Conflicting testimony at zoning hearing

BETHANY - She said. He said. They said.

Whether a property proposed for a nine-lot subdivision is too wet - or not - for septic and drainage systems to work properly is the question the Planning and Zoning Commission members will begin to wrestle with at their next meeting Feb. 5.


The proposed Musto Farms subdivision is located at 93 Peck Road and 626 Bethmour Road. The applicant, Marc Persico, is seeking approval for nine lots, including a special exception for two rear ones.

The board closed the last of a three-part public hearing on the application last week and now has 65 days to consider the testimony of various experts and reach a decision.

Beth Evans, an environmental and wetland consultant hired by the board to review the application, testified that she and a soil scientist visited the site twice recently, monitoring it for 23 hours in one case. They found "fluctuating ground water under the top soil." An augur test revealed that water rose to within six to 12 inches of the surface, but not from surface runoff. She added that visible vegetation indicated a "fairly moist soil" although not necessarily wetlands.

She said she was concerned about whether curtain drains would be able to dry out the soils, a "critical" factor, and the "effect of storm water and road drainage below ground level." She said detention basins wouldn't function on the site but will fill with ground water. Saying the high water table would limit construction, she recommended test curtain drains be installed to see if they would dry out soils.

Commissioner John Ford, Jr., asked Evans why lower levels of water were found a year and a half ago when the project got underway.

Evans replied that previous test pits were done in the summer when water is taken up quickly by plants, whereas the January tests were done at the wettest time of year.

Russell Slayback, a hydrogeologist representing the applicant, said he saw the site conditions like Evans, but that test pits from the past were useless because ground water had migrated into them. He said project engineer John Paul Garcia had located "proper sites" for primary and secondary septic systems on the property that met state Health Department approval.

Slayback recommended curtain drains be installed in the subdivision to control the "seasonal perched water table" and that all leaching systems be engineered. Each installation should also be overseen, he added.

Garcia told the board that the houses would be built on slab, without basements, because the town was reluctant to allow curtain drains to tie into the road drainage on the chance of pollution.

Bethany is one of the few towns that doesn't allow it,'" he said.

Once the site is leveled and stabilized, the ground water will be under control, Garcia said, predicting that curtain drains would stay dry, giving the houses "extra protection."

"Whatever we need to do, we will do," he told the board

Slayback said the January testing should be "discounted" because the ground water level is not accurate. PZC Chairman Sharon commented that board members found all test pits "full to the top" (with water) when they inspected the site recently.

Subdivision attorney Austin Wolf told the board that his clients have done "the most meticulous engineering" on the property.

Hiram Peck, board planning consultant, reported that abutting neighbors have questions about "the impact of the subdivision on their wells." He urged the board to consider an alternative to curtain drains as an "important safeguard."

Garcia said none of the proposed curtain drains would be near others' wells. They are two feet deep and control surface water. not lower the water table. They are considered part of the septic system, he said.

The Inland Wetlands Commission approved a permit with conditions for the subdivision proposal last month.