gravel pit, but also of the entire region; preserve the quality of life for those who live in and near this residential zone; and protect the important environmental and recreational resources of the area. We are united in our determination to defeat this project.WHAT DOES A GRAVEL PIT LOOK LIKE?No man's land.
Here are some pictures of gravel pits elsewhere. As you can see, a gravel pit quickly transforms watershed in habitat into an inhospitable no man's land. Is it any wonder that we oppose this project in our neighborhood? According to the developer's application, once the gravel and sand are removed from the site, the pits that remain will be filled with water . The end result: deep, stagnant ponds with steep slopes that could provide a breeding ground for mosquitoes and present a potential drowning hazard. (According to plans currently on file, one of the four pits will be located only 50 feet from the Farmington Canal Rail-to-Trail.)
TIMELINE OF THE PROJECT
1. Initial proposal called for trucks to enter and exit the site via Brooksvale Ave. Hamden's Planning and Zoning Commission rejected that proposal in 1995, citing traffic safety hazards.
2. Second proposal was submitted and was the subject of a special hearing before Hamden's Inland Wetland Commission in 2003. This proposal specified Whitney Ave. as the entrance to site. The Inland Wetlands Commission rejected the proposal, citing impact on wetlands.
3. The applicant appealed IWC's rejection, and in January 2006 a Superior Court Judge ruled in favor of the developer, indicating that the IWC's rejection was not supported by sufficient expert evidence.
4. In May 2006 the developer submitted a new proposal, which requires a Special Permit from the Hamden Planning and Zoning Commission and a Public Hearing. The Public Hearing was opened 9/12/06, but was immediately continued to the PZC meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 10. PUBLIC ATTENDANCE AT THE 10/10 MEETING WILL BE CRITICAL TO OUR CAUSE: WE NEED TO PACK THE HEARING ROOM. Anyone can attend the hearing, and you do not need to be a Hamden resident to speak.
WHAT DO THE EXPERTS SAY?
Here are extracts from an environmental impact report on this project:
Extracts from an Environmental Review Team Report prepared by the King’s Mark Environmental Review Team of the King’s Mark Resource Conservation and Development Area, Inc., for the Mayor and Planning and Zoning Commission, Hamden, Ct., Sept. 2006. Based on a field review conducted 7/12/06 together with other information.
Report 339 regarding Sunwood Development Corporation’s request for a
Special Permit (06-1088) for SAND AND GRAVEL MINING at 4246 (rear) and 4280 Whitney Ave. (north of Brooksvale Ave on Route 10 near the Cheshire Town Line).
The full report is available online at: http://www.ctert.org/default.htm (scroll down the page a bit till you see “SUNWOOD DEVELOPMENT”). Contact info is: Elaine Sych, ERT Coordinator, email@example.com; phone is 860-345-3977
About King’s Mark: “The King’s Mark Environmental Review Team (ERT) is a group of environmental professionals drawn together from a variety of federal, state and regional agencies. Specialists on the Team include geologists, biologists, soil scientists, foresters, climatologists and landscape architects, recreational specialists, engineers and planners. The ERT operates with state funding under the aegis of the King’s Mark Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) Area – an 83 town area serving Western Connecticut. As a public service activity, the Team is available to serve towns within the King’s Mark RC&D Area – free of charge.”
Following are extracts I’ve taken from the various sections of the report, which was received at the Hamden Planning and Zoning Dept. on 9/7/06. Emphasis throughout is mine (Sarah Clark, 248-8181).
1. From the section titled A WATERSHED PERSPECTIVE, pp. 10 ff
“The removal of over 250,000 cubic yards of sand and gravel over a two-year period from an area in excess of 15 acres will entail several temporary wetlands crossings….Given the site’s excellent surface and ground water quality, it is extremely important that precautions and Best Management Practices be taken to protect the stream and groundwater….
“This area lies within the Willow Brook floodplain….The water quality classification for both Willow Brook and Jepp Brook is Class AA. The Class AA designated uses are: existing and proposed water supplies; habitat for fish and other aquatic life and wildlife; recreation; and water supply for industry and agriculture.
