Cheshire’s Bartlem South project safety gets a look

CHESHIRE – The town has yet to begin the Bartlem South Project, however, there are already some questions as to how the work will impact the surrounding area.

Earlier this month, members of the Planning and Zoning Commission heard from Ryan Chmielewski, a landscape architect with the engineering firm Weston & Sampson, regarding possible waivers related to earth work and a special permit for park usage connected to the project. The first phase of the Bartlem South Project, which will see athletic fields and passive recreation added on areas adjacent to the current park off Route 10, is slated to start in spring.

“The features (of the project’s Master Plan) remain the same,” Chmielewski said during the Sept. 12 meeting. Although some tree clearing will occur to make room for the proposed Great Lawn, the majority of the existing boundaries will not change, with any new work set back “at least 150 feet” from neighboring properties.

Chmielewski said Weston & Sampson tried to match the existing pathway on the south end as best as possible, respecting the old-growth vegetation there and trying to minimize grading impacts.

But it was the earth works waivers that drew considerable attention.

The first waiver request was for grading within 50 feet of the property line so that “essential infrastructure between utilities, the driveway entrance, and stormwater infrastructure” could be installed, while the second was regarding the “five acres of disturbance limit” so that future contractors could work outside of those constraints.

“We don’t want to limit a contractor to only that five acres. If he can get the job (done) quicker, that’s what it’s really all about,” said Chmielewski.

Commissioner Louis Todisco, reading from the town’s regulations, said, “We can grant that (waiver), provided that there’s not any unnecessary risk to the public. Do you have any opinion on that?”

Civil engineer Joe Perugini, also of Weston & Sampson, responded, “In our plan set, we developed a phased erosion and sediment control plan. We demonstrated four different areas of phasing. We’re trying to give the contractor the flexibility to choose which of those areas can be worked on, whether one or more than one. We have sediment traps sized for those areas of disturbance. Each area is protected in and of itself. All around the perimeter we comply with the state requirement to double up our sediment measures.”

Yet, Commission Chair Sean Strollo voiced concerns. “When you have an open field of dirt and dust and all that stuff for the neighbors, that’s one of the reasons we have the restriction. If you lose a contractor in the middle of the whole deal, then we have a big dust bowl … that makes me a little bit nervous.”

Perugini replied that they have a state-mandated “plan in place for the stormwater inspections that are required for this sized project,” explaining that, after every “rainfall event,” an inspector will visit the site to survey everything from sediment to dust control and, if standards are not being met, the contractor will be required to “fix and maintain those measures.” 

“Unless it’s a Friday afternoon, and then (the inspection is) not until Monday,” Strollo pointed out. “If they open up a section and there’s a 9-foot trench and they leave it for the weekend, we have a major problem because there’s a lot of kids down there and they go into the park. You’re not going to limit those kids from doing that. These regulations we put into place for the safety of our town.”

“The goal would be to have (the trenches) closed up at the end of every day,” clarified Chmielewski.

Commissioner Jeff Natale suggested erecting temporary construction fences, such as are found along other sites around town, for additional safety.

Cheshire resident Sylvia Glazer expressed her concerns about possible flooding and runoff into the Mill River, which flows along the southeastern edge of Bartlem Park and near her property in Stonegate Court.

Perugini responded that “dual measures” for sediment and erosion control along the disturbed area will be implemented. “We cannot reduce it significantly but we can’t exceed the amount of runoff that goes into the Mill River, because there are wetlands and it’s a natural resource. But based on our calculations, we’re actually reducing the peak flow and runoff that goes into the Mill River.”

Town Planner Michael Glidden added that town staff will be directly involved in overseeing construction progress. “They’ll know where the contractor stands,” and will ensure that any conflicts between park usage and contractor needs are handled pre-emptively.

Regarding the request for a special permit for the expansion of uses in the park, Chmielewski explained to the commission that “the Great Lawn is meant to serve as a community gathering space without having active recreation to worry about. The existing baseball field is being converted into a lighted synthetic turf surface. There’s passive recreation in the old Chapman parcel,” for those people “who really don’t want to be involved with the sporting event area.”

The lighting system will be new “sports lighting that takes advantage of the artificial turf,” and is LED and “Dark Sky compliant,” meaning that all the light is directed downward, and will make for safe and effective egress after events.

“We have completed a photometric plan and there is zero light trespass across any property line,” Chmielewski added.

Commissioner Robert Brucato asked about the possible lifespan of the new turf field, which, according to Chmielewski, is approximately seven to 10 years, depending on maintenance and use.

“Some towns can go up to 15 years,” Chmielewski said.  

The plan also adds 139 new parking spaces, bringing the total to 468 — about 40% more — which caused resident John Attwood to question how much parking was actually needed.

“Green space is tough to come by. We’re losing a lot of the park in parking,” he said. 

Although a new entrance will be added, it will not be accessible via Elmwood Drive, and no left turn onto Route 10 will be allowed. Still, the implications for additional traffic coming in and out of Bartlem Park were not lost on Strollo.

“That is a nightmare,” he said.

 “After we get successful site plan approvals, we’re going to meet with the DOT and we’re going to meet the design requirements of the state highway,” replied Chmielewski.


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