MONROE — With just a single application on its agenda, the Planning and Zoning Commission delved into the details of a proposed fill and excavation permit application for 64 Cambridge Dr./4 Independence Dr. at its Thursday, November 18, meeting.

All other applications currently before the commission had been pushed off to the first meeting in December.

After nearly three hours, commissioners agreed to continue a Public Hearing on the application to its Thursday, December 16, meeting in order for the intervenor in the case, Peter Metropoulis, to have one additional expert provide testimony.

That expert, Evan Glass, was not available due to a death in the family, Attorney Joel Green explained.

Arnold Karp, who describes himself as the managing partner of owners Astro Land Holdings LLC and Spacely Land Holdings LLC, began the formal presentation by thanking commissioners for making the hearing the one application item on the agenda so that experts could take their time and explain the issues more completely.

“The site restoration needs to be done,” he said. “We want to do the right thing from the beginning.”

He promised the team would be back at a later date with a site development plan as the ultimate goal is to create two parcels that can be used to build taxable industrial development for the town.

Engineer Kevin Solli, representing the applicant, said he would try to be as brief as he could as he began by providing commissioners with a history of the property, beginning in 2006 when the two parcels were approved for two industrial buildings.

In doing the site work, a previous owner over-excavated the property, going far beyond what any permit allowed.

Mr. Karp and his partners purchased the two parcels in July of 2019 after attempting to assure themselves that no major issues were involved. Mr. Karp has since tried to create a path forward by addressing any violations on the property, Mr. Solli said.

That included putting forth an application for filling, excavation and site remediation work that ultimately failed because of the large scope of the proposed work.

Mr. Solli made a point of noting that a “concerned neighbor,” who had attempted to purchase the two parcels when they were put up for sale by the previous owner, has since continued to raise concerns with multiple government entities, causing the current owners to change course a little.

The partnership has since returned to the town’s Inland Wetlands Commission with a scaled back version of the remediation plan. That plan was recently approved by Inland Wetlands, Mr. Solli said. That now brings the applicant before the Planning and Zoning Commission for the required fill and excavation permit.

The current plan involves filling the large hole created on the property by the previous owner by first de-watering the hole and then using native soil as fill up to a 411-foot elevation and imported clean fill after that up to an elevation of approximately 465 feet.

Mr. Solli explained that it has been determined that groundwater is available up to an elevation of 410 feet. The use of native soil helps protect that groundwater. Clean fill is acceptable as fill for the remainder.

A 40-mil poly tarp will be installed about six feet below the top of the fill to help drain any storm water off the fill toward a wetlands located along the eastern portion of the property, helping to rehydrate that wetlands area.

The state has a definition of clean fill, Mr. Solli continued. That definition excludes construction or demolition debris. It includes three types of fill: native soil; rock, brick, ceramics, and asphalt paving, and polluted soil that has been remediated. The applicant does not plan to use asphalt or polluted soil, he said.

Any trucks coming in with fill will have to show on their manifests that the material has been tested and meets the applicant’s standards for clean fill. It will then be visually screened before it is accepted, he said. The applicant will only accept as fill such materials as native soil, rock, stone, sand, gravel, clean concrete, ceramics and brick.

The applicant has two active permits for stormwater management with the state, Mr. Solli continued. Those permits will allow the discharge of stormwater from the property into a sediment basin during construction.

As part of the application, the owners were requesting certain waivers be approved, including waivers that impact acceptable grading levels along lot lines and the steepness of slopes along those same lines and along the road.

The waiver along lot lines is mostly necessary because the property is divided into two parcels, although the applicant does intend to revise the lot lines, as requested in the application. There are some existing berms along the roadway and that is part of the reason for the final waiver.

The overall plan calls for about 493,000 cubic yards of material and the application includes a request to process imported material on site. That processing would consist of sorting materials, crushing rock, screening and stockpiling.

Representatives noted that the plan is a response to a Notice of Violation filed by the town’s Inland Wetlands Commission and not a typical site development request, although the ultimate goal is to develop the property for industrial use. The Wetlands Commission held numerous sessions listening to expert testimony and ultimately approved the plan that is now before the Planning and Zoning Commission.

With the applicant’s formal presentation concluded, the commission then turned to the intervenor. Attorney Green said, “For a variety of reasons, I am going to urge this commission to deny this application.” He disputed a few things mentioned by the applicant’s representatives, including the idea that the intervenor may have been the cause behind the large number of sessions held by the Inland Wetlands Commission.

He also said a number of conditions that ultimately was attached to its approval had first been suggested by the intervenor. He suggested that although most of the damage done to the property was done by a previous owner, there was some overlap, especially in terms of personnel.

Mr. Green spent several minutes reviewing documents related to the demolition of a building at 333 Main St. in Danbury. He then showed that some of this material from the former Danbury News Times building, such as concrete with rebar embedded, was brought to City Carting in Stamford, which he said shared ownership with those who owned the Monroe property. He concluded by saying that the commission should inspect the Monroe site again.

When commissioners asked about Mr. Green’s definition of clear fill, he said he would refer to the absent Mr. Glass for that definition. When questioned about the intervenor’s vision for the site, he suggested an environmental consultant should be hired to create a plan for the property and not accept what he termed a “short cut” approach.

When Commissioner Ryan Condon asked if the intervenor had ever expressed interest in purchasing the property, Mr. Metropoulis asked to speak on his own behalf. He said he had considered purchasing the property after buying his own parcel at 36 Timothy Hill Rd. He was told it would cost around $8 million to fill the hole.

He said his current goal is to assure that any construction debris be removed from the property before additional clean fill is brought in. He asked that any soil that was imported onto the property previously be dug out and tested.

Commissioner Leon Ambrosey asked the applicant if he had conducted an environmental impact study. He said he was concerned about groundwater and potential contamination, especially given the size of the project.

Attorney Jane Warren, representing the applicant, referred to the testing done by WSP and noted that everything passed. She also noted that the Inland Wetlands Commission had hired a third party consultant, Arcadis, to review the results and the plan and Arcadis had concluded that the testing was sufficient.

When Mr. Ambrosey explained he had watched all of the Inland Wetlands Commission’s meetings and he remained concerned about the groundwater, Mr. Solli responded that the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection is empowered to monitor environmental concerns and they have thus far found no reason to intervene.

Ms. Warren said that DEEP has been involved with monitoring this property for two years while the intervenor has continued to file complaints and to date DEEP has found no issues with the property. She went on to say that the intervenor is trying to challenge the definition of clean fill, but that definition is by state statute.

Just before the commission agreed to continue the public hearing and stop discussion on the topic for the evening, 

Town Planner Rick Schultz asked if the commission wanted to consider hiring a consultant to assist it in reviewing the facts as presented by the applicant and intervenor.

The commission concluded it did not wish to do so at this time, but did request copies of the Arcadis report.

The hearing was continued to Thursday, December 16.

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