Wetlands Panel OKs Site for Grace Church

The New Canaan Inland Wetlands Commission approved an application for the proposed future site of Grace Community Church, an interdenominational congregation that would be located at 365 Lukes Wood Road.

Five New Canaan Wetlands Commission members all said they expect to approve an application for a 48-acre site on Lukes Wood Road as a new home for Grace Community Church.

Commission members, meeting Thursday, said the applicant—the church-related Grace Property Holdings Inc., run by the Grace Farms Foundation—had made a good case that the development would not harm the river running through the property or nearby wetlands.

"I believe the application meets the standards of our recommendations, and as such, I believe it ought to be improved," commission member George Blauvelt said.

"The interveners, I believe, have failed to meet their burden of proof" that the project would harm the environment, said commission member Colm Dobbyn,  referring to those who filed arguments with the commission objecting to the project.

"There is no adverse impacts to the wetlands and water courses" from this project, said commission member Dan Stepanek. He called some of the objections to the project "mainly speculative. ... There are no adverse impacts to the wetlands and water courses."

Stepanek continued: "Overall, I was very impressed with the applicant. Every time we had a question, they came back with an answer that held water."

But commission members also said they wanted to attach conditions to their approval to state that the property must be maintained well enough to protect nearby natural water.

Blauvelt said that perhaps the applicant could provide an "on-site environmental agent." Dobbyn said there should be some provision for ongoing monitoring of maintenance.

The meeting, which took place at the New Canaan Nature Center, was for discussion purposes only, and there was no public participation period. So, although about 10 members of the public were present, none spoke before the commission.

The Commission will meet again on Feb. 11, when language for the conditions has been drawn up. Commission members said they expect to approve the application on that day.

The application still needs approval from the Planning and Zoning Commission, said said Sharon Prince, president of the foundation, which also owns 27 acres adjoining the church site.

Founded a decade ago, the interdenominational church has been meeting at Saxe Middle School on Sundays. The site at 365 Lukes Wood Rd. would give it a santuary building with 716 seats.

"This has been a long process, and we're really pleased with the outcome so far," Prince said.


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