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P&Z Yet to Decide on CL&P Proposal for Stevenson Lumber Co. Property

The power company wants a special permit and text change amendment allowing it to use five acres for a temporary staging area for a three-year line improvement project.

Connecticut Light & Power Co. wants to replace power transmission towers dating back to the 1940's with new monopoles as part of a line improvement plan going from the Stevenson section of Monroe to Watertown. The company is eyeing the former Stevenson Lumber Co. property at 1585 Monroe Turnpike as a temporary staging area for the project.

David Bjorklund, an engineer with Spath-Bjorklund Associates who was hired to represent CL&P before the Planning & Zoning Commission, discussed its plan to enter into a three-year lease with the property owner to use 5 acres for storage of materials, supplies and equipment.

"This is a great location to serve the southern end of this proposed project," Bjorklund said. "What attracted CL&P to the site is it's an existing commercial site and the infrastructure is there. It's well-suited for what they want to do."

No new buildings are proposed. The power company would use an existing building and garage, stripe parking spaces for 15 trucks and ensure there is access for town emergency vehicles. The existing paving and lighting would also be used.

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But CL&P needs a text amendment change that would allow state licensed utilities to store materials on the site and a special exception permit approval from the Planning & Zoning Commission to make it happen.

The commission held a hearing on July 19 and may render a decision at its meeting this Thursday night at 7 o'clock in the Town Council Chambers of Monroe Town Hall. However, a decision does not have to be made then.

Touting the Proposal

Though a regulation amendment to Section 117-1102 (permitted uses in a DB-2 District) is needed, Bjorklund said the proposed use is similar to what the lumber company did on the same site, but far less intensive.

For example, the power company is proposing to use only five of the site's 40 acres and while the lumber company used about 80 trucks, Bjorklund said CL&P would use 15.

He said the site is near a railroad track and the Boys Halfway River with the nearest house being 900 feet away. "I don't see how this is going to have an impact on the residents," Bjorklund said.

However, screening the outside storage on the property presents a challenge.

"There has been storage in this place since the mid-80's," Bjorklund said. "We can't screen this area from cars coming down the hill."

Bjorklund said there is a good buffer of pine trees, but during six months of the year there are no leaves on other trees, making the storage area more open.

CL&P is proposing to plant hedges along an existing fence on another part of the property.

The Stevenson Lumber Co. property has been dormant since the business closed several years ago, but Bjorklund believes having some activity on the site can spark future activity there.

"I think if you get something happening here, people won't see it as a vacant commercial site," he said. "They will see it as a place where something is happening."

Permanent Changes, Temporary Use

During the July 19 hearing, P&Z Commission alternate, Jane Flader, asked what would happen if the building CL&P uses falls into disrepair. Would the power company make repairs or move on to another building on the site?

Commissioner William Porter brought up health department concerns over the well.

Bjorklund said, "We may not even meet the 25 person threshhold. If remedial work is needed, it will be done."

Though CL&P only intends to use five acres, Porter questioned whether the regulation amendment and special permit would apply to the entire 40-acre-property, since there is no plan to subdivide.

Bjorklund said the site plan is only for the five acres.

Commission Vice Chairman Patrick O'Hara asked is the power company can take down existing signage left over from the lumber company and if the lighting could be reconfigured to reduce glare. Bjorklund said yes to both questions.

The commission pointed out that CL&P is asking for changes that would be permanent for a use that is temporary.

"This is a specific text amendment," Bjorklund said. "It can only be used by a public utility, not a construction company. You have to be a registered utility. It's specific to what can be stored."

"If we did do a complete site plan with landscaping ... we could bond the site plan," he said. "After three years, CL&P would clean up and leave. We could write a letter abandoning the use. That would be a way the town could get the security and assurances they need and CL&P can get what they're looking for."

Town Land Use Dir. Scott Schatzlein asked if Bjorkland planned to bring in a site plan before or after the fact, and Bjorklund said he prefers after the fact. "The owner wants assurances going forward before spending money," Bjorklund said.

Schatzlein said, "I would have a problem with that, because then the commission doesn't know what it's approving."

Porter asked Bjorklund if CL&P is willing to put fencing around the entire area of use.

A Gateway to Monroe

Quinn expressed concern that the property would represent sprawl for three years, then a blight. "I don't like it as a gateway to Monroe," he said.

Quinn also said there is no way to hide some of outside storage with the screening. Porter suggested changing the language in the proposed amendment to say the outside storage should be shielded to the satisfaction of the commission.

But Quinn said if the amendment is made too loosely, it could be interpreted the opposite way that the commission intends.

"You don't want to see that when driving into Monroe," Quinn said.

The commission has until Sept. 1 to decide on the amendment, which is needed before the special permit could be approved, so commissioners voted to table it on July 19.

