Letter: Wetlands and flood zones

To the Editor:
With warmer weather in sight, we are approaching the time of year when homeowners and businesses start making plans to undertake outdoor landscaping projects, home improvements, and property repairs, etc. While it is understood that individuals have the right to enhance their properties in these and other ways, it is also necessary and incumbent upon the individual, that the property enhancements cause no harm to the environment, including to unique landscape attributes such as wetlands, ponds, brooks, streams, rivers, and lakes. By understanding the below requirements and working with town officials, property enhancements can be accomplished properly without having a negative environmental impact.
Natural resources, such as wetlands, ponds, brooks, streams, rivers, and lakes (commonly referred to as wetlands and watercourses) are regulated and monitored by the town of Ridgefield through its inland wetlands and watercourses regulations (IWWR). These IWWR regulations, in addition to regulating activities within the wetlands and watercourses themselves, also apply to “upland review areas” from wetlands, and watercourses. The upland review area is a regulated area beyond the edge of all wetlands and watercourses. A property owner may conduct a landscaping project, home improvement, or property repair, etc., within an upland review area only after an inland wetlands application has been submitted and approved and a wetlands permit has been issued and become effective. Any earth disturbance within an upland review area, wetland, or watercourse is considered a regulated activity requiring a permit. Examples of regulated activities are: filling, grading, clear cutting of trees and/or grubbing, installation of retaining walls, patios, parking areas, etc.
There is a substantial amount of floodplain area in the town of Ridgefield that is designated as special flood hazard area (SFHA). Pursuant to the delegation from the state of Connecticut and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Planning and Zoning Commission regulates these areas, through its floodplain management regulations, to aid in preventing loss of life and property damage from floods. An individual may undertake a development activity within an SFHA only after a site plan application for floodplain development has been submitted and approved and a floodplain permit has been issued and become effective. A floodplain development activity is any change to improved or unimproved real estate, including but not limited to: filling, grading, paving, excavation, construction, structures within a floodplain, etc. Please note that development activities, which would result in an increase in flood level or act as an impediment within the SFHA, will not be permitted under almost any circumstances.
We are requesting that any individual, with any questions regarding a property enhancement/development activity, within or near a lakeside community, wetland, waterbody, or watercourse, or if you have any questions regarding what is an wetland, watercourse, or floodplain, etc., please contact Beth Peyser, inland wetland agent (203-431-2383) email: wetlands@ridgefieldct.org. Any questions regarding special flood hazard areas should be directed to Richard Baldelli, director, planning and zoning, ZEO (203-431-2768) email: zoning@ridgefieldct.org
Beth Peyser
Inland Wetland Agent, April 1