Neighbors and interested parties can participate in various ways. Once submitted, the application is a public record and anyone may view it. Agency staff are on hand to help explain the proposal and answer questions. The public can also attend the meeting(s) when the project is presented and discussed. As a courtesy, it is the practice of the agency to ask for public comment, even if the project is reviewed without a public hearing.
Conversely, if a public hearing is held, it is the public's right to be heard and the agency is obligated to provide the opportunity. Statutes facilitate public involvement for applications by allowing a petition to be submitted calling for a public hearing (see Section 9.1 of the regulations (PDF)). The petition demonstrates substantial public interest - a criterion the agency is required to consider when it determines whether or not to hold a hearing on a proposal.
The jurisdiction of the agency is limited to inland wetlands and watercourses and stated concerns regarding wetland and watercourse impacts should be substantiated. For more technical concerns, it may be prudent for the interested member(s) of the public to hire a consultant to speak to the issues. Case law has firmly established the agency must give weight to statements based on the expertise of the person providing the information. For example, if the applicant’s engineer states stormwater flows will not impact a downstream property and the owner of that downstream property states they have had flooding problems in the past and the new development will make it worse, the agency has no choice but to take the word of the professional consultant. If the downstream property owner hires an engineer to evaluate the proposal and that engineer states their client’s property would be adversely affected, the agency has the discretion to follow the recommendation of either expert.
For much more involved proposals, the Connecticut General Statutes, section 22a-19, is sometimes chosen to provide aggrieved members of the public the right to intervene. This allows intervenors to gain legal standing within the process and requires a somewhat greater level of scrutiny by the agency.