The property at 31 Hogan Trail, where the owners want to tear down the existing house and replace it with a new house with a swimming pool. Some neighbors worry about the impact on frequent flooding from Indian River (in foreground). / Photo by Thane Grauel.

By Thane Grauel

WESTPORT — A proposal to tear down the house at 31 Hogan Trail and replace it with a new home and swimming pool is prompting neighbors’ concerns about effects on an already flood-prone neighborhood.

The existing house, built in 1968, sits on a half-acre. Indian River heads through one side of the parcel.

Neighbors told the Flood and Erosion Control Board on Wednesday night they are concerned that fill brought in for the project would make flooding on nearby properties even worse.

The river, which starts flowing from a hill to the north near the Norwalk-Westport line, is actually just a stream a few feet wide. There’s a small bridge carrying Hogan Trail over it near No. 31, as the waterway heads south before entering a culvert under Interstate 95 just before Exit 17 northbound. 

From there, it heads through the Hiawatha Lane Extension neighborhood, then under the Metro-North tracks, before finding its way to Saugatuck Harbor just south of the Saugatuck Railroad Station.

Avind Baur of Kousidis Engineering discussed the application with the flood board on behalf of the owner, Daniel Sixsmith.

Baur said that even with fill being brought in, the impact  on the 100-year flood level would raise it just 0.01 inches.

Ted Gill, a town engineer, said the applicant had designed a water detention system on the property that should keep all its own runoff on site for the required amount of time during a 25-year storm.

Indian River might be just a stream, but during heavy rains, neighbors said, it floods much of the neighborhood.

Another view of 31 Hogan Trail, where the owner wants to tear down the original house and replace it with a new one and a swimming pool. / Photo by Thane Grauel.

James McKay, of 3 Cricket Lane, one property downstream, spoke against the proposal.

“The flow of the creek in this area is uniquely controlled by the culvert under Hogan Trail, which concentrates the creek flow, and the culvert under 95, which limits the flow during regular heavy rain events,” McKay said during the hearing. 

“The distribution of extra water caused by the added fill in this project cannot be only looked at in the context of an extremely high-water, 100-year event, but also in routine flooding stages … each gallon of displaced water from this project needs to go somewhere downstream. However, there is no existing safe space in the existing catchment areas.”

Gill answered some of the concerns.

“Every inch of water that flows off the roof now might make it to the stream, but once you have built the new house, built the new drainage system, the first six and a half inches of rain for a 25-year storm all have to be going into a drainage system before anything can flow off of the property,” Gill said. 

He said the applicant has addressed that.

“This neighborhood floods,” Gill said. “It has flooded, it will flood. And what the applicant is not proposing to do is solve all the flooding in this neighborhood.”

Bill Mellott, of 4 Cricket Lane, had concerns about the burial of a large propane tank, and how the work might alter the stream’s flow.

“You’re basically going to bury a propane tank in the water table,” he said. “The water table comes up very rapidly around here. That area will get flooded with a couple feet of water … you’re burying a petroleum product in a waterway, in a potential wetland.”

He asked that it be relocated.

“I think that some re-engineering and some consideration on how the water is being dealt with and convinced to go on its journey really needs to take place,” he said.

The Flood and Erosion Control board approved the application.

The proposal also has been before the Conservation Commission, which will review it at another hearing set for  7 p.m. May 11. For the complete agenda and online link, click here.

The plan needs Conservation Commission approval because some of the work is within the upland review area and the Waterway Protection Line Ordnance area of Indian River.

Thane Grauel is a freelance writer and frequent contributor to Westport Journal. Learn more about us here.