Jelliff Mill public hearings come to a close; town has 65 days to make decision
The Planning and Zoning Commission held a special meeting on the proposed 16-unit townhouse complex at Jelliff Mill Tuesday night. Several meetings have been held in the past few months discussing the various issues with the proposal.
Tim Hollister, an attorney representing the applicants, has gone back and forth with town officials and neighbors who oppose the initiative for a variety of reasons, including issues on affordability and environmental concerns.
Several experts representing all sides of the issue have presented their findings to the commission.
Ira Bloom, an attorney appointed as special counsel to the town, discussed the issue of the floodplain application brought up at the previous meeting.
"A floodplain application is required and should have been completed in our view," Bloom, an attorney from Westport, said. "Mr. (Tim) Hollister (the attorney representing the applicants) obviously differs with that."
Todd Ritchie, a professional engineer with the firm GHD, discussed the flood issues at the last meeting. Ritchie concluded the most glaring concern is the special flood hazard area as defined by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. According to Ritchie, if any part of the structure is touching the special flood hazard area, as defined by the elevations of the area, then the applicant would need to get a flood regulation permit from FEMA.
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"The edge of the building is still on the floodplain with the elevation patterns provided by FEMA," Ritchie said. "Flood permit regulations should be applied to the dam (portion) of the application, if anything."
Ritchie said if it is determined that the dam structure, which is a separate application from the condominiums, is a structure continuous with the rest of the proposal, then the flood permit would be needed for the whole building.
"Our position, speaking for the lawyers involved, is that it's required now. It should have been done now and that is where we stand on this and we rely on the language in the regulations and important underlying policies," Bloom said. "What does it mean if they don't do it? Again, the commission will have to look at the various reports."
Hollister said he believes once the construction and work is done, the building will no longer be in the floodplain and therefore, no application is required. Before the condominiums are built, renovation and construction around building one and the dam will be completed, thereby changing the floodplain Hollister explained.
"Those conditions will not exist when the residential construction begins," Hollister said. "It only applies to what will be there when the work is done."
At the end of the meeting, Hollister made a final pitch on behalf of the applicants on why the commission should approve the applications.
"Simply put, there is nothing wrong with the applications and there is a number of things right with the applications," Hollister said. "Focus on the legal standards and the record evidence. Nothing wrong, lots of things right and that should be enough for approval."
Chairman Lazlo Papp of the Planning and Zoning Commission had some remarks after finally closing the public hearing months after the process began.
"It's an unprecedented seven public hearing process for one issue," Papp said. "I can assure everybody that the commission is going to deal with facts and the laws. It's not going to be swayed by public sentiment and popular demand."
The commission will make its decision on the applications within 65 days. As of now, Papp said they will plan at least two regular meetings for the commission to discuss the applications though it is quite possible they will need to schedule more times. The first deliberation meeting is scheduled for May 16 at 7 p.m.
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