Plans for a five-bay gas station with a kiosk serving customers at 528 Monroe Turnpike weathered strong opposition from neighbors and environmentalists during a hearing before the Inland Wetlands Commission, which granted its unanimous approval at a special meeting on Wednesday night.
The applicant, Monroe Gas LLC, now needs to go before the Planning & Zoning Commission in its bid to make the new gas station a reality.
Stephen Studer, the attorney hired by the applicant, was pleased with the Inland Wetlands Commission's decision, which included a laundry list of conditions that must be met.
"I think they were very thorough and comprehensive in the analysis of the application," Studer said. "They did a great job. It was the correct decision in view of the expert testimony."
As the reason for approval, Chairman Jeremy Hayden said that experts working for both the applicant and the commission indicated there would be no adverse impact on the wetlands and watercourses.
However, a number of townspeople have expressed concerns about having a gas station on the 1.9-acre property, because Beardsley Brook runs behind it and empties into Far Mill River on its way to Shelton Reservoir, which is owned by Aquarion Water Co.
Some worry about potential runoff from contaminated soil being disturbed when an old fuel tank is dug up and the gas tanks are installed. The land was used as a home-heating oil terminal from 1962-1988 and — despite clean up efforts — the soil is still polluted from oil spills over the years.
Engineers and environmental experts hired by the applicant have touted a state-of-the-art drainage plan for the property and promised to take precautions when lowering the water table to remove and install tanks.
Aquarion Water Co. had written a letter in opposition of the gas station because of its close proximity to public drinking water. The Drinking Water Division of the Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection has also said it is a bad idea to build a gas station near a public water supply watershed.
About a dozen people in opposition to the project had gathered in back of the Council Chambers of Monroe Town Hall during deliberations, and some wore grim expressions when it became clear that the commission was going to approve the gas station. But those interviewed by Patch afterward appeared to be upbeat.
"Here we go to Planning & Zoning," Gail Bunovsky said with a smile. "P&Z is for health, safety and the general welfare of the community. This is a gas station in a public supply watershed."
Aside from the public water supply, Bunovsky, who is vice chairman of the Conservation & Water Resources Commission in town, noted how private wells are also fed by water in the area.
Leon Ambrosey, who owns a service station on Route 111, visited Ahold's website, Ahold owns Stop & Shop. It's president and CEO, Cees van der Hoeven, says on the site, "We aspire to be an environmentally responsible company in every market where we operate."
Ambrosey said, "They're supposed to be environmentally friendly. I don't know why they want to put a gas station within 50 feet of a watercourse for public drinking water."
He said he reached out to the company about the application to build a gas station in Monroe and that a woman in Adold's environmental department has yet to return his phone call.
Ambrosey noted how Ahold has cleaned up brown fields to build stores before and questioned why it did not fund a clean up of the Monroe site.
"They said they work with the community and they haven't worked with anybody in the community," he said. "Nor have they addressed any adverse conditions."
Conditions of approval
Inland Wetlands Commission members' approval included a lengthy list of conditions, among them were:
- Obtaining an easement for the septic system
- Receiving a report from the Trumbull-Monroe Health District
- Sizing information must be provided for the oil/water separator
- The drainage system must contain the first inch of runoff from the impervious areas
- A final materials management plan must be submitted prior to the start of work, detailing removal and replacement of unsuitable fill
- Plantings must be maintained for three years with a follow up report from an appropriate professional. Plantings will be bonded for and monitored.
- There must be an increase in landscaping buffer to the east and south-east along the river
- A construction sequence plan must be provided to the town engineer prior to construction
- There must be verification of a DEEP permit for water table discharge before construction
- The de-watering tank must be kept as far away from the wetlands as possible
- Water taken out of the ground as tanks are being installed must be trucked away from the site
- There must be a maintenance plan for the cleaning of the stormwater drainage system, which must be cleaned out at 25 percent accumulation
- Town Engineer Scott Schatzlein recommended a $40,000 performance bond
- Cut off lighting is required for the site
- A two-foot-high rock wall will prevent amphibians from entering the vernal pool area in the drainage system
- The applicant must remove as much sediment as possible from the tributary
- Debris must be removed from the site on a scheduled basis
- Snow plowed after storms of two inches or less will be piled on the north side of the site and higher accumulations must be trucked off the site
- A crushed stone berm is required
- There must be curbing around the Dumpster pad
- The gas station will only be open when the Stop & Shop supermarket on Route 111 is open
- An existing well must be properly abandoned
- The application must be changed to reflect disturbance of the wetlands by the plunge pool
The commission will also make a referral to the P&Z Commission recommending that no petroleum-based products other than gasoline be sold on the property.