Stop the mudslides.

A plan to stabilize the hillside of a Richardson Drive property has been submitted to the town’s Planning and Zoning Department, and will go before the Inland Wetlands Board for a special meeting Tuesday, Aug. 28.

Homeowners Cory and Jaime Neas hired Bryan Nesteriak, a civil engineer with Seymour-based B&B Engineering, after two rainstorms in April and June caused major blowouts of a hillside pond located at 27 Richardson Drive, The mudslides occurred after the Neas excavated many of the trees on the hillside and dug out the pond without a permit.

“We have been working with civil engineer, Bryan Nesteriak, since June 6th in an effort to resolve this issue,” Cory Neas said in an email Aug. 17.

“Unfortunately, as we’ve been going through the regulatory process, we’ve experienced a significant number of heavy rainstorms that have caused the erosion issues. Our engineer completed the application and stabilization/drainage plans and we submitted them to the town today. We look forward to completing this project once it’s approved.”

In a follow-up email, Neas said the aim of excavation was “to manage the incredibly large volume of stormwater that runs off the properties above us on Lounsbury. This was an unpleasant surprise we discovered soon after purchasing our home.”

Keeping the pond

Nesteriak said the plan to prevent another mudslide will involve “stabilizing the slopes, getting some vegetation on the slopes so it stops eroding.”

The plan submitted to the town includes expanding the capacity of a man-made pond the Neas dug out earlier this year.

Nesteriak first considered filling in the pond, but said that that plan would be too disruptive to the pond’s plant and animal life. Filling the pond would also create further erosion of the hillside, he said.

Nesteriak said the pond’s expanded capacity will help slow the water coming off the hill.

“The only thing that makes it challenging is the steep slopes. There’s about six acres of property that actually drains onto the property,” he told The Press. “I have heard that the slope has continued to erode, which doesn’t surprise me.”

In the application, Nesteriak said the cost would likely be less than $10,000.

Neighbor

The town first inspected the property on Jan. 11, according to Planning and Zoning Director Richard Baldelli.

He issued the couple a warning during that visit.

Baldelli also ordered them to stop all work on the site and hire an engineer to write a plan to stabilize the hill.

But at least one neighbor said he had raised a red flag over the issue as far back as the fall of 2017.

“In my calls and letters, that even included actual photos and video, I pleaded with them to immediately stop the process which I called, ‘How to create an environmental disaster 101,’” said Evan Levine, who lives on Lounsbury Road, which overlooks the Neas’ property.

Levine said he told Baldelli and town wetlands agent Beth Peyser that they “might wish to evacuate anyone or warn them before rain hits.”

“It’s like somebody shooting a bullet into the air,” he told The Press. “Is it going to hurt somebody? Probably not, but it could.”

Levine said the town did not inspect the Neas’ property until after he asked First Selectman Rudy Marconi to intervene on Jan. 10.

Anonymous complaints

Baldelli said Aug. 15 that his office did not respond to complaints made about the property until the town highway department contacted him in January because the complaints from neighbors in the fall had been made anonymously.

“No one [in the planning and zoning office] responds to anonymous complaints,” Baldelli said.

He said the reasoning behind the policy is due to his office’s need for transparency as a government agency.  

Baldelli explained that if he or Peyser visits a property with a notice of violation, they have a documented reason for their visit.

In his Jan. 10 email, Levine warned that the situation could cause a mudslide.

“If this fails it will create a dangerous mudslide that could hurt people! Whatever is below him is in big trouble.”