A developer's plan to build Cross Roads Center, a 13,540 square-foot shopping center on 2.25 acres at 462, 464, 466 and 470 Main Street, suffered a blow on Wednesday night, when the Inland Wetlands Commission denied the application for a wetlands modification.
Rather than resolving a past violation by restoring existing wetlands that had previously been filled in, Jay Keillor, the engineer for the applicant, presented a plan to create an improved wetlands area elsewhere on the site. That proved to be the "sticking point" that sunk the application.
The creation of a new wetlands area was meant to allow the applicant, JV464 Main Street, LLC, to have a portion of the new shopping center be on the existing wetlands.
"We're disappointed," Keillor said after the meeting. "We thought it was a good plan. We thought our proposal would create a very viable wetland over a wetland that always had lesser value."
But he added, "We respect the commission."
The motion to approve the application with conditions was defeated 5 to 1 with John Bath the only commissioner voting in favor of it.
'A Huge Sticking Point'
During deliberations, Commissioner Cathy Kohut said, "We're losing an entire wetland. I'm not sure creating a drainage basin and calling it a wetland qualifies as remediation. I have some issues with that and the fact that there were no alternatives considered to allow for what we once ordered, which was remediation — so it's a huge sticking point."
In order to approve the application, Commission Chairman Jeremy Hayden noted that the town's regulations say if there's a possibility of a substantial impact to a wetland, the commission would have to make a finding that no other reasonable and prudent alternatives exist.
"Isn't the bottom line that it wasn't offered?" Kohut asked, noting that the developer offered no alternatives that entailed restoring the existing wetland.
Commissioner Lois Spence said alternatives the applicant could have explored include changing the orientation of the building or building on a smaller footprint. That way the existing wetlands would not be built upon and could be restored.
Before voting against the application, Hayden said, "I struggle with it. It's a great use of the site. It's something I'd like to see, but we have to comply with the regulations."
If the commission approved it, Kohut said it would be setting a precedent by not strictly following the regulations, adding this is not an issue that can be decided on a case-by-case basis.
But Bath contended that each application should be viewed on an individual basis.