While the Jan. 5 Planning and Zoning Board (P&Z) public hearing on the proposed Grillo Services landscaping products operation at 553 West Avenue drew positive comments from 13 residents and negative comments from 14 others, the Feb. 16 public hearing saw some of those 14 concerned residents return, with six people expressing opposition to the plan, and none speaking in favor.

Ron Ford of Gloria Commons condominiums expressed concern about how the Grillo project would affect the value of his unit, saying the Grillo driveway would be 600 feet from Gloria Commons. Ford commented that he drove by the Oronoque Road facility and observed “unsightly” big mounds of material.

“I don’t care how they spin it. It will create lots of noise,” said Ford. “Our property values are going to go down. I don’t want to lose the investment that I made.”

Dorothy Bateman of 632 Popes Island Road, president of Caswell Cove condominium association, said, “I have been getting numerous complaints from residents regarding the smell of mulching and compost. It’s an acrid smell. It does not degrade in an hour.”

Bateman said that residents “have to close our windows and doors when they are mulching.” She said the smell “is not from the sewer plant or the gas plant.” Caswell Cove is located adjacent to the city’s wastewater treatment plant, and is near Grillo’s Oronoque Road operation, and the natural gas fired Milford power plant.

State Rep. Kim Rose (D-118) urged the board to vote against the Grillo plan.

“I’m thrilled that we have a business in Milford that is looking to expand,” said Rose. “This is not the appropriate area. This is a residential area.”

Attorney James Trowbridge of 18 Audubon Close, who said at the Jan. 5 public hearing that he represented the 58-unit Audubon Manor condominium association, said Grillo’s plan does not meet the guidelines for a special exception in a Design Office district. He said that a special exception applies only if the use is authorized by other regulations. He said the only other authorized use in the office district is a hotel.

“If you allow this, you allow the exception to swallow the rule,” said Trowbridge.

Mort Kliger of 33 Audubon Close presented photos he said were taken from Grillo’s website, including stills from videos of the operation.

“This is an industrial activity sought to be placed in essentially a residential area,” said Kliger.

Kliger said he met with Laura Miller, who is chief of the Environmental Health Division of the Milford Health Department, regarding Grillo’s operation.

Kliger said there have been a series of complaints dating back to 2012 of a “terrible odor” that lasts a long time with a couple of people complaining of nausea and difficulty breathing. He said some people admitted they were not sure of the odor’s source.

In 2014, Kliger said Miller “traced a strong odor from Caswell Cove to Grillo’s pile of of mulch.” He said Miller contacted the DEEP for help with the matter.

Kliger said in a Jan. 24, 2014 report from the DEEP and health department, there was a report of a Jan. 13, 2014 “terrible burning odor,” which he said Michael Grillo attributed to “a fire in one of the piles.” Kliger said the fire lasted for a week in a leaf pile.

“Apparently this was not reported to the Milford Fire Department,” said Kliger, who said there were three fires at the Oronoque Road facility between 2010 and 2013. He further said the DEEP has served Grillo with two notices of violation.

Clifford Mason of 1427 Naugatuck Avenue said the Grillo operation belongs in a heavy industrial zone.

Joseph Fairhurst of 28 Grinnell Street, said, “I get the odor all the way down in my area. I feel it is very detrimental to my health.”

Joseph Bogdan of 3 Audubon Close said trucks continue to violate the no thru trucks policy along Naugatuck Avenue and he said that the “worst violators” are trucks from Grillo, Suzio-York Concrete and Edo Construction.

“Even last week there were four Grillo trucks. It shows he cannot control the way his drivers go,” said Bogdan.
Grillo Responds
In response to Ford’s concerns regarding large piles of materials, Michael Grillo co-owner of Grillo Services, said the piles on the West Avenue site would be 600 to 700 feet back from the entrance. He said only someone looking down from I-95 could see the piles.

Commenting on the fire concern, Grillo said there have been fires in wood chip piles if they were built too big, and he said those fires are more like glowing embers. He said fires are smothered by putting dirt on them to cut off the oxygen supply. He said that leaf piles do not burn.

“We have not had any fires recently. We have been able to reduce the size of our windrows greatly,” said Grillo, saying any such fires have been rapidly addressed.

Responding to Bateman’s odor concern, Grillo said, “I think a lot of [that] smell is coming on hot days from the sewage treatment plant.”

Grillo said the DEEP issued the notices of violation in response to overly large woodpiles that resulted when Grillo accepted trees from multiple towns following storms Irene and Sandy. He said had he known about a DEEP overcapacity permit, he would have applied for one to avoid the violation notice.

“They asked us to correct it and we did,” said Grillo, saying the company is in the process of applying for an updated DEEP permit.

Further commenting on the odor concerns was Lawrence Grillo, company vice president, who said, “I find that almost impossible” that someone would smell an odor on Grinnell Street. He said that when he travels on Bic Drive, “I can smell the sewage treatment plant. It’s unfair to say ‘It’s Grillo.’”

Sean Grillo of 29 Granville Avenue, identified himself as a company employee, who also is a member of Caswell Cove Marina. Grillo said the odor he smells at the marina comes from the processing of human waste in huge basins at the sewage treatment plant.

“The putrid smell does not emanate from our site,” said Sean Grillo.

Grillo’s attorney Brian M. Stone responded to the location concerns by saying the property is “not a residential zone” but is a Design Office zone.

“There are uses allowed in that zone that would have a far greater impact,” said Stone. He said that the regulations allow for other related principle buildings and uses.