Public comment on the proposed Grillo Services landscaping products operation on a 57.33-acre property at 553 West Avenue has been postponed to the Jan. 5, 2016 Planning and Zoning Board (P&Z) hearing.

The board had a busy Dec. 15 agenda, which resulted in Grillo Services making its presentation between 10 and 11 p.m. before an audience of about 75 residents. Due to the late hour, the board delayed the public comment session to the January meeting.

Grillo Services 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.

The facility would include two buildings with roads at 553 West Avenue. Attorney Brian Stone, who is representing the Grillos, said this plan would be in addition to the existing location at 1183 Oronoque Road, where the company has a 16.48-acre property it leases.

Stone said the company has a contract to purchase the West Avenue property from Kingdom Life Christian Church, pending P&Z approval of the application. Stone said Kingdom Life purchased the property in 2001 from the Regional Water Authority with the intent of building a church on the property, a plan that has since been dropped.

Stone said the parcel is “unique” because it has a 41-acre conservation easement held by the city of Milford for walking trails. Aided by a $500,000 state grant, Stone said the city is working with the Grillos to reconstruct the walking trail, including a boardwalk that was destroyed by a brush fire. He said the Conservation Commission has a plan to control the phragmites on the site, which he said were probably “a significant cause of the fire.”

Stone said city open space manager Steve Johnson recommended the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) hire a contractor to treat and control the phragmites.

“Our clients have signed an agreement…to take care of that,” said Stone.

Stone said the West Avenue property is zoned Design Office-25 (DO-25). He said the type of facility Grillo seeks to operate “is not a permitted use anywhere in town,” adding, “It is not a prohibited use.” He said he thought it best to apply for a special exception.

Fred Mascia, project engineer, said of 15 acres outside the conservation easement, “less than eight acres can be developed.” Development is limited by an easement for the Iroquois Gas Pipeline that cuts the property in half, the property’s location in the 100-year flood plain, and a parcel of land near the Motel 6 that is not developable, said Mascia.

Mascia said the property is impacted by drainage from I-95 in four locations that has resulted in debris, sand, and silt build-up on the property. As part of the application, Grillo would clean up these areas.

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. Other development would include a customer and employee parking area, accessed from West Avenue, a location for trucks to refuel, an area for concrete pavers, and an area with storage bins for mulch and related products, said Mascia.

Other areas of the property would be designated for leaf composting, stockpiling of logs prior to mulching, topsoil screening and processing, Mascia added.

The company plans to have a retail operation at this location selling mulch, compost, soils and related products. It would also sell gravel, stone products and pavers.

The Zoning Board of Appeals unanimously rejected Grillos’ request for a zoning variance at its July 14 meeting at which 14 residents asked the board to reject the proposal. Grillo requested a side setback variance from 200 feet to 15 feet on one side and to 60.25 feet on the other side. The project before the P&Z is not seeking any waivers.

The Inland-Wetlands Agency has approved the Grillo proposal on three separate occasions, the most recent of which was at its May 20 meeting, when it approved a revised proposal submitted by the company.

The public will make its comment before a board that will have two new members. Current chairman Benjamin Gettinger (D-4) and vice chair Jeanne Cervin (D-2) chose not to run for another term. Elected in their place were Scott F. Marlow (R-2) and Richard Lutz (D-2).

Replacement House Approved

In other business, the board unanimously approved an application for a Coastal Area Management Site Plan Review to construct a single-family house at 83 Cooper Avenue on a 0.12-acre property of which Jeffry Miller is the owner. The new house replaces a 754-square foot ranch built in 1954 that was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy.

Architect Jeff Jahnke told the board that the house will be constructed 15 feet above the flood plain, complying with requirements for a 500-year storm. Jahnke said a 100-year storm would require the house to be 11 feet above the flood plain. A rain garden will be used to control stormwater runoff. The project is awaiting  approval from the Inland-Wetlands Agency.

Jahnke said the footprint of the new house would be smaller than the previous house, allowing the structure to comply with setback requirements. The former house encroached on the side setbacks, he said.