Details for delivery van facility revealed, projected tax revenue to come

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This is a rendering of the site plan for a commercial vehicle facility at 10 Victoria Drive.

MONROE, CT — A presentation for a plan to build a commercial vehicle facility for a fleet of delivery vans at 10 Victoria Drive was well received by the Planning and Zoning Commission Thursday night.

The site plan even had support voiced by John Rajpolt, who lives on Pheasant Lane, to the north of the industrially zoned property, and has seen it all.

“I’ve been here since the property was first mined and proposed for office buildings, and Walmart and a glass crushing operation,” he said, “and I’m really pleased with this proposal. I’m in favor of it. They’ve covered all the points. It looks like they’re trying to be a good neighbor.”

Rajpolt just asked for more plantings for the lower portion of the existing northern pine tree buffer to obscure the view from his property.

During the hearing, Attorney John Knuff assured the commission that the town will receive taxes for his client’s Mercedes-Benz Sprinter vans. However, he said an estimate for how much commercial tax revenue Monroe could receive will have to wait until the next meeting.

The hearing was continued to March 18.

Knuff represents FSI Acquisitions LLC, the contract purchaser of the property at 10 Victoria Drive.

There are two applications before the commission, one is a text amendment to allow the use in an I-3 zone and 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 with a small gatehouse and a parking lot with 668 delivery van spaces and 43 personal vehicle spaces.

During the hearing, held online Thursday, Michael Trimbach of Partridge Drive, which borders the property to the north, asked how many vans would use the commercial lot.

Knuff said it depends on the success of the facility and on the season, for instance, it would be busier during the holidays. But he anticipates it will start with 400 vans.

At a prior meeting with the Planning and Zoning Commission’s Regulations Subcommittee in August, Knuff declined to name the business that wants the commercial vehicle facility at 10 Victoria Drive, but did say it would do deliveries for the company’s new facility in Trumbull.

Amazon has a new distribution center in Trumbull.

The site at 10 Victoria Drive had received approvals for a Walmart store years ago, before the retail chain changed its plans and pulled out.

Drainage, landscaping

John Schmitz, a civil engineer with BL Companies, presented the storm drainage plan for the site, which is about 200 feet from the Pequonnock River.

He said the only utility the facility would need to provide for is an underground septic system for its building.

Schmitz said about 14.9 acres of the site would be disturbed to build the facility, which is less than the Walmart proposal. Of that, 10.5 acres would be impervious areas for buildings and parking.

He described a drainage system with detention basins and chambers beneath the parking lot. All storm water collected on the site would be routed through hydrodynamic separators.

Schmitz said there would be a zero net increase in peak flow rates, and that erosion control plans would be provided for the site to protect the natural resources, the wetlands and the river.

Wayne Violette, senior landscape architect with BL Companies, presented the landscaping plan.

“We believe we have a zone compliant plan that will enhance this site after development,” he said.

Violette proposed an attractive landscaped entry into the site from Victoria Drive, which would be lined with canopy street trees. The plan also includes maintained lawn areas.

The asphalt parking lot would be broken up by a large network of landscape islands with large canopy trees and a vegetative ground cover within them. Violette said the diverse mix of trees on the landscape islands would consist of a variety of oaks, maples and honey locusts to name a few.

He said an existing landscape buffer to the north includes a stand of evergreens and vegetation that would remain. The proposal would also keep existing vegetation on the east side of the site.

BL Companies would provide a supplemental buffer with mixed plantings and spruce trees.

At the southern property line, Violette proposed a staggered row of white pine trees for a separation from the neighboring property.

He said they would primarily grow native species around the perimeter of the site and propose a low maintenance seed mix with wildflowers and other plantings.

“We’ll do a good job of keeping this screened from residential neighbors,” Violette said.

Traffic improvements

Michael Dion, a senior engineer with BL Companies, presented the traffic impact of the proposal. He said Walmart would have generated significantly more traffic volume than the commercial parking facility.

The delivery drivers would avoid Main Street during peak morning and evening hours, he said.

The proposal includes improvements to the intersection at Victoria Drive and Main Street (Route 25), which include the addition of an 11-foot-wide right turn lane coming northbound on 25.

The traffic signal would be upgraded and replaced, according to Dion.

Vice Chairman Bruno Maini asked about the proposed hours of operation for the facility.

Knuff said drivers would arrive at 8 or 9 a.m., leave in a van, return anywhere from 8 to 10 p.m., then go home.

Ryan Condon, the commission secretary, asked if the developers could add more screening for its residential neighbors to the north.

Knuff mentioned how there is a 100 foot buffer of existing vegetation. Violette said it is a substantial buffer, but they could add supplemental screening.

Schmitz said the parking lot is 150 feet from the northern property line.

Leon Ambrosey, a commissioner, asked for the weight of the vans, so the commission can set a limit to restrict certain types of vehicles. Knuff said he will have to get that information.

Ambrosey also asked if the drainage system could handle a fuel spill? Schmitz said it could.

Then Ambrosey asked what capacity  the system could hold before there would be a problem, because of the close proximity to the river.

“We can get those numbers,” Knuff said.

Chairman Michael O’Reilly asked what would happen if the detention basins were to fill up completely.

Schmitz said that would only happen in a 100-year-storm, adding the system has an emergency spillway. He estimates around 90 percent of rain storms have an accumulation of an inch or less, and said that could be completely handled on the site with no discharge from the property.

Robert Westlund, a commissioner, asked if there would be any maintenance or fueling on the site. Though it is allowed for a commercial vehicle facility, Knuff said they are not proposing that, adding it will help the local retail and service businesses that the drivers will turn to.

More assurances sought

Ambrosey noted how a lot of the vans are not registered in Connecticut and asked Knuff how the town can be assured it will receive the tax revenue.

Knuff said 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. He said they will work closely with Monroe’s assessor to make sure the town receives the revenue it is due.

“I think this commission wants something in writing that guarantees that will be done,” Ambrosey said.

Knuff said they intend to follow the state laws, but added that the commission could make that a condition of approval.

Nicole Lupo, a commissioner, said she also wants something in writing on the taxes.

For security reasons, she asked if packages would be left inside vehicles parked at the Victoria Drive facility overnight. Knuff said there would be no packages.

“I think the plan is a good one,” Lupo said. “The property has been vacant for some time and it does follow our goals for the POCD.”

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