In most towns, Water and Sewer Commission meetings aren't a big draw. But on August 28, East Lyme's Water and Sewer Commission's meeting packed the house at Town Hall.
The main event was Landmark Development Group and Jarvis of Cheshire's application for sewers to accommodate a proposed housing development in Oswegatchie Hills on the East Lyme side of the Niantic River.
Members of Save the River, Save the Hills, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving the river and its environs, turned out in force for the meeting. So did a number of residents who wanted to find out whether this proposed new construction would hinder the possibility of obtaining sewers for existing housing in neighboring areas.
Landmark Development, which owns more than 236 acres fronting Caulkins Road in East Lyme, proposes to build 408 one-bedroom apartments and 432 two-bedroom apartments in a development that would be known as Riverview Heights.
The development would include multi-family housing and a certain amount of moderate to low income housing, which is something that the town of East Lyme has determined is both needed and desirable.
This would just be the first phase of a new development, however. The developer also has a pending application for 678 two-bedroom townhouses in the same area.
Landmark Development ran aground with the East Lyme Zoning Commission, which has previously denied approval for residential housing in the area partly because of concerns about the availability of public water and sewage capacity.
Now that East Lyme is in the process of expanding both by entering into an agreement with the New London Waste Water Treatment Plant, Landmark Development has renewed its pitch.
As a portion of the land owned by the developer falls within the town of East Lyme's sewer shed, the developer maintains that the property is entitled to an allocation of sewage disposal capacity.
At the most recent Water and Sewer Commission meeting, Tim Hollister, attorney for the developer, said the initial development would require a sewage disposal capacity of 118,000 gallons per day, which the developer's study shows is well within the town's capacity of 400,000 gallons per day.
The Public Hearing
There was relatively little public comment at the recent public hearing on the matter. The commissioners said they would have the town experts look at the proposal to determine what would be needed and whether it fell within the town's capacity. The results of that study will be presented at the next meeting, which is scheduled for September 25.
Save the River, Save the Hills members said they attended the meeting to get an idea of the full scope of this proposed development. They plan to hold their tongues until the next meeting. For most members, however, the bottom line remains the same.
The group is opposed to anything that might damage the river and, as the Oswegatchie Hills are rock ledge, they say any development will result in runoff into the Niantic River.
"The developer says it's not whether, it's when," said Save the River, Save the Hills President Fred Grimsey. "We say never."