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Controversy with Bethel’s Goodhill Road 8-30g Affordable Housing Project: Residents Protest and Builder Defends Legal Rights; Meeting Tonight!

Report by Paula Antolini, September 23, 2019, 6:57AM EDT

Number 9 Goodhill Road 8-30g affordable housing project area
shown on map from “Just Say No” website.

There is yet another controversy in Bethel, this time it is about the Bethel Goodhill Road 8-30g affordable housing project which has gotten so heated that a website, “Just Say No,” was created by Goodhill Road resident Scott Odmann, for neighbors living near and around the project, to protest and gather citizens to stop what they call “greedy developers.” He said, “I started the website to try and bring public transparency and light to the issue where there was none.”

The project, located at 9 Goodhill Road in Bethel, CT, by builder and Bethel resident *Tim Draper, is to include a multi- family unit development consisting of 11 units with driveway parking area, drainage, and stormwater management system within Regulated Upland Review Area.

*Tim Draper is a lifelong Bethel resident; self-employed owner of T&M Lawn and Landscape LLC, TDRAP LLC and T&M Trucking LLC; eight-year member of the Board of Finance; public service activities have included coaching Little League Baseball and Bethel Youth Football for 10 years, member Bethel Republican Town Committee; past offices held Building and Site Committee; Graduate, Bethel High School. —Information from the Bethel Republican Town Committee website.

Map of Goodhill Road project area, source: Google Maps.

Scott Odmann said, “I think the family that the property will be surrounding shouldn’t be overlooked. How will their value be impacted by this change? Will this home become unsellable? It seems like people are starting to accept that this is going to happen regardless of effort. Hopefully last night’s turn out [Inlands Wetland September 12, 20129 meeting] will start to build confidence.” 

Odmann continued, I say we should have sidewalks, public water, adequate roads before putting more people in harms way by increasing our concentrations. At least give us a plan to fund these projects before breaking ground on un-permitted projects. Others are worried about the wetlands and environmental impact, others about the increased traffic and impassable right of ways. We have tried to get public water and were told we needed a pumping station to go from Taylor to Goodhill. How are these new residents going to get water? Who’s paying for the pumping station? How are we funding the rapid expansions? Traffic jams, crime, rising costs should be addressed before adding to our issues.” 

Odmann also said that another Goodhill Road resident, Kristin Giron “rallied everyone and helped get the word out to all.”  (We have not been able to get in touch with Giron yet.)

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THE JUST SAY NO” MISSION

The mission of the “Just Say No” citizens, protesting the project, is this:

“We are a group of Bethelites who are asking that our officials start saying NONO to developments encroaching on our protected wetlands! NO to approving zoning changes for projects that lack infrastructure to support the increased density! NO to developers profiting from building in our community with the cheapest possible material! NO to giving any developer consideration when they have ignored the most basic health and safety regulations! NO to approving expansion before we can pay for the added stressors on our already underfunded infrastructure!

The residents claim, “Multiple areas will encroach on protected wetlands; Area zoned for single family is lacking infrastructure to support increased density; Reports of un-permitted fill material dumped before the Village approved the development.”

The complaint reads, “We say no to changing our laws for someone who does not even have the courtesy to follow the rules. No to encroaching on wetlands. No to increasing population density before we have the infrastructure in place to handle the increase. The property was purchased with the full knowledge that it is not zoned, nor is it appropriate for an apartment complex.” 

The group states:

“We are a group of Bethel Residents tired of developers doing whatever they want regardless of the impact on our community.

“We want to be a place where development projects are asking for special consideration such as changing zoning, encroaching on wetlands or developing outside of what is reasonable for the area being constructed are publicly scrutinized.

“If developers are asking consideration from our leaders to build in our idyllic community, they should show they appreciate being a part of it by investing in more than the cheapest and least durable products.”

