A blue sign cautions drivers about a bump on Garder Road, a narrow dirt roadway running from Fan Hill Road to Pepper Street. The school bus company deemed the street a safety issue, according to First Selectman Steve Vavrek.
The Highway Department embarked on a project this summer to strengthen the road's foundation in preparation for paving the section from Pepper Street to Applegate Lane. But Vavrek halted the work after receiving complaints about alleged wetlands violations.
"I couldn't, as first selectman, let the work continue if there was a chance of a wetlands violation," Vavrek said during an interview in his office Wednesday.
When asked about the situation at the Town Council meeting on Monday, the first selectman said the town must follow its own regulations just as residents and businesses do.
"I want the public to know that we're doing our best to follow our own regulations as written," Vavrek said.
He noted how the Planning & Zoning Commission is currently redoing the town's regulations, bringing them up to date and ensuring that they comply with state statutes. The public can share its input on that during a public hearing at Masuk High School Thursday night at 7.
Members of the Inland Wetlands Commission will walk the site on Garder Road to check on allegations that town crews have filled in wetlands. Then the issue will come before the commission at a hearing.
Vavrek has also heard concerns over whether alterations to Garder Road would comply with the Scenic Road Ordinance. The road cuts through a heavily wooded area. After Inland Wetlands handles the possible wetlands violation, Vavrek said the Planning & Zoning Commission will determine if there are any issues with the ordinance.
No matter what the outcome, the first selectman is determined to upgrade the street.
"It's no longer a 14-foot horse path," Vavrek said. "There is industrial development on both sides of Garder Road. Whether it's scenic or not, trucks are going through."
While Vavrek says he wants to get the work on Garder Road done the right way, one resident attending the Town Council meeting reminded him that the clock is ticking down on the paving season.
"It's a safety issue until it gets paved," said Steve Kirsch, who told the council that Vavrek had assured him that the work could move forward before delaying the project. "It needs to be done quickly as opposed to having several meetings. As a citizen who drives that road every day, I'm disappointed in how the government fails to work together."