MONROE, CT — A commercial vehicle facility for a fleet of 400 delivery vans at 10 Victoria Drive appears to be headed for approval. The project could bring in $544,189 in annual tax revenue for the town, according to Town Planner Rick Schultz.
Schultz said the applicant came up with the estimate, which accounts for the combined value of the vehicles, real estate and personal property. That number would increase if the facility grows to 600 vans.
Assessor Justin Feldman reviewed the report and called the $544,189 a best case scenario, according to Schultz.
“Again, this is a best case scenario,” he told the Planning and Zoning Commission at its meeting Thursday night. “If it is adjusted a little bit, it’s still a good number for the community.”
Later in the meeting, Bruno Maini, a commissioner, took strong exception to the fiscal impact analysis being mentioned.
“I’m a little disappointed tonight with the talk of money and the talk of the amount of money that this project will bring into town,” Maini said.
In his five or six years on the commission, Maini said the amount of tax money a project would bring in never came up in a discussion.
Chairman Michael O’Reilly asked Schultz if the fiscal impact analysis is something that is typically part of a hearing, adding he does not recall it himself.
Schultz said many times a fiscal impact analysis is asked for during the application process. “That was part of the record I needed to summarize, because I needed to refer it to the Assessor’s Office, because if it’s extremely off base, it’s got to be noted for the record,” he explained.
“Okay, if that is the truth, Leon how long have you been part of this board?” Maini asked fellow commissioner, Leon Ambrosey.
Ambrosey said six or seven years. Maini asked how many times tax revenue came up in a meeting he participated in. Ambrosey said he does not believe he ever heard of it.
“I’m just saying it’s kind of weird that all of a sudden it comes up tonight for that project,” Maini said. “It’s a little disconcerting. Not that that was a deciding factor. They followed everything to the letter and they made the changes that we wanted.”
Schultz told Maini he raised a good point, because when he worked for the city of Shelton it became the main focus. “You’re right. It’s something the commission needs to identify and direct staff on, because you do want that document as part of your submission, so you can look at it,” he said.
Maini noted how any project that is built brings in tax revenue.
“It’s just disconcerting, because I never in my life made a decision for this town based on the amount of tax money it would bring into the town,” he said. “If there’s a hundred things for me to pick, that would be 101.”
Schultz said he believes the fiscal impact analysis came up when the Walmart facility was proposed at 10 Victoria Drive years ago. “But it’s the commission’s call,” he said. “You establish policy.”
O’Reilly said the commission would direct staff to draft an approval of the commercial vehicle facility to vote on at its next meeting.
Landscaping, safety improvements
Gen IV LLC, the applicant, has two applications before the commission. One is for a text amendment to allow the use in an I-3 zone. The other is a special exception permit application for the commercial vehicle facility.
The applicant plans to construct a 10,000-square-foot office building on the 25.75-acre lot on Victoria Drive with a small gatehouse and a parking lot with 668 delivery van spaces and 43 personal vehicle spaces.
At a prior meeting with the Planning and Zoning Commission’s Regulations Subcommittee in August, the attorney for the applicant declined to name the business that wants the facility, but did say it would do deliveries for the company’s new facility in Trumbull. Amazon has a new distribution center in Trumbull.
At Thursday’s hearing, John Knuff, the attorney for the applicant, told the commission his client does not object to Town Engineer Scott Schatzlein’s request for a slight expansion of a catch basin, which takes up approximately six parking spaces.
The applicant also addressed a request from John Rajpolt, of Pheasant Lane, who asked for more plantings for the lower portion of the existing northern pine tree buffer to obscure the view from his property.
Wayne Violette, senior landscape architect with BL Companies, updated the landscaping plan to enhance the natural buffer. His proposal is to add another 180 trees and shrubs along the northern property line, specifically 60 evergreens and 120 understory shrubs.
“We would be happy to make that a condition of approval,” Knuff said.
He also responded to some commissioners’ concerns over the potential for a fuel leak if a van’s gas tank were to rupture, calling it very unlikely.
Every parking space on the site drains to one of 32 catch basins, each with a four-foot sump that holds 240 gallons, according to Knuff. Ten vans, with 25-gallon gas tanks each, would have to simultaneously rupture and drain into the same catch basin for a sump to overflow, he said.
“So there is virtually no chance of any kind that any fuel could ever make its way to a wetland or watercourse,” Knuff said.
He said there currently are no plans for 24-hour-security on the site. The vast majority of activity will take place from the morning hours, until drivers return in the evening to park the vans and go home, according to Knuff.
Some work may be done inside the office building after hours, so Knuff asked that there be no restriction on the hours of operation.
Ambrosey has asked for the gross weights of vehicles, because whatever the commission allows will run with the property, so a future owner could decide to have tractor trailers there — something Ambrosey wants to prevent.
Knuff said his client will have the vans and, on much less frequent occasions, a tractor trailer or a box truck on the site. He said he thinks the commission could preclude the types of vehicles it does not want.
Ambrosey asked Schultz if he could incorporate that into an approval and Schultz said yes.
Nicole Lupo, a commissioner, expressed support for the project, but asked if there are any loopholes that could prevent the town from receiving tax revenue for the vans, many of which are not registered in Connecticut.
Connecticut state law requires a declaration for vehicles that are at a property for three months, so the municipality can receive the motor vehicle taxes. Knuff said they will work closely with Monroe’s assessor to make sure the town receives the revenue it is due.
“It would make no sense to play a shell game with the vans to avoid taxes,” Knuff said of moving vans around so the vehicles are not in one place for three months. “Trying to deliver packages on time, playing that shell game would be counterproductive.”
Lupo also asked if there would be any changes to enhance safety along the portion of Rails to Trails, which runs through the property.
Michael Dion, a senior engineer with BL Companies, said he does not believe there would be an objection to having trail crossing signs, so drivers know the trial is there.