Claiming that Farmington wetlands officials were biased in favor of the developer, a homeowner filed suit Friday to block Carrier Group LLC’s plans to build houses on land near the Bristol line.
Kathryn O’Sullivan is suing the inland wetlands commission, which earlier in July approved Carrier Group’s plan to construct 25 houses off Morea Road.
O’Sullivan is part of a small band of neighbors who contend that the construction would destroy wildlife habitats and worsen flooding in the area. She wants a New Britain Superior Court judge to vacate the wetlands approval, requiring Carrier Group to go through the process, including a public hearing, again.
“The defendant exhibited bias and abused its discretion while conducting what was a fundamentally unfair hearing process by not hiring third-party experts,” her lawsuit contends.
Carrier’s plan is to buy 87 acres of fields and woodland along Scott Swamp Brook, then donate about 66 acres to the town as protected open space. It would build houses on the rest.
Neighbors banded together in the spring to oppose that plan, and several spoke against it at a May hearing. Nevertheless, commissioners approved the proposal in early July.
O’Sullivan, neighbor Stacey Fresher and several others concluded the hearing showed signs of bias in Carrier’s favor. O’Sullivan filed suit, while most of the others are focusing on raising contributions so they can hire a lawyer or other professional.
A “Save Morea Road” GoFundMe page has raised $1,270, and overall Carrier’s opponents have come up with about $4,000. They’re looking to generate another $1,000 or more in the coming weeks.
Their plan is to fight the wetlands approval in court while organizing public opposition in September, when the planning and zoning commission is supposed to conduct a hearing of its own.
“That one we’ll be ready for,” Fresher said Friday. “If we get intervenor status, we’d be allowed to go on site walks and to cross examine witnesses.”
Fresher, O’Sullivan and others contend that the wetlands commission didn’t give nearly enough weight to testimony from homeowners, and went too far in accommodating Carrier.
“We feel the testimony (on behalf of Carrier) was so impeachable. They said there was a woodfrog-only vernal pool there. We could disprove that, but we didn’t get the opportunity. If the commission had been less biased, it would have asked about it,” Fresher said.
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“Controversial opinions of a complex scientific nature were asserted as fact with no chance for proper rebuttal,” according to the lawsuit.
Fresher and others say the water level in their neighborhood is high, so flooding is a risk after major rains. Replacing undisturbed land with concrete and driveways will make it worse, they warn. They also are concerned that bears, bobcats and other animals living in the wood will end up on residential land looking for someplace new.
“This is a really bad project. It’s too massive, and it encroaches too much on wildlife,” Fresher said.
Fresher said she was angered too that Carrier had put up a commercial sign next to the construction site, even though the planning and zoning commission hasn’t even scheduled the case yet.
“That’s something of an affront when this thing isn’t even settled yet. It’s a new level of arrogance,” she said. “And at the (wetlands) hearing, the town staff wasn’t neutral. It was very biased.
“You begin to resent your town a little bit. With planning and zoning, we’re hoping to get tons of people onto Zoom and let our presence be felt.”
Don Stacom can be reached at email@example.com.