Earlier this month, Ben Barnes, Secretary of Connecticut’s Office of Policy and Management told Transportation Commissioner James Redeker that his department’s Environmental Impact Evaluation and Record of Decision (EIE/ROD) “does not satisfy the requirements of the Connecticut Environmental Policy Act (CEPA)” because it doesn’t address the concerns brought forth by members of the community. New Haven spoke against the garage proposal with a unified voice last year, saying the proposal catered to the interests of drivers over pedestrians and bicyclists, and didn’t take into account the City’s development priorities for the area.
In his memo to Commissioner Redeker, Barnes says [emphasis added]
Section 22a-1a-9(b) of the Regulations of Connecticut State Agencies (RCSA) requires that a record of decision state the following:
(2) Whether all practicable means to avoid or minimize environmental harm have been adopted, and if not, why they were not.
For matters related to the CEPA, RCSA Section 221-1a-1 defines “environment” as “the physical, biological, social, and economic surroundings and conditions which exist within an area which may be affected by a proposed action including land, air, water, minerals, flora, fauna, noise, objects of historic or aesthetic significance and community or neighborhood characteristics.
It is my opinion that the EIE/ROD, which was prepared by the Department of Transportation (CTDOT) and submitted to the Office of Policy and Management (OPM) via a letter dated April 24, 2017, does not adequately address a number of the community and neighborhood concerns raised during last year’s public comment period, nor does it adequately address certain issues raised by OPM staff during the CEPA review process.
Barnes’ memo comes as a welcome turn of events in the Union Station garage saga (Tri-State Transportation Campaign submitted testimony against the proposal) and a surprising one, too. Barnes’ boss, Governor Dan Malloy, had supported a garage-only proposal and had been dismissive of local concerns. In August of last year, Malloy said during a press conference at Union Station that “We’re trying to build a garage. This is not intended to be an economic development effort… What we’re being asked is to build a lot of other things besides that.”
Now the ball is in ConnDOT’s court. According to Barnes’ memo, the department must address the document’s “inadequacies” and submit it to the Office of Policy and Management for review.