1. Call to order: Called to order by Chairman Simm at 6:30 pm. Commission members in attendance were Cole, Bell, Herbst, Baldwin, Swenarton and Lyons. Dewire was absent. Town Planner Brynes was present. Chairman Simm noted the recent passing of former Chairman Mike Iiams whom he credited with restarting the Conservation Commission in 1985.
2. Review of Town Developments and Proposals.
2a. PZ0663RA Town of Stonington - Regulation Amendment to create a temporary moratorium on commercial and residential projects along the U.S. Route 1 corridor. This moratorium will suspend specific development types while the community takes time to consider, draft and adopt land use plans and or rules to respond to new or changing circumstances not adequately dealt with or contemplated in the existing in the Plan of Conservation and Development (adopted July 29, 2004). Planner Byrnes distributed copies of the proposed regulation and said that the PZC was concerned about development pressures along Route 1, especially in Wequetequock, the site of a proposed mixed-use development on about 48 acres, since withdrawn. MOTION: The Conservation Commission supports the moratorium and offers to assist in developing recommendations for the Route 1 corridor (Swenarton, Herbst). Passed unanimously.
2b. Any pending applications and new preliminary proposals. None.
3. Open Space Committee
3a. Open space plan update – discussion on parcels for preservation. Herbst reported that comments have been received from Paul Holland and will be considered input from the PZC; input was not received from Lynn Young. Will make a “final” draft to be presented as part of the November 27th presentation at Mystic Middle School, following Jim Gibbons’ workshop. Harvey Perry has also been invited. The monthly Conservation Commission meeting will precede the workshop and presentation as a “special” meeting due to the change in venue.
3b. Discussion on parcels for preservation in Pawcatuck – Ben. Nothing new to report.
3c. Discussion on referendum for open space bonding. Herbst reported that the Open Space Bonding Committee, which has been meeting Wednesday evenings at the Nature Center, will be making a presentation to the Board of Finance on November 1st to encourage them to support a bonding referendum for the acquisition of open space. The open space acquisition process was discussed: Board of Selectmen sign to accept or purchase a property and then final approval is made at a Town Meeting. It was noted that some tax revenue is lost when open space is deeded to the Town or a nonprofit like Avalonia, but that these properties are assessed at very low rates anyway. Open space requires low levels of Town services when compared to other land uses in general, according to numerous studies. It was reported that Paul Holland has said that he favors naming targeted properties to be dedicated as open space through use of the bonded funds. It was agreed that the BoF should be invited to a combined meeting with the Conservation Commission, in executive session, so that individual properties might be discussed. Chairman Simm explained that the donation deduction is getting larger and that changes to the tax laws as of 9/11/2006 donations made in 2006 and 2007 can be deducted as far out as 15 years. It was noted that Mary Thacher had expressed an interest in dedicating property and that a member of the Conservation Commission should discuss these changes with her.
4. Old Business
4a. Report on PZC Open Space Subcommittee. Inactive. Nothing to report.
4b. Mystic River Dam Committee. Site walk held with Steve Gephardt of DEP, Don Exley of Trout Unlimited, Bell, Simm and Cole. Gephardt stated work on the pond should involve testing the soil for contamination, regarding to define a stream channel along the town line and then removing the dam; the silt will not run out all at once. Consultation with adjoining towns (Groton & Ledyard) and property owners should be made next; suggested meeting with towns next January or February. It appears that liability for the pond and dam may have been accepted by the Board of Selectman by way of a conservation easement.
5. New Business
5a. Discussion on grant and matching funds for trails program. $2 Million federal grant to the Town has been approved for an Aquarium to Seaport “backcountry” trail. The Town needs to match with a contribution of $400,000 through the Capital Improvement Planning (CIP) process. The $175,000 lot at I-95 and Jerry Browne Road, identified as an inter-modal transportation center (i.e., parking lot), is be considered as contribution by the Town, thus only $225,000 must be allocated. It was noted that the BoF should be told that the money allocated for open space purchases in the area of the proposed Aquarium-Seaport trail would serve as part of the town match for the $2 Million grant.
