Update: 12-15 hearing date for 9-15 Albany now in question
Update: Dec. 10: According to information prepared for the Dec. 15 meeting of the Canton Planning and Zoning Commission, the hearing for 9-15 Albany Turnpike might again be delayed. In the packet for the meeting, Neil Pade, the town's director of Planning and Community Development in a memo dated, Dec. 10, states, in part, "Yesterday the Town Attorney identified that the notice published by the Hartford Courant for the December 15th meeting was not the notice submitted by the Town.This raises a concern regarding the opening of the hearing under this notice.Staff notified the applicant of the concern yesterday and suggested the possibility of a special meeting to be held on January 5th. While there is still statutory time available to open the hearing this will allow the application timeline to be on a similar schedule to that which would have otherwise occurred. Depending on the response from the applicant, the Commission should be prepared to potentially postpone the opening of the hearing at the December 15th meeting, to a special meeting to be scheduled on January 5th, or another date."
Original Story Published online Dec. 6
By John Fitts
CANTON – After twice being delayed, the Canton Planning and Zoning Commission is expected on Dec. 15 to open a public hearing on proposed earthwork and grading at 9-15 Albany Turnpike, the 26-acre property at the Canton/Simsbury town line that was the subject of a controversial development plan in late 2020 and for the first half of 2021.
In August, the owners of the property filed a plan for earthwork grading and removal to potentially support future development. The plan called for dramatically less blasting than the previous proposal for the property but did not come with a site plan or details about possible future development.
The Planning and Zoning Commission was slated to open a hearing on the August application the evening of Oct. 20 but earlier that day the development team withdrew it and filed a new one.
A hearing for the October application was due to start on Nov. 17 but an error in the legal notice was discovered shortly before the meeting, town officials said.
The Oct. 20 application – like the one filed in August – proposes grading to support potential future development at the site and in an accompanying letter, Timothy M. Herbst of Marino, Zabel & Schellenberg, writes, in part, “The application only seeks special permit approval to allow for earthwork and grading, as the proposal calls for grading more than 2,000 cubic yards. As stated by the applicant’s engineer, Solli Engineering, the primary purpose of the application is to obtain permission to perform grading activities on the property, which may provide an opportunity to create a gravel access road to the rear of the property in the future. No site development is proposed as part of part of the application at this time.”
While the development team told the Canton Conservation Commission that the application is largely an effort for the owner to secure rights to access the property – including for likely development in Simsbury – correspondence from the attorneys for the applicant and the town have alluded to what could become a legal question over what constitutes a “use” and whether such activity can be approved without a corresponding site plan.
The application notes the plan to remove 17,659 cubic yards of material – or more than 22,957 tons – or 957 truckloads - of material from the site. In Canton there would be a net export of approximate 12,916 cubic yards of removal, according to the application.
The application estimates a site work period of some 300 days, with approximately 90 estimated for material removal.
“Blasting will not occur daily for consecutive weeks, but rather as required, to include intermittent time for standard excavation and handling of materials such as sorting, stockpiling, and exporting,” the application states. “For the purposes of this project, we assume two to three blasts will take place per month during rock removal activities. Assuming 90 days of construction are dedicated to the export of material throughout the twelve-month construction period, an average of approximately 10-11 trucks per day will be entering and be exiting the site, on days that export operations occur.”
Proposed blasting at the site has been controversial. In June the commission denied a for a 23,500 square-foot Electric Vehicle Showroom, 20-pump fueling station and related development at the property. While most of the property is in Simsbury, much of the development would have been in Canton. That plan including much more intense earth removal of the traprock ridge and the commission’s decision came after months of controversy.
But the new application has also generated some controversy.
Commission members at the time noted their belief that the EV Showroom proposal did not strike the proper balance of preservation of a natural resource with economic development referenced for the property in Canton’s Plan of Conservation and Development.
In an email in advance of the November meeting, Betty Kolding wrote, in part, “I am deeply concerned by developer Mark Greenberg and engineer Kevin Solli’s application to blast and remove “approximately 957 trucks of material” from the traprock ridge at 9-15 Albany Turnpike, including “a cut of 13,845 cubic yards (CY)” within Town of Canton limits. The developers themselves acknowledge that this blasting is merely “paving the way” for more extensive development of the site. What will that development look like? The developers’ original application (which neighbors strongly opposed, and which did not pass)would have required nine special permits, sharply indicating that it did not match our town values. Now, they are attempting to chip away at the site one piece at a time, asking us to approve the first year of blasting while claiming that they themselves don’t even know its real purpose. Greenberg’s best explanation in his cover letter on the file is that the excavation “will provide roadway access to a ye to be determined use.” I know that I’m not alone in noticing this lack of transparency on the developers’ part.”
Kevin Solli, of Solli Engineering has recently told the Conservation Commission that the development team understands the need to balance conservation of natural resources with business opportunities, as of press time, members of that commission were still struggling with what to state in an advisory referral it would typically send to the Planning and Zoning Commission.
In previous meetings, Solli told the conservation commission that some type of multi-family housing is a possibility for the Simsbury portion of the property and also acknowledged that at least one development pad could eventually be proposed closer to Route 44 in Canton. He, however, said the development team understood the importance of the trap-rock ridge in Canton and the need to balance preservation and development.
The conservation commission was set to meet Dec. 7 and the Planning and Zoning Commission Dec. 15. Agendas and meeting packets for both will be posted to the town’s web site at https://townofcantonct.org/agendas-minutes-meetings