By Andreas Yilma, Staff Writer
NAUGATUCK — An Ohio-based freight shipping company wants to build a service center on the former Peter Paul factory site on New Haven Road.
R+L Carriers has signed an agreement with The Hershey Company, which owns the 36-acre parcel at 889 New Haven Road, to buy the land. Details of the agreement have not been released.
Jeff Beckman, director of corporate communications for The Hershey Company, said the companies are doing their due diligence to finalize the deal. He said the sale won’t close until R+L Carriers receives approval from Naugatuck land use boards.
As of last week, R+L Carriers had not submitted any applications or plans to the borough, but about two residents who live near the site got a glimpse of what the company envisions building during a meeting June 10 at the Naugatuck Event Center.
Stan Richards, director of construction and facility maintenance for R+L Carriers, said the service center will include a 100-foot-wide dock for 53-foot-long trucks to unload goods, a maintenance shop for minor repairs, a fuel station and an office.
Richards compared the company’s operation to the U.S. Post Office. He said the company doesn’t store goods.
“We don’t bring freight in and just stack it and leave it there. When the freight comes in, it goes out,” Richards said. “If the freight is sitting there longer than 12 hours, then we made a mistake.”
Richards said R+L Carriers is growing. He said seven years ago the company was building two new service centers a year. This year, he said, the company plans to build 37.
“More people are ordering online,” Richards said. “The freight industry through the whole pandemic was considered essential.”
R+L Carriers has about 120 facilities in the country and over 16,000 employees. The company has a service center in Meriden, but wants to build a larger one in Naugatuck.
Richards said the new center would have about 80 employees, including relocating employees that work in Meriden.
If the project moves forward, Richards said it will take about 10 months to build the service center.
During the meeting, residents questioned how the center will impact traffic, if there will be additional noise or light pollution, and the hours it will operate.
Richards said the company plans to have a traffic study done in the area. He said the plan includes a 50-foot landscape buffer along the border with residential properties. Daily operations will end by midnight, he said.
Richards said trucks won’t encroach on the rear of the property near homes. He added 70% of the company’s service centers are next to residential communities.
Mike Bisson, a lifelong borough resident who lives on General Patton Drive, said following the meeting his first impression was positive. He thought Richards was transparent and honest in his responses to residents.
“I think the big thing was the fact that they were proactive in reaching out the neighbors to give them an opportunity to understand what they’re proposing and to share some thoughts and ask some questions,” Bisson said.
Bisson said it was difficult to say that he didn’t have any concerns still, alluding to traffic being a problem in the area and not knowing about the noise impact of the center. He said there’s more to learn about the proposal.
“I think there’s more to come,” he said.
The former Peter Paul site once housed a 253,000-square-foot brick and glass building that made Mounds and Almond Joy candies. Hershey closed the plant in 2007 and demolished it in 2011.
Naugatuck Economic Development Corp. President Ronald Pugliese said he’s confident the proposed service center will move forward.
“I think that there were some people that were concerned about certain things. I think Stan kind of alleviated that,” Pugliese said following the meeting. “I’m thrilled that we’ve had this kind of conference and that we had a nice crowd here tonight.”