A nonprofit environmental group filed a complaint against the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development last week arguing that it didn’t do an environmental study before choosing to locate the headquarters of a hedge fund on waterfront property in Stamford.
The 14-acres commonly referred to as “Harbor Point” is expected to be the future headquarters for Bridgewater Associates, a Westport-based hedge fund. It used to be Stamford’s only working boatyard, but the property is now being cleared in anticipation of the Bridgewater project.
Soundkeeper Inc., the nonprofit environmental group headed by state Rep. Terry Backer, filed the lawsuit last week in Hartford Superior Court. The complaint alleges that the Connecticut’s Environmental Policy Act requires every state-approved or state-funded activity that may significantly impact the environment to be evaluated with a report known as an Environmental Impact Evaluation.
The state has approved about $115 million in loans and tax credits for Bridgewater to move its 1,225 employees from Westport to Stamford. In exchange, Bridgewater has promised to create 1,000 more jobs over the next 10 years.
But the deal means that Stamford will lose 14-acres of waterfront property that will be replaced by an 850,000 square-foot office building and three-story parking garage, according to the complaint.
“The site is in a flood plain, is zoned for “water-dependent uses,” and has been used as a boatyard or shipbuilding facility for more than a century,” the complaint states.
In a phone interview Monday, Backer said that “working waterfront has been vanishing for the past 30 years and slowly, but surely beginning to cut off access.”
Backer said that an environmental study should be done before a project of this size is built on what precious little waterfront is left.
The lawsuit filed by Soundkeeper’s attorney Reed Super goes onto state that contrary to the recommendation of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, the Economic and Community Development agency also didn’t evaluate alternative sites for the project.
Even if the agency did its due diligence on the site by collecting information about the environmental impact, it was not gathered through an Environmental Impact Evaluation and has not been shared with the public, according to the complaint.
A spokesman for the Economic and Community Development agency declined to comment for the report because it’s pending litigation.
The lawsuit says the potential environmental problems that could result include water pollution, flooding, fauna, noise, and traffic.
The state “did not require legally adequate mitigation of adverse environmental effects and, to the extent DECD considered any mitigation measures, those measures were not developed, analyzed, disclosed and review through the EIE process,” according to the complaint. “Further, the proposed Bridgewater project is inconsistent with the goals and policies of the Coastal Management Act and the state plan of Conservation and Development.”
Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has been a supporter of the project. The former mayor of Stamford for 14 years before becoming governor, Malloy pitched Ray Dalio, who heads Bridgewater Associates, during an encounter at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland in January 2012.