P&Z decision on Aquarion subdivision postponed
NEW CANAAN — Two roadblocks are preventing Aquarion Water Co. from using Indian Waters Drive, a private road, to subdivide their property in the area into two residential building lots.
Firstly, the town’s Planning and Zoning Commission has postponed their decision regarding Aquarion’s application. Secondly, 23 Indian Waters Drive residents have collectively sued the water company for “trespassing” on their road.
Aquarion Water Co.’s application, made on Aug. 25, details plans to subdivide its property adjacent to Indian Waters Drive into two residential building lots expected to be 2.1 acres and 3.7 acres each with a remaining 4.1 acres as permanent open space.
Aquarion’s application notes that use of the privately owned road Indian Waters Drive is expected to access its property, the root of the neighbors’ discontent.
Per the application documents, an additional cul-de-sac could potentially be built along the Indian Waters Drive to provide access for emergency vehicles and Indian Waters Drive residents via an access easement. Underground utilities, stormwater infrastructure, and earthwork activity would also be included.
Peter and Susan Bergen of 210 Indian Waters Drive are the first of a total 23 plaintiffs seeking a permanent injunction barring Aquarion from using Indian Waters Drive as well as payments for damages and litigation costs. The lawsuit was filed Sept. 22 in Stamford Superior Court.
At a planning meeting on Nov. 1, attorney Michael P. Sweeney, from Carmody Torrance Sandak & Hennessey LLP and representing Aquarion Water Co., laid out arguments pushing for the approval of Aquarion’s application. He referenced a similar hearing regarding Richards Lane back in 2015 and also cited traffic consultants and possible environmental concerns if they are forced to alternatively use an old road or driftway that crosses through the company’s property.
Commission members Laszlo Papp and Jean Grzelecki brought attention to the possibilities of a landlocked open space, which would be unavailable to the public, and the pending lawsuit by the Indian Waters Drive residents against Aquarion, filed Sept. 22, which will likely affect the outcome of the application.
The lawsuit filed by the 23 New Canaan residents argues that “Aquarion does not have any legal right to use Indian Waters Drive” and that if the company were to use it, that would constitute trespassing on their property.
According to the lawsuit documents, owners of Indian Waters Drive property have the “deeded right”, established in volume 480 page 668 of the New Canaan Land Records, to use all of Indian Waters Drive, a private roadway, in order to access Weed Street, a public road.
Throughout the hearing, Sweeney expressed confidence in winning the separate lawsuit and argued that the zoning commission was not entitled to clarify street rights, which will eventually be decided in court, but rather to either approve or refuse the company’s subdivision application.
Amy Zabetakis, the attorney from Rucci Law Group and representing the 23 New Canaan residents, argued at the zoning meeting that Aquarion is not supplying sufficient information with its application and that it’s looking for the cheapest way to subdivide its land through the use of the Indian Waters Drive as opposed to using the driftway in their property.
A predecessor of Aquarion had bought property in 1907 at a time when Indian Waters Drive didn’t exist. New Canaan Land Records has maps showing a historic driftway that crossed through Aquarion’s property from Weed Street to Frogtown Road, according to the lawsuit documents.
Several residents of Indian Waters Drive took to the podium to voice their concerns ranging from considering the lawsuit’s decision to anecdotal references to questioning if Aquarion had the appropriate verification to rights to property adjacent to Indian Waters Drive.
Matthew Mannelly, resident of 52 Indian Waters Drive, suggested the commission “consider the magnitude of the issue” and make sure it has all the relevant and truthful information before rendering a decision.
Stephanie Goldpin, 98 Indian Waters Drive, said that the neighbors “want to keep the street as pristine and as sweet as it’s been all these years.” She added that it was “silly that we have to go to court to protect nature.”
Following a closing statement and additional rebuttals by Sweeney, chairman John H. Goodwin concluded by postponing the decision regarding Aquarion’s application for a month.
“We think we had a fair hearing and the commission’s decision to postpone is the correct one,” three residents of Indian Waters Drive told New Canaan News.
Sweeney declined to comment regarding the postponement of the commission’s decision.
“Aquarion is subdividing the remaining property into two single-family residential lots based on zoning regulations and the neighborhood,” Peter Fazekas, an Aquarion spokesperson, wrote on Nov. 14.
“Aquarion will be selling these lots. We use funds raised from the sales of unused properties to purchase additional watershed properties and for capital improvements,” Fazekas added. He declined to comment on the pending lawsuit.
The Planning and Zoning Commission will next meet on Nov. 28