WALLINGFORD — After the Planning and Zoning Commission rejected a redevelopment plan for the former Bristol-Myers Squibb site Monday, the property owner is taking time to regroup.
“I think it will be some time before a new direction is established,” said James Manley, Calare Properties vice president of business development, in an email Tuesday, adding that Calare still plans to demolish the building at 5 Research Parkway this year.
Calare hasn’t applied for a demolition permit yet, town officials said Wednesday.
The plan that the PZC rejected would have been the largest industrial development in town.
Calare applied for a special permit to build two warehouses and offices, at 1.1 million square feet total, on the property in July 2018, while applying at the same time for a wetlands permit.
Warehouses are a permitted use on the property, zoned IX, but anticipated traffic in and out of the site triggered a special permit review.
The Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Commission granted Calare its wetlands permit in November 2018.
However, the clock and the calendar for the PZC started at the same time. By Monday’s meeting, PZC was out of time to deliberate and had to make a decision, having closed the public hearing last month.
After a public hearing is closed, no new information can be submitted to the commission and PZC members can only ask clarifying questions.
That rule threw a monkey wrench into the works, because Calare submitted revised plans during the December meeting that eliminated an entrance on Carpenter Lane.
Commissioner Jim Fitzsimmons said Tuesday, reiterating his comments from Monday’s meeting, that commissioners didn’t have time to discuss the change in traffic, and that Calare didn’t submit enough updated traffic information to reflect the change at Carpenter Lane.
Fitzsimmons said that he made the motion to deny the application due to the traffic issues, the size and intensity of the proposal, the incompatibility with the characteristics of neighborhood and the lack of town staff to enforce all suggested conditions of approval.
“It was just a large, large application,” he said, adding that while he acknowledges the proposed use is a by-right use in the zone, his objections were not about use, but about size.
Neighbors expressed relief at the decision.
“We dodged a bullet,” said Jack Arrigoni, of 18 Martin Trail, via email. “The word ‘economic’ cannot be found in the P&Z regulations’ purpose, but much about promoting our community can, and this is what encourages reasonable economic development in Wallingford.”
Jen Frechette, of 29 Valley View Drive, said via email she was “very impressed” with the commissioners “for hearing all sides, weighing the information against the zoning regulations, and coming to a decision that’s best for the town.”
“They asked many solid questions of the applicant and allowed all residents to be heard, even when that meant staying well into the night,” she said. “Most PZC meetings have minimal attendance, so I’m sure the commissioners take note when a massive group is in attendance to oppose a project.”
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