Minutes of the February 22, 2006 meeting of the Council on Environmental Quality, held in the Simsbury Town Hall, Simsbury. 

PRESENT:  Thomas Harrison (Chairman), M. Howard Beach, John Mandyck, Susan Mendenhall, Richard Sherman, Barbara Wagner, Wesley Winterbottom, Karl Wagener (Executive Director)

Harrison called the meeting to order at 9:12 AM and determined that a quorum was present. He said that Earl Phillips and VanCor had said they had unavoidable conflicts, with VanCor testifying at the Capitol. 

Winterbottom moved approval of the January 25, 2006 minutes.  Second by Beach.  Approved unanimously.

Executive Director’s Report

Members discussed the memo on budget matters that had been distributed prior to the meeting, beginning with the budget for fiscal year 2007.  Beach made the following motion:

“The Council resolves to have the Executive Director make the case to the General Assembly’s Appropriations Committee to restore the Environmental Analyst position to the Council’s budget, and to appropriate other expenses totaling at least “14,000.”

The motion was seconded by Sherman, and approved unanimously.

Members next discussed the shortfall in the current year’s budget.   Members agreed to the austerity measures of postponing all expenditures not related to the report until the next fiscal year.  After considerable discussion, members rejected the idea of charging for the annual report. To produce the report with available funds, members suggested printing far fewer copies, and distributing some on CD-Rom, and/or mailing notices to people suggesting they download copies from the website.  Wagener said he would investigate each of these.

Wagener reported that the recommendations in the Council’s report, “Preserved But Not Protected,” had led to the introduction of several bills, which he reviewed.  He said the public hearing would be soon, but the date was not yet set.

Review of State Agency Projects

Waste Water Treatment Facility, New Hartford – Wagener said this is a proposed upgrade and expansion of the facility in New Hartford.  In part, he said, it will facilitate more linear or sprawl-type commercial development along Route 44.  The EIE was deficient, he said, in that it did not include water quality data in the Farmington River before and after the proposed project.  Members concurred that Wagener should submit comments to the DEP on the EIE.

Chairman Harrison adjourned the regular meeting at 9:58, and announced that after a two-minute break the public forum would begin.

Public Forum Summary

Simsbury Town Hall

February 22, 2006

10:00 AM

John Berry and Gwen Berry

            Green Team, Farmington Public Schools

·          John: The Farmington Public Schools Green Team has shown strong growth.  It brings the largest group to the annual Farmington River Clean-up, more than 100 students.  About 160 kids (one of every 4.5) middle school kids belong.

·          Gwen:  A student, she presented information on the need to expand the bottle bill to all beverage cans and bottles, as they were a large part of litter.  She advocated a ten-cent deposit, and a capture of unclaimed deposits for the environment.

Bill Hildebrandt

            Keep the Woods

·          Recalled how development on Mountain View Road drained fields and dried up wells many years ago.

·          Now the Ethel Walker School wants to develop 400+ acres.

·          Stratton Brook and its aquifer are at risk.

·          Town and the school will lose beautiful land.

·          Trust for Public Land is negotiating to buy development rights, but will need help.

·          Submitted written statement.

Diane Nash

            Keep the Woods

·          The town’s Conservation and Development plan is being revised.

·          Town staff must work with developers.

·          Local groups can’t compete with well-heeled developers, whose experts are said to have more credibility than conservation groups.

·          If the CEQ can do nothing directly, please tell the group how it can gain an equal voice.

·          Submitted written statement.

Sue Brachwitz

            Keep the Woods

·          The rapid pace of development in Simsbury results in loss of habitat and biodiversity.

·          The state allows collection of salamanders, even though they are declining. 

·          Biggest threat to amphibians is fragmentation of habitat (citing Michael Klemens).

·          Ethel Walker woods contains at least 5 species of reptiles and amphibians.  Its seeps are a threatened ecosystem.

·          Recent state Supreme Court decision makes it difficult to preserve non-aquatic wetland species.

·          Recommendation:  Legislation to amend the definition of inland wetlands to include species and their habitats.

·          Submitted written statement.