“The ground water classification for the area is Class GAA. Designated uses for Class GAA are: existing or potential public water supply of water suitable for drinking without treatment….
“As a consequence of the surface and ground waters being of extreme high quality, any proposed development merits further consideration of available, practical measures which can be taken to ensure the protection of these resources from development-related impacts and nonpoint source pollution – a growing nationwide concern….
“The proposed method of excavation will create large bowls…that will result in steep sided slopes for the future ponds which may pose a safety risk not only to potential recreationists, but also slumping and erosion under submerged conditions….
“Once [the ponds are] filled, the quality of the groundwater discharging to the stream may be adversely affected by its exposure in the ponds to other factors affecting water quality such as thermal impacts and other sources of non-point source pollution, such as…geese.”
2. From the section titled TOPOGRAPHY AND GEOLOGY, pp. 13 ff
“This reviewer has some concerns about the data upon which the [developer’s] plan was drawn. The most serious deficiency in this reviewer’s opinion is the lack of subsurface data, such as the elevation of the water table and depth of bedrock. Both will have implications on how much material can be removed during the excavation….[If the watertable is higher than the developer’s plans indicate], he may then request to pump seepage-water out of the excavation pit so as to dig deeper….If the depth to bedrock is shallower than the planned excavation depth,…they will not be able to excavate as much material without enlarging the area of removal. That will translate into creating larger ponds but less buffer between newly created ponds and the established wetlands.”
3. From the section titled SOILS RESOURCES, pp. 19 ff
“[The ponds to be created at the end of the project] will range in size from 0.4 to 2.5 acres, and the depth of excavation to the pond bottoms will range from 35 to more than 45 feet below existing grade….It is likely that there will be considerable water level drop during the hotter and drier season, potentially affecting water levels in remaining wetlands and in both Jepp and Willow Brooks….Water table fluctuation can have substantial negative impact on wetland flora and fauna within the parcel and modify stream flow through the property and downstream.
“The stability of all proposed 2:1 side slopes [in the four proposed post-excavation ponds] also appears to be problematic, given the tendency of banks excavated into on-site soils to slump and collapse. [The soils specific to the site] also have very low water-holding capacity and are of inherently low fertility; long-term survival of tree and shrub species selected on soils with these physical and chemical properties is likely to be low….
“This reviewer is also skeptical that the planned addition of persistent open water and shallow marsh habitat, even if both are successfully established, will compensate for the removal of the great majority of upland wildlife habitat within the parcel.”
4. From the section titled WETLAND REVIEW, pp. 32 ff
“The site lies…about one half mile south of the Hamden/Cheshire border. Route 10 bounds the property to the east and the Farmington Canal Rail Trail borders it to the west….A buffer of 100 feet is proposed on the west side between the canal trail and the excavation.
“The greatest wetland impacts on the site will be at the watercourse crossings. These are areas of steep slopes and will be easily erodable once vegetation is removed. Large amounts of fill will be needed to bring the construction roads up to useable level….
“The proposed pond construction is a point of concern to various town commissions….It should be of note that [adjusting the proposed slope of the ponds makes them] inviting for resident Canada geese. Considering that each goose excretes one pound of waste per animal per day, these small newly created ponds may well have water quality issues no one will want to have to tackle in the future.”
5. From the section titled AQUATIC HABITATS AND RESOURCES, pp. 37 ff
“The Inland Fisheries Division has conducted fish surveys of Jepp Brook and Willow Brook on or near the site….The fish population was similar at both locations and was composed of the following species – blacknose dace, fallfish and redfin pickerel.... The fish population [of Willow Brook both upstream and downstream of the Jepp Brook confluence] was made up of the following species – brook trout, brown trout, blacknose dace, longnose dace, creek chub, fallfish, tessellated darter, redfin pickerel, white sucker, and American eel.
“The ponds will not have outlets….
