Building & Landscape
Zoning Regulations | Septic Systems | Landscaping Guidelines | Waterfront
© 2015 Google satellite image of Lake Waramaug
Lake Waramaug is a fragile resource, whose water and environmental quality need to be safeguarded by every homeowner in its watershed and by every recreational user. Thirty years ago the Lake was in a precarious state. Ultimately, steps were taken that made its rejuvenation a Connecticut environmental success story. You are now a steward of the Lake and your decisions regarding building, landscaping, septic and docks make a big difference to its future. We encourage homeowners to commit to prudent building and landscaping practices by following specific regulations enacted to protect the lake. For the protection and preservation of Lake Waramaug, check with the land use officials and wetlands enforcement officials in your town and secure necessary permits before commencing any work.
The Lake Waramaug area has specific zoning requirements over and above town restrictions in order to protect the Lake and its watershed from excessive runoff, erosion and pollutants, and to maintain the character of the area. Please work with your builders, planners and landscapers to do as much as you can to protect the Lake by minimizing impermeable surfaces, installing effective drainage, avoiding unnecessary fertilizers, and protecting surrounding land during construction. Permits are required from the town of residence for almost all structures (both new and alterations). A special permit is required for work within 50 and 75 feet of the Lake, which is within the setback limit. Work (both structures and landscaping) within 100 feet of the lake shore or of upland streams, watercourses, ponds and wetlands is also regulated by the Inland Wetlands Commissions of the three towns.
Washington and Warren have enacted requirements concerning the size, number, location and construction of docks and floats and, in order to preserve views of the Lake, the height of fences and visual barriers on the Lake side of the lake roads. Check with land use and inland wetland officials (see contacts, below) before building a new dock or fence, or altering or repairing an existing facility.
Warren has recently posted a list of required approvals and permits needed for any building.
"Sequence of Events for Construction of Dwellings, Additions, Pools or Accessory Buildings"
The "Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Regulations of the Town of Washington" includes a special section (11A - starting on page 22) that defines "Special Criteria for Applications...around Lake Waramaug."
Washington's Inland Wetlands Commission also provides forms & documents related to applications and their oversight.
Town of Washington Zoning Regulations with regulations pertaining specifically to the Lake Waramaug Residential District can be found in Section 6.
Town of Kent Zoning Regulations with regulations pertaining to Lake Waramaug are Section 6 (Rural District) and Section 10 (Lake Waramaug Watershed District).
The Regulations generally prohibit:
If approval is sought for any activity which would otherwise be prohibited under the Regulations (on the ground, for example, that a retaining wall is necessary at a particular location to prevent environmental damage, to allow reasonable access to the lake, for protection of lakefront property, or proper maintenance of such property), the application must be detailed and will generally require the participation of a qualified engineer or other expert.
- the erection of new shoreline retaining walls, directing instead that steps be taken to strengthen the natural shoreline;
- the creation of new sand beaches, which lead to the erosion of beach material and sedimentation into the lake; and
- the use of pressure or chemically treated wood for many purposes, to minimize the leaching into the lake of substances dangerous to its ecology and water quality.
The Regulations also call for the preservation and expansion of existing vegetative cover (trees, shrubs, ground cover) to aid bank stabilization, and contains criteria relating to installation of shoreline dock and float anchors.
Please remember that in Washington, Warren and Kent, any activity in the lake or within 100 feet of the shoreline requires compliance with extensive town regulations. BEFORE you undertake ANY activity (including construction, alteration, tree removal, removing or depositing soil, stones and other materials, or installation of docks, fences, or other structures, etc.), contact your local Land Use official. For information about zoning regulations regarding setbacks, proportion of impervious surfaces, structures, docks, fences, clearing and wetlands restrictions, consult your Town's office:
- Town of Washington
Land Use Brochure
Land Use Office, 860-868-0423
- Town of Kent
Land Use Info
Land Use Office, 860-927-4625
- Town of Warren
Land Use Info
Land Use Office, 860-868-7881
Septic system maintenance is very important to the health of the Lake. Your septic tank requires periodic pumping in order to operate efficiently and to prevent leaching into the lake, wells or watercourses near your property. Such maintenance should take place at least every 3 years and more frequently if there is heavy usage or your property is close to the water.
For more information, please download this pdf of the EPA's Homeowner's Guide to Septic Systems.
To Report Septic Odors:
For Washington, contact Suzanne Von Holt at 860-355-6035 in the New Milford Department of Health, which provides contracted sewer and septic regulation services to the Town of Washington.
For Warren, contact Richard Rossi at 860-489-0436, ext. 311 in the Torrington Area Health District (TAHD). You can leave voice mail for the Torrington Office at 860-489-0436, ext. 312 or fax 860-496-8243.
