P&Z approves Morningside revetment repair

The Planning and Zoning Board (P&Z) unanimously approved a plan to extend and repair a revetment to preserve a house at 38 Hilldale Court, which is adjacent to an eroding bluff at 167 Morningside Drive.

The board’s vote at its March 5 meeting approved a coastal area site plan review for the city of Milford and Phyllis Boynton, owner of the vacant property at 167 Morningside Drive.

The property is located at the western end of Morningside Drive at the turn onto Hilldale Road. The city has a concrete revetment, which is a sloping retaining wall along the length of Morningside Drive extending to 100 feet beyond Norwood Avenue.

The property owned by Boynton at #167 does not have any protection from erosion. The house formerly on the property, which has since been demolished, was constructed near the edge of the bluff. There are smaller retaining walls to protect the properties to the west on Hilldale Court.

Steve Johnson, city open space manager and acting assistant public works director, told the board that the project would be done in two phases and would be funded by a $1,180,480 Community Development Block Grant.

The first phase would be to extend the revetment about 150 feet to protect the property at #167 from further erosion, which would, in turn, protect the existing house at 38 Hilldale Court.

Johnson said the second phase would be to repair the existing revetment to the extent permitted by the available funding. He said the city would set priorities to determine which repairs to do first, and then would complete other repairs as additional funding becomes available.

In the 1960s, the city purchased from the Morningside Association the 1.8-acre property extending the length of the water side of Morningside Drive, and the revetment was constructed as an Army Corps of Engineers project, said Johnson.

John Gaucher, environmental analyst III, for the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, agreed with the necessity of repairing the stone structure.

In a letter to the board dated Feb. 26, Gaucher wrote that the Connecticut Coastal Management Act (CCMA) has “very strict criteria” for new structural solutions, including sea walls and rock revetments.

The intent of the act is to allow them only when necessary, and when all other “reasonable mitigation measures and techniques” have been tried to minimize any adverse environmental impacts, he wrote, quoting from the act. Structural solutions are permitted when needed to protect infrastructure facilities, cemeteries, water-dependent uses, and commercial or residential structures constructed as of Jan. 1, 1995.

“We concur with the applicant that the erosion of the shoreline has advanced to the point that a structural solution has now become necessary and unavoidable for the protection of a pre-1995 residential structure and the adjacent public infrastructure for the following reasons,” wrote Gaucher.

The Hilldale Court house built in 1979 is protected by “an eligible shoreline flood and erosion control structure,” which is being undermined by ongoing erosion of the exposed bluff at the next property. If the structure is not stabilized, its failure “could lead to significant damage to the residence or its foundation.

He notes that the erosion on this property is also undermining the western end of the revetment on the eastern border of the property at #167. This revetment must be maintained by the city to protect Morningside Drive and the public utilities on and beneath the road.

Finally, Gaucher wrote, “Repairing or modifying both adjacent structures will only relocate and amplify the erosion problem closer to the middle of the unaltered slope, thus adversely impacting an existing shorefront property.”

Gaucher indicated that the DEEP had issues a license to conduct repair and maintenance work to the revetment with the condition that the work is limited to “construction necessary to underpin the southern terminus of the revetment” and the eroded bank indicated on the plans must remain unaltered. He said this condition must remain in effect if the work proceeds in multiple phases and if money is not immediately available to construct the revetment across #167.

He further indicated that “the eroded bank may be altered as part of the phase to extend the revetment across the unprotected portion of the land.”

In his remarks, Gaucher commented, “The situation represents a great example of how shoreline structures can negatively impact adjacent, unprotected landforms and why the CCMA only allows such structures in very limited situations and only when necessary and unavoidable.”

In a March 5 letter to Christopher Saley, director of public works, Gaucher wrote that the approval to the city is to “retain and repair portions of an approximately 2,500 [ft.] long stone revetment.”

The license allows the city to repair about 635 linear feet of seawall, replace about 280 linear feet of seawall, relocate an existing armor stone covering about 5,700 sq. ft., place about 468 cubic yards of new armor stone in indicated areas, underpin the southern end of the revetment with 55 cubic yards of concrete, repair an 18 inch diameter concrete drain pipe, and repair an existing concrete boat ramp.