WALLINGFORD — The Planning and Zoning Commission allowed a public hearing on a proposed Amazon facility at 5 Research Parkway to open Monday, but immediately continued the hearing to next month.
There was no presentation from the applicant, Montante Construction, and the public wasn’t allowed to ask questions. The commission’s next scheduled meeting is May 10.
Commission member Jeff Kohan asked why the commission wanted to do this, and whether it took away an opportunity from the public to speak on the proposal.
“Does this cause us, as a commission, any problem as far as reviewing this application?” Kohan said. “To me, if we open it, it doesn't allow the public — it takes away a meeting from public comment as well. So I'm just wondering, are we doing a disservice to us, and the public, if we actually open this and start the clock, without doing anything tonight?”
Commission Chairman Jim Seichter said it was Montante that had requested the public hearing be opened but continued.
Seichter read a statement from Montante, which stated that the company wanted additional time to respond to comments and questions raised by town staff and the commission's peer review consultant.
“All the time I've been on the commission,” Seichter said, “I think this has been the first time that this has been requested.”
He said that since there was no presentation made to the commission during the meeting, there was nothing for commission members to discuss nor for the public to weigh in on.
He added that Town Corporation Counsel Janis M. Small told him she didn’t have a concern with opening and then continuing the public hearing.
Montante is seeking a special permit to redevelop the 180-acre former Bristol Myers Squibb property and build a 219,000-square-foot delivery station building and 715-space parking lot for Amazon.
Applicants must present their plans to the commission within a certain time frame, which has been extended by three months through a governor’s executive order due to the pandemic.
Seichter said Montante has about six months to get materials in. If an applicant can’t get in on time all the materials the commission requests, it’s grounds for the commission to deny the application.
“If we run out of time, if there's additional information that we're looking for and we're up against the clock, that's the applicant’s problem,” he said.
He referenced the previous application to redevelop the site from two years ago, in which property owner Calare Properties proposed building warehouses that covered about 1 million square feet on the site.
Calare ran out of time before they could present everything, specifically a traffic study. It was one of the reasons why some commission members didn't feel comfortable approving the application, Seichter said.
Commission member Jaime Hine raised a concern about timing, asking if Montante would grant the commission an extension if necessary.
“This is a major project that may expand or drag on over a couple months, as opposed to just one more meeting,” Hine said.
Acting Town Planner Tom Talbot said that by starting the public hearing now, the applicant has a limited amount of time in which to meet all the standards set forth by the commission, and if they run out of time, the commission is not at a disadvantage.
“If, after all their time has run out, they haven't answered all your questions,” Talbot said, “they either have to withdraw and reapply. And if they didn't, then you would be compelled to deny the application.”
The town wetlands commission approved the application with several conditions from the town environmental planner earlier this month. Part of the reason Montante wanted to open but continue the public hearing, Talbot said, was because it needed to incorporate into the plan all the changes that came about through the wetlands application process.
“The commission and the public would have been at a disadvantage if the public hearing had started tonight with all the outstanding questions,” he said.
Amazon already operates a sortation center, another type of warehouse, nearby at 29 Research Parkway, while Amazon Logistics operates a warehouse and distribution center on South Cherry Street, providing “last mile” service to customers like the proposed delivery station.