Bustling Real Estate Market Driving Up Workload for Town Health Department

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The town Health Department is seeing steep increases in a number of applications for various permits and reviews, a reflection of New Canaan’s bustling real estate market, according to the head of the municipal agency.

Septic plan reviews are up 82% year-over-year, according to Health Director Jenn Eielson.

In addition, septic permits are up 65%, soil testing is up 133%, well permits are up 200% and building permit plan reviews for properties on septic are up 20%, Eielson told members of the Health & Human Services Commission at their Nov. 5 meeting.

“So on top of us getting this COVID pandemic, we are also on the other end because of the real estate seeing significant, huge increases in all that workload,” Eielson said during the meeting, held via videoconference.

She added the the building permit figure of 20% is “going to explode” because it lags the others in terms of homeowners’ process.

“They generally do the septic, soil testing and plan review for a future pool, addition, new construction, knocking down a house, demo permit,” Eielson said.

The comments came during her general update to the Commission, and days after the Board of Selectmen hired a part-time public health nurse to help with the department’s varied work, including COVID-19 contact tracing. 

The nurse “can’t get here fast enough for me, and [I’m] very [much] looking forward to having her in our happy little house,” Eielson said.

Sales of New Canaan houses for the past several months have shattered figures from one year ago, according to data released by the New Canaan Board of Realtors. Land use officials said this summer that they saw a rise in pool permit applications and small home projects, reflecting the extended time people were spending at home. The New York Post reported this week that New Canaan was second only to Greenwich among Connecticut towns that New York City residents are fleeing to amid the pandemic.

The new part-time nurse, Aimee Ballard, who started Nov. 9, is being paid with a state grant, officials have said. She will work about 20 hours per week through May, and then 14 hours per week for the two years following that, Eielson said.

“I’ll gladly take what I can get, because as this continues to ramp up and I’m dealing not only with the public schools but also the private schools and the businesses in town, you know, the more hands on deck,” she said.

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