MONROE, CT — A commercial vehicle facility for a fleet of 400 delivery vans at 10 Victoria Drive received land use approval in late April, but the tenant’s recent decision not to build a 10,000-square-foot office building on the site upset several members of the Planning and Zoning Commission.
After an intense discussion over the sudden change at last Thursday’s commission meeting, Town Planner Rick Schultz said the developer is now proposing to build a smaller building on the site. That will be on the agenda for the commission’s meeting on Aug. 5.
The delivery van facility, believed to be for Amazon though the applicant will not say who the tenant is, was approved on April 22. Aside from the parking lot, there would be a gatehouse and the 10,000-square-foot building.
“You got approved for a building. Now you’re going to change the plan?” Leon Ambrose, a commissioner, said at Thursday’s meeting. “You would have to come back with a new application.”
Schultz said that is correct. The applicant, Gen IV LLC, would have to come back before the commission with an amended site plan.
John Knuff, the attorney for the applicant, said the site plan was redesigned, eliminating the office building and expanding an above ground stormwater detention system.
Schultz said the property owner wants to continue into Phase Two with the current approval and the knowledge they will come back for a plan modification. The tenant wants the site work to be done now, so the facility is ready to deliver packages during the holidays.
“I think we have to be flexible in this case,” said Chairman Michael O’Reilly. “They are being honest with us.”
“I don’t like this at all,” Robert Westlund, a commissioner, said, adding he was uncomfortable with the change. “The building was part of the reason for the tax revenue, a selling point. Now it’s a different project.”
Knuff said it is a small building and the vans make up a larger portion of the tax revenue the town would receive.
“We’re trying to set a bar and hopefully it is contagious with other development,” Westlund said. “A parking lot there is not what we would have wanted.”
Ambrosey and Nicole Lupo, a commission alternate, agreed.
“Rick, you’re asking us to allow them to continue on when they’re not going to follow the plan,” Ambrosey said to the town planner.
Knuff said the excavation of the site, Phase Two, was already approved, dating back to the subdivision of the site for Walmart, which the commission approved in 2015. A recent decision by the Connecticut Legislature extended that approval until 2029, he said.
“All of a sudden you throw this at us,” Ambrosey said. “Did you ever intend to put in the building? That’s what it looks like to this commission.”
“We didn’t want to go through the charade of applying for the building permit and later going back to you saying, ‘we don’t want the building,'” Knuff replied.
“You’re going to throw the whole project out, because of a small building?” O’Reilly asked his fellow commissioners.
Ambrosey said removing a building is not a minor change.
Knuff said he understands removing the building requires commission approval, but added it “wasn’t the Taj Mahal.”
“It’s a simple building with two bathrooms,” he said. “It makes no sense to build a building you won’t use. We want to do the project and get the vans on the tax rolls.”
Lupo asked what suddenly changed. “If we were approached just for commercial parking, I don’t know if we would have approved that,” she said.
Knuff said the building would not even be seen from the road and would have added little to the tax rolls. “We do not have crystal balls,” he said. “I think it would have been approved without the building.”
He said the tenant was going to use to building for offices to oversee the operation of the commercial parking lot, but later decided to do that from its facility down the street.
Domenic Paniccia, a commission alternate, appealed to commissioners to be flexible, noting how the town already has empty commercial buildings.
Christopher Gagnon, the project’s engineer, said the property is 24.75 acres or over 1 million square feet, so the 10,000-square-foot building would make up about one percent of the site.
“Would we really not have approved it without the building?” O’Reilly asked.
O’Reilly said he hopes the site work can be done and the parking facility built in time for the holidays, noting developers had left over delays in the past.