By Andreas Yilma, Staff Writer
NAUGATUCK — The Inland Wetlands Commission on April 7 closed a hearing on an application associated with developing a parcel of land on Prospect Street that has provoked an outcry from the public.
The proposal’s fate is still to be determined.
The commission did not vote on the application last week and had 35 days from the hearing to make a decision.
“This really is very, very important to us,” Commission Chairman Tracy DeBarber said. “A very important job, we want to make sure it’s done right.”
The commission’s next meeting is May 5. DeBarber asked commission members to thoroughly go over all of the materials on the application.
The applicants, Magdi Bebawi and Onsi Tawadros of Waterbury, are proposing to build a 10,000-square-foot, one story building with a parking lot on a 13.95-acre parcel on Prospect Street between Maple Hill Road and Union City Road. The property’s address is listed as 0 Prospect St.
The Fulling Mill Brook runs parallel to Prospect Street along the site. The brook will have to be crossed to access the land. The plan calls for a bridge culvert to cross the brook to get to the land.
Attorney Michael McVerry, who is representing the applicants, said anything that happens on the property requires a crossing of the stream.
“He’s got to cross the stream to get to his 14 acres of landlocked property with Fulling Mill Brook on its north side,” McVerry said. “If he’s denied the ability to cross the water course, he’s denied totally the use of his property, there being no other means of access.”
The project is facing opposition from neighbors and residents who have raised concerns that the project would negatively impact the environment, particularly the brook which feeds into the Naugatuck River, and wildlife. Some neighbors have also expressed concerns about how potential blasting on the site could impact their water wells.
Brian Plourde, an engineer from GR Engineering in Thomaston who is representing the applicants, said access to the property is needed to do a subsoil investigation. He said a soil-boring vehicle would need to cross a bridge to the site and take samples.
“Once access to the property is gained then we can further investigate the soils for the need for blasting,” Plourde said.
Plourde said it won’t be known what’s on the site until workers can get on the property. He added the applicants are willing to agree to whatever conditions of approval the commission puts on the application.
“A lot of this is unknown,” commission Vice Chairman Marcia Puc said. “We need to be sure of what we’re doing here.”
Kevin Slater, an attorney who said he is representing some neighbors, told the commission it should deny the application because the applicant did not provide the information necessary to demonstrate the proposed project will not have an adverse impact on the wetlands.
“It’s well established that work doesn’t have to happen directly in a wetlands or watercourse to have an adverse effect on that,” Slater said. “In fact, it doesn’t have to happen in the regulated area.”
Slater said information should be presented up front to evaluate what is a reasonable use of the land and whether there are significant impacts.
“It is in your prerogative to determine that not enough information has been submitted to you,” Slater told commission members.
Len Yannielli, a Naugatuck resident and community outreach director of the Gunntown Group, said the application should be denied because there are too many unknowns. Commissions are in place for a reason, he added.
“We wouldn’t have a wetlands commission if you could just do anything you want with a property,” Yannielli said.
Borough Attorney Ned Fitzpatrick said the commission can’t address the applicant or receive additional information now that the hearing is closed.
After the hearing, Tawadros said he has been fighting to get access to his land for 14 months and can’t see why the public is opposing the proposed development.
“The problem is I don’t see any significant reason for the public to reject it,” Tawadros said.