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Vote on Wetlands Application for Development of Former UConn Campus Postponed

West Hartford's Town Plan & Zoning Commission meeting, Jan. 3, 2024. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

West Hartford’s Town Plan & Zoning Commission has delayed its vote on the wetlands application for development of a portion of the former UConn West Hartford campus.

By Ronni Newton

West Hartford’s Town Plan & Zoning Commission (TPZ) has postponed its planned vote which had been scheduled for Wednesday night on the wetlands application for 1700 Asylum Avenue – the eastern portion of the former UConn campus – where West Hartford 1 LLC, through the entity WEHA Development Group East, LLC would like to construct four residential multifamily buildings of four or five stories with a total of 322 residential units.

Following roughly 15 hours of testimony split into three sessions of a public hearing on the wetlands application that TPZ held in its capacity as the Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Agency (IWWA), TPZ closed the hearing on Dec. 13, but voted to delay its decision on the application until its next regular meeting on Jan. 3, 2024.

There was already a lengthy agenda for the Jan. 3 meeting, which included consideration of wetlands applications for construction of new bridges at Spice Bush Swamp and Westmoor Park. And although three weeks have passed since updates were made to the developers plans just before the final session of the public hearing, several major holidays have occurred during that time.

“We want more time with the materials. The commissioners have decided they want more time with it,” TPZ Chair Kevin Ahern told We-Ha.com.

“The feeling here is that we do not want to take these items up today. We want a little more time to … review these items on our own before we actually begin deliberation,” Ahern said Wednesday night at the TPZ meeting.

A special TPZ meeting to consider the wetlands application for 1700 Asylum has now been scheduled for Jan. 17, 2024, at 7 p.m., in Town Council chambers at West Hartford Town Hall.

TPZ was statutorily required close the hearing by Dec. 15 because hearings can only remain open for a certain period of time. The only other option was to begin the entire process of submitting the application and scheduling a hearing all over again. Once the hearing is closed, Ahern said the Commission has up to 65 days from the time the hearing is closed to render a decision.

“We are pleased the wetlands permit hearing process has concluded for the portion of our project east of Trout Brook Drive on 1700 Asylum Ave.,” Domenic Carpionato, principal of West Hartford 1, said Wednesday night in a statement shared with We-Ha.com. “With each step in the permitting process, we have worked with the town to improve our plans and minimize impact on the site wetlands, and we look forward to continuing through the permitting process.”

On Jan. 17, TPZ will also vote on an Intervenor Petition submitted by West Hartford residents Christine Feely, Jessica Rubin, and Gary Schulman. An executive session will also take place at that meeting to review with all commissioners the legality of the process of considering, through the lens of a wetlands board, the petition by the intervening parties which looks to determine that “there are feasible and prudent alternatives to the proposed project that are consistent with the reasonable requirements of the public health, safety and welfare, and are required to protect the air, water and other natural resources associated with the subject property …”

Unless wetlands applications are approved, neither TPZ nor the Town Council will have the opportunity to consider any proposal by the developer for rezoning and creation of a Special Development District for the former UConn campus.

The wetlands application for 1800 Asylum Avenue – the western, and larger portion of the 57-plus-acre former UConn campus where several buildings must also be demolished and PCBs and other environmental hazards remediated – was withdrawn in December and will be considered separately.

For 1800 Asylum, the developer is currently proposing 14 buildings, including a 117-assisted living facility, 24 townhomes, and 106 apartments in two mixed-use buildings above retail or restaurants. The plans also include a premier restaurant, a destination spa, and an organic grocery store.

Because it was withdrawn, the process has started all over again and the application will need to be resubmitted and set for hearing. As of Jan. 3, there was no indication of when the application would be re-submitted.

Links to previous reporting by We-Ha.com on the former UConn campus property and its history can be found here.

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