“The proposed removal of sand and gravel from the site will significantly alter the existing topography of the area. It is conceivable that the removal of overburden as proposed may alter the local surface to groundwater hydrology. Of concern with the extraction to the depths proposed is the loss of soil types that have the ability to absorb a considerable percentage of precipitation falling on the site. Precipitation infiltrating the soil contributes to groundwater recharge, which is part of the local water table connected to wetlands and surface waters such as Jepp Brook and Willow Brook. The local water table provides seepage to the streams during dry periods and maintains a base flow essential to biological and habitat integrity. The amount of groundwater providing supply to the ponds will likely further diminish the amount contributed to the streams thereby exacerbating temporal or spatial impacts to surface flow. [i.e., less water for species]…
“The depth to which the soil extraction is proposed should be evaluated by an individual(s) with groundwater expertise to determine changes to precipitation infiltration rates or water storage capacity of the remaining soils. The depth of the proposed soil extraction should be modified should adverse impacts to groundwater be predicted.”
6. From the section titled STORMWATER REVIEW, pp. 41 ff
“The project is expected to disturb approximately 15 acres of land and ultimately create four…ponds. No permanent development of the land is proposed following the excavation….
“Mining operations are considered an industrial activity that requires registration under Connecticut’s General Permit for the Discharge of Stormwater Associated with Industrial Activity. …[Report goes on to list the ways in which the applicant’s plan must be modified or further elaborated to address erosion and sediment control issues.]”
7. From the section titled ARCHAEOLOGICAL AND HISTORICAL REVIEW, p. 44
“The project boundaries appear of moderate to high sensitivity for prehistoric and historic archaeological resources. The State Historic Preservation Office and the Office of State Archaeology recommends that a reconnaissance survey be undertaken in order to provide the Hamden Planning and Zoning Commission with pertinent information regarding the identification and location of archaeologically sensitive areas.
“Of particular importance, all gravel mining activities must avoid physical impacts to the historic Farmington Canal, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, which is located in immediate proximity to the western border of the proposed project area.”
8. From the section titled TRANSPORTATION PLANNER COMMENTS, p. 45
“The vehicles leaving the site drive are expected to operate at poor to failing levels of service and may pose a safety risk due to their size, weight and operational characteristics.
“To alleviate these risks, proper signage and control of truck access should be utilized. Therefore, the Department concurs with the following recommendations:
-- The limiting of trucks to no more than eight, entering and leaving the site during an hour….
-- That trucks should be restricted from traveling to a destination south of the site during peak hours on Whitney Ave. and be allowed to travel in either direction during non-peak hours.”
WHAT HAVE WE DONE SO FAR?
We have been working to organize neighbors, have circulated a petition (over 400 people have signed to date), and we are working in other ways to increase awareness of the project and of the ways in which concerned citizens can voice their opinions. Note that ANYONE can speak at the upcoming public hearing and/or write a letter to the PZC: because the project impacts an entire region, you do NOT have to be a resident of Hamden to speak out.
In evaluating the applicant's request for a special permit, the PZC is required by Hamden's Zoning regulations to consider eight points in particular. These points are reproduced in next section below. It is critical that both spoken and written objections to the gravel pit address at least one of these points.
Once very important step anyone can take is to write a letter to the Hamden Planning and Zoning Commission, with copies to relevant public officials. Here is a sample letter:
September 20, 2006
Mr. Joseph McDonagh
Hamden Planning & Zoning Commission
Planning Office c/o Mr. Daniel W. Kops, Jr.
Hamden Government Center
2750 Dixwell Avenue
Hamden, CT 06518
Re: Special Permit & Site Plan 06-1088/WS
4246 (rear) and 4280 Whitney Avenue, R-2 zone
Dear Chairman and Commission Members:
This letter is in reference to the proposed special permit for a sand and gravel mining operation at 4246 (rear) and 4280 Whitney Avenue. As a Hamden resident for 32 years, I am absolutely against this proposal for the following reasons. (All page references are to the King’s Mark Environmental Review Team Report #339, September 2006.)
1. The area being considered is one of the last pristine wetland areas in the town of Hamden. Once altered and disturbed, it will never revert to its former natural state despite statements to the contrary.
