Wetlands panel OKs ‘rock pile’ retail plan

By Rachael Scarborough King, Register Staff
Dec. 14, 2007

GUILFORD — A controversial proposal to build a shopping center on the “rock pile” site on the Boston Post Road won Inland Wetlands Commission approval late Wednesday.

It was the second time the commission has voted on DDR Guilford’s plan to develop 28 acres near Exit 57 off Interstate 95. In April, commissioners rejected the application in a 4-3 vote, saying they thought the development would pollute the nearby wetlands and stream and add paved surfaces without adequately dealing with storm water runoff.

The developers modified and resubmitted the proposal in July, setting off a new round of hearings and deliberation. On Wednesday, commissioners, by a 5-2 vote, approved a permit for DDR Guilford to build the shopping center.

According to the permit, construction on the shopping center, which the plans say will be called Guilford Commons and will include about 150,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space and 680 parking spots, must start within one year. The proposal also must gain approval from the Planning and Zoning Commission, which is holding public hearings on the plan.

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The Inland Wetlands Commission’s resolution of approval included 40 conditions and stated that as long as the developers follow those measures, the project is “not reasonably likely to cause an adverse impact to the surrounding wetlands and watercourse.”

Much of the debate in months of public hearings on the project concerned the Zenon wastewater treatment system, which opponents have said would introduce harmful levels of nitrogen into Spinning Mill Brook.

In their discussion Wednesday night, several commissioners focused on the conditions attached to approval that concerned the storm water system, saying they think that the regulations will be sufficient to protect the stream and wetlands.

Those conditions included a requirement to inspect the Zenon membrane system weekly, an agreement with the town Water Pollution Control Authority that it can require the owners to stop discharging storm water if it exceeds certain limits, and a provision that the owners will hire a scientist who specializes in fresh water bodies to monitor Spinning Mill Brook.

“I think that this particular permit is the most detailed and stringent in the state of Connecticut at this point in terms of what it asks the applicant to do,” Commissioner Jerry Silbert said.

Commissioner Lois Smith, who voted against approval, said she is worried by the past compliance issues of other advanced wastewater treatment systems, like the Zenon system, in Connecticut. The state Department of Environmental Protection issued a permit for DDR Guilford’s use of a Zenon system.

“Any organization can plan and can promise, but if you want to assess probable outcome, you look at track record,” Smith said. “Approval of this application to me essentially would make Guilford the site of a research and pilot study which would be beneficial to Zenon (and) to DEP.”

Charles Magby, director of the Committee to Save Guilford Shoreline, said he was not surprised by the outcome. The committee filed as an official intervener to the application and presented its own scientific evidence during hearings. Magby said he is not sure what the committee’s next steps will be. Opponents have 15 days to appeal the decision, but Magby said he does not think an appeal is likely because of the cost.

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