Orange commission again postpones vote on Stew Leonard property

Stew Leonard’s property on Marsh Hill Road in Orange

Stew Leonard’s property on Marsh Hill Road in Orange

The Inland Wetlands and Water Courses Commission Tuesday night, Oct. 9, again postponed a vote on a developer’s application to build a 40,000-square-foot service/wholesale distribution center and additional structures on a Marsh Hill Road property owned by Stew Leonard Jr.

Chairman Rick Mangione said they needed to keep the public hearing open until they receive various calculations and make sure other questions by the town engineer have been addressed.

The public hearing began Sept. 11 and will continue next month.

Other commission members were in agreement with Mangione.

Nearby Indian River Road resident George Finley, an engineer, said components of the plan would be toxic to fish, birds and other wildlife, and that because the property is on a hill, there would be extensive runoff from truck repairing and washing.

“Who and what are going to protect the wetlands and the watercourses?” Finley asked.

Attorney John W. Knuff, of Hurwitz Sagarin Slossberg & Knuff, who represents the developer, Scannell Properties LLC., as well as the developer’s engineer, clarified that any truck repair and washing would be done inside and would not drain into wetlands or watercourses.

The hearing was continued last month because of a bevy of questions raised by town engineer Robert H. Brinton Jr. in a memo and by commission members. The Inland Wetlands department is the first stop in the permitting process. The next stop would be the Town Plan and Zoning Commission.

The proposed complex would include a fueling facility, maintenance shop and offices at 161 Marsh Hill Road. The development would total 63,000 square feet.

Both Knuff and his client have declined to comment. They looked shocked when the hearing was continued again.

The plan created a stir among residents because a component calls for “fueling facility” and “maintenance shop” aspects, leading some to speculate the project is a truck stop.

The site — near Interstate 95’s Exit 41 — is where Stew Leonard Jr. had wanted to build a supermarket and petting zoo for 14 years before giving up in 2010.

The 41-acre property, used for agriculture today and since 1934, remains under Leonard’s ownership. He’s been trying to sell it since 2012.

The company the developer is working for has not been revealed, but in an application narrative at Town Hall, it is stated: “Applicant has a strong desire to be part of the town of Orange community.”

Brinton’s memo to the commission contained 16 suggestions for the developer and Knuff and the team appeared to address them Tuesday.

Included in Brinton’s memo was to consider installing hydrodynamic separators upstream from the underground infiltration systems and the surface infiltration basin, to capture oil, trash and sediment from paved areas; he asked for additional information regarding construction of the retaining wall in the vicinity of wetlands three and four; he noted the top of pond elevation for the infiltration basin is on plans as 110 feet on two drawings, but the contours show the top of the embankment as elevation 100 feet. He also wrote in the memo that a state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection dam permit is “expected to be required” for the infiltration basin; a DEEP construction stormwater general permit registration is expected for the project; and more.

The property contains five wetlands totaling 6,780 square feet, two of which are manmade and would be eliminated under the plan. Also living on the property are Eastern box turtles and smooth green snakes, both of which are listed as being of “special concern” in the state and “offered protection” by the Connecticut Endangered Species Act, according to a narrative of the plan filed at Town Hall. They are located in an isolated area of the property.

At the requirement of DEEP, the developers have a plan for those species — a species protection during construction, according to the plan’s narrative. That will include avoiding the area where they are located and educating contractors and subcontractors and monitoring of construction activity by an expert.

Experts representing the developer at the public hearing that started Sept. 11 told the commission they have a “robust” storm water treatment plan.

A soil scientist on the team told the commission the plan would not significantly affect the wetlands on the other end of the property.

The property is in a Light Industrial 2 zone. The property price is not listed for the public to see, but at one point Leonard was seeking $14.5 million. He paid $2.2 million for the land in 1996.