WALLINGFORD — Residents came out last week to let the Planning & Zoning Commission know that they're not OK with the newest application for a warehouse at 5 Research Parkway, the former home of Bristol Myers Squibb.
The commission heard from representatives of the owner and developer, 5 Research Parkway Wallingford LLC, which is seeking site plan approval for a 450,000 square foot warehouse. It's the third application for the property in the last six years, including one for an Amazon warehouse that led the commission to change its regulations to assure that use would never be approved.
The previous two applications were for special permit approval, which requires a public hearing. The current application is for site plan approval, which does not require a public hearing.
Residents weighed in during a public comment portion of the meeting after the site plan presentation.
The new application calls for 450,000 total square feet, with 10,000 of that used for offices. It includes 105 loading docks, 96 tractor-trailer parking spaces and 530 regular parking spaces. The building would have two driveways, one for tractor-trailers and the other for employees, situated so employees walking into the building would not have to cross the other driveway. Fifty percent of the 180-acre property would remain open space.
The site plan meets the commission's revised regulations, attorney James Perito of Halloran and Sage in New Haven, representing the applicant, told the commission, and it meets the objectives of the town's Plan of Conservation and Development.
There isn't yet a tenant for the property, but they are not "anticipating limiting the hours of operation,” said Jeff Checkoway of BL Companies on behalf of the applicant.
The company's traffic expert estimates the number of trips in and out of the facility per hour would be less than the 100 trips the regulations call for, but many residents questioned that, as well as whether this is phase one of what would prove to be a two-phase project that would result in two buildings built on the property.
"Pardon my cynicism but the first application was for 1.1 million square feet and I believe the second application with Amazon was for less than that. So this is the third try and it seems to me that this try is really a strategy to bypass a special permit," said Joe Heron of High Hill Road. "So what they did is go to a smaller square foot area, and by doing so they can later apply for an additional warehouse, and you add them up and you'll be up to the 1.1 million square feet. It's a pretty deceitful thing and you wonder why the public is cynical of our governments."
Jen Frechette of Valley View Drive agreed with the theory that this application won't be the only one for the property.
"I too am frustrated that the regulation changes did not set us up for better success. My concerns are the same — 24/7 operation, so many tractor-trailer trucks coming and going, all of those noises that are approved by OSHA that we are going to be hearing day and night," she said.
"We also know that this is one of the two warehouses they originally proposed. There's nothing stopping them from coming back and proposing the second warehouse," she said. "They could also subdivide the property and then we're stuck again. I think everyone knows that this is phase one of two and what that phase two is going to be we don't know. It's really scary and I hope you vote no for this."
Bob DeMaio of Marie Lane said that without a known user, the commission can't make an informed decision on the application and the effect it will have on the neighbors.
"I have concerns about this proposal. I think the traffic, the truck traffic in particular, is an issue," he said. "Not knowing what the true use of this site is going to be, it's not fair that you're going to have to make a call on this. If they can't explain what's going in, what you have to go by is the size of the building, the number of parking spots, the number of truck spaces and all of those add up to much more than 88 trips per hour. The math just simply doesn't work.”
When the commission revised its regulations, they had in mind keeping out uses exactly like this one, DeMaio said.
Robert Keselowski of Thorpe Avenue said he knows from experience what the conditions would be like if the warehouse is built.
"I was in the trucking industry for 40-something years. I've seen warehouses, I've been to them all," he said. "This is the same footprint as all those buildings. And I never ever delivered to them without waiting one to two hours to back into that dock. If you go to any of these warehouses when it's raining out, you can go in the back and look at the water. It's got a slight blue color to it. You know what the blue is from? Oil. Every truck sitting out there will drip oil and when it rains now you've got an oil bath. Where's it going?"
The commission continued the application to its December meeting.