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The Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) is scheduled to conduct three public hearings in connection with a nonprofit group’s proposal to create an animal sanctuary at a 34-acre site off Old Farm Road at Fairfield Hills. The P&Z session is slated to start at 7:30 pm on Thursday, October 19, at Newtown Municipal Center, 3 Primrose Street.
The applicant for the project is The Catherine Violet Hubbard Foundation, Inc. The facility is intended to memorialize Catherine, a first-grader who was one of the 26 people killed at Sandy Hook School on December 14, 2012.
In June, the Inland Wetlands Commission approved a wetlands/watercourses protection permit for the proposed animal sanctuary. The IWC had reviewed the environmental protection aspects of the project as described in detailed plans submitted for the complex.
On October 19, one P&Z hearing will focus on the proposed text for a new land use zone proposed by the applicant, known as Animal Sanctuary Design District (ASDD) zone. A five-page set of proposed ASDD zoning regulations describes in detail the purpose of the sanctuary, its facilities, and how it would operate. It also states zoning application procedures and also lists the general zoning requirements for such a land use zone.
A second hearing will focus on the applicant’s request to convert the 34-acre parcel, which it received in 2013 as a donation from the state, from its current M-5 (Industrial) zoning designation to ASDD zoning. A change of zone would permit a land use at the site that conforms with the provisions of ASDD zoning.
A third public hearing will be held on the applicant’s proposal to allow an animal sanctuary as a land use at the former agricultural site through the P&Z’s “site development plan” review process. The proposal lists the technical requirements for such development.
Vehicular access to the site would be provided via a proposed driveway on some town-owned land, which 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.
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.