Environmental groups oppose excavation, development in Wallingford

Environmental groups oppose excavation, development in Wallingford

reporter photo

WALLINGFORD — A developer is looking to purchase 25 acres of undeveloped land on Allnex USA’s 240-acre South Cherry Street property to build a large warehouse and office building.

The developer has submitted applications to the Planning and Zoning Commission to build a 230,000-square-foot warehouse and 21,000-square-foot office building on the south end of the Allnex property, at 10-20 Toelles Road.

Frank DiCristina, manager of Allnex’s Wallingford site, said Allnex is open to selling the land. DiCristina said he couldn’t name the prospective buyer, who submitted the application as Wallingford Industrial Improvement Co. LLC. Joan Molloy, an attorney representing the applicant, could not be reached for comment.

Before the sale is finalized, the developer needs approval for three separate applications he submitted to the PZC for different phases of the project.

The developer first needs the commission to approve establishing a subdivision for the parcel.

Because the land is currently covered in sand, the developer intends to open a temporary sand processing facility to excavate the sand. The excavated sand would be blended with coarser material and sold as processed sand.

“The ground over there is all sand and there’s value in sand, and you can excavate it out and sell it,” said Tim Ryan, the town’s economic development specialist.

The sand operation is expected to operate for about five years, after which it would take between 18 months and two years to complete construction of the warehouse, according to documents included in the application.

Some environmental advocates have expressed opposition because the undeveloped land contains several threatened or endangered species of wildlife and plants.

“Should the Commission approve these applications and allow the excavation of the sand and soil at the parcel, this unique and critical habitat will be lost for all time,” the Connecticut Fund for the Environment wrote in comments sent to the commission.

The 25-acre parcel contains the largest undeveloped sand plain or sand barren in Connecticut and a dry acidic forest, both of which are designated as critical habitat areas by the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

“This remarkable ecological site has drawn the attention of scientists and naturalists for well over a hundred years and is featured in a number of books and articles,” David Yih, president of the Connecticut Botanical Society, told the PZC in written testimony.

Yih said the land is home to at least nine species that are listed by the state as endangered, threatened or of special concern. Those species include the dark-bellied tiger beetle and Connecticut’s only known population of the northern dusk-singing cicada, the largest cicada in North America.

Ryan said while environmental impact is always a concern, “we are satisfied at this point that the best use of that property going forward is to develop it as opposed to preserving it.”

Ryan said that developing the land will benefit the community by adding jobs and growing the taxable grand list.

“As we look for economic development opportunities,” Ryan said, “this one stands out because we’re at a point in time where we have to create the opportunities to develop and not necessarily sit there with a for-sale sign stuck in the ground.”

Once developed, Ryan is confident the property will be “very salable” because of its proximity to I-91 and the rail line.

While Ryan wouldn’t name the developer, he said the developer has “entertained inquiries from any number of companies about building on the site.”

Toelles Road includes several other large facilities, including FedEx and Nucor Steel’s sites.



Twitter: @MatthewZabierek