Letter: Grassy Plains — Follow rules or do what’s right?
Published 8:43 am, Saturday, July 25, 2015
I write on behalf of Grassy Plains, LLC, the developer of The Reserve at Poplar Plains. The Reserve is a planned unit development of 13 houses on 35 acres in Westport. Nine of the homes have been built and sold.
Last year, during the construction of three of the homes, earthwork was performed to level backyards. A retaining wall and a rock stabilized slope were built in upland areas. Not one square inch of wetlands has been touched or impacted by the earthwork. The town of Westport has issued Conservation Certificates of Compliance, Zoning Permits and a Certificate of Occupancy for the earthwork and the retaining wall.
The Reserve is the only development in Westport in an Open Space Residential District. For all other developments with single-family houses, site modifications require staff approval only. Neither the town employees nor Grassy Plains, LLC, focused on the additional requirement, unique to The Reserve, requiring a modification of the overall site plan.
Grassy Plains, LLC, has applied to address this additional regulatory requirement. If the application is denied, the earthwork and retaining structures will be removed.
An independent environmental expert selected by the Conservation Department has opined that the earthwork benefits the development and benefits the nearby wetlands by separating the activities associated with human habitation from sensitive areas. According to the expert, the removal of the earthwork and the retaining structures will harm the environment.
Certain concerned citizens have expressed dismay that the town’s land-use rules have been violated. Grassy Plain’s compliance with a variety of municipal land-use regulations is evidence that the rules were not ignored. However, the rules were imperfectly followed.
What should the commissions do when an applicant has performed work, with some, but not all required approvals, when the work actually benefits the environment and when the removal of the work will harm the environment?
Should the commissions require the applicant to remove the work because strict adherence to the regulatory process is more important than the environment?
Put another way, should the commissions authorize the work in this situation because protecting the environment is more important than punishing the applicant?
As the pending applications go forward, a dialog on these issues would be helpful.
General counsel, Grassy Plains, LLC