Are Wetlands in Your Backyard? This is an excellent primer from a Rhode Island organization on the value of protecting wetlands. Please note that some regulations in Rhode Island may not be exactly like those in CT. But this will help you consider how your landscaping, drainage and yard maintenence affect wetlands and the lake.
Protective buffer strip planting of natural vegetation between lawn or hardscape and the Lake is recommended. A buffer catches and absorbs storm water runoff, filtering contaminants and inhibiting soil erosion. The Lake Waramaug Task Force (with the support of this Association, the Washington Environmental Council and Washington Garden Club) has sponsored a model planting at the property at 47 West Shore Road consisting of native trees, shrubs, flowering plants and grasses. Please download this list of plants for use in your yard.
"The Shore Primer - a Cottager's Guide to a Healthy Waterfront," provides a good description of the aging process of a lake and steps a homeowner can take to support their lake including buffer plantings, tree clearing and lessening lawn impact.
For any lawn, avoid the use of chemical weedkillers and fertilizers. Connecticut state law now bans phosphorus in lawn fertilizers. Prevent grass clippings and leaves from falling into the Lake. If possible, let the grass grow at least 2 -3 incheslong between trimmings to conserve soil moisture.
The State of Connecticut has prohibited the importation, transportation, sale, purchase, possession, cultivation or distribution of a number of invasive plants including the following aquatic plants:
- Curlyleaf Pondweed
- Eurasian Water Milfoil
- Variable Water Milfoil
- Common Reed
- Purple Loosestrife
- American Water Lotus
- Giant Salvinia
- Water Lettuce
- Onerow Yellowcress
- Pond Water Starwort
- Brittle Water Nymph
- Water Chestnut
- Yellow Floating Heart
- Yellow Iris
- Watercress (except without reproductive structures sold for human consumption)
For more information on invasive plants with photographs visit these websites:
Aprox. 6" long piece of curly pondweed
Connecticut Invasive Plant Working Group
Invasive Plant Atlas of New England
Identification Guide to CT's Invasive Aquatic & Wetland Plants
Alternatives for Invasive Ornamental Plant Species, a helpful guide from UConn
Curlyleaf Pondweed, an invasive plant, has been discovered in several areas of the lake. The Lake Waramaug Task Force is working with Aquatic Control Technology, Inc. of Sutton, Massachusetts to explore ways to eliminate it.
The Association is supporting the Task Force as they seek ongoing funding for this undertaking. Visit their website to learn how you can support this effort.
This incursion is a reminder of the risk to our Lake from a small indiscretion. Write your representatives to advocate for a state invasive plant policy and to secure funding to support and enforce it.
Our Trees page has links to lots of information on selecting, planting and caring for trees. In addition to enhancing property values, trees absorb carbon dioxide and produce oxygen; they lower surface and air temperatures, and can decrease home energy use as much as 30%; they help prevent erosion and filter storm water run-off; and trees provide crucial bird and wildlife habitat and refuge.
Clear cutting of trees in the Lake area is environmentally unsound and not allowed at all within 100 feet of a watercourse. Clear cutting allows storm water run-off onto adjoining properties and ultimately into the lake, causing substantial erosion and permanent harm to the Lake. Controlled thinning and judicious pruning can provide enhanced views. All such activities require a prior application to Land Use and Inland Wetlands officials, necessary approvals and compliance with any conditions imposed on the area.
Docks are subject to regulation and zoning. Check with your town's zoning office for specific requirements. The Association is supporting the photographing of docks to document existing condition when alterations or replacements are sought. All docks should be clearly identified with the street address marked on the side facing the Lake to assist emergency personnel and finders of such items if they drift.
"The Dock Primer - A Cottager's guide to Waterfront-Friendly Docks" is a helpful source of information on docks.
Buoys and Markers: Owners of shoreline properties have been placing mooring buoys, markers and other objects, creating a hazard to boaters and rowers and an interference with navigation. The following is requested by the Lake Authority and local state troopers:
- Only place mooring buoys, not other markers, to moor boats.
- Mooring buoys should be placed within 50 feet of shoreline, except where a greater distance has been approved by the Lake Waramaug Authority due to water depth or other conditions of the location.
- Contact Trooper Sordi at 868-9671 if you believe such a condition exists.
- Any other marker or object placed in the Lake (for example to mark swim areas, to restrict speed, to warn of a danger or hazard or otherwise restrict boats from entering or using an area, is a "regulatory" or "navigation" marker. Under Connecticut law a permit is required from the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, after approval by the Lake Waramaug Authority. Contact Trooper Sordi for procedures 868-9671.
- Unauthorized markers may be removed by the Authority.
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