Blasting planned to clear Howard Johnson's site for Hilton Suites

Blasting and rock crushing operations are not ways property owners endear themselves to their neighbors, but those are the proposed intermediary plans to bring a Hilton Homewood Suites to 1052 Boston Post Road, now the location of a Howard Johnson's motel.

Attorney Christopher Smith, representing property owner Turnpike Lodge, told the Planning and Zoning Board (P&Z) at a July 16 public hearing that the existing 89-room motel would be replaced with a four-story 95-room extended stay hotel.

Smith said the 7.21-acre property is located in the Interchange Commercial Zone District, which permits hotels. He said Howard Johnson's was originally 165 rooms, but was reduced to 89 rooms in 2006. He said the four outbuildings have been demolished in the past three months, leaving only the main motel building.

Smith said that Philip Craft, who is president of Turnpike Lodge, “has a long term vision for this property.” Smith read from the Milford Plan of Conservation and Development, which describes Cherry Street as a gateway to downtown. He said the current property “is not really attractive” and is right at the entrance to this gateway.

Project Engineer David Bjorklund said the site is a difficult one to develop because there is a rapid change in grade from the front to the rear of the property. As a result, the developer would like to lower the rear of the site by 20 to 25 feet by removing rock from the property.

“We want to do this all at once,” said Bjorklund, “get the materials off site, construct the hotel, then work on the rest of the property.”

The intent would be to create a rear pitch on the property to contain storm run-off onsite. Once finished, he said the property could store 41 inches of rainfall, as compared to 42 inches of typical rainfall for the entire year for Milford.

“We can store the equivalent to a five-year storm in that area,” said Bjorklund.

In addition to blasting the rock, he said the company would like to conduct a rock crushing operation on the property. He said the proposed rock crusher would be located 200 feet from the rear property line, “so we don't have an impact on adjacent residential properties.”

The project would meet requirements, including having a pre-blast survey of all adjacent properties, seismic monitoring during blasting, and not storing explosives on-site, said Bjorklund.

The proposal calls for removing 147,000 cubic yards of rocks over an 18-month period with 25 trucks per day moving the rocks out at a rate of three trucks per hour, said Bjorklund. The timeline would be affected somewhat by the market for the material, so the project could extend up to a period of 24 months, he said.

“We would commit to a maximum of no more than 50 trucks per day,” said Bjorkund.

Bjorklund said that modern rock crushing systems include dust-control mechanisms. The contractor will also spray and sweep the site for dust.

Once the hotel site is reduced to the desired grade level, construction on that building would start while excavation would continue on other portions of the site for a future unspecified commercial development.

To screen the property from the residential area behind the hotel, he said there would be a 30-foot wide buffer zone with a 6-foot high chain-link fence bordered by 70 Douglas fir or spruce trees, said Bjorklund.

Smith said the on-site rock crusher is desired because it will speed the pace of construction. He said rock crushers are prohibited in Milford, unless they are “an integral part of a special permit.” He said this application complies with the regulations that would allow the use of the rock crusher for up to three years, although the excavation is expected to last 18 to 24 months.

Board Chairman Mark Bender expressed concern about the effect of blasting and rock crushing on Forest Park condominiums behind the property.

Smith said that with modern blasting techniques, the shock is less than stronger explosives used in the past. He said the last thing the developer wants is a problem with the P&Z board.

“If there is a problem, you can revoke the permit,” said Smith.

Laurent Yergeau, vice president of Turnpike Lodge, said the contractor was demolishing the rear buildings between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. He said when the contractor started to come earlier than 8 a.m., people from the condominium called him and he stopped the early work.

The proposal drew no public comments. The board is scheduled to discuss the proposal at its Aug. 6 meeting at 7:30 p.m. at City Hall.