Six months and counting for 37 Hartford Avenue proposal

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Rendering of the proposed Vessel Holdings complex in Simsbury.

The overgrown lot at 37 Hartford Ave. has been the focus of the Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Commission since July 2023, when New York-based Vessel RE Holdings, LLC, filed a permit application for a four-story, 48-unit apartment building.

The state-mandated review and permit are prerequisites to a Planning and Zoning application. Without IWWC approval, the entire project is rejected.

The 2.5-acre parcel extends down a steep hill to an extensive wetland where a small stream feeds Salmon Brook, a tributary to the Farmington River. Both are federally-designated Wild and Scenic Waterways.

At public hearings, Professional Engineer Seamus Moran and Soil Scientist James Sipperly quoted data on pollution levels from septic seepage and surface runoff far lower than presented by Town Engineer Kevin Clark and then-IWWC-Agent, Kate Bednaz. Those disparate values caused Vessel to request IWWC hire an independent consultant to review the data.

Consultant Dr. Steven Danzer clearly stated his science-backed opinion that nitrate seepage from the proposed septic system would harm the wetland and ultimately the streams. An ad hoc citizens group also confirmed an endangered species in the Farmington River. Vessel withdrew its application.

Vessel submitted a new application on Jan. 24, 2024—42 units, revised plot plan, lower building height and redesigned septic system.

At the Feb. 14 IWWC hearing, Moran and Sipperly discussed the revised septic system they said was capable of processing waste and with effluent nitrate values near drinking water standards. There won’t be any pollution, they said. Danzer, on Zoom, agreed that decreased occupancy and septic redesign lowered the probability of wetland damage.

Like an earlier misstep, Vessel’s attorney shared that the Farmington Valley Health District and the Connecticut Department of Health had not responded to the revised plans forcing continuation of the hearing. On Feb. 21, FVHD confirmed to the Drummer that Vessel had not submitted new project plans. Their last communication was on Jan. 29.

At every public session, knowledgeable residents with relevant expertise or career experience in related government and public positions spoke against the project. Attendees urged denial of the permit and repeatedly asked why Vessel wasn’t connecting to the town sewer system. Many suggested Vessel be required to connect to the sewer system or withdraw its proposal. Vessel has cited the expense and time as reason not to connect.

In closing, Vessel argued IWWC must present irrefutable proof that the project would harm the wetland, or it cannot deny the permit, asserting that  assumptions and possibilities are not acceptable—scientific facts must form the decision. The meeting adjourned to March 13.

The next evening, at its request, Vessel sat with the Development Commission that acts in an advisory role to the P&Z. Economic impacts on businesses and town services were discussed and no negative issues came up. Franchising of individual units, with Vessel retaining building ownership, is a future possibility. An in-house caretaker will be hired. A monthly rental of $1,625 plus a $20 utility fee for affordable housing units is proposed, if they are included.

If the IWWC issues the permit and Vessel commits to the 30 percent affordable housing allocation required by State Statute 8-30g, and meets all town building regulations, P&Z denial of the project would be difficult.

For more detail of the presentations, visit, chose Agendas and Minutes and scroll to IWWC.