2. The creation of four large bodies of water with steep sides, no outlets, and a potential depth of 35 feet to 45 feet will create a safety and liability risk to the children and adults in the town. (ERT p. 11)
3. The proposed ponds pose the real danger of contamination of fecal fouling by geese (ERT pp. 11, 36) and a breeding place for mosquitoes carrying the West Nile virus.
4. The gravel and mining operation will result in a dramatic drop in the level of wetland water during drier seasons. This will negatively impact the flora and fauna of the area and modify the flow of water in both Jepp and Willow Brooks. (ERT p. 19)
5. The King’s Mark Environmental Review Team Report stated that, “even if both [persistent open water and shallow marsh habitat] are successfully established these will not compensate for the removal of the great majority of upland wildlife habitat within the parcel.” (ERT p. 20) What was created by Nature will be destroyed by man.
6. This area now provides a rich habitat for native fish, geese, ducks, wild turkey, deer, coyote, raccoon, muskrat, fox, skunk, squirrel, various species of birds, rabbits, turtles, snakes, frogs, and other amphibians. (ERT pp. 20, 39) They do not have a voice to speak against this mining operation that will alter and destroy their habitat.
7. Water quality in the proposed area is now class AA and can be used for drinking. (ERT p. 37) Can anyone guarantee that excellent quality after the excavation is completed?
8. The removal of over 240,000 cubic yards of gravel and sand will create a situation whereby the remaining soil cannot absorb as much of the rainwater. (ERT p. 39) Can anyone foresee what will happen to this area and adjacent property when heavy rains come in the spring?
9. The noise, traffic problems (ERT p. 45), air pollution, and contamination of groundwater during the two years of excavation will adversely affect the lifestyle of all homeowners in the area and, indeed, all who travel Whitney Avenue. I have previous experience with the disruption caused by a sand and gravel mining operation in my neighborhood in the town of Bristol, Connecticut. For years the trucks loudly rumbled past our homes, eight hours each day. This caused dust to cover exposed surfaces. We were forced to keep our windows closed winter and summer. However, children and anyone outside was exposed to high levels of contamination. The chronically ill were particularly susceptible to the poor air quality.
10. With easy access from the Farmington Canal and Whitney Avenue this area will become an attractive area for off-road vehicles and their young riders. The four ponds with a combined surface area of approximately 4.8 acres and a depth of up to 35 feet (ERT p. 11) will be a natural attraction for life-threatening activity. Is the gravel and sand removal operation worth the life of even one young person?
The southern Hamden area has suffered for years by the hand of man who changed the environment. Is this the beginning of the change for northern Hamden?
I implore you to deny this special permit based upon the many serious problems, dangers and destruction of habitat this mining operation will create.
55 Huntington Circle
Hamden, CT 06518
Cc: Mayor Craig Henrici (firstname.lastname@example.org); Mr. Al Gorman (email@example.com); Mr. Robert Westervelt (firstname.lastname@example.org) ; Rep. Al Aldinolfi (email@example.com); Sen. Martin Looney (Looney@senatedems.ct.gov); Rep. Brendan Sharkey (Brendan.Sharkey@cga.ct.gov); Dr. Phil Brewer (firstname.lastname@example.org); Sen. Joe Crisco
WHAT CAN I DO TO HELP?
(9/24/06 DRAFT: Stay tuned for more to come, including addition of relevant extracts from the Town Plan of Development. There are many other steps you can take to oppose the pit, including getting as many people to the hearing as possible (recommended by all the experts as one of the most important things you can do: numbers count!), getting many signatures on the petition (remember that Hamden residency is NOT a requirement), networking widely to get the word out, poster-making, and a long list of people and organizations to contact…)
Most effective things you can do to help stop the proposed Gravel Pit/Mining Operation on Whitney Ave. in Hamden, Ct.
