Milford P&Z OKs school bus depot on Plains Road

Durham School Services buses parked outside of the former Sears Auto Center at the Connecticut Post Mall in Milford on August 14, 2020

Durham School Services buses parked outside of the former Sears Auto Center at the Connecticut Post Mall in Milford on August 14, 2020

Arnold Gold / Hearst Connecticut Media

MILFORD — The city’s school buses will soon have a permanent home.

The Planning and Zoning Board, at its meeting Tuesday, approved a special exception application allowing for creation of a bus depot and fueling facility at 615 Plains Road.

Durham School Services and 615 Plains Road, LLC, reached a long-term lease to allow Durham to renovate and reuse the existing 13,000-square-foot building for a general office, dispatch, bus inspections and general maintenance and private fueling station.

Proposed improvements to the surface parking lot will allow parking for 77 school buses and 80 employees, including drivers and on-site staff employees.

The plan had been before the city for nearly a year, according to attorney Thomas Lynch, representing the property owner, and had been the subject of numerous meetings. The major concern had been parking and traffic in the area surrounding Plains Road.

The proposed school bus depot will not adversely affect traffic on the nearby roads, according to a study prepared by Alfred Benesch and Co.

But traffic expert Kermit Hua of KWH Enterprises, LLC, had raised concerns about the effectiveness of the applicants’ instruction to bus drivers on the limits of navigating Plains Road east of Shelland Street, and site access.

“I’m not convinced that professional drivers do not make the mistake of wandering onto Plains Road east of Shelland Street without the street signs,” Hua stated in his report. “What will be the turnover rate of school bus drivers at this location?”

A condition of approval included the application’s recommended route to and from property. When leaving the property, buses would exit on to Plains Road, turn into Shelland Street and then on to Bic Drive. Buses would then return via Bic Drive, then Shelland Street, to Plains Road and finally entering the property from Raton Drive.

During the school year, buses will run Monday through Friday, with the first bus out at 6 a.m. with the rest being staggered start times until 7:15 a.m. All buses return in the morning between 8:30 and 9:15 a.m.

Midday routes are out between 10:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. and back by 12:30 p.m. Afternoon routes include some at 1:15 p.m., and depending on the day, home-to-school routes are back by 5 p.m. Also, depending on sports trips, those buses may return at 10:30 p.m. or later.

On Saturdays, there will be sports trips depending on the season. There will be bus use in the summer between noon and 2 p.m., with 20 trips at most, according to the approved plans.

This move gives buses a home after nearly a decade of being parked at various locations - most recently the parking lot at the Connecticut Post Mall.

The proposal first came before P&Z in January, but after a wetlands violation, the developer was forced to put a hold on all plans, because site work had been conducted without the approval of the Milford Inland Wetland and Watercourses Agency.