Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Do We Want Madison Landing or Do We Want Typical Suburban Development?

I drove up to Orange County, New York, last March to take a look at Warwick Grove, the so-called smart growth, TND ( for traditional neighborhood development) subdivision being built in Warwick by LeylandAlliance. It’s not utopia but, after having driven past mile after mile of shopping centers and tract houses built in what used to be farms, I thought it was a lot better than what we usually allow to disfigure the landscape.

LeylandAlliance wants to build a similar project, called Madison Landing, on the site of the old Clinton airport, next to Hammonasset State Park, in Madison, Connecticut. Naturally there’s a group of neighbors who oppose it.

In Warwick, Leyland had a legitimate environmental issue to solve – namely, the presence of bog turtles, a federally threatened species, in nearby wetlands – and apparently the company is in the process of doing so, to the satisfaction of everyone involved.

In Madison, the issue is sewage. Leyland wants to use a sewage treatment technology that it says is fine but that opponents say isn’t (this New Haven Register story is a classic example of the he said-she said kind of reporting that, rather than shining light on the issue, leaves the reader wondering what’s really going on).

Leyland needs a permit from the state to build its sewage treatment plant, and the opponents have written a letter to DEP Commissioner Gina McCarthy asking her to deny Leyland’s application. Leah Schmalz, of Connecticut Fund for the Environment/Save the Sound, and Tom Baptist, executive director of Audubon Connecticut, were among those who signed the letter.

One of the issues is whether the Xenon system that Leyland wants to use removes a sufficient amount of nitrogen, which is the nutrient that causes Long Island Sound’s dissolved oxygen problems.

The problem for Connecticut officials and for Long Island Sound advocates is that the state is committed to reducing nitrogen levels by 58.5 percent everywhere, at all sewage treatment plants.

But of course nobody truly believes that the relatively small amount of nitrogen that one 127-house development will put into the Sound in Madison will have any affect whatsoever on the Sound’s dissolved oxygen problem, which is and always has been limited to the western half of the Sound. Click through these DEP hypoxia maps, and you’ll see that that’s true.

But for political reasons (which I agree with), the 58.5 percent reduction was applied across the board, and so now the state and Leyland Alliance is stuck with it.

The other issue is that if the state and the environmentalists and the neighbors can’t see a way to approve projects like Leyland’s, we’ll be stuck with the kind of typical suburban development that is just as bad in terms of sewage and stormwater runoff, and is uglier by far, but which is easier to approve because it’s what we’re used to.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Bryan said...

Tom,

I agree with your critique of the article. It left me with many more questions than it answered.

One question is: why aren't they considering wastewater recycling?

10:09 PM  

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