Commercial building proposed for undeveloped land in borough

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By Andreas Yilma, Staff Writer

Inland Wetlands Commission continues hearing on plan

The Fulling Mill Brook flows along Prospect Street in Naugatuck on Jan. 7. An application to build a commercial building on the undeveloped land shown the brook is before the Inland Wetlands Commission. The proposal includes building a culvert and road over the brook. –ANDREAS YILMA

NAUGATUCK — A proposal to build a commercial building on an undeveloped parcel of land on Prospect Street is before the Inland Wetlands Commission.

The applicants, Magdi Bebawi and Onsi Tawadros of Waterbury, are proposing to build a 10,000-square-foot, one story building with a parking lot on a 13.95-acre property on Prospect Street between Maple Hill Road and Union City Road. The property’s address is listed as 0 Prospect St.

To access the site, the proposal calls for building an aluminum box bottomless culvert and road over Fulling Mill Brook, which runs along the site parallel to Prospect Street. The brook has an average width of 15 feet, according to documents submitted with the application.

The proposal calls for installing underground utilities. A new sanitary sewer main would need to be extended from Union City Road, about 1,000 feet from the west, and municipal water services would need to be brought up Prospect Street as well, about 1,700 feet, according to the application.

The applicants originally submitted a proposal for a mixed-used development at the site last February. This application was withdrawn last May. A new application was submitted late last summer and the commission opened a hearing on it in October.

The commission continued the hearing at its Jan. 6 meeting at the request of the applicants, who asked for more time to look over and respond to a review of the project from Connecticut Ecosystems, a firm that provides technical reviews of permit applications for municipal inland wetland commissions.

The commission extended the hearing to its next regular meeting on Feb. 3 at 6:30 p.m.

Tawadros, who owns the land, told the commission in October that he has been trying to develop the land for 16 years, according to meeting minutes.

The proposal has been opposed by neighbors and residents, who have expressed concerns ranging from increased traffic to negative environmental ramifications of the development.

According to past meeting minutes, residents said they were concerned that the construction, which may include excavation and blasting, would contaminate surrounding water supplies, aquifers and wells.

Residents also raised concerns about how the development would impact wildlife in the area such as fish in the brook, which feeds into the Naugatuck River.

Some borough youth are also taking a stand against the proposed development.

Naugatuck High School junior Zoe McCasland sits on the board of directors for the school’s Sunrise Hub. The Sunrise Movement is a nationwide organization of young people passionate about fighting for environmental justice. The Naugatuck High club started in early June of 2020 and has grown to almost 60 members.

“After learning about not only the pollution that this project will bring to the Naugatuck River but also the threat to freshwater for people living in the surrounding area, it became of the utmost importance to us to help stop the development,” McCasland said.

The group created a video, which it posted on its YouTube channel “NHS Sunrise,” in opposition to the proposed development. The video includes students expressing their concerns about the potential environmental impact of the project. Len Yannielli, community outreach director for The Gunntown Environmental Group and a retired biology professor, is featured in the video discussing how the project could impact the brook and wildlife in the area.

“We see the issue as an incredibly important grassroots scenario, which is exactly what Sunrise is all about,” McCasland said. “We hope that by listening to our thoughts and concerns, the commissioners will vote on the side of the environment and stand with us against the project.”