SOUTH WINDSOR — The Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously voted against an application for a 360,000 square-foot warehouse along Governor’s Highway and Talbot Lane at its meeting Tuesday night.
Six members voted, with PZC member Robert Vetere absent and alternate Paul Bernstein seated in the absence of member Stephanie Dexter.
One of the main zoning regulations cited in the decision was the town’s definition for the industrial zone, which allows uses that are “well-planned, functional, and aesthetically pleasing environments” that “by design, are compatible with abutting zones and uses.”
PZC Chairman Bart Pacekonis said the application would raise a number of issues for abutting zones — namely the neighboring residences.
“The plan as presented does not meet the ‘by design, are compatible with abutting zones and uses,’” Pacekonis said.
Pacekonis said that the proposed berm would do “little to nothing” to mitigate the noise and visual impact of the site, and that it was not demonstrated that the on-site queuing would prevent trucks from lining up on the street.
PZC member Michael LeBlanc agreed with Pacekonis, citing the “litany of issues” with the application.
“That whole concept of this is hanging on that very last sentence,” LeBlanc said of the industrial zone definition.
PZC Secretary Stephen Wagner listed a number of problems he had with the application, including tractor trailer emissions and idling, noise, and potential uses of the site, and proposed a number of conditions on the application to address these.
Wagner said he would still vote against the application, however, because it required four parcels to be combined into one. He said construction of the proposed warehouse would be impossible without joining the parcels, and past PZC members chose to keep the properties divided that way.
“The current PZC is obligated to review and consider the same impacts,” Wagner said, adding that a subdivision application allows for the consideration of noise, odor, and other impacts that a simple site plan does not.
PZC alternate Paul Bernstein said he had trouble taking the applicant’s stated use of the site at face value, questioning their ability to predict traffic at the site without a named tenant.
“I struggle to understand how you can know what that volume is,” Bernstein said.
He added that in reviewing the applicant’s document comparing distribution centers and truck terminals in town, the proposed warehouse had 50 percent more loading bays than the average distribution center on the list, and only 37 percent less than that of the freight terminals.
“One could conclude that (the proposal) is closer to a truck terminal than a warehouse,” Bernstein said.
Before rejecting the application, the PZC voted 3-3 on the intervener petitions filed by four neighbors, effectively nullifying them. Wagner clarified that the petitions were to present evidence that the proposal would have caused unreasonable pollution to state environmental resources.
Cavagnaro, Bernstein, and member Kevin Foley voted in favor, and Pacekonis, Wagner, and LeBlanc voted against the petitions.
Pacekonis said he felt the public trust would be damaged by the warehouse application, but that the interveners may not have presented enough hard evidence.
“Is there adequate information in the record to support my feelings? That’s the issue I’m having,” Pacekonis said.
Cavagnaro said he has expressed concerns with the possible effects on public health consistently “ever since November” that were not addressed by the applicant, and that it would be enough to support the interveners.
Wagner said whether the warehouse application showed a freight terminal or a distribution center, he felt it was a “fairly typical example” of one of the two, and that he had trouble seeing the site causing unreasonable issues, as per the text of the petitions submitted by the neighbors.