Manufacturer seeks to consolidate Orange and Milford operations

Valley Tool & Manufacturing has proposed consolidating two facilities into a new factory at Shelland Street and Plains Road. The Milford Planning & Zoning Board is scheduled to hear the application Tuesday, Aug. 4.

Valley Tool & Manufacturing has proposed consolidating two facilities into a new factory at Shelland Street and Plains Road. The Milford Planning & Zoning Board is scheduled to hear the application Tuesday, Aug. 4.

John Kovach / Hearst Connecticut Media

MILFORD — A local manufacturer plans to consolidate two facilities — one in Orange and the other in Milford — in a new building at 132 Shelland St., pending Planning and Zoning Board approval.

The board held open the public hearing until its next meeting Aug. 4, due to its July 20 meeting running late. The board ended the meeting after 11 p.m. with about 10 people indicating they wanted to comment on the project.

Valley Tool and Manufacturing currently operates in two leased properties: a 60,000-square-foot building at 501 Bic Drive, Building 2, and a 40,000-square-foot building at 22 Prindle Hill Road in Orange. The new 101,000-square-foot building would be located on vacant land at the corner of Shelland Street and Plains Road in the Housatonic Design District and Limited Industrial zones.

In a letter to the board, Howard D. Turner, president of Valley Tool described his company’s current situation. “Both facilities are rented and unfortunately neither has the capacity for an efficient combination under one roof,” he wrote. Turner indicated there are plans for “further expansion in the near future.”

Turner wrote that the company serves different markets, including rotary and fixed-wing aircraft, the nuclear industry, the submarine industry and the medical field. He noted that there are 80 people working in Orange and 60 people in Milford. He expects the new combined facility would have an additional 30 to 50 new positions, which also would see operations expand from one shift to two.

The facility would be located on 5.80 acres land currently owned by D’Amato Brothers Builders LLC and 1.53 acres of land owned by Jordan Realty LLC. The parcel borders two homes along Tranquility Way, and the plans call for additional landscaping along that border to supplement existing trees.

Landscape Architect Jeffrey Gordon presented the plans for a special permit and site plan review for a proposed manufacturing facility on behalf of D’Amato Brothers Builders LLC and Jordan Realty LLC.

Phase I of the plans calls for the construction of a 61,114-square-foot building, plus a 2,973-square-foot mezzanine with access from Shelland Street. There will be 80 parking spaces and a rainwater detention basin by Shelland Street that will also filter solids from rainwater. Phase II involves construction of a 40,000-square-foot building with two parking lots, one with 61 spaces and the other with 21 spaces.

Attorney Thomas Lynch said when he presented the application for Tribus Brewing on Raton Drive several years ago, some neighbors on Cornfield and Haystack roads were concerned about traffic from that project. Lynch said he wanted to reassure neighbors that Shelland Street would be used for all truck deliveries and employee parking in the Shelland Street parking lot. He said there would be signs in that parking lot directing people to turn left onto Shelland Street toward Bic Drive.

Gordon said plans call for measures to reduce the effect on neighbors. Gordon said the Shelland Street property is lower than Tranquility Way by 50 feet, and the design calls for cutting a shelf on the property to lower most of the building to keep it well screened from the residential area. This also includes adding additional landscaping to the trees that are already there.

“The contract purchaser being aware of the concerns on Plains Road went to the effort to acquire the Shelland Street property to have the frontage to be able to bring the bulk of the traffic down onto Shelland Street,” said Gordon.

Stephen R. Ulman, senior project engineer for Alfred Benesch & Co. of Glastonbury, presented a traffic study for the project. Ulman noted that the primary driveway would be from Shelland Street, while the secondary driveway from Plains Road would be controlled by an electric access gate to the 61-space employee parking lot.

“All truck traffic will be directed to access the site via Bic Drive to Shelland Street,” Ulman wrote in a letter to City Planner David B. Sulkis.

Ulman commented that since the project would exceed 100,000 square feet, it would require submitting an application for administrative decision from the Office of State Traffic Administration once the P&Z approves the site plan.

“The development will be reviewed by the OSTA to ensure that the additional traffic will not significantly impact the roadways affecting the state highway system,” Ulman wrote.

Ulman noted that normally such a project would require a full traffic impact study, but he did not complete one due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting drop in traffic volume. He indicated a three-year review of crash data “show that there are no crash patterns that would indicate geometric improvements should be made.”

Based on the size of the facility and its use for manufacturing, Ulman said he expects there would be 489 daily trips, with 65 in the morning peak traffic period of 7 to 9 a.m. and 70 trips during the peak afternoon hours of 4 to 6 p.m.

“[We] believe that the roadway network can accommodate the small number of trips that will be generated by the manufacturing facility,” wrote Ulman.

Sulkis said the two proposed parking lots would be connected by a proposed 12-foot wide driveway, but he recommended the driveway be widened to 24 feet to allow two-way traffic. Sulkis said the wider driveway would not affect the landscaping buffer adjacent to Tranquility Way.

Sulkis said the applicant had indicated that “time was of the essence” to complete the project, and had presented the plans to the P&Z before all other reviews within the city were completed, “not allowing for adequate time for certain commissions to review and respond.” He said the board could make review and approval by other city boards a condition of approval.

In response, Lynch said that since Sulkis prepared his review in early July, project engineer Robert Whewey “is firming up things with Sewer Commission.” Lynch said he also had an email from Sgt. Jay Kranyak of the Milford Police Department, who had reviewed the project and sent a favorable report to the Police Commission, which will not meet until September. Lynch said Kranyak told him he would put together a temporary approval until the Police Commission meeting.

In his July 1 review of the plans, City Engineer Gregory H. Pidluski wrote, “This review is being performed as a courtesy as the plans submitted explicitly and implicitly state that they are not valid. I reserve the right to modify the observations, comments and recommendations contained herein upon receipt of valid plans and reports.”

Pidluski had numerous recommendations, including stating that the curbs and sidewalks are required along both Plains Road and Shelland Street. He suggested that the access driveway between the two parking lots be constructed in such as a way as to discourage vehicles from traveling through the property between the two roads. He wrote that “areas of steep slopes need to be stabilized as soon as practicable after disturbance.” He said the project needs to include useful snow shelves. He also had suggestions about the sanitary and storm sewer plans.