North Branford residents worried about Tilcon plan; application tabled
NORTH BRANFORD — Amid concerns that residents did not receive adequate notice about how to access Thursday night’s meeting, the Planning & Zoning Commission tabled Tilcon’s request to rezone land near its North Branford quarry from residential to industrial.
But the commission, which held its meeting via Facebook Live, still took public comments.
And residents had a lot of them.
Many worried whether the change would allow blasting down the line, claiming that current blasting can feel like an “earthquake.” Others asked whether it would impact property values.
Chris Costello, a representative from Tilcon, told the commission that the company only intends to use the rezoned parcels for stockpiling.
Costello did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
Jim Pretti, who works for the engineering firm hired by Tilcon, also spoke of the company’s plans for the property.
If Tilcon decides it wants to quarry the rezoned area, he said, it would need to change its long-term mining plan and win further approval from the town.
“There is no plan to mine those properties,” Pretti said.
But not all residents were reassured.
Some, like Ashley Joiner, asked that the town issue Tilcon a special use permit for stockpiling rather than approve a zone change, so as to prevent potential quarry expansion down the line.
Joiner shared her thoughts in the comments section of the Facebook video.
Town Planner Carey Duques read additional input to the commission, which residents had submitted prior to the meeting.
One resident, who identified herself as a nearby property owner, was unhappy that the proposal was being aired the coronavirus pandemic.
Duques read the comment, submitted by Meg Grunstein.
“We are frustrated that this change is being proposed during a pandemic when it is significantly harder for us to get answers to these questions as we barely have enough time to cook dinner, let alone research zoning regulations,” she said.
Grunstein requested that the town table the proposal for six months. Others expressed support for that request via the Facebook comments.
The parcels Tilcon is seeking to rezone sit on the northernmost section of its property, east of Miller Road, according to a map filed with the town that shows the proposed zoning change.
In addition to a small slice of its largest parcel, around 14.5 acres spread across two parcels comprise the area, Pretti said during the meeting.
(Duques emailed a copy of the map, along with Tilcon’s application form, to the Register.)
The application arrives amid residents’ concerns about how Tilcon’s quarrying operations and other local developments affect the surrounding areas.
About a mile southeast of the quarry sits Cedar Pond, which has shown signs of flooding. Tilcon pumps water out of its quarry and toward the lake, one of multiple factors contributing to the issue of rising water .
In addition to the quarry water, stormwater from the developed area along Route 80 flows into the lake, which is not properly draining.
One resident, who identified herself as Penny Riggione, asked whether the town would face more water flow issues if Tilcon decides to mine the rezoned parcel. Duques read the question to the commission.
Harry Dulak, who chairs the commission, reiterated that the zone change would not allow for more blasting.
“This is going to be used for storage, for the time being,” he said, confirming his statement with the town planner.
“They’ll be no blasting or any additional water issues,” Costello, the Tilcon representative, said.
But residents will have to wait to receive more in-depth answers, as the commission decided to have spokespeople for Tilcon address their questions at its next meeting, scheduled for June 4.
Duques recommended that the town continue the matter because of a scheduling error.
The commission’s original agenda — along with letters mailed to nearby property owners — indicated the meeting was to be aired on Totoket TV’s Facebook page.
But because of a simultaneous Board of Education meeting, North Branford switched to using the town Facebook page, said Duques, who informed the Register of the change Thursday afternoon.
“That was definitely our error on the town side because of using Facebook Live as our forum, so I would recommend that we continue this just to provide people with an ample opportunity to participate,” she said at the meeting.
Duques also suggested that the town send residents a Zoom invitation for the next meeting, rather than restricting comments to Facebook.