Our very own Denise Halstead, PE, was hired by a developer to take an existing site of 15.87 acres, formerly the grounds of a gravel processing operation, consisting of 1.83 acres of wetlands and develop the site into an age-restricted community with a meeting center and pool. The development would have some 62 units, approximately 3,500 sf each with a garage and patio. This development would be the first new home community in Darien in more than a generation.
The plot of land was not without its challenges. The site had been overworked for 60 years and many drainage problems existed within the trunk storm sewer piping that ran throughout the entire property. A railroad and two cemeteries abutted the properties and the design be modified to appease all neighbors, regulatory agencies and the Town’s stormwater management requirements. The neighbors supported this development because the new design incorporated plans to alleviate flooding they regularly incurred during storm events.
The project required creative thinking in order to provide a home for a community that felt one with nature. One of the first improvements made was the replacement of the Town storm sewer and stormwater system. The use of underground systems combined with rain gardens and bioswales provided not just relief to the drainage concerns, but an environmentally sensitive and green infrastructure to complement the development.
The project was unanimously approved in 2009, but hit a hurdle with the State of Connecticut Department of Transportation. The project planned to re-use the existing driveway to access the site. The State denied use of the entrance because it crossed the Metro North railroad tracks, a site of multiple fatalities. The developer had to put the job on hold and determine another way to access the site. With the railroad abutting the site on the west, cemeteries on the west and north and wetlands on the east, the only access was via a neighboring street, and involved the purchase of properties to do so.
In 2010, a solution was found, and with approval from local regulatory agencies and the state, an access drive was developed off Wakemore Street. Final design work would include permitting from Metro North for a sanitary sewer crossing under the railroard tracks, as well as a State Department of Transportation permit for improvements on the nearby Hoyt Street and the realignment of their access road, Wakemore Street. The project included extensive coordination with utility companies, the Town of Darien Public Works department, and general contractor, client, sub-contractors, and other specialty consultants.
Construction commenced in 2011 and is proceeding as planned. The project is a 3-year phased project, expected to be completed sometime this year in 2014. Kensett Lane Development is noted to have “filled a need for marketrate homes that are different from the single-family residences available in Darien.” Town officials stated that the development provides a long-needed option for many older, longer-term residents of Darien looking to downscale while maintaining their connectivity to the town and providing bedrooms for visiting family.