GROTON — Susan Sutherland, representing the Friends of Fort Hill, made a statement to the Inland Wetlands Agency May 9, 2007, concerning the proposed 211-unit “Mystic Woods” active senior housing complex between Route 1 and Flanders Road. The statement dealt not only with the project but the planning process in Groton. Following is the text:

My name is Sue Sutherland and I live at 32 Neptune Drive in the Mumford Cove neighborhood of Groton. I represent a Mumford Cove group opposed to the Mystic Woods development, many of whom are here tonight. I am an intervener on behalf of the group, but as of noon today, the Town Planning and Development department had no documents of any kind from the Mystic Woods developer to distribute to me nor have I received any through the mail. I would ask that these hearings be postponed to a future date after we have received and had a reasonable amount of time to review each related document the applicant wishes to give us.

As we have said before, we are concerned about many wetlands issues, particularly the water runoff from Mystic Woods into Fort Hill Brook and then into Mumford Cove, a relatively pristine cove less than one mile downstream from the Mystic Woods site. Mumford Cove still enjoys eelgrass which harbors fish and other species in summer and winter, making a particularly good recreational spot for people from all over this region who enjoy its diverse wildlife, great water sports, excellent fishing and wonderful shellfish. While we are trying to do our part to reduce the amount of nitrogen and other fertilizer, pesticide, herbicide, motor oil and salt run off from our neighborhood, this development would add significant pollutants to the already stressed Cove.

The next major wetlands issue is the potential destruction of vernal pools in Wetlands 11 (using the earlier map as furnished to the Wetlands committee). These pools have been classified as Tier 1 or top quality, as they have an unusual abundance and evidence of amphibian life. As the scientist Michael Klemens has documented in many studies, the proposed entrance and exit road in the narrow corridor from Flanders Road past Wetlands 11 to the development would destroy sufficient migrating wildlife into the vernal pools so that Wetlands 11 vernal pools would be irretrievably harmed. The entrance and exit has to be from Route 1 as with Flanders Road next to the pool, and traffic increasing due to increased development on that corridor, there can be no road next to Wetlands 11 without destroying much of the amphibian life of the pools.

As you know, vernal pools are not just about salamanders. Many species such as wood frogs require both the vernal pool, the only place where it breeds, and a much larger zone around the vernal pool for their habitat. Rare and endangered turtles use vernal pools as a spring feeding ground, continuing their journey far away from the pool. Not just habitat destruction but also the addition of “nursery” plants and intensive lighting also will have a severely negative effect on the wetlands area. It is amazing how many species depend on a large wooded area and like it to be dark at night.

As I said before, this property is arguably one of the most beautiful, wetlands intensive, archaeologically rich woodlands in the State, with a lovely brook and waterfalls. People have enjoyed the combination of ravine, brook, old stone dams, ancient cisterns and shell mounds for hundreds of years. It is also one of the last pristine habitats for endangered species in Groton, forming a necessary corridor with Haley Farm and Bluff Point.

Five years ago, the Plan of Conservation and Development listed “protect water quality and water resources” as the number one action item of specific tasks that can be scheduled, measured and visibly implemented. Included as a top priority was to “examine the amount of impervious surfaces allowed in all zones and areas.” The next top priority item was to “establish strict standards for impervious coverage in significant watersheds.” When this 105 acre zone was classified as “active senior housing,” this makes this an extremely urgent action item. What would have been a relatively small amount of impervious surface had a few single family houses been built, now becomes a massive spread of roofs, parking lots and roads in the watersheds and wetlands.

Other top priority rated items in the 2002 Plan of Conservation and Development include “expand regulated areas to include a setback from wetlands and watercourses” and “establish non-disturbance areas around wetlands, watercourses, and coastal area.” Next major item was to “preserve open space.” A top priority was to “develop an action plan to establish, expand, and connect greenbelts” and trail systems and to acquire such open space. Please remember that the medium priority item to “adopt a definition of buildable land and a density regulation” follows after the above key planning tasks have been accomplished, which should have been done years ago so that we would be welcoming active senior housing, not fighting it being plopped in the wrong place.

It has been five years and our wetlands and open space continues to face death by a thousand cuts from development without planning. The Town Staff and the Inland Wetlands Agency are two key players who can define the Town game plan before development interests appear. It would help all parties to know what the rules are – to know where the open space, greenways and trails were planned to be and where the developers were welcome to come, and with exactly what type of development. While there is no doubt Town Staff is a very hard working group, it is discouraging the lack of consensus building from the top down from Staff to the community, including relevant volunteer Agencies and community groups across Groton. The citizens of Groton and Mumford Cove deserve better and are more than willing to work with any party on this most important task.

I ask that you deny this Mystic Woods application.

Thank you for your consideration.