Commission continues hearing on proposed development

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By Andreas Yilma, Staff Writer

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

NAUGATUCK — Applicants seeking to construct a commercial building on undeveloped land on Prospect Street will have to wait at least another month to find out whether the Inland Wetlands Commission approves of the proposal.

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 parcel on Prospect Street between Maple Hill Road and Union City Road. The property’s address is listed as 0 Prospect St.

The Fulling Mill Brook runs along the site parallel to Prospect Street. The brook will have to be crossed to access the land.

The commission Feb. 3 continued a hearing on the proposal. Commission members received a 64-page engineering report a few days before the meeting and said they weren’t able to thoroughly review the content, so they ultimately continued the hearing again to their March 3 meeting at 6:30 p.m.

Brian Plourde, an engineer from GR Engineering of Thomaston, who represented the applicants, said the plans switched from a proposed arched culvert bridge over the brook to a precast T bridge, which would sit on concrete-formed abutments on either side of the wetlands.

Plourde said the site for the proposed building and parking lot were moved west of the originally planned location to give the site a larger buffer area to the wetlands.

“So basically we gave ourselves a 50-foot buffer between the edge of the parking and that wetlands side on the northeast side,” Plourde said.

Plourde said there a few control methods planned to control storm water runoff and protect the brook from pollution, including a stone infiltration trench, a detention basin, a sediment forebay and a stilling basin.

“This whole system is all contingent upon being very well maintained,” Plourde said.

About a dozen residents spoke during the hearing to oppose the plan. They expressed concerns about the proposed development’s potential impact on the environment and surrounding neighborhoods.

William Sweet, who lives near the site, said developers have no preventive maintenance plan, environmental impact study or an analysis of the wildlife habitat.

“There is much more at stake here than one person’s gamble on a business investment and increased tax revenue. This commission deserves what the regulations allow,” Sweet said. “The neighbors deserve to have their life investments — their homes — protected. The time to assure the protection of the wetlands and watercourses is now. If it’s not now, it’s likely to be never.”

Sweet said residents need more assurances, information and protection.

“The potential blasting and excavation is being done horizontal to the aquifer that my well is tapped into,” Sweet said.

The Naugatuck High School Sunrise Hub, which is part of a nationwide organization of young people fighting for environmental justice, created a YouTube video to oppose the proposed development and submitted the video to the commission.

Naugatuck High junior Zoe McCasland, who sits on the board of directors of the school’s Sunrise Hub, said the wetlands and brook would be put too much at risk if the project goes forward.

Dan Hageman, a professional soil scientist working with the applicants, said the Natural Diversity Database didn’t show any threatened or endangered species or a critical habitat on the land. He said he walked the site two days.

“I didn’t see anything that really appeared like a significant ecological habitat to me,” Hageman said. “It’s nice woods, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not a critical type of habitat.”

Burgess Charles Marenghi said the hearing brought out a “unique coalition” of residents, not only from the affected neighborhood but from all over the borough, who are concerned about the project’s potential impact.

“I think the mere fact it could impact the environment is enough that we should be saying ‘no’ to this,” he said.

Marenghi said any economic gain the borough might get from another business isn’t worth it if the project is going to affect residents. He said the borough is putting itself on the line if nearby wells or properties are damaged.

“I think we’re playing with fire if we approve this,” he said.