Residents can comment on Grillo plan at next P&Z meeting
Residents will have an a third opportunity to comment on a proposed 342-unit apartment complex at 553 West Ave. at the Planning and Zoning Board’s (P&Z) Sept. 19 meeting, which will take place at 7:30 p.m. at City Hall.
The board held open the public hearing, which had its second session on Sept. 5, because the Police Commission is meeting on Sept. 12 to review an updated report from the Milford Police Department’s Traffic Division. That meeting starts at 7 p.m. at Milford Police Headquarters.
About 70 people attended the earlier P&Z meeting, and 14 spoke in opposition to the project, some of whom also spoke in opposition at the board’s Aug. 15 meeting.
Residents asked the board to reject the application for a special permit and site plan review filed by Grillo Services LLC, citing concerns of the project’s proximity to the Iroquois gas pipeline, the effect on the sanitary sewer system, as well as high density, and increased traffic. No one from the public spoke in favor of the application at either meeting.
James Trowbridge of 18 Audubon Close questioned the safety of constructing 342 units close to the Iroquois pipeline, and asked if the access roads had the capacity needed to “evacuate in the middle of the night” if there was a problem with the pipeline, saying, “emergency vehicles could be confronted by hundreds of people fleeing.” He said New York state fined Iroquois Gas for improper filling of a trench with rocks.
Jacquelyn Sanford of 4 Alana Drive asked if the city could hire an independent consultant to investigate the sewage smell at Gloria Commons condominiums, saying, “the smell is going to be atrocious beyond belief.” Sanford also expressed concerns regarding animals being displaced by the construction, and the size of the building and parking garage.
“A four-story garage will stick out like a sore thumb. I don’t see anything pretty about a four-story building,” said Sanford.
Diane Denhup of 40 Lucius Court, and Susan Falcigno of 105 Benjamin Heights Road questioned the traffic impact of multiple large-scale projects in the area.
“That area is being developed with so much housing,” said Falcigno. “The density is way out of whack for the area.”
State Superior Court approved a 256-unit 8-30g apartment project at 460 Bic Drive on April 8, 2016, and a 180-unit 8-30g apartment project for Wheelers Farms Road, on Sept. 20, 2016. There are no signs of construction at either location, both of which have “For Sale” signs.
The P&Z board approved a 168-unit conventional apartment complex on Plains Road by the Boston Post Road at its Aug. 15 meeting.
Clifford Mason of 1427 Naugatuck Ave. compared the proposed buildings to a 900-foot long “World War II wall” and suggested cutting the project in half, having only 160 units, commenting, “Build something that Milford can live with.”
In response to public concerns, attorney Thomas Lynch, representing applicants Michael and Lawrence Grillo, said the property is located in the Design Office 25 zone (DO-25), which he said is “an area zoned for development on a large-scale.” Lynch said the apartments would generate one-third the traffic volume of a medical office building.
Lynch said the project’s traffic engineer met on site with members of the Traffic Division, who had concerns regarding access to the rear of the buildings. Lynch said he thinks the police did not have access to the plans that were revised following fire department review. He asked the P&Z to keep open the public hearing because the Traffic Division will present its report to the Police Commission at its Sept. 12 meeting.
Commenting on the issue of the sewage smell that Gloria Commons residents said is coming from the West Avenue pump station, Lynch said the project was approved by the Sewer Commission to connect to the wastewater management system, an approval that took into consideration the pump station, adding, “It is not a zoning issue.”
Responding to pipeline safety concerns, Lynch cited the approval of the Bic Drive project by Justic Marshall K. Berger, a project that also has the Iroquois pipeline crossing its property. Lynch said in his ruling Berger said anyone making the claim that construction would damage the pipeline would need to present “empirical evidence” of this concern, and not just offer anecdotal remarks.
“There will be no blasting on this site,” said Lynch, adding that the West Avenue site is gravel and dirt. “This is very different than the rocky top on Bic Drive.”
Project engineer Alfred J. Mascia responded to questions asked by Joseph Griffith, director of permitting and land use, regarding incomplete information on the plans.
Mascia said the revised plans show the volumes of material that will be filled on one part of the flood plain and excavated on another part. Mascia said 190,000 cubic feet would be filled, while 210,000 will be excavated. He said a computer model using data from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) shows the work “will not change the flood elevation” and will not result in increased stormwater runoff, meeting a Milford requirement.
Mascia said with an Iroquois representative present, a contractor dug test pits on top of the pipeline and found it was 12.5 to 13 feet below the surface, and they found only sand and gravel to a depth of 15 feet.
Architect Timothy Gooding responded to questions about incomplete information on the plans, regarding a firewall between the parking garage and the building, walkways, stairs and ramps, and the location of a pool fence. Gooding said he revised the drawings to show these elements. He also said the pool fence was moved away from the building.
Traffic engineer Robert Jurasin said he met with Traffic Division representatives within the two weeks prior to the meeting to discuss his findings. Jurasin said his proposed improvements of stop signs and striped lanes along Schoolhouse Road at the I-95 ramps “would more than offset the traffic volume” from the project. He said the plans were modified to highlight the rear access road behind the buildings.
Board member Thomas Nichol asked Jurasin if his traffic study looked at the intersection of West Avenue and Sub Way, which he said is affected by traffic from John F. Kennedy School. Board member Jim Quish asked about the project impact on the intersection of Schoolhouse Road with the Boston Post Road, asking the number of times people have to wait at that traffic light.
Jurasin said it did not include a study of West Avenue because the projected traffic volume would be fewer than 10 vehicles during peak hours. He also did not study Schoolhouse Road at Route 1 because it would add less than five percent to the existing traffic volume. He said state traffic guidelines require intersections to be studied if a project will generate 50 or more cars per hour during the peak hour period.
City Planner David B. Sulkis said he could pass these concerns to the police department. Sulkis said the police department is working with the state Department of Transportation to study Schoolhouse Road concerns.
Board member Rick Varrone said, “Sometimes I don’t get off the Schoolhouse Road exit because there is too much traffic. I don’t understand how this will add negligible traffic to what is already there.”
In response, Jurasin said, “We know the DOT is doing a traffic study. They recognize the concerns of traffic. We have tried to develop improvements to offset the impact of this project.”
Board member Carl Moore questioned why the Sewer Commission approved the project in the face of concerns from residents.
Sulkis said engineer Raymond Macaluso, who is a consultant to the Sewer Commission did a smoke test on the leader pipes at Gloria Commons, and discovered that some were improperly hooked up, causing a back up of sewer gas. Sulkis said when the pipes are fixed, “that will go a long way toward alleviating the odor.”
During the public rebuttal period, Marylou Csizmadia of 24 Raycroft St., said, “That smell has been there for 45 years; it’s not just Gloria Commons.”
Joseph Bogdan of 3 Audubon Close said he is a retired Milford police officer who worked for many years in the traffic division, criticized the traffic recommendations. Bogdan said, “I cannot think of a single multi-lane intersection in Milford controlled by a stop sign.” He said having more than one lane would make it difficult for cars to see one another with traffic turning from Rowe Avenue and the ADP parking lot.
“The only solution would be a traffic signal,” said Bogdan.
Bogdan repeated comments he made at the Aug. 15 hearing, saying the pipeline route was chosen to keep it away from high-density housing. He said federal pipeline regulations require a minimum 100-foot wide right of way to protect the pipeline, and said that 10 states restrict what can be built next to a pipeline.