5b. Consideration and discussion for a workshop regarding the Perkins farm. Town Planner stated that the Town is currently waiting on the applicant to formulate a plan and to communicate it to the neighbors. Stone Ridge residents are very concerned about development across the street at the Perkins Farm. The idea of a land swap between the Perkins Farm owners and Mystic Little League was explored, allowing for a larger little league complex on Jerry Browne Road as well as some age-restricted housing and a recreational trail; Residential development could be pursued at the current constricted ball fields off Rossie Pentway.
MOTION: Return to item 2b (Lyons, Bell). Passed unanimously.
2b. PZ0661RA Town of Stonington - Regulation Amendment to create a “reapplication fee” of $10 for resubmitted applications. It was discussed that the result of a low application fee might be shoddier initial applications and should be proportional to the initial fee as there is a range of differing fees. MOTION: The amount of the fee schedule’s reapplication fee should be 25 to 50% of the original application fee to offset expenses (Lyons, Bell). Passed unanimously except that Cole was opposed.
5c. Discussion on recommended procedure for Town’s acceptance of conservation easements and open space. The Town Planner requested a recommended policy for the acceptance of conservation easements or open space. He distributed copies of the boilerplate conservation easement language routinely given to applicants by the Planning Office. It was noted that the Connecticut Association of Conservation and Inland Wetlands Commissions’ (CACIWC) summer 2006 newsletter has an article entitled “Some legal considerations regarding the use of conservation easements.” A description of fee-in-lieu of open space and land trusts should be described in the policy. It was noted that conservation easements should come to the Conservation Commission as part of the approval process.
5d. Discussion on formation of a Stonington Land Trust. Cole stated that the Town cannot hold open space or conservation easements as future administrations could decide to use the Town’s development rights. The Town needs a land trust option. Kate Robinson has expressed an interest in helping set up a Town land trust. The Land Trust Service Bureau could also assist. MOTION: The Conservation Commission will commence exploration of forming a Stonington Land Trust. Cole is to contact Kate Robinson, Simm the Land Trust Service Bureau.
5e. Other New Business.
Lyons spoke with Al Brown about the computer and software at the Stonington Historical Society library. He and Baldwin should check to see if information of value could be saved.
Lyons spoke with George Sylvestre, Director of Administrative Services, at the Capital Improvement Process (CIP) meeting. He will provide her information on how the funding was set aside for the proposed town hall addition. Land purchases would go through the CIP.
Lyons attended a meeting of CUSH – Clean Up Stonington Harbor, headed by Gracelyn Guyol, on 10/5/2006 (http://www.cleanupstoningtonharbor.com).
Webster Copp, chairman of the POCD Implementation Committee, asked Lyons how a memorial gift might be given for conservation.
Correspondence was reviewed:
News that large areas of federal timberland is going on the auction block.
Transfer of Development Rights (TDR): Learning from TDR Research & Its Application in New England to be held on November 30 from 5:30 to 7:30 PM at the Hilltop Inn & Suites in North Stonington (RSVP to Ariana McBride 401-521-3120 firstname.lastname@example.org by 11/22).
CACIWC annual meeting and environmental conference to be held on November 4th in Wallingford.
Growing Connecticut Smart workshop to be held Tuesday 10/24 by the Eastern Connecticut Conservation District in Norwich.
6. Review of September 25, 2006 meeting minutes. MOTION: To approve the minutes as written with the correction of one date and the striking of “Discussion held on whether independent Bonding for Open Space Committee should broaden its purview to advocate for open space; dependent Open Space Committee, author of Open Space Plan, exists” from section 3c (Herbst, Swenarton). Passed unanimously.
7. Motion to Adjourn (Bell). Meeting adjourned at 9:30 pm.
Respectfully submitted by
Ben Baldwin, Acting Secretary
Approved at a Special Meeting of the Conservation Commission at Mystic Middle School on November 27, 2006