A decision on a proposed Grillo Services landscaping products operation at 553 West Avenue will likely take place at the March 1 meeting of the Planning and Zoning Board (P&Z) at City Hall, which will start at 7:30 p.m.

The Grillo proposal shares the same meeting date as a proposed nine unit housing complex with an affordable component at 214-224 Seaside Avenue. The Seaside Avenue plan was postponed from the board’s Feb. 2 meeting due to an error in the public notice.

The board heard final information on the Grillo plan at its Feb. 16 public hearing, which included comments from six residents of the approximate 50 who attended (see related story), and closed the public hearing. The board deferred any discussion or vote on the proposal until its March 1 meeting to give board members time to review the detailed testimony presented.

Grillo is seeking a special exception and site plan review to construct a facility for leaf composting, tree and brush recycling, processing of topsoil, and sale of landscaping products, including mulch, compost, soils, gravel, stone products and pavers.

The facility, which would be accessed from West Avenue, would include two buildings with roads on fewer than eight acres of a 57.33-acre property zoned Design Office 25. The project would include construction of a 3,300 square foot two-story office building, and a single-story 3,200 square foot Quonset hut style building for dry storage.

This location would be in addition to the existing facility at 1183 Oronoque Road, where the company has a 16.48-acre property it leases. In 2021, Grillo’s lease on the Oronoque Road property expires, and the landlord plans to take back eight acres of the property for other uses.
Acoustic Study Discussed
The P&Z held open the public hearing to allow its consultant, SH Acoustics of Milford, to review the acoustic study prepared by Grillo’s acoustic engineer Dr. Carl A. Cascio, principal of Acoustical Technologies of Waterford.

Steve Haas, president of SH Acoustics, said a tub grinder and a screener would be the primary noise sources, adding that Cascio’s report determined the distance the machines would need to be set back to avoid intruding upon neighboring properties. Haas said the equipment would meet the sound regulation guidelines of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP).

Haas said the noise generated by I-95 would actually mask the noise generated by the tub grinder and screener, provided they were located far enough away from the neighboring homes.

“The two pieces of equipment would be mitigated through distance,” said Haas.

However, Haas said, the sound these machines generated would exceed state guidelines along certain portions of the adjacent Beaver Brook Trails. To reduce the sound to acceptable levels, a screening barrier would need to be placed between the machines and the trails, he said.

Haas said Cascio’s report “only addresses these two pieces of equipment” and does not examine the sound generated by vehicles on the property or traveling through the adjacent residential neighborhoods. Haas said the noise from vehicles depends on the loads they carry (rocks and gravel as compared softer materials), along with the level of backup alarms

Cascio presented a graph of potential noise levels from vehicles, which he said he measured at 22 locations at two heights and during different times of the day. He said the peak level for trucks would be 75 to 76 decibels with noise levels of 68 to 74 decibels when accelerating. Front-end loaders used on site might generate as much as 79 decibels of noise, he said.

Michael Grillo, co-owner of Grillo, said the noise from backup alarms could be adjusted by using alarms that sense the level of ambient noise and adjust the volume, so “the noise won’t propagate out to the neighbors,” said Grillo.

Board member Thomas Nichol said if the tub grinder, front end loader, and two dump trucks backing up were all operating at the same time, “You are way over your noise level.”

Cascio said, “Adding decibels is difficult,” saying that if one machine was generating 75 decibels of noise and another 79 decibels, the combined level would be 81 decibels.

“Plenty of places on the site exceed the state limits and employees will have to wear ear protection,” said Cascio. “The real issue is the impact to off-site neighbors. That’s why we have to have the acoustical fence.”

Haas said that Cascio’s chart shows the overall level of sounds, “but does not tell the whole picture of the subjective level of intrusion.” Haas said that tonal sounds, such as a backup alarms or squealing brakes are “much more subjectively perceptible” than constant background noise, and more information is needed to determine if the sound from vehicles is perceived as annoying.

Grillo said the company’s primary products are finished mulch, screened compost, and screened topsoil.

“They are all like loading powder and do not generate a lot of noise like rocks,” said Grillo. He said the company’s gravel products are typically loaded into smaller vehicles, averaging loads of two to six cubic yards.

Grillo has a contract to purchase the West Avenue property from Kingdom Life Christian Church, pending P&Z approval of the application. New board member Scott Marlow recused himself from the application, and left the room, stating that he is a long-time member of Kingdom Life Church, where he also serves in a leadership role as presbyter.