Public hearing over Rocky Top development plans in Hamden

HAMDEN, Conn. (WTNH)– A hearing in Hamden Wednesday night will help decide the future of a proposed housing development off Rocky Top Road. Opponents say Rocky Top Road is too narrow for the development, and that a necessary two-year mining operation would harm the environment and ruin the neighborhood.

Right now, Tim Mack has a view of woods full of animals and a high ridge from his back yard on Rainbow Court. He says putting 288 apartments on the ridge next to his house would change the whole neighborhood.

“Which has natural wonders of a million year old ridge, vernal ponds, wetlands,” Mack said.

Hamden’s Inland Wetlands Commission will hear more about the issue at a hearing tonight. The developer plans to remove close to 2,000,000 tons of rock from the top of the ridge. That could change how water flows down off of it, into pools and wetlands below. That is just one concern neighbors have, however. All the rock that has to be removed will be crushed on site, producing silica dust, which can cause lung disease and even cancer.

“And all of that rock dust is going to get in the air and could travel about a mile, depending on the winds, and affect everybody around here, all these neighbors in 3 different neighborhoods,” said Mack.

Developer Gary Richetelli of Mountain View Estates released a statement that he is “…spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to insure there will be no adverse negative impact to the immediate and surrounding neighborhoods including heavy dust control…”

Dump trucks would still have to make thousands of trips up and down the aptly named Rocky Top Road, which is so twisty and so narrow, two cars can barely pass.

Richetelli said the development will be upscale apartments, which he says Hamden needs. He also plans to set aside 30% of the units as affordable housing. That puts the project under state statute 8-30g. That statute is designed to encourage affordable housing, but it also makes it more difficult for towns like Hamden to turn down developers.

A different owner tried a similar development 8 years ago and got shot down, but that was before the affordable housing law.

“We will do everything we can to preserve the woodsy natural character of the land,” Richetelli said.

The trap rock that will be mined from the ridge is sold to make railroad beds. There is an estimated $40 million of it on the Rocky Top land. The biggest fear neighbors have is that the developer will take all that rock and walk away before anything gets built.

“They could just say now we’re not going to do it and we’re left with a gravel pit over there,” Mack said.

The commission meeting starts at 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 5th in the council chambers of Hamden Town Hall.

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