January 18, 2022

Aaron Manor Town Plan Revisions Draw Mixed Comments at Chester P & Z

CHESTER— Revisions to the town plan of conservation and development that would give the Aaron Manor Nursing and Rehabilitation Center the option of connecting to the town sewer system drew a mixed response from residents and officials Thursday at a public hearing before the planning and zoning commission.

The nursing facility located off Route 148 at the Route 9/Exit 6 interchange has requested amendments to the 2009 plan that would give the facility the option of connecting to the sewer system that serves the downtown village and a section of Route 154. Aaron Manor is under order from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to upgrade the on site septic system serving the facility. Earlier this year, the town inland-wetlands commission asked representatives of the facility to investigate the option of connecting to the town sewer system before pursuing an application for a new and larger on-site sewage disposal system.

Changes to the town plan are needed for the facility to begin a detailed analysis of the option of a connection to the municipal system, a costly project that would require installing an underground sewer line along about 1.5 miles of Route 148 east from Aaron Manor to the downtown village area.

About 20 residents, including members of the conservation and economic development commissions, turned out for the public hearing. Several residents, including First Selectman Edmund Meehan, spoke in support of the requested revisions. Meehan, a former municipal planner for Newington, presented a written statement from the board of selectmen endorsing the changes, and also spoke at the hearing. Meehan contended giving the 10-year plan the option of expanding the municipal sewer system would be a “good thing for Chester.”

“If you have it in the plan you can guide it and direct it,” Meehan said, adding that planning and zoning commission oversight and current zoning for minimum one or two acre building lot sizes would limit development and population density along any Route 148 sewer extension. “I don’t think this is going to upset the town’s land use patterns,” he said.

Steve Flett, chairman of the economic development commission, said the revisions represent a request for help from an existing business, not a plan to promote wider economic development. “If Aaron Manor is prepared to pay the bill, you should just let them do it,” he said.

But Michael Prisloe, chairman of the conservation commission, contended the changes to the plan could have “unintended consequences” for future development that would change the environment and character of. the town’s western gateway. The commission presented a statement urging further study before approval of any changes to the town plan. Prisloe also noted the changes to the plan could become effective early next year, long before completion of any sewer line from Aaron Manor.

The commission was expected to close the public hearing Thursday and begin deliberations of the Aaron Manor application at it’s Jan. 9 meeting.