New Gas Station Slated for Tylerville
A proposal for a new gas station, convenience store and office building was presented to the planning and zoning commission at their February 4 meeting. The proposed location is the vacant 1.4-acre parcel located between the Route 82 connection to Route 9 and Haddam Pizza.
Civil engineer Russell Cyr, representing Robin Maule of Saybrook Road LLC and owner of the parcel, presented the proposal to the commissioners.
Cyr stated that plans were for a 4,048 square foot convenience store with a drive-through coffee window and a fueling facility with three gas dispensers.
The site will also feature a 2,975 square foot retail/office building; the final use has not been determined.
Access to the site will be from Route 154 as specified by the state when the owner purchased the parcel from the DOT. The proposal also shows an access from Old Chester Road. Buildings will be served by a septic system and a private well. Gas and diesel storage tanks for the dispensers will be underground.
Town planner Liz Glidden reported that she had met with Cyr to discuss various elements of the proposal and it appears that the plans meet the town’s requirements. The site plans were provided to Jeff Jacobson, town engineer, and Jeff Catlett, Chatham Health District, for their review and reports. Glidden also stated that the ZBA had granted a variance for the retail/office building. Chairman Walt Zilahy asked if the water was suitable. Glidden stated she could not speak specifically about the site, but in general, the water in Tylerville is a problem and the town is working to bring in public water. Cyr stated the well would be a transient non-community system and be the only source for both buildings.
Zilahy asked if market research had been done to assess the need for another gasoline dispenser in that area.
Robin Maule stated that no official study had been done, but she was confident
the station would be profitable, especially serving the opposite side of the street from two other stations.
As a side note, this would be Haddam’s sixth gas station.
Assessor to Review WFS Property Assessment
During the public comment section of the February 4 planning and zoning meeting, Higganum resident Melissa Schlag asked if someone could clarify for her if Lot 17-1, a 39-acre parcel formerly known as the Wallor property now owned by WFS, was currently being mined as a result of the recent settlement between the town and WFS.
Town planner Liz Glidden responded in the affirmative. Schlag informed the commission that for at least the last three years that section of the property had been assessed as vacant land resulting in a property tax around $4,000 much lower than the $14,000 WFS paid for its other 32-acre parcel, also currently being mined.
Schlag indicated that GPS satellite images showed it had been mined for at least three years prior to the settlement.
Glidden stated that Ms. Schlag’s information was correct and that Marilyn Baumann, our town assessor, is aware there was a discrepancy and is working to rectify the matter.
Monitoring of Air Quality Requested
During the same public comment section, Cedar Lake resident Don Giboski brought up P&Z chairman Walt Zilahy’s letter to the editor (in the February 2012 Haddam Bulletin) about the new WFS permit not conflicting with a bus schedule.
Since Zilahy took the time to research the school bus schedule, Giboski asked him if he also researched the effects of silica in the neighborhood; and if not, why didn't he appear to be concerned about the matter.
Zilahy responded that the commission is concerned and the state has been out to monitor the site. Town planner Glidden reported that air quality is monitored by the Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (DEEP) who, according to Glidden, has been out to the site six times and did not find an air quality situation.
Giboski stated that monitoring should be on-going and asked why the town is not doing its own monitoring.
“Why should the state be responsible for mistakes made by the town?” Giboski added.
Eco-Tourism Center Sold, Again
A town hearing followed by a town meeting was held on February 7 at the Town Hall for the purpose of transferring town property on 105 Bridge Street to Acquisition Holdings, LLC.
Originally built to help the Tylerville business center, the Eco-Tourism Center has had its share of controversies over the years. The 2.4-acre property, with its buildings and an old DOT facility, was transferred to the town in 1998 by an act of the legislature. Using state and federal grants, and with the help of various community organizations, the town refurbished one of the buildings as the Eco Tourism Center which opened with great fanfare in 2003.
Unfortunately, one of the conditions attached to the grant money was to create ten new jobs at the facility. Those jobs never materialized and then First Selectman Tony Bondi saw the Eco Tourism Center as more of a problem than an opportunity. Under his direction, the town decided to return the grant money to the state and federal agencies involved.
The property was then put up for sale and listed with Bob Dow of Dow Realty Company. At $750,000, Jeffrey Rummel was the winner of an informal bidding process, a process that was disputed by other interested investors at the time. On April 26, 2007, a town meeting formalized the sale and the transaction was approved by a vote of 17 to 2.
As part of the agreement, Rummel was allowed to perform a series of environmental tests before finalizing the sale since the site had been used in the past by the DOT to store sand and salt. The test results indicated the presence of soil contamination that had not been previously detected and that some form of remediation would be required.
After many extensions of the purchase agreement, in 2011 Rummel decided to end his contract for
the purchase of the property. His decision came shortly after the State Department of Public Health (DPH) notified Rummel that they would not approve the drilling of any new wells in areas of known contamination.
The parcel was put back on the market last fall, this time with Jeff Dow of Dow Realty. All offers, and discussions of those offers, were done behind closed doors or during executive sessions of the board of selectmen.
Even the planning and zoning commission, whose members have to approve proposed sale of any town-owned property, decided not to open their meeting on the subject to the public.
As a result, only one offer was presented to the public on February 7, and the residents were asked to authorize their First Selectman “to sell, transfer and convey all of its right, title and interest in the parcel of land known as 105 Bridge Road, Haddam, CT.” The agreed-upon sale price was $480,000.
During the public hearing, first selectman DeStefano acknowledged there had been another serious offer made on the property, but he
declined to comment or give any detail on that offer. When asked what criteria or method was used to determine which offer was the best choice he again declined to answer.
The chosen purchaser, Acquisition Holdings LLC, is a subsidiary of the Middletown-based Centerplan Construction Company. Centerplan is one of the developers currently involved with the proposed contentious commercial development on Washington Street in Middletown.
Chester resident Robert Landino, Centerplan’s co-founder/CEO and a business manager of Greenskies Renewable Energy LLC, was in attendance and gave a brief presentation of his plans for the Tylerville property.
Responding to questions from the audience, Landino explained that his plan for the site was to use a portion as a field office and the remainder for storage of trucks and construction equipment. A second phase would involve remediating or cleaning up the sub-surface pollution.
Landino told residents that he might develop a portion of the site for retail use in the future, such as a hardware store, but has no plans at this time.
“I am extremely pleased with the caliber of the buyer,” DeStefano commented at the public hearing.
After the hearing was closed, a town meeting was quickly convened, and the sale was approved by a dozen residents present, with one abstention and two no votes.