‘We Are Encountering Some Really Rather Peculiar Hostility’: Neighbors Petition for Public Hearing on Weed Street Inland Wetlands Application

Neighbors of a Weed Street homeowner have petitioned town officials to hold a public hearing for what appears to be a straightforward application to repair part of a driveway where it spans a small stream. If the neighbors in the case of the project planned at 590 Weed St. had come forward with genuine, relevant concerns regarding how the proposed work would affect their own properties, landscape architect Keith Simpson said that he would be “totally understanding.”

“But we have a very hostile law firm representing neighbors, writing and claiming things about this application which, quite frankly, have nothing to do with this application,” Simpson, representing the applicant, told members of the Inland Wetlands Commission during a special meeting, held Monday at Town Hall. “We are encountering some really rather peculiar hostility to this application and some claims which don’t even relate to the jurisdiction of the commission.”

It isn’t clear just what those claims are. Town officials last week received a petition with 42 signatures—said to total 65 by the time of Monday’s meeting—from a Stamford-based attorney.

Inland Wetlands To Prospective New Canaan Homeowners: ‘Buyer Beware’

New Canaan is seeing an uptick in the number of Inland Wetlands violations cited by the town—an unsettling trend that officials attribute, in part, to a lack of knowledge among homeowners who aren’t checking to see whether their plans require permits. Asked to summarize the situation for prospective property owners in New Canaan, Inland Wetlands Director Kathy Holland said: “Buyer beware.”

“Buyer beware of the particulars: lot-by-lot, as far as where the wetlands are located, whether there is good information for that location, whether or not it has been field-tested by a certified soil scientist. That’s the requirement. That’s the only way to know whether wetlands are present or absent.”

New Canaan’s Inland Wetlands Regulations (they can be found, along with other resources, by selecting ‘Inland Wetlands’ from the dropdown menu on this page), like those of other municipalities, follow from what is commonly called the “Clean Water Act” of 1972. The provisions within it protect the environment, and people’s health, by setting standards in areas such as groundwater, flooding, erosion and pollution.

Town Body Seeks Meeting With Landscaper Who Violated Environmental Regulations

Members of the volunteer group responsible for enforcing regulations that govern some of New Canaan’s most sensitive environmental habitats are seeking a meeting with an area landscaper who cleared a large wetlands area on Old Stamford Road. If Mount Kisco, N.Y.-based landscaper Mike Nolan “had disappeared from the face of New Canaan, that would be one thing,” Inland Wetlands Commission Secretary Angela James said during the group’s most recent regular meeting. “But my fear is that he is still operating in New Canaan and could quite easily do something similar on another property,” she said at the Dec. 21 meeting, held in the Town Meeting Room. Specifically, Nolan appears to have violated New Canaan’s Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Regulations at 279 Old Stamford Road —as well as a conservation easement for the property, which noted “no disturbance, no maintenance, no planting” there—in clearing out vegetation from a large area.

‘I’m Going To Miss Dr. Englund’: Inland Wetlands Chairman Honors Longtime New Canaanite

Members of the volunteer commission that oversee applications and other matters related to some of New Canaan’s most sensitive environments on Monday night recalled a vital member of their group who stepped down a little more than one year ago at age 93 and passed away earlier this month. Dr. Sven Englund, a member of the Inland Wetlands Commission for 26 years (including nine as chairman)—and a member of its forerunner, the Environmental Commission, for far longer, going back to the 1970s—died on Dec. 10. Commission Chairman Dan Stepanek during the group’s regular monthly meeting, held in the Town Meeting Room, said that “although he resigned from the commission in November of 2014, it seems like it was last month that he was sitting next to me, here at these meetings.”

“He would always poke me with his elbow if I did not get a meeting procedure right, or if I repeated myself or, heaven forbid, forgot something,” Stepanek recalled with a smile during remarks made at the start of the meeting. “He would straighten himself up in his chair, clear his throat, and then quietly reprimand me while giving me that harsh look.

‘We Are At An Impasse’: Town, Resident At Odds Over References To Wetlands Violations In Land Record

Officials are at odds with an Old Stamford Road man who’s asking that references to violations of New Canaan’s Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Regulations be removed from a proposed new land record with his name on it. No one disagrees that the clearing of a large wetlands area at 279 Old Stamford Road amounts to a violation of those regulations, and an existing conservation easement for the property had specifically noted “no disturbance, no maintenance, no planting,” according to a public record of last month’s Inland Wetlands Commission meeting. Commissioners did grant Cullis a wetlands permit in order to start restoration work of the area—the plan now is to reseed the cleared area as a meadow—but one condition of that approval is that the Inland Wetlands Commission sign off on the new conservation easement that will be recorded with the Town Clerk. Two sections in a draft of that conservation easement read:

“WHEREAS, in violation of the terms of the Original Conservation Easement, Culliss performed certain prohibited acts within the Original Conservation Easement area, including the Conservation Easement area on [a neighbor’s] property.”
“WHEREAS, Grantor has applied to the Inland Wetlands Commission of the Town of New Canaan (successor to the Environmental Commission of the Town of New Canaan) to conduct certain activities within the Conservation Easement area, including restoration and mitigation to remedy the violations.”

According to Cullis, the references to violations are “simply not necessary.”

“It [the draft ‘Revised Conservation Easement’] says that there is a permit that needs to be executed upon and that this needs to be changed to allow it,” Cullis told commissioners at their regular monthly meeting, held at Town Hall. He added that, based on successively updated versions of the draft document going back-and-forth between him and the town, he had thought his elimination of the references to violations had gone through.