Thursday, February 4, 2010

Inland Wetlands Hears from Armetta

Phil Armetta appeared before the Inland Wetlands Commission on Wednesday, to discuss the apparent filling of wetlands on his property on Newfield Street. The Commission gave him until their March 3rd meeting to complete an application for his actions, which occurred in August of 2009. Armetta's wetlands actions were done to expand parking for the Auto Zone II used car dealership.

Armetta first came before Inland Wetlands about this issue in early September, when the commissioners asked him to submit a retroactive application for this work. In October they discussed a soil scientist's report that "wetland functioning has been removed," and in December they were assured by Bruce Driska of the Planning Department that Armetta's application would be complete and ready to be considered in January. But consideration of the application receded another month in January, when no application and no representation from Armetta came before the commission.

Bruce Driska of the Planning Department explained why Armetta was present at this month's meeting, "A Notice of Violation was sent, directing the property owner and his agents to appear at the next meeting."

"People don't know what I've done"
Armetta rose to discuss the situation. He gave an impassioned account of the projects he has done to benefit Middletown:
  • The Lisbon trash to energy plant, financed and ultimately to be owned by Middletown, generating $10M per year for the City, according to Armetta.
  • Development of Middletown Industrial Park. Armetta claimed to be the second largest developer there, after Aetna.
  • The Kleen Energy Power Plant, on the Maromas bluffs overlooking the Connecticut River, which Armetta characterized as the largest construction project in the Northeast, at one time employing 1000 people.
Armetta explained, "Anything I've done has saved the taxpayers money." He spoke of the number of jobs he has created. Of the auto dealership which benefited from the wetlands action, he said, "I got 12 people working on that site that wouldn't have a job." Armetta also looked to the future, "I'm going to be doing other projects in this town." He said he did not want to be harassed by the Commission, "If that's the case, I'll go somewhere else."

He said he had never gotten the request to appear before the commission, and said that he would never deliberately flout regulations, "Had I ignored wetlands, I wouldn't have accomplished what I've done."

"There's been a lot of misrepresentation"
In the middle of his presentation to the Commission, Armetta detoured from listing his contributions to Middletown, and lambasted the reporting on Inland Wetlands commission meetings, "The Eye on Middletown [sic] better get glasses, they don't print the truth."

He expressed frustration that some of the comments that The Eye has published are inaccurate, pointing at this reporter, "He's got to stop people sending in anonymous comments. ... I want the ability to know who these people are, so I can straighten them out."

"How do you unring the bell?"
Armetta's passion at the podium was followed by the measured demeanor of Dr. Harvey Luce, a retired professor of soil science at UConn. Luce testified that Armetta hired him to determine the extent of the former wetlands, and he produced a map which showed a very limited area of impacted wetlands. Chairman Joe Carta challenged Luce's map, pointing to one on file at the Planning Office, which showed much more extensive wetlands. Luce admitted that at the current time, "It's very hard to delineate wetlands." Carta commented, "I can understand, it's been filled."

Luce agreed with Carta that it was important to discuss the actions which needed to be taken to undo the damage done to the wetlands. Luce said he had not been hired to address this, "All I was hired to do is determine how much was filled in."

The commission voted unanimously to ask Armetta to work with
Bruce Driska to develop a plan for mitigation, in which Armetta might enhance or protect other wetlands on his property. Carta indicated that the contingency in case of further delay would be fines and the involvement of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). Armetta indicated his strong desire to cooperate and said he would be glad to work with Driska, "He's a good guy, very easy to work with."

State DEP concerned about soccer fields again
Driska informed the Commission that the DEP had contacted the City to express concern about erosion at soccer fields under construction on Long Hill Road. These fields, which were originally to have been funded by a City bond but are now being financed by Middletown Youth Soccer, have been under construction for at least the past two years. David DeRita, Project Superintendent, assured the Commission, "DeRita Construction will take all necessary measures to control erosion."

These are the second set of soccer fields being built by DeRita that have had runoff problems. City Planner Bill Warner told me that the soccer fields being constructed by DeRita on Country Club Road created erosion problems last year on the slope above Fall Brook, also drawing the attention of the DEP.

Commissioner Trevor Davis asked when the Long Hill Road soccer fields would be completed. DeRita said that there would be a meeting on Thursday, between the soccer committee and the city, to discuss finances.


Lionel said...

Anyone need straightening out?

Anonymous said...

If memory serves this collaboration of disaster was put forth by the DEMs versus the City just ponying up the 1st time instead of at the end, I bleive Mr. Serra wasin charge of the charge

Anonymous said...

I am proud of Inland Wetlands for a change and its Chairman of over 10 years for standing up for what is right. Joe Carta has given this city alot including jobs for people and it is all wholesome and done with integrity and he has done it for for NO MONEY. He should be nominated for Citizen of the Year.