Developer unveils ambitious plan to restore wetlands on industrial property

Zoning Enforcement Officer Joseph Chapman filed a cease and desist order to stop commercial quarry activities at Independence and Cambridge drives in June. Contributed

MONROE, CT — Inland Wetlands Commission members are reviewing a massive plan to restore the wetlands and revitalize industrial properties at 64 Cambridge Drive and 4 Independence Drive, following years of environmental violations by the previous owner.

“We need to prepare the site to encourage other commercial and industrial users to move there and help enhance the tax base,” said Kevin Solli of Solli Engineering LLC in Monroe.

At a recent commission meeting held virtually, Solli and Bill Kenny, a soil scientist and landscape architect from Fairfield, represented Arnold Karp, the new owner, who bought the properties as Astro Land Holdings LLC and Spacely Land Holdings LLC.

The previous owner received approvals for two industrial buildings, but instead turned it into a quarry, blasting rock and ledge and leaving a large hole.

Solli presented a plan to restore four vernal pools on the properties, import around 1.3 million cubic yards of fill material, clean up the site and add landscaping, as well as building a 23,060-square-foot office building with parking.

The plan, which would also improve two wetlands crossing Timothy Hill Road, is broken up into three phases, each taking several years to complete.

Cease and desist

Attorney Joel Z. Green, represents Peter Metropoulos as trustee to The Thomas C. and Stella Maganas 1988 Family Trust, the owner of 36 Timothy Road, as an intervenor on the wetlands application.

Green has said his client is concerned over pollution of the groundwater and excessive airborne dust blowing onto his property, and he had shown photos and video alleging graveling activity was still taking place.

Attorney Steve Finn, who was hired to represent Karp, had called the accusations of ongoing activity conjecture, adding the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection had inspected the property and found no violations.

But on June 24, Zoning Enforcement Officer Joseph Chapman filed a cease and desist order claiming the owner is using the property as a commercial quarry without a permit, with the unauthorized import and export of earth and building materials. Chapman also said there is a non-permitted discharge into a stormwater basin on Pepper Street, with a lack of erosion and sedimentation controls.

At the Inland Wetlands hearing on June 24, Karp said rumors are going around, adding the presentation would “deal with fact not fiction.”

“Just to be clear,” he said, “we voluntarily stopped blasting at the end of July 2019 per agreement with the town. I’m happy to meet with any of the neighbors to allay their concerns.”

Solli said the DEEP’s water, air quality and solid waste divisions all came out to the property and did inspections, finding no actionable items or violations. And the land is covered by a DEEP permit for stormwater discharge.

Solli said they have been providing environmental reports to the state and the Southwest Conservation District is performing a third party review, which they welcome.

He acknowledged there are concerns due to an investigation in Fairfield. In that case, Julian’s construction company allegedly dumped hundreds of truckloads of soil containing toxic levels of lead and PCBs on town property adjacent to Fairfield’s public works garage.

Solli assured the commission his client will have a material intake protacol procedure for the Monroe site. Developed with the DEEP, it requires manifests for all material coming onto the property, ensuring it meets certified clean fill requirements.

“Mr. Karp is not in the business of environmental calamities,” Solli said. “We are working with DEEP on that.”

There was not enough time for commissioners to ask questions on the application at the June 24 hearing, which will be continued.

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