GROTON — The Inland Wetlands Agency has set April 9, 2008, for a public hearing on a developer’s request to modify its wetlands permit to build a Wal-Mart Super Center on Route 184 in the watershed of the Groton Utilities reservoir system.
The IWA had approved the project April 26, 2006, before the developer publicly confirmed speculation that its client for the project was Wal-Mart. The same project later was denied by the Planning Commission–at 2:20 a.m. February 16, 2007.
The application for the modification was introduced to the IWA at its meeting Feb. 13, 2008.
The town planning staff and Diane Whitney, attorney for Konover Development Corp., which would build the project on behalf of Wal-Mart, told the IWA that it could not legally reconsider the whole project but would need to confine itself to ruling on the small changes proposed.
F.A. Hesketh & Associates Inc., of Granby, engineers for the developer, said the changes would involve routing less runoff water to the Hempstead Brook area. The brook runs into the Groton Utilties reservoir system. In addition, the developer would build a natural stone wall between the proposed Wal-Mart parking lot and the adjacent Gold Star Office Park. Previously, composite stone wall had been contemplated.
The Groton Open Space Association argued that the IWA has “a duty to review the entire plan, including previously approved materials. A narrow focus on the proposed changes alone, without consideration of the entire context, ignores the potential for contamination of the water resources.”
Opponents of the Wal-Mart project presented a petition demanding a public hearing on the application to ensure the matter would get a thorough airing, and the April hearing was set.
The Wal-Mart complex would cover approximately 40% of the 38-acre site. Konover’s plans include additional businesses on other parts of the site, but no application has been submitted for them as yet. IWA alternate member Mary Ellen Furlong said that if the additional businesses should require tie-ins to the proposed Wal-Mart storm water disposal system, then the plans for the whole site would have to be reviewed.
GOSA’s main concern with the project stems from a desire to protect the town’s water supply. Residents in the area worry about heavy traffic, noise and light pollution and esthetic deterioration. Wal-Mart’s anti-union policies concern others.
Karl Acimovic, a Groton Utilities engineer, had told the commission at its previous hearing that the proposed development “is situated in the southwesterly portion of our watershed and is in close proximity to the Hempstead Brook (within 500 feet), which feeds directly into our terminal reservoir system. By overland flow and stream from the southwest corner of the parcel, it is also within 1,000 feet of Poquonnock Reservoir and within 600 feet of wetlands surrounding the reservoir.”
Separately, Konover has submitted a new application to the Planning Commission for the project.