Gateway salt complaints discussed at Montville meeting
Montville ― The Gateway salt saga continues.
At Tuesday night’s Planning and Zoning Commission meeting, residents addressed the commission about the disruption they say the facility is causing.
Crystal Daigle of Gair Court addressed the commission on behalf of her husband, Richard, who was at work, but had addressed the Town Council on Jan. 9.
Daigle reiterated their concerns about noise levels and trucks lining up on Depot Road. Because the trucks can block both exits to Gair Court, she said she is concerned about residents, as well as funeral processions, getting blocked by the trucks. Comstock Cemetery is next to Gair Court on Peter Avenue
She said her and other neighbors don’t feel safe walking around the neighborhood with dump trucks and tanker truckers parked on the sides of the road. She wondered why tanker trucks were necessary.
“He just wanted me to keep telling you guys about this until something is done because we had no vote on this or anything,” Daigle told commission members. “It just happened without anyone in the neighborhood knowing.”
Richard Daigle told Land Use and Planning Director Liz Burdick via email Tuesday that “I definitely want to be on record that I object to anything that is going on down there at the Thames River old Mill property because I believe the traffic studies are wrong.”
The Gateway facility is located at the former home of the AES Thames Cogeneration Facility, which shut down in 2011, and WestRock Papermill and Packaging plant, which closed in 2020.
F.A. Hesketh & Associates Inc. of East Granby conducted a traffic impact analysis prior to Gateway’s approval by the commission last July, and projected a typical increase of 10 trips per hour to and from the site during the summer and 25 per hour in the winter, with occasional pre-storm spikes of up to 65 trips per hour.
The report also said the facility would operate 14 hours a day, from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m and concluded that the roads in the area have the capacity to handle the increase in traffic.
Gateway attorney Harry Heller explained to the commission that not only was the site plan approved by the commission, but that it complies with all regulations and is in a industrial zone. He said it has been an industrial zone since the town adopted zoning in 1970.
Heller said that with 65% of the town’s industrial-zoned land has been eliminated and re-zoned since 1970, the Gateway land is a “critical component of economic development.”
He directly addressed the concerns raised by the Daigles, who Burdick said are the only ones to submit complaints to her department, though they say others in the neighborhood have complained. Crystal Daigle told the commission that other residents’ schedules don’t allow them to attend meetings.
Heller said that to reduce noise Gateway will install bumpers on the tailgates of its dump trucks and replace the backup alarms with OSHA approved ones that don’t make the typical beeping sound.
Heller added that the site can accommodate 30 trucks on the property and that trucks will not line up on Depot Road. As seen in the site plans, the facility has a one-way driveway to stage the trucks which are then loaded with salt and weighed before exiting the loop.
Though he could not say that the site will never do so, Heller said the facility is not designed to operate continuously at night.
“Obviously we want to welcome new businesses into our town, but it’s greatly affecting our neighbors,” Town Councilor Colleen Rix told the commission.
Rix, the council’s liaison with the commission, added, “We are all residents and we want our residents to feel comfortable.”
Burdick addressed the commission Tuesday and further explained in an email Wednesday that she and Mayor Ron McDaniel met with Gateway officials last Friday. She said they confirmed what Heller had said, and added that the salt pile would be covered this week, an issue raised by critic Kevin Blacker.
Gateway also said that the conveyor will eventually extend all the way to the salt pile, thus eliminating the need to transport salt by truck from the pier to the pile. The company added that equipment operators had been directed not to drop their buckets after loading the salt to the trucks as a way to reduce noise.
“Our department is taking this seriously,” Burdick said Tuesday. “The mayor is taking it seriously.”
She told the commission that going forward, the company told her that there will be no overnight operations, even in the event of a snow storm.
Burdick said in the email that she has been in constant communication with Gateway representative, James Dillman. She said Dillman told her on Wednesday that the terminal opened for business last week and had one truck per day until Tuesday, when nine trucks visited the facility.
Dillman also said that the salt pile was covered, a state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) requirement. Zoning Officer Meredith Badalucca conducts regular inspections of the site and, on Wednesday, reported that the pile was in the process of being covered.
Dillman explained that the tanker trucks Mrs. Daigle referenced were actually part of the construction process by Coit Excavation to remove storm water from the Gateway site and catch basins during the work.
Burdick also noted that there is an ongoing dam repair in the vicinity of the neighborhood at Gay Cemetery pond. The repairs are overseen by DEEP and not the town.
Blacker, who told the Town Council that these issues are a direct result of displacement of conventional cargo from State Pier in New London, shared similar sentiments with the commission on Tuesday.
“The noise is going to be a serious problem,” he told the commission.