“Bethelites have always shown fierce pride of ownership in our surroundings but lately we are noticing a scourge of the cheapest materials and designs being allowed to become the norm. If someone is willing to invest in being a part of our community, we feel they should show it by not throwing up the cheapest structures devoid of any character of charm that once defined us. We understand that it is all of us being straddled by the scourge of eye sores and it has to stop!

“We feel that if someone comes to us with unclean hands asking for changes in our laws, we must say no.

“In Bethel, we used to be able to allow our handshakes to be our contract. Of late, we are seeing some shocking behavior from the developers asking for our trust to do right when in our opinion they do not deserve it. We are a community that prides itself on following the rule of law without exception or preference. We understand that a person’s word is their bond and if they are unwilling to follow even the most basic health and safety rules, they cannot be trusted and should never be given any consideration as they have degraded all of us through their actions.”

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THE RESPONSE FROM BUILDER TIM DRAPER and his wife LAUREL DRAPER

A response to the complaints from builder Tim Draper and his wife Laurel Draper is as follows:

“Here are some of the facts surrounding the misinformation being spread out there regarding some of our projects.

1) These people posting on facebook and that website “Just say no”  are overly biased due to where I’m assuming they live. For the sole reason that they only reference the Goodhill project and not the other projects going on in our village (town). For the record both Tim and I were born and raised in Bethel and never once have heard it called a village…it’s the Town of Bethel. If these people are so very concerned about all of this then why is there silence from them regarding The National Builders that have built 72 houses on 21 acres? Or the other 8-30G projects going on as in 10 Wooster St., Nashville or Chestnut? Seems like the type of people that doesn’t want anything in their backyard, but not really concerned with other areas. It’s pretty upsetting to see a bio on that webpage of my husband, no other builders in Bethel that have done 8-30Gs (which there are plenty of). But for them to single out my husband and post his information and picture on their website is pretty disturbing.

2) Now this is where it’s really interesting….(besides the bio) their reference to “cheapest possible materials” is a downright lie. Do these individuals have actual knowledge of what materials we have used? Insulation type? Flooring type? Electrical materials? Appliances? It’s highly doubtful, but please correct me if I’m wrong and ask them to reference their sources. You can also ask them to clarify which materials we have used that are their words “cheap”? Ask them if they have building experience and if they would know the difference between good and shoddy building materials. Please by all means verify with them, I’d love to hear it.

3) This one is easy to verify… #9 GoodHill is not on ANY wetlands, only .36% of 1 acre is in the upland review area, so their comments about this are null and void. Feel free to check with Bethel Land Use.

4) Someone commented that we created the water issue on Taylor Avenue…wrong again. Once again feel free to contact Our First Selectman and or Public Works Director. They have both verified that the town already had an issue and it was NOT created by our project. We have an email from the Selectman stating that as well and that he had told people who called about it the same. Once again misinformation spread by those that have no real knowledge or experience in this field. This was a great example of throwing out misinformation in hopes people will believe it. Truly knowledgeable people start with facts instead of posting false information. There are countless incorrect posts, and unless you want to sound misinformed then do some research yourself and verify your findings.

5) If these individuals had any knowledge of our previous projects they would know another one their comments is blatantly false. Taylor Avenue is comprised of one bedroom units with a max of two people per unit. To this date there is one mother and son living in one of the units. The others are singles and professional couples. clearly that is not impacting the schools in any way. Even so, are these people saying they are allowed to have children in the schools but our tenants are not? We pay roughly 50K a year to the town of Bethel in property taxes, on this property alone. This is how we make a living and we pay a lot of money to the town for being able to do so. 50K a year goes along way with helping the infrastructure of this town. We do not have any children in the school systems anymore. We have one that owns a home in Bethel and one currently in the Air National Guard and becoming a partner in the T&M businesses.  Between all our properties (personal home and other homes) we pay much more than 50K a year to the town, so their comments on increasing infrastructure before we build anything more is again not valid. We pay a lot and a trip to the Tax Assessors or tax collectors office can verify that.

