SOUTH WINDSOR — The proposed Talbot Lane warehouse has proved continuously controversial, with residents packing the Planning and Zoning Commission meeting Tuesday night with a standing room-only crowd to complain in particular about noise, traffic, and the size of the project.
About 44 residents attended the meeting, with most opposed to the proposed 360,000 square-foot distribution facility that has yet to name a tenant.
At the meeting, developers presented revisions to their application, as well as a new habitat assessment stating that watercourses on the site would not be able to support the habitat needs of certain wetland species documented there in testimony.
Peter DeMallie, president of Design Professionals, said the proposal meets or exceeds many of the town’s zoning requirements, including size, noting that pursuant to industrial zone regulations, the town could allow a building as big as 15 acres with much smaller buffers than planned.
Derrick Butler of Governor’s Highway, John Japkiewicz and Gerald Jeyarat, both of Cody Circle, and Karen Viklinetz of Edgewood Drive, who all live on neighboring streets, have petitioned the PZC and been granted intervener status on the proposal.
John Parks, a lawyer for the interveners, said plans are vague enough that it is unclear what could or would be done with the completed facility.
“In approving the application, this board needs to know what’s going on in there,” Parks said.
Parks drew comparisons to proposed and constructed Amazon facilities that combine distribution facilities, warehouses, and freight terminals into one. He said an application “just like this one” was presented by Amazon to the Sonoma, California PZC, and when developers were pressed on how the facility would be used, members of the Sonoma PZC learned it would be a freight terminal.
In response, DeMallie said they are unable to present how the proposed facility would be used, as no tenant is lined up yet. He said it would not be a freight terminal, and testimony presented on the Inland Wetlands application confirmed it would “absolutely” be a distribution facility.
“This is completely different, you need much more storage space for this kind of facility,” DeMallie said.
Butler, who has over 40 years of experience in the trucking and transportation industry, said the scope of the site plan suggests there is a tenant in mind.
“I don’t believe you’d put a building up like this on spec; I think it’s predetermined who or what is going in there,” Butler said.
One major concern expressed by residents is noise from the facility and trucks.
Cody Circle resident Janet Holowczak told the PZC that she suffers from hyperacusis, a hearing disorder causing debilitating sensitivity to certain sounds and volume levels. She now uses noise canceling devices in her home.
“If this application is approved, I will have to move,” Janet said.
John Holowczak of Cody Circle added that the sheet metal walls of the proposed facility would “reverberate like a drone.”
In a letter presented to the PZC, Susan Delhaie of Cody Circle said her daughter is non-verbal and legally blind, and spends most of her time at their home. Noise from the facility would be detrimental to her hearing, “her strongest and most critical sense.”
“It is impossible to underestimate the effect of such a massive, around-the-clock trucking fleet and outdoor mega-warehouse operations to her quality of life,” Susan wrote.
Ryan Will of Belden Road said he was an authorized freight liner mechanic but had to exit the industry due to the toll it took on his body, particularly from the noise levels.
He said studies have shown high noise exposure to be “absolutely poor” for the physical and mental health of individuals in various aspects, including increase in blood pressure, gastrointestinal issues, aggression, and loss of sleep.
DeMallie said both state and local noise statutes do not apply to tractor-trailers.
Richard Delhaie of Cody Circle said the proposed warehouse is about the length of the Titanic and five times the width.
“Imagine five of those ships docked behind your house forever,” Richard said, calling the proposal a “visual salt on the neighborhood.”
Japkiewicz, an intervener, said he would like to see more extensive drawings of the proposed facility, “to really see what the view from Cody Circle and Edgewood looks like today and what it’s going to look like day one” before the proposed vegetation grows in fully.
Brian R. Smith, a lawyer representing Carla’s Pasta — which sits across the street from the proposed warehouse — said the company was not opposed to the development, but was concerned with the placement of all the loading docks on the west side of the facility, as truck fumes could affect their food production.