Sunday, June 13, 2010

Stew Leonard's wetlands denial revisited

Stew Leonard is giving up his decade long battle to build his dairy store in Orange, as reported recently in the New Haven Register.

Early on in this blog I reported on the state Supreme Court decision reversing the wetlands agency's approval for Stew Leonard's proposal of a dairy and grocery store adjacent to the I-95 highway ramp in Orange. The proposal won zoning approval but had its wetlands approval thrown out based on the conditions in the approval. The Supreme Court decision in Finley v. Inland Wetlands Commission, 289 Conn. 12 (2008) the court found illegal the issuance of a permit with a condition requiring the submission of a revised sedimentation and erosion control plan that implements all state regulations. It went something like this: if the agency needed such a revision, it shouldn't have approved the application in the first place. My concern about the decision: What is the bright line determining a valid condition from an invalid one. How do agencies read this case and go forward?

This appeal was brought by environmental intervenors who are only entitled to raise wetlands issues. Well, when the citizens were quoted reacting to Stew Leonard's pronouncement that he was giving up the project in Orange, they didn't manage to articulate any wetlands concern, any environmental concern at all, for that matter. They thought the project would generate too much traffic and take up too much of the town services. Not exactly wetlands issues. In fact, those concerns didn't prevent the project from getting zoning approval.

This was, I believe, the first successful denial of an agency permit brought pursuant to the Connecticut Environmental Protection Act. Thirty-six years passed since CEPA was enacted and the Supreme Court reverses the permit because it contained a condition to revise the sedimentation and erosion control plans in accordance with the state guidance document which Stew Leonard's agreed to do. Eighteen months after the citizens' victory they don't even mention the only winning issue - wetlands. It's leaves me wondering about the value of CEPA in the twenty-first century.

Thanks again to Attorney Matt Berger of New London for pointing out the newspaper article about the Stew Leonard's proposal in Orange. He always keeps me on my toes!

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