P&Z OKs daycare center moving to Wheelers Farms Road

A daycare center previously slated to move to the former location of Cornerstone Christian Center at 192 Meadow St. will instead be moving to an office building at 440 Wheelers Farms Road.

Gina Rivera, owner and director of Once Upon a Time Development Center, received unanimous Planning and Zoning Board (P&Z) at its May 2 meeting. Rivera received a special permit and site plan approval to establish a child daycare center in the office building, which is located in the Design Office-10 (DO-10).

Rivera said the daycare center will be located in the front right corner of the building and will have its own entrance. There will be a playground adjacent to the space.

She said the landlord has agreed to reserve 12 spaces for use by the daycare and then may use the rest of the parking lot on a first-come, first-served basis. Sova Merritt LLC of Brooklyn, N.Y. owns the 169,000 square foot office building.

Rivera had received P&Z approval on Nov. 15, 2016 to relocate her business to the former location of Cornerstone Christian Center at 192 Meadow St.

In an email following the meeting, Rivera indicated the church wanted to lease the space to her, but could not give her a definite date when the space would be available.

Commenting on the Wheelers Farms Road location, Rivera wrote, “I am excited about this space and we are looking to begin the renovations as soon as possible. We hope to be in the new location by July of this year.”

The daycare center is moving from 326 West Main St., said Rivera, in a building shared with other tenants. She said there are more than 130 children and 40 staff members at the existing location.

Soil Quality Questioned

The proposal drew no public comments in favor. A couple who fought against the 180-unit Wheelers Woods apartment complex, which was a court-approved 8-30g proposal, spoke against moving the daycare center to this location.

June O’Connell of 102 East Rutland Road said the apartment property was never tested for environmental contaminants. She said the property had previously been used as an auto salvage yard.

O’Connell said that Timothy Hollister, attorney for Wheelers Woods, “claimed any contaminated soil was pushed to the location at 440 Wheelers Farms Road.” O’Connell said, “Without doing any deep soil testing, it would be wrong to bring children here.”

Michael O’Connell of 102 East Rutland Road said, “One of the main concerns” of the Wheelers Woods application was “pesticides and contaminants” from a former auto salvage yard, adding, this was one of the reasons the board denied that application.

“It is very possible this soil is contaminated,” said O’Connell. “I am not against the daycare center. I am opposed to putting it on this site.”

In response, Rivera said she is licensed by both the Milford Health Department and the state Health Department, and has to have the water tested and the property tested for radon. She said she had no knowledge of the concerns raised by the O’Connells.

“If a previous board approved this building, it would be a safe environment for children,” said Rivera.

Board member Jim Quish said, “That’s my profession” in framing his remarks on possible environmental contaminants. Quish said if there were any contaminants, they would now be encased in hard surfaces.

“The solution for any surface contamination would be to cover with mulch,” said Quish.

At the May 13, 2015 presentation before the Inland-Wetlands Agency, which approved the Wheelers Woods wetlands plans, Project Engineer John Gilmore said during the construction of the office building, the proposed apartment site was excavated and vegetation was removed, “almost to bedrock” to be used as fill at 440 Wheelers Farms Road.

At the July 7, 2015 P&Z public hearing, Hollister said he presented a Phase 1 environmental study from GeoQuest environmental services to the board at its June 16, 2015 meeting, a study that was completed by a licensed environmental professional (LEP). He said that an LEP has a state license that obligates the company to “report the facts as they are.” After inspecting the entire site, “there was no evidence of contamination,” said Hollister.

Hollister said the limited soil testing it conducted showed residual pesticides from the land’s agricultural past in a few places, but at levels well below state guidelines. He said the engineering firm of Milone and MacBroom also performed soil boring, as part of its design for the stormwater management plan.

“If there was going to be a problem with soil contamination, it would have been 30 years ago,” said Hollister, referring to the time when this office building was constructed, using dirt from this site.