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  July 22, 2002

Site Improvements Proposed
for Separatist Road Area
By Karen A. Grava

Construction could begin soon on a plan to enhance the existing planted buffer along Separatist Road adjacent to the Hilltop Apartments site.

When implemented, the plan will enable the University to fulfill its previously announced promise to improve the buffer by planting additional trees and constructing a 15-foot-wide asphalt bicycle path along the Separatist Road side of the apartment site.

The project could be completed as early as this fall, if the Department of Environmental Protection approves UConn's pending application for a dam permit promptly. Permit approval could be delayed for up to a year if a formal public hearing is required, said Larry Schilling, University architect.

DEP officials noted that a hearing would focus not on the issue of whether or not there should be a dam, but only on the issue of dam safety.

The DEP said at a public meeting last month it has found that the stormwater detention basin, constructed last fall, is functioning as designed and appears to meet its permit requirements. DEP also confirmed that a review of test results indicated that surface and groundwater in the area met applicable standards. The tests were conducted on detention basin storm water by the Charter Oak Laboratories, retained by the University, and by the Eastern Highlands Health District, which, at the request of residents, tested 40 nearby residential wells.

Of the 40 private wells tested, three wells - at 21 Farmstead Road, 17 Lynwood Road, and 89 Separatist Road - showed the presence of different contaminants that exceeded regulatory levels, the health district said. However, the problems are unrelated to each other and are not connected with activities at the University, the report said: "The data is not suggestive of any adverse neighborhood-wide impact that can be attributed to University activities."

Some area residents complained that substantial tree removal from the property during the construction of the detention basin eliminated a portion of the originally proposed natural buffer along the full length of the Separatist Road site. Although the tree removal was necessary for the construction of the basin, after it was constructed, the DEP indicated that the department should have required a dam permit. In response to a DEP directive, the University modified the detention basin last fall and applied for the permit.

The University's improvement plan calls for replacing an earthen berm at the dam with a concrete wall. This will permit additional trees to buffer Separatist Road from the dam and allow the University to respond to the town's request for a bike path on the site. The town is also considering a proposal to build a bikeway along other areas of Separatist Road.

Last fall, the University planted 164 shade, evergreen and ornamental trees between the basin and the parking area. The improvement plan calls for planting another 314 shade and evergreen trees.

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