Update: Hearing for 9-15 Albany Turnpike did not take place Oct. 20
Application withdrawn, new one filed
By John Fitts
CANTON – The Canton Planning and Zoning Commission public hearing for earthwork grading and removal at 9-15 Albany Turnpike did not start on Oct. 20 as planned. Earlier that day, the application was withdrawn and a new one filed.
The 26-acre property sits on the Simsbury/Canton town line, with most of the acreage being in Simsbury.
The Oct. 20 application for the site is similar in many respects to the one that was filed on Aug. 25 and withdrawn. It proposes grading to support potential future development at the site, likely on the Simsbury portion of land. The new application still notes the intent to remove 17,659 cubic yards of material from the site. Nearly 13,000 of that would be in Canton and the balance in Simsbury.
A letter from the attorney for the development team, Timothy M. Herbst of Marino, Zabel & Schellenberg, states 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."
More to come.
On Oct. 20, the Canton Planning and Zoning Commission is planning to open a public hearing on the latest proposal for 9-15 Albany Turnpike.
Earlier this year — after months of controversy in town — the commission rejected a proposal for an Electric Vehicle Showroom, fueling station and convenience store on the property, stating that the proposed activity would have too greatly altered the natural resource of the traprock ridge and did not strike the balance of economic activity and preservation referenced in the town’s Plan of Conservation and Development.
While most of the 26-acre property is in Simsbury, the majority of that development would have been in Canton. (The former La Trattoria restaurant is not part of this property but is adjacent to it).
This time around, the development team is proposing earthwork and grading they say would be needed to support future development, primarily in Simsbury.
“We’re simply proposing to do some rough grading through the site and potentially into Simsbury to create an area that could be utilized in the future for an access way to the land in Simsbury,” Kevin Solli, of Solli Engineering – a member of the applicant team — recently told the town’s conservation commission.”
The latest application seeks some special permits for earthwork and grading and material processing. An engineering report with the application, states in part, “The proposed earthwork is to construct a ±540 LF gravel access road to support future site development.”
But at the Conservation Commission meeting and in other documents to the Planning and Zoning Commission, the development team said a divided driveway would come later, and that the proposal now is simply for the earthwork and grading, an assertion that could also be important to some legal questions about uses raised for the Planning and Zoning Commission. (The Valley Press, based on that phrase in the application also used the term "gravel access road" in previous stories).
“We’re aren’t proposing an access driveway right now,” Solli said at the Oct. 5 Conservation Commission meeting. “We aren’t proposing a specific use with this application. We’re simply proposing to do grading on the property to allow for the connectivity, or the connection, into the land in Simsbury. … It’s been designed in accordance with the Canton driveway standards so that if in the future we do propose a driveway here it will be able to be constructed in accordance with appropriate requirements.”
Conservation Commission member Cynthia Zdanzukas asked Solli why the application is being filed before final plans for the property.
“Why now if you don’t even have any plans for the property going forward?” she asked. Why do you want to do this now? Why wouldn’t you put the application in with the rest of the plans for the property?”
Referencing the controversy over blasting in the last application, Solli stated, “There were a lot of claims and assertions made that were ultimately proven unfounded and I think the applicant is essentially concerned with securing his rights that he has bestowed upon him as a commercial property owner to try to make sure the land isn’t essentially kind of taken from him and not allowed to be utilized in any means. So, I think he’s trying to secure these rights to do the grading. We think it’s a much less intensive way to approach the development of the property and I think those are the primary reasons we’re going through the effort at this time.”
The new application does propose blasting and related activity that would involve a total of 17,659 cubic yards of removal of material from the site, a little less than 13,000 of which would be in Canton. Solli later noted was that the previous proposal involved approximately 180,000 cubic yards of removal from the site.
Kevin Erwin, chairman of the Conservation Commission said some idea of what type of development might help the group make an informed recommendation to the Planning and Zoning Commission and Solli said some type of multi-family project would be the “highest and best use” of the property.
Later in the meeting, Solli acknowledged that future development would involve some additional blasting be he also contended it would still not reach anywhere close to the previous application.
Additionally, Solli said it was likely the owners would seek a pad development in Canton, he said it would be nowhere near the scope of the previous project and ,would “not necessarily” impact the ridge at all.
“This area that was contemplated before I think that’s been conceded,” he said, pointing to an area he marked for the commission that involved much of the hillside coming into Canton. “We went through that battle and I don’t think we’re going to be proposing to remove or anyone would be proposing to remove that much material in the future and I think the Planning and Zoning Commission did a good job of expressing their concerns that that was too much, too intensive. I certainly think the ship has sailed, so to speak, with trying to mimic something that was previously submitted,” Solli said.
Earlier in the meeting, Solli also acknowledged that the POCD talks about both opportunity and preservation when it comes to the property.
"I think one thing we observed through the last application is the importance of this resource to the community and I think any future plans need to be respectful of that so trying to limit and minimize the overall impact to this resource," he said.
Solli did, however, assert that allegations that blasting could impact area wells, the aquifer or the plume from contamination at another property were “unfounded” and did speak adamantly when it came to some past and even lingering assertions that rock removal could be viewed as a mining operation.
“Quarry activities don’t exist for this small amount of material. There’s no economic value to trying to secure and process 13,000 yards of material. The costs of setting up that type of operation doesn’t justify the expense if you’re only excavating 13,000 yards. This is an expense. this is not a cheap expense and this is not a money making activity in any way, shape or form.”
Solli also said an access from Simsbury would not be practical and would involve much more intensive degradation of land.
Solli also said the goal was not to perform activity right away but secure the rights and estimated it could be 6 to 12 months before the team would apply for a project in Simsbury. (He also expressed confidence for endorsement in Simsbury, noting the Simsbury Zoning Commission’s unanimous approval for the last project and other meetings with the town).
“We want to secure the rights so we have the right to do it," Solli said. "The actual activity probably wouldn’t happen until we’re a little bit further down the road but we need to make sure we have the rights to do so.”
A few Conservation Commission members noted the proposed activity was certainly far less than last time around and Neil Pade, the town’s director of Planning and Community Development noted the Planning and Zoning Commission hearing could, in theory, just take one evening.
Still many members of the Conservation Commission said it was hard to make an immediate decision without further review of the material. Others said the lack of complete clarity on what could eventually happen on the property made it a little difficult as well.
“Certainly I can say the scale of this in comparison to what we were talking about as a development effort from a conservation perspective is sizably less,” Conservation commission member Bill Spatcher said. “I’m not trying to influence my fellow commissioners here but I wouldn’t mind having a little more time to collect input on this.”
Eventually members voted to have Pade relay the message to Planning and Zoning that the Conservation Commission was requesting more time to take a position on the application.
The virtual Planning and Zoning Commission meeting is set for 7 p.m. Oct. 20.
To see information on joining, visit https://townofcantonct.org/filestorage/6662/17720/17722/50412/10-20-21_PZC_RM_Agenda.pdf
See the meeting packet at