Neighborhood in crisis

ORANGE~~Residents in one neighborhood have joined forces to keep a small section of their community from being developed.

Spring Street resident Mike Miller and his daughter Reina have plans to construct a home for her on two adjacent pieces of property next to his own parcel. The land, until about a month ago was a woodland sanctuary where neighbors regularly witnessed coyotes sauntering from one wooded area to another.

Today, it is a mass of freshly cut tree trunks. And area residents are up in arms over the destruction of not only trees on the property but an additional ten town-owned trees destroyed with bases wide as 24 inches.

Town Tree Warden Ed Vaughn told The Bulletin that the Miller's did not receive his permission before chopping the trees down. According to the Tree Ordinance, any person who violates the ordinance is subject to arrest and prosecution and a $50 fine.

The ordinance, enacted in May of 1999 states as its purpose; "To regulate and control planting, removal, maintenance and protection of trees and shrubs to promote and enhance the beauty of the town."

Lewis and Jennifer Cohen whose property abuts the proposed dwelling at 376 Spring Street are worried about their quality of life if a home is constructed behind them.

"We are concerned about flooding and run-off. Our lot already gets flooded….," they wrote to the Zoning Board of Appeals.

"The area of flooding is very close to our leeching fields," They said.

The Cohen's well is already contaminated with bacteria and is being treated for this problem.

"The primary reason we object to a house being built behind us is the privacy issue," wrote Richard and Cynthia Chandler of New Haven Avenue.

"Behind our home we have only approximately 25 feet to our property line…To construct another house within 25 feet of our property line seems unreasonable," they wrote.

The Chandler's said they were urging the Zoning Board of Appeals to reject the proposal.

"Unlike a shed or jungle gym, a house is forever. If constructed it would permanently change the complexion of our neighborhood, and certainly not for the better," The Chandlers said.

Another New Haven Avenue resident, Jan Clarke believes the idea of a house and all that goes with it on the small lot is unnecessary.

"To build a house with septic tank and well on that small parcel would be very, very sad," said Clarke.

Residents have taken the matter into their own hands and hired legal expert Bruce McDermott with the law firm of Wiggin and Dana of New Haven and he filed an appeal with the Zoning Board of Appeals.

According to an affidavit submitted by McDermott, the finding of the Zoning Enforcement Officer that the property may be used for the construction of a single family dwelling is inaccurate because it is comprised of two small lots.

At Monday evening's appeal meeting, the Zoning Board of Appeals voted three to two upholding the enforcement officer's letter to Miller. They did so saying the letter was not granting permission to Miller to construct a dwelling but only to inform Miller of the regulations he must adhere to.

However, residents say the fight has only begun and they plan to follow closely what Miller does.