Questions About Well Water Prompt P&Z To Postpone Decision on Proposed Two-Level Pond for Weed Street Estate


Seeking more information about how a proposed well might affect neighbors, town officials on Tuesday night continued a public hearing regarding a Weed Street property owner’s dramatic plan to install a two-tiered pond behind a new house.

The driveway at 386 Weed St. in New Canaan, in December 2016. Credit: Michael Dinan

One neighbor who spoke out against plans for a recently formed 22-acre estate at 386 Weed St. voiced concerns to the Planning & Zoning Commission about the removal of 426 trees on the property—a criticism that would appear somewhat hypocritical, according to a landscaping professional representing the applicant.

Sean Keating of TLC Lawn and Landscaping conceded that the 6-acre section that’s been cleared “does look quite devastated at the moment,” though he noted that 4,000 shrubs and trees are planned for the property.

“The six acres will be absolutely lush and luxurious when it’s done, and the neighboring properties actually are clear-cut,” Keating told P&Z members at their regular meeting, held in Town Hall. “So it’s a little upsetting for somebody to say, ‘Well you shouldn’t take down your trees’ when, as a percentage of the property, they have taken down all of them, substantially.”

Those studying plans for the property also should keep in mind that its owner, Todd Holson, has combined multiple lots, acquired an abutting Aquarion property in order to preserve it as open space and received approval from P&Z last year to build two houses on the newly formed lots though they rightly could be subdivided, according to David Rucci, an attorney from New Canaan-based Lampert Toohey & Rucci LLC, representing the applicant.

The split-level pond, long planned, had been part of a larger application that came before P&Z in the spring of 2015 but later was removed from it. The town last fall issued a permit to build an 8,600-square-foot home on the parcel.

The property encompasses undeveloped wooded areas on the west side of lower Weed Street, just above Indian Waters Drive.

Plans now call for creation of a two-level pond west of the house now under construction, with water flowing over a containment wall from the upper part (four feet deep) to the lower (six feet deep). Located well within the setback, the pond is to be fed by two wells and used for swimming, according to the applicant. With water captured in a pump reservoir at the base of the lower pond and then streamed into the upper pond, it also will serve practical purposes, the applicant said—for example, firefighters can use its water in case of an emergency and it will irrigate an estate said to total 20 acres.

A special permit is required under the New Canaan Zoning Regulations (see page 124 here) because the work will involve grading more than 1,000 cubic yards of earth.

Ultimately, P&Z continued the matter to its Jan. 31.

Ronald Drake of Parish Lane, whose house and property are located north and upgrade from the Holsons, said he’s seen additional sediment come into his well and that he’s concerned about drinking water.

“We recently had to install two very large filters for our property and we all are aware that this town, this county and this state has a water emergency,” Drake said.

New Canaan resident Skip Hobbs, a geologist, also was critical of the applicant’s presentation to P&Z. Hobbs called for Keating to say exactly what would be the cubic volume of water required to fill the pond (answer: that can’t be known until excavation work commences, though its total surface area is 23,000 square feet), where are the glacial aquifers and in what formation are the wells.

“Is it in the bedrock?” Hobbs said. “Your [Drake’s] house is on top of the hill. I suspect your well is in the bedrock. What is the permeability? What is the interference between neighboring wells? I think this zoning commission should ask to see a very detailed map showing all the wells in the neighborhood. An engineering study should be done to show what interference there will be between the wells that are built, and the bedrock.”

The commissioners agreed that sufficient questions had been raised to put off an immediate decision on the application.

P&Z Chairman John Goodwin asked Rucci to work with Town Planner Steve Palmer and return with more information regarding the impact of the yet-to-be-drilled well on others.

During the meeting, commissioners asked for the name of the material proposed for lining the pond (Aqua Seal), where the second well is going (just west of the ponds), how high the proposed “waterfall” sheet flow between ponds will be (eight feet), whether there are two dams between the upper and lower ponds, as there appear to be on site plans (no, just one but it’s wide enough to walk across), whether the ponds will be drained in cold weather (they could be), whether the pond area will be lit from above (no), whether chemicals such as chlorine will be introduced to the water (no) and what safety features are in place in case the dam fails (rain gardens, terraces and a retention system are located south of the water feature, and the site overall has been made more pervious following removal of an asphalt driveway).

Commissioner Dick Ward asked whether the applicant had “any estimate, once the ponds are filled and circulation is in process, how much new water is added each day or each week?”

Keating said engineers have done “initial calculations on the irrigation system.”

“The evaporation rate is something we have played with,” and what the effect would be losing an inch or half-inch per day in some seasons, he said.

“The reason we are doing two wells as a contingency, is to have plenty of water should we need it,” Keating said. “And of course the water is being put back into the ground, it’s not being taken off-site or anything like that, so it’s not a drain on city water.”

The Weed Street application can be found here.

One thought on “Questions About Well Water Prompt P&Z To Postpone Decision on Proposed Two-Level Pond for Weed Street Estate

  1. Does it make any sense to replace acres of mature forest
    with 4,000 new shrubs and trees that require substantial watering? Does it make any sense to permit drilling two new wells for the sake of filling large artificial ponds when our town is under drought restrictions? There is a ban on using town water for irrigation and well owners should also be circumspect about water use. We need to use our aquifer wisely. The Holson’s request may jeopardize all of their neighboring wells, mine included. It is just plain excessive.

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