Letter: Proposed Prospect Street project should be denied

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To the editor,

Connecticut Statute 22a-15 states that there is a public trust in the state’s air, water and other natural resources and that each person is entitled to the protection of these resources. It finds that it is in the public interest to provide all persons with an adequate remedy to protect these resources from unreasonable pollution, impairment, or destruction.

Naugatuck Inland Wetlands Commission is reviewing an application for a proposed development off Route 68 (0 Prospect Street). Its location is approximately 1,000 feet west of Maple Hill Road. The proposal includes a 10,000-square-foot strip mall, driveway and parking lot with a bridge crossing Fulling Mill Brook from Route 68 just 1 mile upstream from the Naugatuck River.

When the land was purchased 14 years ago, it was the zoned as residential only and for good reason. The land is a very steep hillside with Fulling Mill Brook and wetlands at the bottom of the hill. Evidently, it was not cost effective to just build a few homes on that land given the cost required to enter the property. Nothing reasonable was ever proposed.

That changed in 2016 when Naugatuck decided to re-zone the parcel to multi-use to commercial/residential. The records indicate that economic development was the justification for the decision. In my opinion, that decision was not made with sufficient due diligence concerning the negative ramifications a commercial development will have on this vulnerable parcel. That decision has now placed wetlands and watercourses in jeopardy. That decision now threatens the reasonable use of the surrounding properties due to heavy excavation and blasting. The surrounding well water productivity and quality is at risk and there is no alternative water supply for those who border the property.

This proposal is far from low-risk and far from normal. This project requires excavation and maybe blasting to move or remove 60,000 cubic yards of earth and rock from a very steep hillside. To visualize the magnitude of this excavation, imagine more than 3,300 18-yard dump trucks filled with earth and rock. All this on a 20-35% slope above wetlands and the brook and horizontal to aquifers that supply the wells.

An environmental impact study is authorized in the regulations, but the applicants, Magdi Bebawi and Onsi Tawadros, have not provided one. Other studies to assure a prudent decision can be made are authorized in the regulations but, they have not been provided. Therefore, the application should be deemed incomplete as confirmed by a soil scientist’s review.

I believe this is the last chance to protect these vulnerable wetlands and watercourses. If approvals are granted, damage to the aquifers, wetlands, Fulling Mill Brook and the Naugatuck River could be unstoppable and irreversible. One only needs to look up at the boulder-strewn steep embankment with the brook below and wonder: Who could possibly think this is a good, safe and prudent development?

The commission has received a plethora of information from a soil scientist, the Southwest Conservation District and Naugatuck Valley Health District all confirming the reality of risks mentioned. The voices of opposition from local conservationists such as the Naugatuck River Revival Group, members of Trout Unlimited, and the Naugatuck High Sunrise Hub have been heard. Many members of the public from all across Naugatuck stand in opposition to this proposal.

The decision to approve or deny is slated to be made May 5. Denial would be the only prudent decision.

William Sweet

Naugatuck