September 29, 2020

Preserve Developers Lose Court Appeal

ESSEX— A three-judge panel of the Connecticut Appellate Court has denied an appeal for the proposed Preserve development on Bokum Road, upholding a 2006 rejection of the project by the Old Saybrook Inland-Wetlands Commission.

Essex was a party to the litigation over the project, along with the Town of Old Saybrook, the Connecticut Fund For the Environment, and the Alliance For Sound Area Planning, a grassroots group of opponents.

While plans for development of the 1,000-acre parcel on the north side of Bokum Road have been under discussion for a decade, the latest application from River Sound Development called for a 221-unit housing complex with an 18-hole golf course.

The Old Saybrook Inland-Wetlands Commission denied permits for the project in 2006, and an appeal of the denial filed by River Sound had been rejected by superior Court Judge Julie Aurigemma in February 2008. River Sound Development is a subsidiary of Lehman Brothers Holdings, which declared bankruptcy last year. The prospective developers now have 20 days to file a further appeal with the Connecticut Supreme Court.

Most of the forest land proposed for development was in Old Saybrook, but 65 acres were in Essex. The main access to the proposed development would have been from Bokum Road, just east of the Essex town line.

First Selectman Phil Miller said Thursday he is pleased with the outcome, and remains hopeful the large tract could eventually be acquired by various parties for preservation as open space. The parcel contains about 114 acres of wetlands.

Miller said environmental issues raised by opponents, including the presence of large numbers of wood frogs on the property, appears to have been a factor in the panel’s decision. Essex had obtained intevenor status to the proceedings, and had retained the law firm of Shipman & Goodman to represent the town’s interests in the process.

Miller said the $30,000 the town has expended for legal costs on the Preserve case was a necessary investment. “Most of the residential traffic and the construction traffic would have come on Bokum Road and through Essex,” he said

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