Wallingford orders business to complete wetlands remediation in lieu of pulling permit

Wallingford orders business to complete wetlands remediation in lieu of pulling permit

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WALLINGFORD — A local business must complete a wetlands damage remediation plan by next spring or face the loss of an environmental permit due to violations.

The Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Commission met Monday to consider revoking a permit granted in June to Benchmark Land Development, the property owner of 988 E. Center St., and calling a $5,000 bond.

Instead, commission members voted unanimously to order the property owner to complete a vegetation planting plan that was a condition of permit approval by May 20, 2020, and further stipulate that the commission may act to call the bond at its June 2020 meeting if the work is not done.

They also ordered the property owner to complete work around a water pipe and to cover an unprotected earth slope with rye seed and hay mulch by Dec. 1.

Attorney Dennis Ceneviva, who represented the property owner, said the reason that part of the plan hadn’t been done was because they failed to coordinate a time for their planting contractor to be onsite with David Lord, a soil scientist from Meriden-based Soil Resource Consultants, who prepared the planting plan.

He also said Town Environmental Planner Erin O’Hare had "riled up" the commission last month when they voted to revoke the permit.

The property owners, he said, are “sick over the fact that it hasn't been done, because they committed to it.” The property owner has paid for the installation and plants already, and there's "nothing nefarious" going on, he said.

Ceneviva also said that most of the other wetlands remediation work has been carried out.

"Why would you do 90 percent of the expensive work and not finish?" he said.

The commission granted the permit in June with several conditions of approval, including the planting of 55 trees, 60 shrubs, 200 plugs of marsh plants and specialized seed with the understanding that it would be completed by the end of October, as well as a $5,000 planting plan bond.

Because the plan was not fully executed by the end of October,  the commission voted at its meeting Nov. 6 to revoke the permit and call the bond. A vote to revoke a permit does not result in immediate revocation but starts a process in which the property owner has a chance to respond or comply.

Benchmark, a North Branford-based company, acquired the property in 2011. Palumbo Trucking currently operates a transloading business on the 2-acre site, utilizing a Providence and Worchester railroad spur track.

O’Hare issued a notice of wetlands violation in June 2018 because the property owner had filled half an acre of wetlands, among other violations.

It took a year for the violation to work its way through the wetlands commission. Removal work of the majority of the unpermitted fill concluded in April. Benchmark filed for a wetlands permit in May.

The commission granted its permit in June but the notice of violation remained in place even after the wetlands permit was granted.

At the Nov. 6 meeting, the commission ordered the notice of violation to be placed on the land records, but decided Monday to hold off on placement until its June 2020 meeting, a “good faith” move anticipating the property owner will complete work, Acting Commission Chairman David Parent said.

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