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A majority of the crowd at the March 6 Inland Wetlands Commission public hearing stood when an audience member asked fellow residents if they opposed a recycling facility proposed by Shoreline Rail and Recycling, LLC. While the commission is charged with weighing wetlands impacts, not popularity, of a given proposal, residents will get another chance to speak out at a second public hearing on Tuesday, April 3. (Photo by Eric O’Connell/Harbor News | Buy This Photo)
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Dozens of residents packed the auditorium at The Morgan School on March 6 for a meeting of the Inland Wetland Commission (IWC), many of them to voice their opposition to 94,000 square-foot recycling facility being proposed at 30 Old Post Road, where a Unilever warehouse once stood before collapsing.
In 2015, Shoreline Rail and Recycling, LLC (SRR) proposed building a facility on the property, but members of the Founders Village Homeowners Association, a condominium complex located across the railroad tracks from the site, filed a lawsuit to halt all construction on the site. The SRR is now back in front of the town to try to move the new proposal forward.
Anticipating a large crowd, the IWC meeting was moved to the auditorium to provide seating for spectators. Due to time constraints, the board passed a motion to continue the public hearing to Tuesday, April 3 at 6:30 p.m. and did not make a ruling on the application at the March 6 meeting.
IWC Chairman David Radka reminded attendees that the IWC has what he called a narrow scope of jurisdiction over the proposal. As an example, concerns expressed by the public focused on traffic or noise would not be considered by the IWC as part of this hearing. (If approved by the IWC, the proposal would move to the Planning & Zoning Commission [PZC], which is able to consider noise and traffic.)
Standing in Opposition
Nine speakers from the public spoke at the hearing; all were against the proposal. A particularly resonant comment came at the close of the public meeting, when an unidentified woman in the crowd interrupted proceedings to chastise the board.
“We don’t want the same fiasco as CVS, where we went to all the public meetings and it still happened!” the woman shouted, asking all those in the audience against the proposal to stand, to which nearly all in attendance did to loud applause.
In 2017, the proposal to build a new CVS downtown also drew heated public opposition at public meetings. After that proposal was originally being denied by PZC, it was revealed that a majority of PZC members had attended an unpublicized and unrecorded meeting in December 2016, in violation of the state’s open meeting laws. As the CVS application was still open at the time that meeting took place, the PZC was sued by the developers. The lawsuit led to a settlement that allowed for the proposed CVS to be built despite the original rejection by the PZC, which angered many in the community.
The nine speakers who spoke on official record expressed concerns over pollutants getting into the water, flood reactions, and safety measures.
“I won’t mince words, this is a disaster waiting to happen,” said James Conolly.
Mary McDonald spoke of her concern that any pollutants that entered the inland wetlands water would then flow into the Long Island Sound.
Loureiro Engineering Associates, a company that has represented SSR in front of the IWC, had representatives at the meeting who made a presentation to the public. George Andrews said that an example of the kind of waste stored at the facility would be “construction and demolition debris,” which he said would be stored inside the proposed facility.
“No activities are proposed in the wetlands,” Andrews said.
Andrews said that the closest any activity would get to the wetlands is five feet.
Earlier in 2018, Zoning Enforcement Officer Eric Knapp told the Harbor News what that there are still several steps in the approval process,in addition to the hearings and decision by the IWC.
“If the application is denied, the project, as proposed, cannot proceed, [though] the applicant could appeal or modify the project to reduce the wetlands impacts and try again,” Knapp said. “If the application is approved, as presented or with modifications and conditions, the applicant can proceed to the PZC for a special exception.”
The PZC would again require another public hearing, according to Knapp.
“The neighbors can appeal the IWC, in the same way they appealed the [Zoning Board of Appeals]’s decision [in 2015]. The special exception application will require the applicant submit evidence demonstrating that the application meets the standards set forth in the regulations. The PZC can approve or deny, and the same possible appeals would be possible,” Knapp said.
The public will get a chance to speak again at the April 3 meeting. The public hearing in April will start at 6:30 p.m., to allow more time to be devoted to the application, as the public had to leave the auditorium by 9:30 p.m., due to another anticipated large crowd, the meeting will once again be held at the Morgan School, 71 Killingworth Turnpike, Clinton.
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