GROTON — The Inland Wetlands Agency decided Jan. 24, 2007, to refer to the town counsel a GOSA request that it reopen hearings on the Four Winds “Residential Life Care Community” that Massachusetts developer Ron Bonvie proposes on the 160-acre Watrous property on Noank-Ledyard Road.
In a Jan. 19 letter to the IWA, GOSA President Priscilla Pratt asked that the hearings be reopened, that new evidence be heard and that the IWA reconsider its approval of the 147-unit 55- and-over project that would be built on 105 acres of the site.
The Watrous property, which had been recommended for preservation as open space by the Groton Conservation Commission prior to Mr. Bonvie’s optioning of the tract, is heavily wooded and is the site of one of the most biologically productive vernal pools in New England.
The state Appellate Court declined Dec. 13, 2006, to consider a motion by Mr. Bonvie that effectively would have withdrawn his appeal of certain conditions imposed on the IWA’s approval of the project. The Appellate Court noted that the Superior Court — a step down in the court hierarchy — had directed that one set of conditions be remanded to the IWA for reconsideration. Because the Superior Court’s decision on that set of conditions was not final, the matter could not be decided at the Appellate level.
GOSA, an intervenor, had argued in the Appellate Court against Mr. Bonvie’s motion.
In her Jan. 19 letter, Ms. Pratt noted that the Appellate Court found that further proceedings that are “not merely ministerial” are required in the case. She said “hence the review of the remand by [Superior Court Judge Joseph] Purtill should include the opportunity for entering new evidence and argument by interested parties and full deliberation by the Inland Wetlands Agency.”
In his denial of a separate appeal against the IWA decision by GOSA, Judge Purtill relied heavily on the state Supreme Court’s AvalonBay decision in a wetlands case. This decision came well after the IWA finding. GOSA contends because the AvalonBay decision did not exist at the time of the hearing, GOSA was deprived of its chance to frame its arguments in terms of the decision, which imposed restrictions on wetlands agencies’ authority to protect wildlife.
Ms. Pratt appended to her letter a copy of an official report by the Town of Mashpee, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod, that documented unauthorized deviations by Mr. Bonvie from plans for his Southport retirement community at Mashpee. These deviations included construction of a dangerous, out-of-specification retaining wall, creation of a large pond and unauthorized cutting of trees. She also included press pictures of the unauthorized retaining wall and pond.
Mr. Bonvie has now filed a motion with the Superior Court to withdraw his appeal.