Wa­ter­front pro­tec­tion

Tree clear­ing prompts re­view of state, lo­cal reg­u­la­tions

The Register Citizen (Torrington, CT) - - FRONT PAGE - By Holly M. LaPrade

SALISBURY » A prop­erty owner’s clear­ing of a large num­ber of trees from his lake­front prop­erty re­cently caused con­cern among the Lake Wonon­scopo­muc com­mu­nity, but steps are be­ing taken by lo­cal of­fi­cials to pre­vent a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion from re­oc­cur­ring.

Ac­cord­ing to Wil­liam Lit­tauer, pres­i­dent of the Lake Wonon­scopo­muc As­so­ci­a­tion, the prop­erty owner of 209 Sharon Road, Quentin Van­doose­leare, re­cently re­moved trees lo­cated within the 75-foot lake set­back zone on more than an acre of his wa­ter­front prop­erty, with­out first re­ceiv­ing per­mis­sion from the town of Salisbury.

“I think he went too far,” Lit­tauer said last week. “It’s a lit­tle ex­treme. But his con­tention was that no per­mit was re­quired and he did noth­ing wrong. He just wanted a bet­ter view of the lake.”

Lit­tauer said the ques­tion that re­mains to be an­swered is whether or not a law presently ex­ists that de­clares the ac­tion to be il­le­gal.

“If reg­u­la­tions are in place, they’re not clear,” he said.

Dur­ing the lake as­so­ci­a­tion’s an­nual meet­ing on June 3, town of­fi­cials dis­cussed the in­ci­dent at length. The con­ver­sa­tion cen­tered around the topic of whether the town had done all it could to prop­erly ad­dress the mat­ter.

The town’s ac­tions in­cluded is­su­ing a “Cease and Cor­rect” or­der and the hir­ing of an out­side at­tor­ney to re­view ex­ist­ing state and lo­cal reg­u­la­tions that could or should be ap­plied in this case.

As part of the Cease and Cor­rect or­der, the town’s Conservation Com­mis­sion is “de­mand­ing” that Van­doose­leare now pre­pare and sub­mit an en­vi­ron­men­tal plan for re­view, Lit­tauer stated.

Dur­ing the an­nual meet­ing, board mem­ber Mary Silks pointed out that the prop­erty owner

“I think he went too far. It’s a lit­tle ex­treme. But his con­tention was that no per­mit was re­quired and he did noth­ing wrong. He just wanted a bet­ter view of the lake.” — Wil­liam Lit­tauer, pres­i­dent of the Lake Wonon­scopo­muc As­so­ci­a­tion

never pre­sented a pro­posal to the com­mis­sion for its re­view and declara­tory rul­ing. When the com­mis­sion be­came aware of the ac­tiv­ity, a “Cease and Cor­rect” or­der was then is­sued.

Ac­cord­ing to the meet­ing min­utes, Van­doose­leare sent an email stat­ing that he un­der­stood that peo­ple may not like the es­thet­ics of his land­scap­ing plan. How­ever, he said, he is hope­ful that when he plants new trees, shrubs and grass they will come to ac­cept it. He vowed that he would do “what­ever is nec­es­sary” to make sure the lake is pro­tected, in­clud­ing the place­ment of re­tain­ing walls if deemed nec­es­sary.

“He’s work­ing with some­one to pre­pare a plan, and he says he will cor­rect the is­sues,” Lit­tauer said.

Ac­cord­ing to the lake as­so­ci­a­tion’s web­site, the Town of Salisbury’s First Select­man Cur­tis Rand was in at­ten­dance at the meet­ing and out­lined the steps the town had taken to deal with the is­sue.

Rand did not re­turn phone calls seek­ing com­ment prior to press time.

Mean­while, Lit­tauer ex­plained that both the as­so­ci­a­tion and town of­fi­cials are now study­ing the ex­ist­ing laws on the is­sue at hand.

