More than 100 people showed up to Tuesday night to hear about the proposed . While some neighborhood residents came in support of locating the facility off of South Montowese Street, most who live along Tabor Drive and Ark Road were in attendance to the new 36,000-square-foot public works facility being sited in their neighborhood.
At the very end of the meeting, the added, that though they had selected Tabor Drive as the future home of the department, they were also going to do an analysis of the current home of Public Works in their rental space at , as well as the property at where Costco was vying to go about one year ago. They did not state when those analysis would be conducted and concluded.
The proposed build of the has been a highly debated subject in the past year when the Public Works Building Committee was first formed.
Though the debate over where the facility will go has grown increasingly contentious in the political forum in the past few months, noted that residents of the neighborhood were informed of the proposal to use Tabor Drive back in 2008. In May of that year, a public meeting was held at Tabor Lutheran Church, DaRos said. Concerns over the use of Ark Road for PWD vehicles as well as increased traffic along Tabor Drive were issues then. DaRos explained that ten acres of land were cleared in 2008 for soil testing as well as site evaluation to see if the space was viable for use. Now, several years later, as the proposed move progresses, some of the same concerns still hang in the air.
Appointed as the Public Works Building Committee about one year ago with Kurt Treiber at the helm, the group has been charged with locating and evaluating several sites for a home for the new facility. space when their building at 45 N. Main St., was razed to make way for the .
After putting out a , the committee was able to present five privately owned properties and two public spaces for consideration to build the new facility. Ultimately, that the town-owned Tabor Drive piece would be the best home for public works with a 5-acre parcel costing $1, 250,000 at 20 Northeast Industrial Rd., owned by O, R & L Associates, a close second.
At Tuesday night’s meeting, Jeff Alberti from the Foxboro, Mass.-based engineering consulting firm Weston & Sampson, faced much resistance from those opposing the move to Tabor Drive when he discussed the fatal flaws of Northeast Industrial Road and the reasons the committee steered away from the property. The floodway in the northwest area of the property as well as the known chemical contamination of the property were two big factors why the committee scored Northeast Industrial Road lower than Tabor; First District RTM Member was one of many who did not see why Northeast Industrial was given a low score based on the contamination piece when the property owner would be remediating the problem before the land and buildings were sold. The committee rebutted that they were concerned with owning a future liability associated with contamination should a remediation not be thorough.*
To read more of the backstory over the last year, check out the Public Works Department Topic Page on Patch. Stay with us in the coming weeks as more comes to light – we’ll be sure to keep you posted on what decisions are made.
In the meantime, we offer some commentary from Tuesday night’s meeting from various residents and town officials. You can also join the conversation in the comments section or take the poll at the end of the story.
Do you want Public Works to move to Tabor Drive? So far, 51 percent of Branford Patch readers say no, 44 percent say yes and 4 percent say they don’t care.
Roadways: Impact and Affect of Public Works Traffic
Q: Cara Seward who lives at 75 Tabor Drive with her three children and two dogs spoke Tuesday night against locating Public Works off of her street. “We live with the reality of the way trucks are now. They come flying up the road; everyone is running, scattering to get out of the way. The trucks are back there all the time; it’s noisy; it’s disruptive. We’ve been living with it like that for a long time. I have one concern about how long this project is going to take if it does in fact take place…”
A: The building committee was able to determine that design would take six to eight months and construction another 15 months. They informed the resident that a construction sequencing plan would be made where vehicles would be accessing the area at certain times and places.
Q: Ark Road resident Mark Swift asked about the intentions for the use of Ark Road for entrance/exit to the property.
A: The committee explained that Ark Road “should” not be used as a point of entry or exit for the facility. First Selectman DaRos furthered that if residents wanted to turn Ark Road into a cul-de-sac, that was another option.
Q: Rick Colburn who lives on the corner of Tabor Drive right where the proposed turn of the access road is, was concerned about the trucks passing his home. He wanted to know if the road could be cut straight and not dip down past his home and about six other houses.
A: The design includes the dip past Colburn’s home to accommodate future ball fields and keep trucks from driving through the center of them. First Selectman DaRos and Selectman Andrew Campbell both agreed that looking into changing the drive was an option.
Q: Peter Hvizdak who lives on Pine Orchard Road was concerned about the change of road use; originally an entrance/exit point for Tabor Drive onto Pine Orchard Road was supposed to be secondary use with the main egress from Tabor Drive onto South Montowese. Hvizdak recently learned that both entrance/exits will be utilized 50-50. The site lines from Tabor Drive onto Pine Orchard Road where he and his neighbors walk frequently were a concern.
A: The committee responded: “We have an allowance for improvements along there and that’s an important factor in the discretion of how the site is going to be used. I’ll make a note on the sidewalks issue. Ultimately we do feel that the intersection does need to be improved with roadway alignment changes in elevations.”
Comment: Patricia Wezenski who lives at 48 South Montowese St., and grew up a on the nearby farm, was in support of the Tabor Drive project and locating Public Works there. She was concerned about the roadway and felt this project would help get the roads fixed. “My yard is flooded everyday and this has to stop. The busses can’t get through and this just has to be a good thing. My father and grandfather farmed this land down here and it’s nothing but a big whole. This needs to be done; Tabor needs to be fixed, the people on Ark Road are getting flooded. I drive the bus on Pine Orchard Road – there’s tractor trailers… there’s all kind of delivery trucks. I run this road every day, every road in Branford and this is not going to create any more traffic – there’s traffic everywhere and I can see it because I work eight hours a day and six in Branford.”
