Guilford panel hears final ‘rock pile’ pitch

Rachael Scarborough King, Register Staff

GUILFORD — Scientists, developers and residents continued to analyze environmental data and governmental regulations at the fourth and final public hearing for the so-called “rock pile” development Wednesday night.

The Inland Wetlands Commission had already rejected the proposal to build an upscale shopping center to be called Guilford Commons at 1919 Boston Post Road. In April, the commission decided by a 4-3 vote to deny the application because, commissioners said, the project would pollute the wetlands and a nearby stream, impact water quality and add paved surfaces without providing a sufficient stormwater drainage system.

But the applicant, DDR Guilford, reworked its proposal and sent it back to the commission.

At the same time as Wednesday’s hearing, the Planning and Zoning Commission was scheduled to receive the construction site plan for Guilford Commons, but not take any action on it.

Much of the focus at the Inland Wetlands hearing was on the Zenon wastewater treatment system, which has had compliance problems at other locations around Connecticut. In August, the state Department of Environmental Protection granted DDR Guilford a permit to use a Zenon system at the 28-acre rock pile site, and DEP Supervising Sanitary Engineer Warren Herzig explained to the commission the department’s role in monitoring treatment facilities.

Commissioner J. Caleb Orcutt described the compliance record of the Zenon system and other such advanced treatment facilities as “hideous.”

“Can you sell the commission on the DEP’s hopefully increased ability to ride hard on these systems, to keep them from being in noncompliance for a protracted period of time, or does this just fall through the cracks?” Orcutt asked.

Herzig said that staff shortages have limited the department’s ability to respond to failures. but he hopes to be able to react more quickly in the future.

“The department is taking very strong action, I would say, against those particular facilities,” he said.

Commissioner Scott Williams questioned the DEP’s role in permitting developments that have the potential to harm the local environment. Other commissioners said they are particularly concerned about nearby Spinning Mill Brook.

“Wouldn’t this site be better protected if there wasn’t any discharge at all?” Williams said.

Herzig answered that the state has to maintain “a balance between development and protecting the waters of the state.”

“OK, but you are the representative of the Department of Environmental Protection, not economic development,” Williams said to some laughter.

Community members, who numbered about 50 in the audience, were due to have their say on the project later at Wednesday night’s meeting. Representatives of the Committee to Save Guilford Shoreline, which is opposed to the development, also questioned Herzig.

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