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Inland Wetlands Commission (IWC) members on June 14 approved a wetlands/watercourses protection permit for a proposed animal sanctuary at a 34-acre site off Old Farm Road at Fairfield Hills.
Voting to approve the permit application from The Catherine Violet Hubbard Foundation were IWC Chairman Sharon Salling, Craig Ferris, Michael McCabe, and John Davin.
The IWC had held a public hearing on May 24 on the foundation’s proposal to create the facility to memorialize Catherine, one of the 26 people killed at Sandy Hook School on December 14, 2012. Detailed plans for the project were discussed at that hearing.
IWC members placed eight environmental conditions on their wetlands permit approval. Soil erosion and sedimentation control devices as specified on the project’s plans must be installed before construction starts and be maintained during construction; a copy of the approved plans must be available at all times at the construction site; the marked limits of physical disturbance at the site must be inspected and approved before construction starts; and status reports on the project’s progress must be submitted to the town on a quarterly basis, among other requirements.
At the site, a gravel service road would cross a wetland. Stormwater runoff draining from an adjacent property would be channeled across the site through a buried drainage pipe. That pipe would discharge its flow into a swale on the site planted with wetlands-type vegetation. Parking areas would be covered with permeable pavers through which water would drain into the soil. Some stormwater drainage on the site would discharge into a 3,000-gallon cistern that would hold water for irrigation.
Vehicular access to the site would be provided via a proposed driveway on some town land that lies between the sanctuary site and Commerce Road. That driveway also would provide the town with access to the municipally owned land that is under consideration for industrial development. An approximately 1,300-foot-long paved driveway would be built.
Creating such a driveway requires environmental review and approval by the US Army Corps of Engineers because the driveway would cross two streams on the municipal land in an environmentally sensitive area.
Having received a wetlands permit, the foundation now requires a special permit from the Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z). After a P&Z application is submitted, a public hearing would be scheduled.
According to the foundation, the sanctuary would serve as a center for compassion and healing, focusing on animal rescue and refuge. The facility would have a veterinary center and a nature-based educational program and library. There would be a community garden. A farm-to-table cafe would be open the public. The group would sponsor conservation initiatives involving environmental education. Public trails would be available for hiking and dog walking.
A landscape architecture firm has developed a planting plan keyed to environmental protection and to attracting butterflies to a butterfly garden area.
Floor plans and elevation drawings have been submitted to the town for the sanctuary building, the veterinary building, the pavilion, and an interconnecting colonnade. Plans for the community garden and its related facilities are included.
An existing renovated barn on the site and a proposed barn, plus paddocks, are designed for farm animal use.
Also, a proposed learning barn and adjacent amphitheater have been designed as educational facilities for visitors. Proposed feline and canine community cottages would be the places where cats and dogs live while waiting to be adopted.