Inland Wetlands – June 1, 2016

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My name is Julie Hulten – North Haven, CT

Tonight I speak not only for myself but on behalf of the Sleeping Giant Park Association and as an elected representative of its 1700+ members.

In 2015 the Inland Wetland Commission conditionally approved Quinnipiac University’s application to construct a 2,000 seat stadia complex on the south side of Mt. Carmel Avenue in an area which would impact existing wetlands. At that time the Commission was concerned enough about Quinnipiac’s history of not vigilantly protecting the inland wetland buffer that they mentioned it specifically.

“In light of the applicant’s previously-demonstrated failure to fully respect an existing protective wetlands buffer and in light of previous Commission decisions regarding the desirability and necessity of a wetlands buffer, the applicant shall restore and maintain a minimum 25-foot buffer in a manner consistent with the applications approved in 1992 and 2004. The applicant shall submit revised plans to implement this condition-of-approval, subject to the approval of the Commission..”

Our concern is the university’s request to revise Condition 1 to read an AVERAGE of 25 feet. The 25-foot buffer zone was established because in 1992 and 2004, the Commission thought the flora and fauna of sufficient significance to require protection. Over time the buffer area was significantly infringed upon by Quinnipiac University and guidelines for responsible stewardship established by the IWC were disregarded. The damage to the ecosystem cannot be estimated, but was surely significant. In testimony given during the initial phases of this application, expert witnesses, speaking on behalf of Quinnipiac University, stated that these wetland areas were so degraded and of such low value, that they could essentially be ignored.

Despite proposals to restore the wetlands, there is nothing in Quinnipiac University’s history or track record to suggest that they will abide by the Commission’s mandate to protect the wetlands or to regard this ecologically sensitive area with any significant level of respect or concern. As their history seemingly demonstrates, concern for restoration and maintenance of the wetlands is based on what is necessary to secure approval of this application. If this application is approved, there is every reason to believe that as responsible stewardship becomes burdensome, they may simply begin to ignore these ecologically important areas again.

Should the agreed upon buffers not be restored and maintained, the area will never approach restoration to its initial significance.  Furthermore, granting this variance would set a precedent for future dealings with the University and indeed for anyone seeking to infringe upon wetlands or other ecologically sensitive areas. Sometimes answers to complex issues can be found in literature. A classic that applies here: “If you give a mouse a cookie, he’s going to ask for a glass of milk.”

Environmental protection can be a challenge, inconvenient and uncomfortable, especially when met by a juggernaut. No one envies your task tonight. Please stand firm, for the integrity of your statutes and for the good of Hamden. Stand by your ruling and deny this request to modify the conditions of approval as set by this Commission previously.