Hearing to be held on Choate admissions building project in Wallingford

WALLINGFORD — The Inland Wetlands Commission will open a public hearing next month on Choate Rosemary Hall's newest application for an admission center at the intersection of Christian and North Elm streets.

It's the second time the school has gone before the commission with plans for the property. In September, the commission denied the variance the school needed to start work on the new building which school officials say is needed because of a lack of space in the building where the admissions department currently operates.

But this time there will be a formal public hearing held on the application, the commission agreed Wednesday night.

"There has been a petition filed, and as you know, in your regulations there are three ways in which a public hearing is to be scheduled for this commission," Choate attorney Dennis Ceneviva told the commission. "And while in my opinion there are some fatal flaws in it, we are not challenging it and we think the application is in the public interest, which is a basis to have a public hearing, so we are prepared for that. We are happy to be transparent."

Residents have the option of petitioning the commission when an application is filed that doesn't require a public hearing, which is what happened in this case.

"When a petition of 25 signatures of residents or more is filed, it automatically by statute trips a public hearing if they file it within a timely fashion, which is 14 days, which they did," Environmental & Natural Resources Planner Erin O'Hare said. The petition was filed on Nov. 14, within the allowable time frame, she said.

The school sent out 85 invitations to neighbors of the property to meet with them about the application, Ceneviva said, but hasn't gotten a "great" response. 

The school will present its application to the commission at its Jan. 4, when the commission will open the public hearing.

In September the commission denied the request for a variance from setback requirements because it felt the plans could be modified to meet those requirements. The admissions department is now located in a building it shares with other offices and it has outgrown that space, school officials said. 

The new building would include an underground parking garage that would allow for a greater percentage of the green area on the site to be preserved, and the building would serve as a gateway to the rest of the campus. It would be the first building prospective students and their parents would encounter when visiting the campus.



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