6) There were no health or safety violations in any of our projects. Ask what health and or safety violation have we committed. If they say the dumping top soil (which is not a health or safety violation) that is incorrect. The dumping was done during the permit process which apparently is not allowed but once we get a permit it is. Regardless it is still not a health or safety issue. Nor is it illegal as they claim. If we violated health and safety on any of our other projects we would not have been allowed to proceed.

So, I will say it again if these individuals are so concerned with Bethel as a ‘village’ then why did they not start with the out of state company? Interestingly enough they outsource all of their workers, providers and yes shoddy materials. They build to the bare minimum building codes. Since we are builders we know what they use and its easy to find the numerous lawsuits they are involved in. We use all local workers, local providers and high end materials (spray foam insulation, stainless steel appliances, waterproof flooring).  

We live in this town and our names are attached to whatever we do. We do not build 72 houses on 21 acres and leave.  Where were these keyboard warriors then? Once again, why no mention on their website regarding the 8-30G on 10 Wooster St. or the one on Nashville that was just completed? Or maybe even the Chestnut project that is under construction?

The property (9 Goodhill) was for sale to anyone who could have bought it, but they all chose not to and now they try to deprive a developer from building on his own property all in accordance of state laws? They are asking Bethel to say no, but only to Tim Draper. I want to know why we are being singled out by them? if they’ve done their homework they would know that the state WANTS affordable housing and our little village is short of the state mandate. Maybe they should actually research what 8-30g is for- work force housing- with 30% of total units going towards those less fortunate. So pretty much there isn’t anything they can do. And to answer another misconception …no we get no money from the state for anything. We do get more road blocks from the town because they dislike the idea they cannot control the 8-30g.

At first I wasn’t going to even respond to this, but the misinformation and downright lies got to be too much and the bio of my husband was the last straw. I cannot stress enough that I am dumbfounded that it’s just us. But I am considering the sources and moving forward. We will move forward.”

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THE INLANDS WETLAND September 11, 2019 MEETING

The “Just Say No” protest group objects to “un-permitted fill material dumped before the village approved the development.”

The last Inlands Wetland meeting took place on September 11, 2019, where the issue was about “an improperly placed pile of dirt on the Goodhill property by the builder referred to as “non-permitted placement of fill material within a Regulated Upland Review Area (Activity Observed
08/ 22/ 19. ‘Order to Correct’ Notice sent via Regular & Certified
Mail 09/ 03/ 19).”

Odmann said, “Even though there was almost no notice, the hearing was held on one of the saddest days for all of us, the hearing was packed! The Board directed the developer to remove the ‘fill’ and that the developer conduct tests on the material. We found out last night that the seemingly endless line of dump trucks coming and going from this site was taken from areas with a history of heavy industry and that the developer knew this. What was not addressed was how residents who rely on well water will be able to know if whatever this person dumped has not compromised our drinking water or what other atrocities this person has gotten away with at other sites in the area given what was uncovered last night.

As the Inlands Wetland September 11, 2019 meeting minutes state:

“Neil Marcus, Cohen and Wolf, P.C., spoke on behalf of the Applicant, Timothy Draper. The Applicant is in receipt of the ‘Order to Correct,’ dated September 3, 2019, requesting to correct the non-permitted placement of topsoil (fill) material within a 100′ Regulated Upland Review Area by removing any and all non-permitted materials from the site before September 23, 2019.

“Mr. Marcus stated the Applicant agrees to the moving of the stockpiled material from the Regulated Upland Review Area to an area onsite. He stated two-thirds of the material is within the Regulated Upland Review Area and one-third is not,

“The Commission question where the fill material came and the Applicant, Timothy Draper, 36 Aunt Patty’s Lane East, stated 91 Wooster Street.

“Discussion ensued on the Phase 1 Environmental study that was previously completed, Mr. Marcus stated the Applicant would be willing to test the material which the Commission was in agreement.