“From the lake as­so­ci­a­tion’s point of view, we are look­ing for ways to be more ef­fec­tive in or­der to stop peo­ple from clear­ing with­out per­mis­sion,” he said. “Our con­cern is that he was able to go ahead and do this with­out any reper­cus­sions.”

Ac­cord­ing to Lit­tauer, the lake as­so­ci­a­tion does not have ju­ris­dic­tion in the mat­ter, but is work­ing in con­junc­tion with the town to de­velop so­lu­tions that could be ap­plied to pre­vent fu­ture in­ci­dents.

Lit­tauer said one of the steps be­ing taken is the cre­ation of a doc­u­ment that would have to be submitted by a prop­erty owner to ap­ply for a per­mit be­fore pro­ceed­ing with any ma­jor clear­ing ef­forts.

Ac­cord­ing to Lit­tauer, the lake as­so­ci­a­tion has also cre­ated its own in­ter­nal com­mit­tee that is cur­rently re­search­ing the is­sue. The group con­sists of three at­tor­neys, one of whom was a land use at­tor­ney for 30 years in Florida.

“We want to try and help the town with this, and the com­mit­tee is study­ing rules and reg­u­la­tions in Con­necti­cut that ap­ply to lakes like ours,” he said.

Dur­ing its an­nual meet­ing, the as­so­ci­a­tion voted to bud­get up to $5,000 for out­side coun­sel to de­ter­mine what state or lo­cal reg­u­la­tions ei­ther ex­ist or should be im­ple­mented to deal with is­sues that af­fect the en­vi­ron­men­tal health of the lake.

The re­cent tree clear­ing has re­sulted in con­cern among neigh­bor­ing prop­erty own­ers, in­clud­ing Bruce Palmer, who has lived on the lake since his child­hood.

“The bot­tom line is that the health of the lake is be­ing se­verely af­fected by se­vere runoff into the lake,” Palmer said.

Ac­cord­ing to Lit­tauer, the trees were lo­cated on a fully wooded, “en­vi­ron­men­tally sen­si­tive” steep slope.

“The po­ten­tial for an ero­sion prob­lem there is very se­ri­ous,” he ex­plained.

How­ever, when the trees were re­moved, their stumps were not taken out. Ac­cord­ing to Lit­tauer, be­cause the stumps were not re­moved, the process “didn’t re­ally dis­turb the soil.”

Dur­ing the an­nual meet­ing, Rand re­ported that var­i­ous ex­perts had looked at the prop­erty and con­cluded it is now sta­ble and not sub­ject to ero­sion of sed­i­ment into the lake at this time.

Palmer ex­plained that as a long­time res­i­dent of the lake, the re­cent tree clear­ing in­ci­dent, as well as a num­ber of other en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues con­cern­ing the lake, are of great con­cern to him.

“There are a num­ber of lakes un­der threat due to de­vel­op­ment,” Palmer said. “If you don’t take care of your en­vi­ron­ment, you will soon find your­self in a bad po­si­tion. En­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues re­quire putting your money where your mouth is and rolling up your sleeves. You have to be en­gaged in the sit­u­a­tion.”

Lit­tauer ex­plained that the pri­mary goal of the lake as­so­ci­a­tion is to pre­serve the health and in­tegrity of the lake. Ac­cord­ing to its web­site, the Lake Wonon­scopo­muc As­so­ci­a­tion was formed in 1988 “to pro­tect, pre­serve and im­prove this im­por­tant scenic and recre­ational re­source for the en­joy­ment of present and fu­ture gen­er­a­tions.”

“The last thing I want is an un­healthy lake,” Lit­tauer said.

PHOTOS COUR­TESY OF WIL­LIAM LIT­TAUER

The Lake Wonon­scopo­muc prop­erty af­ter the trees had been cleared.

The Lake Wonon­scopo­muc prop­erty prior to be­ing cleared of trees.

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