Minutes of the November 30, 2005 meeting of the Council on Environmental Quality, held in the Ensign Conference Room, 79 Elm Street, Hartford. 

PRESENT:  Thomas Harrison (Chairman), M. Howard Beach, John Mandyck, Norman VanCor, Barbara Wagner, Wes Winterbottom, Karl Wagener (Executive Director)

Harrison called the meeting to order at 9:05 AM and determined that a quorum was present.

Mandyck made a motion to approve the minutes of October 26, 2005.  Second by Winterbottom.  Approved unanimously. 

Wagener referred to the proposed list of meeting dates for 2006.  Harrison moved adoption of the schedule.  Second by Beach.  Approved unanimously.

Citizen Complaints

Moto-Cross and the Stream Channel Encroachment Line Program – Chairman Harrison introduced Barbara Surwilo, member of the Rocky Hill Town Council and former Mayor, as well as Board Member of numerous environmental organizations.  Ms. Surwilo summarized a written statement which she submitted.  She explained that Rocky Hill, which already had one Moto-Cross facility in the floodplain of the Connecticut River, had received land use applications from an applicant from a separate proposed Moto-Cross facility. The Town had adopted an ordinance prohibiting such uses in the Great Meadows, as the floodplain is known in Rocky Hill, Wethersfield, and Glastonbury.  However, the applicant has applied to the DEP for a Stream Channel Enforcement Line (SCEL) permit.  Ms. Surwilo outlined several potential environmental problems with the proposal, including disturbance of wildlife and negative effects on farmers.  Ms. Surwilo then explained that under the Stream Channel Encroachment Line statute, there is no opportunity for a public hearing.  Farmers who grow crops in the Meadows are concerned about the dust, and local naturalists are aware of rare species, but there will be no hearing for them to present this information.  She said three steps need to be taken:

  • Modernize the SCEL permit process. Specifically, allow for a public hearing, require more interaction with municipal commissions, and bring Audubon bird count data and similar information into the permit evaluation;
  • Adopt legislation for more restrictive uses of floodplains; establish acceptable uses; prohibit schools, residential uses.  This should be directed at local land use commissions.
  • Acquire floodplain land for permanent protection.

Also, Ms. Surwilo said, the DEP clearly needs more staff in the Inland Water Resource Division.

Richard Johnson, of Protect the Meadows, spoke briefly from the audience in support of what Ms. Surwilo said, and offered some more background information.

Mandyck asked if a noise ordinance would be an effective way to regulate these uses.  Ms. Surwilo said the town is working on one.

After additional discussion, Harrison thanked Ms. Surwilo for an enlightening presentation, and said staff would prepare a memo for discussion and possible action.

Discussion of Draft Report on Encroachments

Chairman Harrison said he would like to re-order the agenda to accommodate guests, and he introduced Dr. Charles Leach of the Farmington Land Trust Board of Directors.  Dr. Leach presented the results of his survey of land trusts in Connecticut.  He said he had responses from more than 70 of the 96 land trusts, when he included some responses gathered by Linda Bowers of the Land Trust Service Bureau, who was also present.  He believed his survey, which was somewhat informal, underreported encroachments, because the current leaders did not always know of problems.  The majority of land trusts have suffered encroachments, according to Dr. Leach, who then summarized the types and numbers of each. 

Representative Demetrios Giannaros, speaking from the audience, said that he was upset about the incident in Farmington, and was prepared to help introduce legislation that might be called for.

Linda Bowers remarked on the large amount of work undertaken by Dr. Leach in completion of the survey, and added some details.

Bill Vibert, President of the Farmington Land Trust, also spoke from the audience, said that more severe penalties were required for illegal tree cutting on land trust land.  He said most criminal cases were not prosecuted, and the civil penalties were not adequate.

There was considerable discussion of the report itself, plans to release it, and communication with the governor and legislature.  VanCor made a motion to approve the report and submit it to the governor, subject to any minor editorial changes members might submit by the following Wednesday.  Wagener would then distribute the modified report the following Friday, which would be the final version unless members responded immediately with any problems.  Wagner seconded the motion.  It was approved unanimously.

Members agreed that there might need to be a subcommittee who would be authorized to act quickly in the event of legislative proposals on this subject.  Harrison asked Wagener to poll members about their interest by email.  Harrison and VanCor volunteered to serve.

Review of State Agency Projects

Wagener said he had reviewed the Environmental Impact Evaluation of the proposed Litchfield Judicial District Courthouse, which was proposed for one of three sits in Torrington.  Unlike for the previous proposal for a site in Litchfield, on which the Council commented extensively, Wagener said there was no need for Council comment as the EIE was adequate.

Chairman Harrison said the annual report would be a topic of discussion at the December 20 meeting, and adjourned the meeting at 11:30.