“Planning & Zoning Director Cavagna stated the activity should not have taken place due to the Applicant’s Inland Wetlands Application being currently under review by the Commission. The Applicant cannot change the site plan prior to a decision by the Inland Wetlands Commission.

“The Commission requested the Applicant remove the material and return the site back to the original state until a decision has been made.

“The Applicant agreed to the removal of material and indicated removal would take approximately three days.”

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“JUST SAY NO” PETITION

The “Just Say No” group currently has an online petition, “STOP BUILDING ON GOODHILL RD” currently with 205 signatures. It reads:

“We, the undersigned eligible voters, are filing this petition to STOP the development proposed by Tim Draper for the land at #9 Goodhill Road in Bethel, CT named Oak Woods. As concerned residents of Goodhill Road and fellow residents of Bethel, CT, we are opposed to the 11-apartment complex proposed under 8-30g, which currently is under consideration and approval through the Bethel Wetlands Committee (on September 23, 2019).

“We respectfully ask for no approval to be granted to Tim Draper for this property; not because we are against growth and development in our town, but because we are supporters of appropriately located developments.”

The group’s most compelling reasons include:

1. Environmental: #9 Goodhill Road is adjacent to several surrounding wetland areas. These ecosystems provide habitats to many animals and plants. There has already been displacement of animals due to fill being dumped at #9 without permit the week of August 19, 2019 (25 truckloads were brought in over the course of two days). The source of the fill is unknown and is a concern due to possible contaminants. Land development practices have direct and indirect effects on Wetlands. Drainage and sediment can wash into these delicate ecosystems, forever damaging the environmental balance [3]. The building of the Oak Woods Complex is unsuitable for property #9, as the impact of such a large structure will cause more harm to the surrounding ecosystems than a single family home.

2. Safety: Goodhill Road, Taylor Avenue, and Nashville Road have insufficient road infrastructure. If the development moves forward, there will be a dramatic increase in traffic flow which will result in accidents, injuries, and fatalities. For example, Taylor Avenue, a heavily frequented “cut through road” to town, has a very dangerous hairpin turn. All three roads are narrow without sidewalks or pedestrian crosswalks. Nearby intersections cannot handle the increase in traffic that will occur if the development is permitted.Traffic has already increased significantly on neighborhood roads due to the complex at #49 Taylor Ave (Ledge Woods 18-unit apartments), another development built by Tim Draper, using the 8-30g application. Additional safety concerns include two school bus stops at the intersection of Goodhill and Taylor and intersection of Taylor and Nashville.

3. Zoning: Goodhill Road is an R-20 zone (Residential: single family homes). The proposed Oak Woods complex does not meet the requirements of an R-20 zone. Goodhill Road comprises only of single family home dwellings.

4. Geography: The construction at #9 will cause a situation similar to Tim Draper’s #49 Taylor Ave complex development, Ledge Woods Apartments. The water table was disrupted and caused flooding and icy conditions on Taylor Avenue in February 2019, which created a hazardous condition for all vehicles, including school buses. As a result, school buses for BPS were rerouted during this time period. It is to be determined if more action needs to be taken regarding the water table. We must not permit the building of Oak Woods to prevent the disturbance of the water table and its effect on roads and neighboring properties.

In conclusion, based on our information provided and cited above, the undersigned petitioners ask that you cease the development of the 11 apartment complex known as Oak Woods.

Sources: Wetlands of Connecticut: CT.gov – http://www.ct.gov/deep/lib/deep/water_inland/wetlands/wetlands_of_ct.pdf

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MEETING TONIGHT!

There is an Inland Wetlands Commission meeting planned for tonight (Regular Meeting Agenda), Monday, September 23, 2019, at 7:00 p.m. in Meeting Room D of the CJH Municipal Center, 1 School Street, Bethel CT, where review of the application for development will continue. Public Comments allowed.

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