Gerald M. Gaynor July 26, 2012 at 10:26 AM
Having an abandoned commercial site as the first thing many see entering Monroe is so much more reflective of the Town's anti-business reputation. Why change that?
Peter Woods July 26, 2012 at 12:13 PM
Why were Commissioner Karen Martin's comments left out of this article? She was extremely rude to Mr. Bjorklund and if this is an example of the way the P & Z members treat the people who come before the Commission, no wonder the anti-business reputation is out there. Mrs. Martin needs to remember that she is a representative of this town. This isn't the first time she has acted in an inflammatory way. Step down if you can't perform your duties in a civil manner!
Carl Kolchak July 26, 2012 at 12:18 PM
Wow. This statement is really disturbing: "I don't like it as a gateway to Monroe." We're in the middle of the worst economy since the 1930s and we're seriously worried about hiding outside storage that CL&P might have on site? Is a Home Depot any better? Is an abandoned lumber yard any better? In a town that keeps consistently rejecting budget increases, isn't the message from taxpayers clear? We want good responsible development like this. Come on P&Z folks, this is a no-brainer. Approve the plan immediately with as few restrictions as possible.
DBACK July 26, 2012 at 01:02 PM
Addendum: Monroe has to be the first area to be fixed in a power outage. P & Z " Are you smarter than fifth grader ?". Answer "NO". Maybe a farmer wants to use that land to raise goats and chickens.
DBACK July 26, 2012 at 01:13 PM
You are so right, Quinn. I would rather see a dilapidated, empty lot when entering Monroe.
PlumbBob July 26, 2012 at 02:41 PM
So for years it was fine for the lumber company to have their storage facilities exposed, no need for screening, the fencing around the property seemed adequate, nobody complained about the landscaping, and there was no objection to the "glare" of the light (seriously? please, you are kidding right?). Now all of a sudden when someone wants to put a small portion of the abandoned property to use this all becomes an issue. What's next? Is P&Z going to tell them the color of their trucks wont work. P&Z..over thinking and under accomplishing for our town. Lets just keep it a vacated eye sore of a property much like many others in this town and call it a job well done. Take the short term lease folks, at least Monroe can then cover all of the fees associated to outsourced legal representation needed to defend the P&Z and the tax payers of the town wont bear that burden any longer. I'm sure the local businesses such as Subway, D&D, the pizza shops, etc would love to have the property be put to use and present a potential increase in daily business.
Walt July 26, 2012 at 04:04 PM
I think we should build the monroe sewer plant there, it's close to the river for the effluant...
QWERTY July 26, 2012 at 04:49 PM
This might be an ill advised thought but I don't think of route 34 as the "gateway" to Monroe. If we're worried about "gateways", lets take a look at the one lane roads of rt 25 and 111 entering Monroe from Trumbull and the lack of business development therein. The proverbial "land for lease" signs along those roads probably don't do well for Monroe's image either.
Monroe Guy July 26, 2012 at 05:31 PM
Mr. O’Hara gunna say what to do. He be runnin P&Z and so all you fancy type people dont need be worryin yours selfs about nuttin. We don’t need no CL&P at the old lumber yard. That ther make for some good farmin land and Mr. O’Hara being a farmer node that. We don’t need no sewer type plant or no new binnis ther neither that would just be bringing in more familys and youngins and we dont need that ther kinda trouble. This be a farmin community and don’t no one ever fergit it.
Walt July 26, 2012 at 05:52 PM
Ah thinks that iffin weez gunna git mo bidness in disheere town, weez gunna needs dem dar sooowers, yessuh! Puhsunly, ah am tarred of walkin back out to duh owthouse wiff duh half moon on duh door too! Izzat cone reddy yet? Ahm gittin motty hungreh fo a coupla ears wiff buttah!
monroe taxpayer July 26, 2012 at 06:11 PM
Your right. The only other area that might also work would be Webb Mountain park. I know there would be claims that it just can not be done but if I am not mistaken Newtown already has a small treatment plant that empties into Lake Zoar and my guess is so do other towns further north. But this is Monroe and that idea just makes to much sense. My guess is we will stick with the same 40 year old bad plan of connecting to Bridgeport and Trumbull.
Alex July 26, 2012 at 08:47 PM
Land of Lease signs lol... that one made me laugh. Hey now, there's at least one "SOLD" sign on there. I do agree though, it's hard not to notice the number of for lease properties along the corridor.
riannemeroff July 27, 2012 at 10:58 AM
Love your humor Gerald!!
Donna Gail July 27, 2012 at 11:41 PM
I agree with you, Qwerty. That is not the gateway to Monroe for most visitors. And why should CL&P have to jump thru hoops to make the property presentable if this is just a temporary situation? I live in the area & I can't see how it would be worse than what it looks like now. But it's got to be better than Vavrek's failed recycling plant fiasco.
Barney July 28, 2012 at 01:38 AM
Mr. Vavrek be telling me today not to worry about this here property. He be saying it looks good the way it is. Mr. Vavrek be saying he be making sure nobody be buying that property. The P&Z not be allowing business to be taking over. We not be needing neon glowing signs on that road. Mr. Vavrek be telling me he be too busy working on plans to close another school down. He be explains that 30 kids be fitting in a room just like when he was in school and I be saying me too. Me and mr. Vavrek turned out fine so you parents have nothing to worry about. You just let Mr. Vavrek do all the worrying. Mr. Vavrek be talking normal and he understand the need for more farming. He not be wasting time with business and interloper education lovers. If you be loving education go buy yourself a fancy book. Monroe gonna be the way it was 40 years ago is what mr. Vavrek be explaining. Stand by Mr. Vavrek like I do. He be a normal thinker.
Carl Kolchak July 28, 2012 at 03:21 PM
I have heard rumors, and I cannot confirm this, that Steve Vavrek was actually responsible for choreographing the abysmal opening ceremony of the London Olympics and that he is holding incriminating pictures of Ron Paul in a public lavatory. True?

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