Wetlands commission optimistic over new Pepper St. Business Park plan

This is how the massive hole on Cambridge and Independence drives appeared in September of 2020.

MONROE, CT — An application for a wetlands remediation and a massive filling operation on two properties in the Pepper Street Business Park was denied on Jan. 26, but the owners are holding informal discussions with town officials and the Inland Wetlands Commission in hopes of coming up with a new plan that can win approval.

Property owners of 64 Cambridge and 4 Independence drives are trying to address wetlands violations by the previous owner, who had an unpermitted rock crushing operation that had damaged wetlands and left the massive hole.

On March 24, Kevin Solli, an engineer with Solli Engineering, who was hired by the owners, presented a preliminary plan to the Inland Wetlands Commission during an informal discussion.

“We’ve tried to take an approach that can address a lot of the concerns, reduce the amount of fill required, reduce the duration,” he said. “We are confident that this is a good plan to address the prior acts from a prior owner, and we’re hoping this is something the commission would be comfortable with when we move forward with an application.”

“I like it. You’ve combined a lot. You’ve really put a lot of work into this and it shows,” Vice Chairwoman Lois Spence said. “That’s very impressive. I like the fact that you’re keeping the hydration on the same property as the wetlands are going to be.”

Solli said they want to submit a rehydration plan as soon as possible, then a separate plan for the remediation.

The property owners, Astro Land Holdings LLC and Spacely Land Holdings LLC, will present a rehydration plan at the commission’s April 14 meeting. If it can be approved that night, Solli said that work could begin the next day.

Solli also said the owners have received state inquiries on their interest in clean, natural fill that has become available. They will ask the Planning and Zoning Commission for permission to stockpile that material on the site, with erosion controls in place, so once all the approvals are received, work on the filling operation could begin right away.

A new plan

According to the previous proposal, trucks would bring in 980,000 cubic yards of material over a period of 10 years to fill the huge hole, which would also raise the grade of the property to redirect stormwater to the upper wetlands and rehydrate it.

Inland wetlands commissioners were concerned over the amount of fill and said they thought the time frame was way too long.

Solli said the new proposal will considerably reduce the amount of fill. About 450,000 yards of imported fill will be needed and the work could be completed within five years — in the normal course of a permit’s lifespan, according to Solli.

The new application will include three dimensional models to give a better visual presentation of the filling operation, he said.

Another concern was that the wetlands remediation proposal was on two different parcels. Solli said the new plan contains that work to the same property.

The rehydration would still require water being pumped from a well, but Solli said the new plan will have more details on how it will be done.

Chairman Keith Romano said he would favor stopping the pumping operation once the wetlands are restored, even if it is 10 years from now.

Ross Mastrorocco, a commissioner, asked if the pumps could be turned off when the vernal pools would naturally dry out. Solli said that is a good suggestion, adding they will discuss it with their soil scientist, Bill Kenny.

The new plan also includes considerable plantings, Solli said, adding they are trying to restore the tree cover on the two properties, which total 72 acres.

“I think you’ve done a really good job,” Spence said. “I’m looking forward to examining the plan more closely. It will be a lot of fun. Thank you. I think we’ve got a really excellent start.”

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