FAIRFIELD, Conn. – The Connecticut Supreme Court has upheld the ruling against the town in a case about the oversight at the Fairfield Metro train station construction. But the decision might be too late to have much of an impact.
A group of residents calling themselves the Concerned Citizens of Fairfield filed a lawsuit against the town Conservation Commission in 2009. The plaintiffs included Representative Town Meeting member Edward Bateson, former RTM member Alexis Harrison and six others.
The suit argued that the Conservation Commission violated the Town Charter by appointing Gary Weddle as wetlands compliance officer for the Fairfield Metro station construction project, under the direction of then-First Selectman Kenneth Flatto. Weddle reported directly to the commission, instead of to Conservation Director Thomas Steinke.
Bridgeport Superior Court Judge Richard Arnold ruled in favor of the Concerned Citizens in July 2010. The state Supreme Court upheld Arnold’s ruling by a unanimous vote, according to a decision published last week.
“By ordering Weddle to report directly to the commission, the commission effectively usurped the conservation director’s role as the direct supervisor of the wetlands compliance officer,” Justice C. Ian McLachlan wrote in the court’s opinion.
Weddle remained the project’s wetlands compliance director even after the lower court’s ruling in 2010. Arnold ruled that fall that Weddle could remain in the job throughout the appeals process.
"For the present time, the court finds that the environmental concerns are being adequately monitored," Arnold wrote in November 2010. "Therefore, the plaintiffs, as taxpayers, are not suffering irreparable harm while the appellate process continues."
Construction on the public portion of the Fairfield Metro Center project finished last winter. But the members of Concerned Citizens say Steinke should still be allowed access to the project.
“This means they must inspect the property, determine if there are any existing violations of regulations of the permit and see if the work has been properly performed,” Concerned Citizens said a joint statement sent via email this weekend.
Private developer Black Rock Realty is seeking approvals for residential and retail space near the station. Concerned Citizens has called for Steinke to take over oversight for the private project as well. Steinke is on vacation and could not be reached for comment Monday about his new role at the site.