Can a plan for a self-storage business on Main Street satisfy neighbors’ concerns?

Here is a rendering of the front facade of a self-storage building facing 15-17 Main St. designed by Claris Design-Build. A second building will be behind it.

MONROE, CT — A Taylor Rental building with a house behind it on Main Street has long been vacant, and a developer plans to revive the property by replacing it with a thriving self-storage business.

But a family living on the hill behind the property at 515-517 Main St. is upset over the new view being proposed beyond their stonewall — two 15,000-square-foot warehouses.

Sara and Thomas Harris would not see the buildings from their house on Freedman Lane, but the rooftops would be visible from the couple’s backyard, where their children play and the family has gardens.

Thomas Christiano, a representative of T&C Ventures LLC, the owner of the Main Street property, has been working with the Harrises to address their concerns, showing a willingness to plant a row of green giant arborvitae along the stonewall on couple’s property to provide more screening.

Both Sara and Thomas Harris spoke at the Planning and Zoning Commission hearing Thursday night, thanking Christiano and his landscape architect, Matthew Popp, for trying to be good neighbors.

The couple also thanked commission alternate, Nicole Lupo, and Commissioner Leon Ambrosey for visiting their home to see the view for themselves.

Though they said the screening should improve the situation, the Harrises are still not satisfied with the solutions that have been proposed— and they believe a land use approval is inevitable.

“I feel that the decision is already made,” Thomas Harris told the commission from the podium inside the Council Chambers of Monroe Town Hall.

“Whether or not you had 50,000 people protesting this, you would have still made the decision,” he said. “That being said, we have to make a decision to work with what we have, and luckily we have a developer who wants to be a good neighbor and wants to work something out …”

Dominick J. Thomas Jr., the attorney for the applicant, said the developer would provide the plantings and a warrantee to the homeowners, but it would then be the homeowners’ responsibility for maintaining the trees.

Ambrosey asked if the developer could install a fence instead of the plantings.

Christiano said the neighbors did not express an interest in a fence. “I think I’m pursuing the path that they want,” he said. “They want to continue to see their rock wall, but as soon as we put the plantings in, they won’t see their wall and will lose some of their property.”

Commissioner Ryan Condon asked if the color of the roofs could be flat, so it does not reflect light onto neighboring properties.

Christiano said the buildings would have off-white shallow metal roofs. “I don’t see them shining off at anybody or at cars on 25,” he said.

Sara Harris pleaded with commissioners to do all they can to help them.

She also expressed concern over the commission potentially setting a precedent of losing homes to bigger commercial buildings along Main Street by approving self storage at 515-517 Main St.

T&C Ventures LLC is petitioning to establish a Special Development District in the Business-1 zone, allowing a self-storage facility to be an approved use on its 3.12-acre-property, which is next to Starbucks.

The commission closed the hearing Thursday and Planning and Zoning Administrator Kathleen Gallagher will draft a provisional approval with conditions to be voted on at a future meeting.

The site plan

According to the site plan, the self storage business would have a single access driveway from Route 25. The developer is proposing a new sidewalk along the street frontage, which could connect to future sidewalks on Main Street.

Lighting on the property would be Dark Sky compliant. Popp said the lighting would consist of warm tone fixtures of 3000 kilowatts and lights would be between the buildings.

Five white pines would be added along the driveway for screening.

Popp said the back of the building could be a darker tone of gray than the front to make it less visible to neighbors.

Jason Edwards of J. Edwards & Associates, an engineering and surveying firm hired by the applicant, told the commission 16 arborvitae and six Norway spruce trees were added along the property lines.

When the facility is closed, Christiano, said arms will come down at two sides of the property to prevent people from parking in the back.

He said the lights in the back are for safety and security, allowing cameras to capture any illegal activity, while making it easier for police officers to do patrols.

Ambrosey asked how much excavation would be needed on the site and if there would be a lot of blasting. Christiano said a small corner of the property might require blasting.

In his long history of involvement with commercial developments, Thomas said he has heard more complaints from neighbors about jackhammering than blasting.

Thomas recalled when pictures on the wall of his office were crooked after noisy jackhammering near his office building, adding that he would have preferred workers did blasting to get the excavation over with.

Ambrosey asked if lighting in back of the property could be activated by motion detectors, so it is not always on at night.

“What’s more annoying? A light that flickers on and off, or one on all time that you get used to?” Vice Chairman Bruno Maini asked, adding that motion sensor lights can be triggered by wildlife.

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