Conservation Commission discusses Noble lawsuit behind closed doors
SALISBURY â€” The townâ€™s Conservation Commission met last Tuesday, Aug. 12, and among the agenda items was a lawsuit filed against the town and Noble Horizons, challenging the commissionâ€™s decision to grant a permit to Noble to drill a sewer line under the wetlands to service a proposed new cluster of cottages for the elderly off Undermountain Road (Route 41).
A group calling itself Citizens For Undermountain Road alleges improper notice and lack of a public hearing on the commissionâ€™s decision to issue a permit to drill for the sewer line. No public hearing was held because the commission deemed the drilling an â€œinsignificant activity.â€
As permitted by the stateâ€™s Freedom of Information Laws, the commission was prepared to go into executive session to discuss the active litigation with Chuck Andres, one of the townâ€™s attorneys. But Andres was upstairs in the Charlotte Reid Meeting Room, representing the town in a Zoning Board of Appeals meeting concerning the case of Ann Marie Nonkin, who is suing the town over a building permit and certificate of occupancy issued to her neighbor for a large new home on Lake Wononscopomuc.
â€œIt was a semi-nonevent,â€ Peter Oliver, the commissionâ€™s administrator, said of the commissionâ€™s scheduled meeting.
Commission Chairman Curtis Rand, who is also the townâ€™s first selectman, recused himself from any involvement when talk turned to the lawsuit, since he owns property abutting Noble. After Rand left, commission members waited about 45 minutes for Andres to finish his business upstairs, then adjourned the meeting after deciding to wait no longer.
Shortly thereafter, Andres walked into the meeting room, but by that time several members had left the building and were getting into their cars. Oliver said he and other commissioners managed to call enough members back into Town Hall to reconvene the meeting with a quorum.
â€œWe went into executive session for about 12 minutes and talked about the status of the lawsuit and then adjourned,â€ Oliver said.
Oliver said no action was taken after the commission went back into public session and no statement was issued. He conceded, however, that the commissionâ€™s failure to properly notice and hold a public hearing on the drilling permit â€œis a possible violation of the law.â€
At a July 10, 2007, meeting, the Conservation Commission gave a thumbs-up to the retirement communityâ€™s plans to run a sewer line under the Moore Brook wetlands. The line would service a proposed development of 32 cottages for the elderly, to be called â€œMeadowâ€™s Edge,â€ on the former Charde property on Undermountain Road.
The lawsuit, filed July 9, 2008, in Litchfield Superior Court, appeals the commissionâ€™s decision to allow the drilling for the sewer line and names the commission, Church Homes and the state Department of Environmental Protection. The suit asks the court to sustain the appeal on the grounds that the commission failed to comply with the publication requirements of Connecticutâ€™s General Statutes.
The summons on the Citizens For Undermountain Road lawsuit commands the plaintiffs to appear in Litchfield Superior Court for a hearing on Tuesday, Sept. 2, the day after Labor Day.