Write a letter before 10/5/06 to the Hamden Planning and Zoning Commission, c/o Dan Kops, Assistant Town Planner, Planning Office, Hamden Government Center, 2750 Dixwell Ave., Hamden, CT 06518. Letter should reference Special Permit 06-1088, 4246 (rear) and 4280 Whitney Ave., R-2 Zone. Ideally the letter should highlight issues that are directly relevant to one or more of the eight points in the Zoning Regulations that the PZC must specifically consider as they evaluate the applicant’s proposal. Primary among those eight points is “the health, safety, and welfare of the public in general, and the immediate neighborhood, in particular.” As I understand it, “welfare” can encompass economic issues (including property values and quality-of-life issues). Here is the specific section of the Town of Hamden Zoning Regulations (section VIII-5, p. 172):
826 Special Permit Threshold Decision. In deciding whether or not to grant a Special Permit, the Commission shall give consideration to, but not be limited by, the following:
1. The health, safety, and welfare of the public in general, and the immediate neighborhood, in particular.
2. Compliance with the Plan of Development.
3. The location and size of the proposed use.
4. The nature and intensity of the proposed use and any operations involved in the use.
5. The safety and intensity of traffic circulation on the site and in adjacent streets.
6. The scale of the proposed site structure.
7. The harmony and appropriateness of the use and site design in relation to the general area and to adjacent properties.
8. Compliance with the zoning regulations and the site plan objectives set forth in Section 844. Any permit granted under this Section shall be subject to any and all conditions and safeguards imposed pursuant to Section 827.
827 Conditions and Safeguards. The Commission may, if it finds that a Special Permit is appropriate under Section 826, include reasonable conditions and safeguards related to the factors set forth in Section 826. Any such conditions or safeguards attached to the granting of a Special Permit shall remain with the property as long as the Special Permit use is still in operation, and shall continue in force regardless of any change in ownership of the property.
Also relevant: Section 840: Site Plan Review and Approval (since a site plan is required for a special permit)
844. Site Plan Objectives. In reviewing a Site Plan Application, the Zoning Section or the Commission shall take into consideration the health, safety and welfare of the public in general and the immediate neighborhood in particular, and may prescribe reasonable conditions and safeguards to insure the accomplishment of the following general objectives.
844.1 Town Plan. That the proposed site plan shall be in general conformance with the intent of the Town Plan, however, the Town Plan shall not take precedence over specific provisions of the Zoning Regulations.
844.2 Traffic and Pedestrian Access. That all proposed traffic and pedestrian access ways do not create traffic hazards and are:
844.8 Environmental Features. That the development of the site will preserve sensitive environmental land features such as steep slopes, wetlands, and large rock outcroppings and will attempt to preserve public scenic views or historically significant features.
844.9 Neighborhood Character. That the location and size of any proposed use, building or structure, as well as the nature and intensity of operations involved or conducted in connection therewith, will be in general harmony with the character of the surrounding neighborhood and will not be hazardous or otherwise detrimental to the appropriate and orderly development or use of any adjacent land, building, or structure as expressed in Section 650 – Performance Standards.
844.11 Soil Erosion and Sediment Control. The design of soil erosion and sediment control plans shall be such as to reduce the danger from storm water run-off, minimize non-point sediment pollution from land being developed and conserve and protect the land, water, air and other environmental resources of the Town.
Indicate on your letter that you are sending carbon copies to
Mayor Craig Henrici
Hamden Government Center
2750 Dixwell Ave.
Hamden, CT 06518
Representative Alfred Adinolfi
Home: 235 Sorghum Mill Drive
Cheshire, CT 06410
Home 203-272-9701 (it’s okay to call him at home)
Office: House Republic Office
L.O.B. Room 4200
Hartford, CT 06106
1-800-842-1423 office (toll-free)
Senator Martin M. Looney
Office: Legislative Office Building
Hartford, CT 06106-1591
Home: 132 Fort Hale Road
New Haven, CT 06512
Mr. Robert Westervelt
Council Member (9th district)
Town of Hamden Legislative Council
2750 Dixwell Ave.
Hamden, CT 06518
Representative Brendan Sharkey
600 Mount Carmel AvenueHamden, CT 06518(203) 281-4647
Legislative Office Building, Room 5004
Hartford, CT 06106-1591(860) 240-85851-800-842-8267 Brendan.Sharkey@cga.ct.gov
Senator Joe Crisco
860-240-0189, or toll-free1-800-842-1420
Legislative Office BuildingRoom 2800Hartford, CT 06106-1591
Phillip Brewer, M.D.
