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Order against causeway landowner is withdrawn

SALISBURY — The Inland Wetlands Conservation Commission withdrew its cease and correct order on a property owner who had cleared debris from part of his property with out permits.

The commission voted unanimously at its online meeting on Monday, Jan. 4, following a brief “show cause” hearing.

The property in question is owned by Jeffrey Keenan. It has been at the center of controversy in recent weeks over a project he has proposed to remove 400 feet of an abandoned railroad causeway (for history on the railway, look for an article by Rob Buccino this week on Page A3). 

Following the meeting, opponents of the project said that the vote by the commission was improper. They are seeking to force the commission to hold a new hearing, which would allow them to explain to commission members why they are concerned about Keenan’s proposal. 

The Inland Wetlands hearing, however, is not related to the causeway conversation.

During the show cause hearing, Keenan defended the scope of the maintenance work he had performed on his property. 

“I didn’t cut down any live ash trees, period,” said Keenan. “The trees I took down were on my building envelope, where there are hundreds of dead trees still out there. The only thing I removed on the top of the causeway was dead.”

He told the commission that if they remove the cease and correct order he will apply for permits for any future work. 

Keenan said the conservation restriction on the causeway  that he must abide by (a restriction that is at the center of the ongoing controversy) is “considerably more restrictive on me than the wetland commission’s rules. Right now I do have maintenance provisions within it, and The Nature Conservancy has been here and they don’t have any problems at all with the work.” 

If anything, Keenan said, he improved the area by filling two 20-yard containers with dead trees and brush, rusted metal fence posts and other discarded debris. 

One of the commission members observed that once trees and debris have been removed, they can’t be returned.  

“The only thing I’m worried about is the precedent of not putting in an application in an upland review area,” commented Commission Chair Larry  Burcroff. 

The commission voted then to withdraw the order. At press time there had not been a decision to open the hearing again.  

A video recording of the meeting can be found online at https://salisburyct.us/offices/conservationcommission.

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