Sandy Hook School Proposal Starts Land Use Review

The town Public Building & Site Commission (PBSC) has submitted a combined construction application for the new Sandy Hook Elementary School to the municipal land use agency, including an application to the Inland Wetlands Commission (IWC) and an application to the Planning & Zoning Commission (P&Z).

The project proposed for 12 Dickinson Drive would be constructed at the site of the former Sandy Hook School, which the town demolished in 2013 after the December 2012 massacre at the school.

The IWC is slated to conduct a public hearing on the school project on July 9. The P&Z is scheduled to conduct a public hearing on the application on July 31.

The voluminous school application is one of the largest, most detailed such applications in memory, indicating the scope of the project.

Typically, construction project applications are sequentially submitted to the IWC and the P&Z, with the P&Z application being submitted after the IWC has acted on the wetlands/watercourses protection aspects of a development plan.

In this case, the exterior plans for the project are fused into one application, sections of which each agency would review.

The project would not require any zoning variances from the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA).

The application states that construction is expected to be completed 20 months after the work starts.

The application to the IWC states that 4,969 square feet of existing wetlands would be altered as part of the site’s redevelopment.

Construction would occur within the 100-foot-wide regulated buffer areas that surround wetlands.

Stormwater control devices would be installed to control the amount of stormwater flowing off of the property, as well control the water quality of that runoff.

Overall, 13.5 acres of the terrain would be modified.

Earthmoving at the site would involve 32,000 cubic yards of cutting and 24,000 cubic yardsof filling.

There are two wetlands on the site. The application describes physical measures that would be taken to environmentally protect those wetlands.

The site lies in the town’s Aquifer Protection District (APD), an overlay zone that is designated for extra environmental protection during construction projects and afterwards.

 As part of the site’s redevelopment, a natural gas line would be extended to the property to provide another energy source for the school.

Rob Sibley, town deputy director of planning and land use, said this week the applicant has interacted closely with land use agency staff members during the project’s formative stages.

One major external aspect of the project is a modified entry/exit configuration at Dickinson Drive. The redesigned access is intended to improve traffic flow at the site.

Dickinson Drive would be widened. A road loop would be constructed on the school site for better internal traffic flow there.

Mr Sibley said that after land use approvals are received, construction work might start sometime this fall. The redevelopment is projected for completion by June 2016.

Svigals + Partners, a New Haven architectural firm, will be the lead firm in presenting the application for land use agency review.

George Benson, town director of planning and land use, said, “We’ve been involved from day one,” regarding the land use agency’s involvement with the formative stages of the project.

The proposed 87,160-square-foot school would have parking areas with spaces for approximately 150 vehicles.

The building would have facilities for children from pre-kindergarten to grade 4 within 23 classrooms and other facilities.

The P&Z application contains a detailed traffic report, describing the traffic implications of the project. That report recommends, in part, that the center of Riverside Road in the area have double yellow lines painted down its center to replace the existing single yellow line there.

Also, the Speed Limit signs in that area should be replaced with larger signs.

Last October, town voters approved spending more than $49 million in the form of a state grant to be used for the demolition of the former school and the design and construction of the new school.

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