Democratic Candidate for State Representative from 103rd District
3 Dover Court
Cheshire, CT 06410
Write a letter before October 5 if possible to the editors of one (or more) of the local papers. Try to include specific reference to the date, time, and location of the public hearing (10/10/06, 7 pm, Old Town Hall, Dixwell & Whitney) so people reading the letter will know where they can go to speak out. The info that follows was copied directly from the various publications’ websites.
Hamden Daily News (an online publication) The Hamden Daily News wants to hear from you. Letters to the editor are an integral part of a community newspaper. There are just three rules:1)You must include your first and last names.2) You must include your hometown.3) You must include a phone number for verification purposes (the number will not be printed).Click on Editor@hamdendailynews.com
New Haven Register
How to write a letter to the editor: To send a letter to the editor by e-mail, address your message to: email@example.com. To send a letter by regular post, address your message to: Letter to the Editor / New Haven Register / 40 Sargent Drive / New Haven, CT / 06511. Important: Include your full name, address and telephone number for verification purposes.
Hamden Chronicle Headquarters (best to call them for more explicit instructions):
349 New Haven Avenue P.O. Box 5339 Milford , CT 06460 Phone: (203) 876-6800 Fax: (203) 877-4772 firstname.lastname@example.org
Hamden Journal (best to call them for more explicit instructions):
Hometown Publications, 1000 Bridgeport Ave.,Shelton, CT 06484
(203) 926-2080 or 1-800-843-6791
Editorial Fax: (203) 926-2091
Cheshire Herald: Thank you for your interest in writing a letter to the editor. Letters should address an issue of concern to the Cheshire, CT readers. The Herald also prints guest editorials that are at lease 500 words but no more than 1000 in length. These editorials must include the author's name and hometown. Unsigned letters will not be considered for publication. Below is a form or you may e-mail your editorial to Dave Kenny at email@example.com. Addresses and Telephone numbers are for verification purposes only and will not be printed.
New York Times Letters to the editor should only be sent to The Times, and not to other publications. We do not publish open letters or third-party letters. Letters for publication should be no longer than 150 words, must refer to an article that has appeared within the last seven days, and must include the writer's address and phone numbers. No attachments, please. We regret we cannot return or acknowledge unpublished letters. Writers of those letters selected for publication will be notified within a week. Letters may be shortened for space requirements. To submit a letter to the Connecticut weekly section, please e-mail mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org. Thomas Feyer, the letters editor, gives tips for getting your letter published. Click here for full article.
Meriden Record-Journal (covering Cheshire and Wallingford angles in particular).
Letters to the Editor Policy: Record-Journal readers are invited to send letters on topics of general interest (no more than once in a calendar month). We require that you include your address and daytime telephone number(s) where you may be reached for verification purposes. This information is kept confidential and is for our records only. Letters which exceed our maximum of 300 words will be edited accordingly. In election years, from September 15 until 4:00 p.m. on the Wednesday before Election Day, political letters [letters which mention any political party or candidate by name] are limited to 100 words maximum. We will not accept submissions that mention businesses by name. We reserve the right to edit all letters submitted to the Record-Journal. Letters may be submitted using any of the following four methods:
· email to: email@example.com
· U.S. mail to: Readers' Opinions, Record-Journal, 11 Crown St., Meriden, CT,06450
· fax to: (203) 639-0210
Hartford Courant (tk)
Waterbury Republican Editorial Page Editor Steve Macoy, ext. 1488. E-mail: smacoy Letters must be signed and include a phone number for confirmation. Mail: Letters to the Editor, Republican-American, 389 Meadow St., Waterbury 06722. Fax: (203) 596-9277. E-mail: opinion http://www.rep-am.com/contactus.php