Hearing on Grillo apartment plan continues Sept. 21

The Inland Wetlands Agency (IWA) public hearing on a proposed 342-unit apartment complex at 553 West Ave. continues Sept. 21 at 7:30 p.m. in the Board of Education meeting room in the Parsons Government Complex.

The agency listened to the applicant’s presentation and heard public comment at a Sept. 7 hearing before an audience of about 40 residents. The IWA continued the hearing to give its members time to review the information presented, plus it gives the applicant time to answer questions raised during the public hearing.

Grillo Services is applying for a wetlands permit to construct two buildings with 342 total units and two parking garages with 512 spaces, plus an additional 12 surface parking spaces, with associated access drives and grading with work in and within 150 feet of the Beaver Brook watershed. The project is called The Preserve at Beaver Brook.

The 57.3-acre site is roughly cut in two by the Iroquois gas pipeline easement, which extends from I-95 to the Metro North railroad tracks. A total of 42.1 acres of the site have a conservation easement, leaving 15.2 acres of land that is not deed restricted.

Attorney Thomas Lynch said the property would have two driveways, one onto Schoolhouse Road and the other onto West Avenue. Having only an entrance and exit on West Avenue “would be an inappropriate way to distribute traffic flow,” Lynch told the agency.

The West Avenue entrance would be on the Route 1 side of the I-95 overpass, while the Schoolhouse Road gate would be just north of the driveway for Motel 6 en route to I-95.

Lynch said the project would include a pool and a playground. He said the original plan included “a substantially larger number of apartments,” but the project was reduced to its current proposed size during the review process.

Project engineer Alfred J. Mascia said stormwater would be stored in an underground infiltration detention system with five sections. There would also be one conventional detention basin located near Schoolhouse Road.

Mascia said there would be 1,200 linear feet of 48-inch diameter underground pipes. The system is designed to handle a 25-year storm, which would be 6.5-inches of water in a 24-hour period. He said the run-off rates would be lower than existing conditions.

He used new figures from the National Weather Service Advanced Prediction Hydrologic Service, which is higher than the older rate of 5.6 inches of rain. Mascia said these numbers are “site specific rainfall events.”

Mascia said there is two feet of debris in a pond by the fence near I-95, including bottles and cans. Plans call for excavating and cleaning the pond, and putting in a detention basin to deal with highway runoff. He said the Department of Transportation (DOT) has no plans to address the highway drainage problem in this area.

“Grillo will fix some of the drainage problem because it is severely impacting the property,” said Mascia.

The proposed driveway to Schoolhouse Road would have a 100-foot span crossing the floodplain of Beaver Brook and the brook itself. This bridge would require permanent filling of about 1,300 square feet of wetlands, said Mascia.

Beaver Brook flows through the site from West Avenue to Schoolhouse Road and exits the property through a 42-inch culvert.

Mascia presented the agency with an updated table of wetlands impacts. In the original table, it said that filling would alter 0.09 acres of wetlands; the revised table indicates that 0.03 acres would be permanently filled, while 0.06 acres would be temporarily affected by construction. The mitigation area, or the improvements designed to offset the wetlands impacts, would be 27,000 square feet, not 33,000 square feet.

In addition to the project driveway on one side of the parking garages and buildings, there would also be a fire service road, allowing fire access around the other side of the buildings, said Mascia. The service road would be 25 to 30 feet wide and would have an 8-foot wide gravel walking track in the middle and grass paver blocks on the sides.

In addition to Inland-Wetlands approval, the project will also need permits from the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) because more than one acre of wetlands would be disturbed.

The project will also need a permit from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers due to changes in the floodplain from the project, said Mascia.

Mascia discussed a three page review of the project submitted by the city engineer and said most were observations that did not require any comment.

Mascia said he acknowledged that a planned culvert under the driveway to allow for a turtle crossing was insufficient, and said the plans would be revised to reflect the 3-foot high by 12-foot wide culvert requested by the city engineer. Mascia will also meet with the city engineer to review culvert discharge rates. Also, he agreed to add details on the plantings for the mitigation area.

Wetland Mitigation Plans

Matthew Davison, soil and wetlands scientist, discussed plans for wetlands mitigation. Davison said the pond by I-95 is an 18,000 square foot area that has no vegetation. After the sediment and debris is removed, it will be planted with plants that will filter pollutants.

To provide for floodplain mitigation, he said “a large knob of gravel is being cut down to compensate for filling the wetlands,” Davison said he expects this will “function like a wetland.” This 27,000 square foot area would be part of the box turtle mitigation area.

The third mitigation area would be a constructed stormwater wetland, said Davison. Currently, high velocity stormwater flows off I-95 through a discharge channel that leads directly to Beaver Brook. The improved area would intercept and treat the stormwater and would include a planting area.

“It will require regular maintenance due to uncontrolled discharge from I-95,” said Davison.

Davison said there are 21 acres of uplands, or non-wetland areas on the site. He said 5.45 acres of the uplands will be disturbed, but only 1.49 acres would be changed to impervious surfaces.

The apartment plan is being submitted under the state’s affordable housing law, 8-30g, which requires setting aside 30% of the units for rent at rates below market rates to people earning 80% and 60% or less of the area’s median income. The law does not affect the wetlands review process, but does override local zoning regulations.

The property is zoned Design Office 25, which specifically prohibits residential developments. The two apartment buildings would be four stories tall with a height of 54 feet. The two four-level parking garages would have a height of 36 feet.

Since this is an 8-30g application, these restrictions and limits do not apply. The two four-level parking garages would have a height of 36 feet.

Grillo has a contract to purchase the 57.33-acre property from Kingdom Life Christian Church, pending approval of the project.