Hearing continued for Blue Fox Run wetlands map amendment proposal
This map, according to the application, shows the difference between the current and proposed wetland maps – the blue being town wetlands map only, the dark green field delineated only and the light green the overlap. Those who need a larger version can visit https://www.avonct.gov/inland-wetlands-commission, find pending and previous application materials and the document “Appl 768 BFR - RCI 2nd Public Hearing Presentation with Rebuttal Materials.” Numerous other documents related to the application can be found at that link.
By John Fitts
AVON – On Dec. 1, the Avon Inland Wetlands Commission will resume a public hearing on a proposed wetlands map amendment for Blue Fox Run Golf Course.
There have been several efforts to amend the map, including a previous application that the commission rejected in the spring of 2019.
While that proposal was part of a larger effort to reconfigure the golf course and develop housing on a portion of the property, the latest effort does not include proposed development.
“Blue Fox has submitted this application because they’re in the process of a comprehensive review of the golf course operations. However, there are no development plans or proposed wetland activities that are part of this proposal,” Michael A. Cegan, of Richter & Cegan landscape architects and Urban Designers told the commission at its Nov. 5 meeting, the second night of a hearing about the proposed map amendment.
Those working on behalf of Blue Fox said the amendment is the result of scientific based field delineation required by the regulations to show the true conditions on the site. Since the spring of 2019, much additional field work has been performed and the latest mapping has been verified by the town’s consulting soil scientists, according to those speaking on behalf of the application.
“This is a science-driven determination of wetlands boundaries and nothing is more clear about that than your own regulations…. The general map, that’s what your map is right now, is not controlling. The actual field conditions are, and we’re petitioning to amend that map to make accurate wetlands delineations on the property,” attorney Janet Brooks told the commission.
However, the non-profit Nod Rod Preservation Inc., which waged a successful “Save Nod Road” campaign in 2019, is fighting the proposal, alleging that some of the techniques used are not appropriate.
Most at issue is the upper limit of floodplain or alluvial soils – those deposited by flowing water – on the property. Soil disturbance has been affected by past agricultural use, golf course development and even changes in the river, particularly with the development of upriver dams.
“The commission should deny the pending application. By the applicants’ own admission, they again propose the use of FEMA 100-year Floodline mapping,” attorney Evan J. Seeman of Robinson & Cole, wrote to the commission. “The regulations do not permit the applicants to use FEMA mapping to provide the general location of wetlands. The applicants have failed to meet their burden of proof and their application should be denied.”
Bob Russo, of CLA Engineers in Norwich, is one of two soil scientists who conducted the work on behalf of Blue Fox, told the commission, “This is not the use of a surrogate of a FEMA map to try and define wetlands. What is done here is that an elevation is used as a factor in determining the limits of alluvial soil on the site and elevation is a very appropriate tool to use in determining the limits of alluvial soils because alluvial soils are deposited by water, which seeks a level elevation. So, one of the tools in our kit as soil scientists in determine alluvial soils is elevation. It’s properly used in soils-based delineation.”
He later added, “If an area was at the same elevation as an alluvial soil and yet had lenses of sand and gravel in it, we included it in the alluvial soil mapping and it is mapped as a regulated area.”
Nod Road Preservation has also filed an intervention petition, under a state law that allows intervention as a “party” in the proceeding if the “judicial review involves conduct which has, or which is reasonably likely to have, the effect of unreasonably polluting, impairing or destroying the public trust in the air, water or other natural resources of the state.”
The commission did not take action on the status at the Nov. 5 meeting but heard arguments from attorneys for Nod Road Preservation and the applicant.
Dr. Michael Klemens, a conservation biologist and former CT Siting Council member, spoke on behalf of Nod Road Preservation and offered counter points to the applicants’ arguments about the intervention, the use of FEMA lines and the contention that flooding on site was largely irrelevant to the application and largely controlled by upstream dams and protected by town regulations.
“Once you put a line on a piece of paper and designate something as a protected or regulated area you place a level of performance or protection on the map,” Klemens said. “Conversely when you remove the line, you remove that level of protection. … I think that’s the entire issue I have is that you are removing a large piece of land that does flood, that does have ecological value, from your ability to have some say in how it is developed.”
Those interested in the application can visit https://www.avonct.gov/inland-wetlands-commission
To the left of the page, visitors can find “pending and previous applications for the Inland Wetlands Commission,” under which are all materials related to the application. Additionally, specific information on how to tune in to the virtual hearing on Dec. 1 will be posted as the date approaches.