Construction of Wheelers Farms Road apartments will start with on-site rock crushing

The first step in the construction of a 180-unit affordable housing apartment complex at 354-438 Wheelers Farms Road will begin soon, following unanimous Planning and Zoning Board (P&Z) approval of an onsite earth materials processing plan at its June 19 meeting.

The board approved the special permit and site plan to allow Milford Developers LLC to process rock and gravel onsite for up to 90 days. Work will take place Mondays to Fridays, from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. The board included the stipulation that work begin at 8 a.m. on Saturdays, and agreed to the developer’s plan to end work at 5 p.m. on Saturdays.

Attorney Timothy Hollister said Milford Developers is the contract purchaser for the project. Hollister said construction is scheduled to begin in September and is expected to take three years.

Hollister said 22,000 cubic yards of excavated materials would be processed for use on the site, a plan that will save 2,750 truck trips if the materials had to be removed from the site for processing and brought back for use. Keeping the processing onsite also saves 30 days of work, he said.

“This is not in any way, shape or form to sell the processed material,” said Hollister.

Hollister said he sent letters to all adjoining neighbors six weeks ago and received only one call in response. There was no public comment at the public hearing because no one from the public stayed for this portion of the meeting.

“The goal is to reduce impacts on the neighbors and improve traffic safety by a temporary special permit,” said Hollister.

Project Engineer John Gilmore said zoning regulations require a 200-foot buffer between the rock processing operation and non-residential zones, and a 250-foot buffer to residential zones.

Gilmore said the center of the Milford Parkway is 300 feet away, and the nearest building on East Rutland Road is 475 feet away, and he said he believes that structure is a garage. The processing will take place on two of the parcel’s 26 acres.

Gilmore said the goal is to balance the materials processed onsite with the need for materials to be used in construction of the project. He said some materials might leave the site. The project will involve a mixture of excavating with tools and blasting.

Bob Sweeney, president of Sweeney Excavation of Hamden, said he has been involved with rock processing for 25 years. Sweeney said there would be a single-stage rock crushing machine onsite that will process rock to a three-inch piece of gravel. He said processing to a smaller size would involve a different machine, but that is not planned for this project. A water truck will spray a fine mist to control dust.

Sweeney said this process is quieter than what people might hear at a quarry, in part because there is no secondary crusher. He said the diesel machine has the latest Tier IV emissions control equipment.

“As long as it is full and processing, you don’t get what you might hear at a rock quarry,” said Sweeney.

The processing area is beyond the boundary for the wetlands on the property, so no Inland-Wetlands Agency review was required.

Project history
Wheelers Woods LLC filed the application under 8-30(g), the state’s affordable housing law, and it went through a long approval process, first coming before the P&Z in April 2015.

The proposal was strongly opposed by nearby residents at two public hearings. The board denied the project at its Aug. 4, 2015 meeting, a decision that was promptly appealed by the developers.

Justice Marshall K. Berger, presiding judge of the Superior Court’s Land Use Litigation Docket, on Sept. 20, 2016, overturned the P&Z denial.

Berger directed the board to revisit the proposed Housing Opportunity District (HOD) and request a change of zone that accompanied the original application, which the board also denied.

At its Nov. 1, 2016 meeting, the board unanimously rejected that new zone, which was proposed be added to zoning regulations as Article III, Section 3.25. The board also denied a requested change of the zone from Design Office 25 and Residential A to the HOD zone.

The project can be constructed without the regulations and zone change, but it will be non-conforming, since neither the office or the residential zones permit multi-family housing.

There will be 352 parking spaces, comprised of 290 surface parking spaces, and the rest in garages. The plans call for a conservation easement on 11.5 of the parcel’s 26 acres, which includes a 1.5-acre existing easement for high-tension powerlines that cross the property.

The one-bedroom units will range from 658 to 902 square feet., the two-bedroom units will range from 1,028 to 1,529 square feet, and the three-bedroom units will be 1,350 square feet.