Comment: Rev. Brian Meyer of Tabor Lutheran Church was not at the meeting but presented a letter to the committee: “I certainly support the raising of Tabor Drive as it extends from Montowese Street to the driveway of Tabor’s parsonage – my home. I have witnessed many cars that have unsuccessfully attempted to navigate the high waters and were not aware of its depth. However, I am not in support of locating the Public Works Department on the town-owned Tabor parcel because I believe the increased traffic could potentially create a traffic hazard to the many small children who attend Tabor Christian Community Pre-School and the after school arts program of the Tabor Community Arts Program."
The Project By the Numbers
Q: Resident AJ Milici asked if the engineering firm Weston & Sampson could reference similar past public works projects completed in other towns to offer a cost-savings analysis that comes from building a facility like the proposed one on Tabor Drive. “That would certainly help [us] to see that it is real data and not mythical data as it is currently,” he said.
A: The committee said they have a series of cost-benefit analysis primarily focusing on the life of equipment. They were willing to provide more concrete numbers for Milici and the community.
Comment: Frank Twohill, RTM representative for the first district said he believes public works should be scaled back. He thinks there’s a good opportunity to purchase the $1.5 million-property at Northeast Industrial and to save $500,000 in a fueling station by having Public Works trucks fill-up at the TA Truck Stop gas station or other public pumps. He also noted that he thought putting a public garage in the middle of Tabor, which is valued at $259,000 an acre, is a bad use of space. “The towns people that I’ve talked to – the only one who was for Tabor – had some idea, as we heard tonight: ‘We own it, let’s use it and let’s forget it.’ Well everybody else says they don’t want it down here. Everybody else says they don’t want a big gargantuan building like the new firehouse. Everyone says they don’t want to pay more taxes for this facility.”
Comment: Cara Seward who lives at 75 Tabor Drive was against locating the new public works facility on Tabor Drive because of traffic concerns but also wanted to know how her property taxes would be affected. She asked, “People may not want to buy a home that I might want to sell in the future because of its location and the proximity to the Department of Public Works and that’s not something Branford is going to compensate any of us for.”
Weighing it Out: Advantages and Disadvantages of Tabor verses Northeast Industrial Drive
Q: Adam Hansen, Fourth District RTM Member shared the same questions as many in attendance; if contamination was a deciding factor in not going for Northeast Industrial Road, how is the town dealing with the clean-up and what is there?
A: The committee responded that records of contamination are available at . The fear of owning a liability should remediation of contamination at that site not be done to standards, made the committee shy away from choosing the site. There is no known contamination at the selected building site of the Tabor Drive parcel, the committee stated to Hansen and others.
Comment: , resident of Harbor Street and past candidate for 2012 First Selectman said, “I think if you’re going to talk about the potential contamination at either site, obviously it can be remediated at the seller’s cost on the Northeast Industrial site but on the Tabor site, you have a stickier question and that is… that property has a history. You have to consider that that property has been referred to in many ways as a love canal.”
Neighbors Rally: For and Against the Move to Tabor Drive
Comment: Laymond McGhee of 62 Waverly Rd., stated to the committee, “Thanks for the opportunity, thanks for your work.” He then turned to the audience and began: “You’re not going to thank me." He continued, “What’s taken so long? Let’s get it done. This is an opportunity. Tabor has been a cancer to this town. Let’s find a way. Let’s make the whole thing a Greenfield after you put the garage there; never mind the ball fields. Let’s have it make some revenue for the town to pay for itself because all together I see $40 million with the fire department, this property, and public works and I see the tax collector coming to my door. So I really think it should be an opportunity for the town to develop it and make some money too.”
Comment: Selectman Jamie Cosgrove stated, “We really need to look into our decision and how our decision affects the future. Looking at this property, down here in the south you have the landfill, which is going to be closed this year. Everybody commented how beautiful it is up there with the wild flowers and how it would be a great spot of passive recreation. Up to the north we have and some walking trails and then throughout the rest of this we have a need for some new ball fields and a new park in town and what are we going to put right in the middle of it? A Public Works building and a gas station. I think future generations will look at it and say, ‘This is poor planning’ where we have viable options in industrial zones throughout the east end of town.”
Comment: Ed Vianney who lives at the corner of Tabor Drive and South Montowese said, “First, of all, I think it’s in a very good location. It’s central to the town and it’s a lot easier for the public works department than trying to get in and out of Industrial Drive with all the traffic up there. I think it’s inevitable that this land will be used for something at some point. I see a very benign use of this land at this point. We have a public works facility going in that will be used Monday to Friday primarily during the day, what else can we ask for? If we had housing there, there would be traffic all the time. Don’t be short-sited on this. Me being affected more than anybody, I am in favor of it.”
*The original version of this story stated that Selectman Jamie Cosgrove also raised the issue of contamination at NE Industrial Road site; that is not the case.