Eric Hammerling

            Executive Director, Farmington River Watershed Association

·          State aquifer protection regulations, which took 15 years to develop, left out a key piece:  protection from residential development.

·          Seven Farmington valley towns putting biodiversity information into their Conservation and Development Plans, wit incentives for protecting corridors, vernal pools, etc.

·          Sprawl is spreading and affecting water quality with nonpoint pollution; don’t need another Blue Ribbon Commission, we need meaningful property tax reform.

·          Clean Water Fund:  State is taking a major step backward by cutting funds.

·          Submitted written statement.

He also read a statement (submitted) from Margaret Miner, Executive Director of the Rivers Alliance of Connecticut, which included the following points:

·          Ethel Walker grounds are Class I and Class II water company lands.

·          If law is to be changed to allow development, there must be full public debate.

·          The aquifer needs extraordinary protection if any development occurs; strongly recommends conservation.

Susan Masino

            Keep the Woods

·          Sponsored a forum on balancing conservation and development in January

·          Environmental matters have economic importance.   The Farmington Valley was heralded in a national magazine as being one of the most nature-friendly areas.

·          Keep the Woods is preparing an organizational mailing for people who live in aquifer zones.

·          Need grants for open space.  Nonprofits could seek grants; state could help nonprofits do this.

 David Galt

            Keep the Woods

·          Used maps to illustrate location of Ethel Walker School and relation to aquifer and green space.

·          The aquifer protection zone is the last large area of green.

·          State funds will be needed.

·          Submitted maps.

Frank Plona

            Trout Unlimited

·          Farmington Valley Chapter is Trout Unlimited’s second largest chapter in New England.

·          Bill 5277, An Act Concerning Preservation of Rivers and Streams, would be a good first step to prevent the catastrophic dewatering of streams.

·          Insufficient state oversight (including enforcement) of local wetlands commissions.  Too many commissions make decisions based on threats of lawsuits.

·          Educate town engineers about such things as using sheet flow instead of storm drains. 

·          More DEP funding; enforcement and research are inadequate.

·          More funds for open space.

·          Trout Unlimited did work at Burlington Fish Hatchery with own funds and people.  This should not be an annual thing; DEP should have funds to do its regular work.

·          User fees paid to the DEP should support the relevant programs, not the general fund.

·          Submitted map.

 Helen Peterson

            Keep the Woods

·          Worked many years to establish open space conservation programs in town.

·          Articles about sprawl in the Hartford Courant in the 1980s read like they were written today.  Nothing has been done about sprawl

·          Yielded some of her time to Susan Masino who, speaking for a second time, used maps (submitted) to illustrate the reduced trails if development of the school grounds occurred. 

Mendenhall asked Ms. Masino why the school wanted to develop its land.  Speaking from the audience, Fred Almeda of Burlington said that the reason was presented to him as follows:  A consultant’s study said the school should expand to a more efficient size, which would be 300 to 350 students, in contrast to the 250 at present.   The money from development would fund expansion.

Chet Martczak

            Tarriffville Village Association

·          Association works to improve outdoor recreation in the village of Tarriffville, including Tarriffville Gorge.

·          Working on extending the greenway, and the Metacomet Trail.

·          Shares the concerns of Keep The Woods

Catherine Heinz

            Resident of Burlington

·          Dealt with local commissions; local wetlands, zoning commission members not qualified enough.

·          Town approved developments because of fear of lawsuits.

·          The building industry has more money and lobbyists than conservationists.

Fred Almeda

            Burlington Land Trust

·          Sprawl is addressed in a piecemeal fashion, which will not work.

·          In other states, planning is not done only on a town basis.

·          Given the 169 tentacles on the sprawl octopus, is there any thought in Hartford given to regional planning?  (Some discussion ensued.)

David Chase

            Keep the Woods

·          Keep the Woods is not a hostile organization; it is trying to help the school obtain the money it needs and preserve the land at the same time.

Harmon Poole

            Resident of Simsbury for 46 years

·          Importance of biodiversity

·          Populations of deer and geese are burgeoning; it is almost impossible to be a gardener; fencing is costly and impractical.

Chairman Harrison thanked all who spoke, and said that the Council will be taking up the issues raised.