Minutes of the May 23, 2007 meeting of the Council on Environmental Quality, held in the Council Chambers, Southington Town Hall, Southington.
PRESENT: Thomas Harrison (Chairman), Earl W. Phillips, Jr., Richard Sherman, Norman VanCor, Barbara Wagner, Wes Winterbottom, Karl Wagener (Executive Director), Peter Hearn (Environmental Analyst).
Chairman Harrison convened the meeting at 9:05 AM and determined that a quorum was present.
VanCor made a motion to approve the April 25, 2007 minutes. Second by Winterbottom. Approved unanimously.
Chairman Harrison introduced Peter Hearn, who began work as the Council’s Environmental Analyst earlier in the month. He said Hearn has had experience in the nonprofit, government and private sectors.
Executive Director’s Report
Wagener reported briefly on some legislative and budget matters of interest.
Wagener referred to the letter from Attorney Thomas Cody, which had been distributed prior to the meeting, regarding the history of the easement exchange in Madison. He said the history presented in the letter was consistent with the Council’s research, though the reference to land values could suggest to the reader that appraisals had been done. No appraisals had been done.
Wagener reported that he and Harrison had met with Commissioner Gina McCarthy to discuss land exchanges, and that she had asked her staff to prepare a new directive to guide exchanges.
Members discussed the memo prepared by intern Emily Ver Ploeg regarding municipalities’ compliance with training and reporting requirements. Members said it was a very good memo, and asked Wagener to thank Ver Ploeg for her good work. VanCor suggested that the larger wetlands issue be put on the agenda soon; members agreed.
Discussion of Annual Report Topics
I-291 Gateway Zone – Members discussed the memo prepared by Hearn on the Environmental Impact Evaluation for this project in South Windsor. There were potential problems with the project’s consistency with the State Plan of Conservation and Development, and the project would possibly be receiving state funds. Members asked staff to prepare formal comments, based on the contents of the memo, for email circulation to members for review and approval prior to the June meeting. Phillips recused himself from this issue because he was uncertain if his law firm had involvement in the project.
Chairman Harrison adjourned the meeting at 9:45 in anticipation of the 10:00 public forum.
Summary of Speakers’ Statements
Resident of Southington; described himself as free-lance environmentalist.
· Need to pay more attention to the built environment. Rode bike on Route 364; difficult for bicycle commuting. Roads are designed for high speeds, so people go too fast and cycling is hazardous.
· Sand runs off state roads and ends up in ponds such as Hanover Pond. Will need state money for dredging. Fish ladder is being built; will it work if pond is silted in?
· There is a disconnect between state goals and funding. There is insufficient funding for farmland and open space. The state needs to step up and revise property tax system.
· ATVs are a real problem. Landowners are closing access to all people, even passive users, because of the impacts.
· Next generation of environmental stewards will not be there; kids aren’t experiencing nature.
· The CEQ should put out its report at the beginning of the legislative session, not at the end.
· There was some discussion among members; Sherman noted that it had been a long time since the DOT had come to a Council meeting, and should be invited soon. Members agreed.
Executive Director, Audubon Connecticut (12,000 members in CT)
Distributed written comments.
· DEP funding, inland and tidal wetlands programs, open space an farmland; all important topics that CEQ is working on.
· Mitigation promised for CEPA projects: is it always done? CEPA regulations need to be updated. No data on this; someone needs to be minding the store. Is anyone responsible for checking on this?
· Long Island Sound: Connecticut’s single biggest resource. Legislature has not kept promises for Clean Water Fund. Major Audubon priority.
· Also speaking as Chairman of the Greenwich Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Agency. There is a wide discrepancy in the application of the law by municipalities. Do we know id all municipalities are producing positive results, protecting wetlands?
· VanCor: How does the Town of Greenwich handle applications that must go to several boards? Baptist: The town has an Application Coordinator.
· VanCor: Have you been to the DEP’s inland wetlands training program? Baptist: It’s excellent. Every member of his board goes to it.
Director of Governmental Affairs, Audubon Connecticut
In response to a question from Harrison, she gave some updates on legislation:
· Hopeful for some funding for Face of Connecticut.
· Same for Long island Sound Stewardship (for the 40% state match).
· Pesticides in schools legislation might pass.
· Sherman: Why have the CEPA regulations been delayed so long? Breslin: Former DEP Deputy Commissioner Jane Stahl was moving on them before she left; they should be getting back onto the DEP agenda.
· Also speaking as Vice-Chair of her local Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Agency: DEP training is better than it used to be. DEP technical assistance is no longer available. At a forum in northwest Connecticut, 70 percent of the discussion was about not having assistance from the DEP.
Has worked for Town of Westport for 21 years, working with conservation, planning and zoning, inland wetlands, and shellfish commissions. Has lived in Orange for 21 years. Speaking as a concerned citizen.
· Air quality: A 25-mile commuting trip takes 90 minutes every day. Flex time would help with congestion and air quality.
· Affordable Housing: Knows about the need from personal experience. However, the current laws mean towns can’t direct development the way they want to, and affordable housing does not have to meet the same environmental standards.
· Advanced on-site sewage disposal systems: After considerable study, has determined these systems have potential but are flawed. They are “big science projects.” The state should take time to get these right at the beginning.
· Lack of DEP personnel: Very glad this is on CEQ agenda. Conservation districts are also underfunded. The DEP wetlands program should not allow some towns to grant permits more easily, as developers will go there.
· Enough rules in place; need to implement and enforce them.
· Water quality: Shellfish beds have been downgraded because of bacteria. The DOT does not clean its catch basins.
· Enforcement is not always effective. There should be more reliance on incentives for low-impact development.
· Has taken the DEP wetlands training course; it is good for staying up to date, which is important.