GROTON — The Planning Commission has endorsed proposed updates of town regulations governing erosion and sedimentation control and stormwater management. The Groton Open Space Association contends that some of the proposed provisions require more teeth and specifics, and that the changes fail to provide adequate protection for drinking water and for salt water estuaries.

 At its meeting Oct. 26, 2010, the commission expressed an apparent consensus in favor of the updates. The vice chair, Jeffrey Pritchard, presiding, did not call for a formal vote of the board. The endorsement came on a referral by the Zoning Commission. The ZC has the final say on the updates, which would apply to ZC regulations.

 The Zoning Commission currently is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the changes at its Dec. 1 meeting. The planned Nov. 3 monthly meeting of the commission has been canceled, the town website shows. In accordance with normal practice, the website gave no reason for the cancellation.

 Main features of the update are a new separate section in the regulations specifying the points that must be discussed in a developer’s stormwater management plan; rewritten and expanded requirements for information in a plan for controlling erosion and sedimentation; environmental protections in parking areas; and the specification that new vegetative landscaping for all but single family detached houses should be limited to native, non-invasive plants. Some provisions of the new Zoning regulations would be administered by the Zoning Commission and others by the Planning Commission.

 The Groton Open Space Association presented at the meeting an engineering analysis of the proposed changes that was prepared by Trinkaus Engineering LLC, of Southbury. Neither Mr. Pritchard nor Planning Manager Matthew Davis mentioned the five-page report during the subsequent discussion. The report was introduced to the panel by GOSA President Joan Smith.

 Ms. Smith pointed out that the stormwater and E&S regulation updates are part of major planned changes in town land use regulations, and said that piecemeal release of planned changes deprives the public of  an overview. She also said that the updates omit any proposed changes to the Water Resource Protection District, whose quantified regulations appear to be limited to an 80% cap on total suspended solids in stormwater runoff and a 70% limit on impervious surfaces.

 In general, she said, the proposed new regulations lay out requirements for information required of developers but give commissions no standards for judging that information. “[Townwide] water quality standards, maximum impervious surfaces, allowable pollutant levels and required rates and volumes of stormwater runoff need to be spelled out,” she said.  

 Ms. Smith said that Section 8-2 (b) of the Connecticut General Statutes calls for coastal municipalities to consider the health of the Long Island Sound in writing zoning regulations. She called for specific protection of water quality in small salt water estuaries and noted that Groton Shellfish Commissioner Neil Brown said in May 2008:

 “The first option is to do nothing, business as usual–and in a generation Southeastern Connecticut will be a dead zone, following the path beaten down by Western Connecticut and New York.”

 Among engineering specifics offered by Trinkaus Engineering are these:

 –Development sites with highly erodible soils, steep slopes and planned disturbance of more than five acres should be the subject of mandatory special reporting requirements. The proposed regulations specify only that such special reporting “may be required.”

 –An independent professional in erosion and sedimentation control should inspect sites and certify that controls are being properly installed and maintained. Related expenses would be billed to the developer. Currently-proposed requirements allowing inspections by land-use commission “members, agents or consultants” are not clear enough.

 –Preservation of naturally wooded areas “would go a long way to reducing adverse impacts from site disturbance.”

 The Planning Commission raised minor questions about some wording, including what duties are implied when a commission “certifies” that E&S controls comply with regulations. The certification question will be submitted to the town attorney, who will pass on his finding to the Zoning Commission and Planning Commission.

 The proposed changes also were presented to the Inland Wetlands Agency, at its meeting Oct. 27, but the IWA deferred to its next session Nov. 10 (correct)  a decision on whether to endorse the proposals. Acting Chair Eunice Sutphen said the IWA will ask the Zoning Commission to consider making mandatory a special report for large construction sites that are especially vulnerable to erosion. As noted, the currently-proposed language says a commission “may” require such a report, rather than “shall” require one.