Montville commission approves Gateway Project salt facility plan
Montville — The Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously approved a proposed road salt storage and distribution facility at a special meeting Tuesday night.
The commission voted 7-0 in favor of the plan at Town Hall; Commissioners Bruce Duchesneau and Anthony Siragusa were absent. The decision, with few members of the public in the audience, comes seven weeks after the commission first heard the preliminary plan for the Gateway Project proposed on May 24.
"It's a step in the right direction," attorney Harry Heller, who represents Gateway Montville LLC of New Haven, said Tuesday. "And it's an important project for the town, the redevelopment of a major industrial site."
Gateway plans to redevelop two former industrial sites on 125 Depot Road, 133 Depot Road and 55 Dock Road, the former locations of AES Thames Cogeneration Facility and WestRock Papermill and Packaging plant.
Town Planner Liz Burdick made a motion to approve the application so long as a list of 13 conditions was met prior to project's launch. The conditions include assigning the new street number "131" on all documents and limiting truck traffic to Depot Road only. The developer is required to get an approved zoning permit before starting any work and must pay soil erosion and sediment control fees.
Additionally, the developer will have to install a retaining wall at 55 Dock Road, use the existing pier for marine vessels and put up signs. Future activity at the site will require new review and approval by the commission and will be required to comply with all local, state and federal permitting requirements. The memo also noted proposed work on train tracks and drainage structures, as well as proposed uses for a small structure referred to as a “guard shack” on the property.
Final plans must be submitted to the Planning Department, and any signage not shown in the plan would require a separate application. The zoning enforcement officer would have to inspect soil erosion and sediment controls at least 24 hours before the start of any work.
Once those conditions are met, work can begin. After construction has started, any major changes would have to be reviewed and approved by the planning director or commission. Burdick added that all comments from the town officials — including the town engineer and Water Pollution Control Authority — were addressed prior to Tuesday's meeting.
"I would reiterate that this is a use permitted as of right in the industrial zoning district so the applicant's obligation is to comply with the site plan requirements under regulations," Heller said after presenting the plan to the commission.
The facility will use the pier already in place to receive shipments via barge and the former coal storage area will be expanded to an approximately 2.3-acre concrete pad that will hold up to 120,000 tons of road salt for sale to municipalities via trucks in southeastern Connecticut, according to documents submitted to the town.
The new facility will fill the void left in the absence of DRVN Enterprises, which previously distributed road salt from State Pier in New London but was forced to leave to make way for an offshore wind-turbine hub. Gateway is the terminal operator for State Pier and also operates a port terminal and road salt facility in New Haven.
The first phase of the two-phase Gateway project will include the concrete storage pad and machinery for use in moving the road salt, such as conveyers, as well as a temporary ramp providing access to the pier, scales and a portable building. Water runoff collection and treatment improvements will be made to protect the Thames River from the excess salt.
Phase 2 of the project will raise the grade of a portion of the property at 125 Depot Road to 11 feet above mean sea level using fill. Additionally, the plan includes putting in low-speed railroad tracks used to load and offload freight cars, construction of a new access driveway at 125 Depot Road, installation of a security fence and stormwater management improvements, some of which are required due to potential preexisting contamination in the soil.
F.A. Hesketh & Associates Inc. of East Granby conducted a traffic impact analysis and projected a typical increase of 10 trips per hour to and from the site to 25 per hour in the winter, with occasional pre-storm spikes of up to 65 trips per hour. The report concluded that the roads have the capacity to handle the increase in traffic.
"You have three significant modes of transportation that are accessible and immediately available to this site," Heller said in regards to the nearby interstate, the Thames River and the railway system, "which lends the site perfectly for an intermodal facility."
Scott F. Hesketh — the author of the original May 6 traffic report — was on hand to give a detailed presentation of the study his firm conducted. He was able to answer questions from Commissioner John Poole regarding the increased levels of traffic and its impact on the current flow of traffic. Commissioner Chuck Longton was concerned about the timing of the traffic light on Route 32 and Route 163, though Hesketh assured him it would not need to be changed. He also was able to clarify the number of trucks per hour entering the property, clearing up a misunderstanding by commission Vice Chairman Wills Pike.
David McKay, an engineer with Boundaries LLC who is responsible for overseeing the project, was also on-hand to answer questions from the commission. He addressed all concerns regarding the fill needed in Phase II, among other concerns.
Mark Augur from Gateway assured the commission that the salt will be the same as the salt Montville currently uses and said the size of the salt pile will be similar to the one that once sat at State Pier.