MONROE, CT — Arnold Karp, the owner of industrial property on Cambridge and Independence drive, is proposing an ambitious plan to restore the site and prepare it for development after the previous owner left a massive hole from a graveling operation.
It is estimated that 75,575 truck loads will be needed to bring in material to fill the hole and level out the center of the property, a process that could take 10 years.
He invited members of the Inland Wetlands and Planning and Zoning commissions to a series of site walks. One held Saturday was attended by 18 people and another 19 showed up at the scale house at 64 Cambridge Drive to participate in the two mile tour on Tuesday afternoon.
Inland Wetlands Chairman Keith Romano and Planning and Zoning Chairman Michael O’Reilly were among the participants who work long pants, long sleeves, boots or closed toe shoes and face masks on the hot day.
Before the walk, Romano told his board members they were just there to make observations to clarify what’s in the plan, not to ask the applicant about the methodology.
An Inland Wetlands Commission hearing on an application to restore the property will continue tonight (Wednesday) at 7 p.m.
Clouds dotted the deep blue sky overhead and a crunching sound could be heard as the group walked up the dirt driveway on the way to the property.
“We’re walking through the woods. Make sure you’re on good footing,” said Kevin Solli, the civil engineer for the project. “Everybody stay together and we should be fine.”
The industrial site includes the properties of 64 Cambridge Drive, which is over 53 acres, and 4 Independence Drive, which is nearly 19 acres.
The group walked over a flat sandy area and passed large dirt piles before stopping at the edge of a wooded area.
Solli said land owned by the town of Monroe was off to the left and Aquarion Water Co. land was to the right. The woods lead to the Pequonnock River, he added.
“Aquarion didn’t identify anything of concern to them,” he said. “They want more of a buffer between the properties, so we are addressing that concern.”
The group turned back and walked around a large dirt pile.
Solli said an area of wetlands runs south to north and into Great Pine Swamp. And another area of wetlands runs north to south.
Karp, who owns the properties as Astro Land Holdings LLC and Spacely Land Holdings LLC, has an Inland Wetlands application to restore the wetlands that were damaged from violations of the previous owner.
The group narrowed into a single line, while walking through the lush green trail in a wooded section of the site. Orange markers tied around tree trunks kept them on the route.
During a stop, Solli said, “this is all wetlands. It had a cryptic vernal pool. We want to rehydrate it.”
Solli said 9.7 acres of watershed property was reduced to 2.2 acres when it was drained by an indirect impact of previous activity on the site.
Bill Kenny, a soil scientist for the applicant, showed commission members an area of darker soil, which he said is an active vernal pool in the spring.
Solli said there is wetlands in the area of Timothy Hill Road that will be restored.
The trail went up hill, before the party walked down a steep slope. The trail wound sharply to the right and the group walked up another hill before emerging from the woods and onto the blacktop of Independence Drive.
A massive hole
The group climbed a small hill. At the top they looked down onto the deep rocky impression left from the old graveling operation. A dirt driveway on the other side led down to the center, which was partially filled with water.
Karp said the stone crushing facility is no longer in operation. “I’m a real estate developer, not an aggregate salesman,” he said.
While prepping the land for commercial development, Karp has proposed building a 2,360-square-foot office building, which can serve as a base of operations and later for meetings to market the property.
Peter Metropoulos, trustee to The Thomas C. and Stella Maganas 1988 Family Trust, the owner of 36 Timothy Hill Road, is an intervenor on the wetlands application. He had accused the developer of continuing to gravel and expressed concern over pollution of the groundwater and excessive airborne dust blowing onto his property.
Karp has strongly denied those accusations.
David Bjorklund, an engineer hired by the intervenor, participated in Tuesday’s tour. He said Metropoulos just wants to sure everything the developer needs to do is done and done right.
Solli looked out to a ledge at a far end of the hole, explaining how they want to raise the level of soil above it, so stormwater drains back into the wetlands system.
On their way back toward the scale house, Solli looked toward a wooded area to the right.
“There’s a wetlands area on this part of the property,” he said. “It’s pretty much well intact with a buffer. There’s a buffer throughout the property. It’s just the center that we have to restore.”
Solli said the tours are meant to help land use commissioners put everything into context when they consider the applications.
He said they have gotten some good feedback from the walks so far, adding, “it helps make our application better. We welcome input. We’re trying to restore a piece of property.”