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.

A map of 277 and 279 Old Stamford Road shows the designated wetlands area.

A map of 277 and 279 Old Stamford Road shows the designated wetlands area.

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. (His doing so triggered a separate and unusual problem, in which the town needed to create a new easement as approved restoration work got underway—the cleared area is to be reseeded as a meadow.)

Municipal workers said they have left voicemails for and otherwise tried to communicate with Nolan, beseeching him to come, twice, to the commission’s meetings, in order to ensure that he’s familiar with the regulations and doesn’t violate them again (an increasingly frequent problem, commissioners have said ).

Nolan could not be reached for comment.

Staff members in Inland Wetlands said the problem of landscapers who violate the regulations is prevalent in neighboring towns such as Darien and Wilton and not unique to New Canaan, and that it’s due to both a lack of education and some professionals taking shortcuts in their work—ultimately creating difficulties for trusting homeowners.

The problem is exacerbated because there exists no ready list of landscapers with which to contact or communicate, since they do not need a permit to do their work—as, for example, pesticide applicators do, staff members said.

Commission Chairman Dan Stepanek asked just what the group would tell Nolan even if he attended a meeting.

“That he screwed up or didn’t know?” Stepanek said.

Jameson responded: “I’m not sure that would be the purpose of him coming in so much. It’s not so much what we have to learn from him, as what he can learn from the experience. What we really want is to try and avoid the situation arising again.”

Stepanek suggested the commission put together a document that includes do’s and don’t’s for landscapers who may have questions about working in or near protected areas, as well as a list of resources for those who need to access information from the town. The document could be run in local media, he said.

Commissioner Colm Dobbyn urged the group to avoid singling out any one landscaper in such a document, so as to avoid incurring liability for the town. Commissioner Peggy Kirby added that multiple landscapers in the past have been seen to violate Inland Wetlands violations in a similar manner to Nolan.

Even so, Jameson said, there’s a difference in this instance because the commission followed up and “tried twice to get him to attend one of our meetings and he has ignored that request.”

“I don’t think we have taken that step in other cases,” she said.

The Inland Wetlands Commission is scheduled to meet next on Jan. 25.

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