By TAYLOR MURCHISON-GALLAGHER
Members of the Town Council and staff heard from representatives of Loureiro Engineering Associates, Inc. to review the environmental study conducted on the White Oak property. Situated on the edge of downtown, the property is bordered by the town municipal building and police station to the east, and the fire department to the west.
David Fiereck, Senior Vice President of Loureiro Engineering in charge of the environmental groups in the company, explained the firm was charged with looking at the environmental conditions of the former White Oak property, located at 1 and 63 West Main St.
It was suspected that there could have been releases of petroleum type products associated with former fuel storage tanks and outside vehicle storage. Some areas of the property were found to contain some degree of contamination and will require “some level of further work to remediate to comply with the Connecticut Remediation Standard Regulations,” said Fiereck, “and part of the determining factor in how we handle that contamination is, really, the proposed end use for the property.”
Clinton Brown, head of civil engineering, said that several land use factors jumped out at him upon first look of the existing buildings—one formerly used as office spaces, two that were historically industrial spaces, and two buildings formerly used as storage and warehouse type spaces.
He noticed the Pequabuck River, which forms the boundary along the back of the property. “People love water, and it always attracts people and creates interest, so we didn’t want to forget about that,” said Brown. But, the natural water in the area stands to cause potential trouble.
“The property is almost exclusively in the 100-year floodplain so it does create some challenges if there’s any new buildings constructed in the future, just ensuring that they meet current regulations for having structures within the floodplain,” said Fiereck. “The second is the floodway which is a line established by FEMA, the same as the 100 year floodplain, but the floodway is an area that is more flood-prone.”
Flood zones tend to be difficult to receive permit approval to build any structures, so the team analyzed models created in 2015 to see if any improvements could be made to the river in order to make the floodway less restrictive. They also took the property’s location into account in a macro-sense and a micro-sense.
LEA then created three proposed uses using the 2019 plan of conservation and development that is close to completion. The POCD contains some of the goals and objectives for future development, in order to generate economic activity.
Council chairwoman Kathy Pugliese said she was in favor of the second option which would utilize the existing buildings to create about 50,000 square feet of commercial and retail space. She also thought some sort of combination of that plan with the first option—utilizing the existing buildings as commercial and office spaces—or, combining the second and third option, which called for approximately 100 apartment units, as well as some additional commercial or office space.
Councilor Jesse Gnazzo was not in favor of realigning the fire department parking lot to extend off of Pierce Street—a suggestion that went with the second use proposal—as that area already has high traffic volumes, and he does not think parking behind the firehouse would be well utilized.
Councilor Deborah Tompkins said plan three—residential—was her least favorite option, but she agreed with Pugliese, saying that all of the plans were interesting, but a focus on commercial uses would be her preference.
Councilor Danny Carrier did not think the first option was the best use for the property, given how much recreational green space already exists throughout Plainville’s extensive park network. And while he agreed with Pugliese and Tompkins regarding the need for commercial space to revitalize downtown, he did not think it would be logical without also adding some sort of residential component.
No vote was taken by the council at this time.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Taylor Murchison-Gallagher, email her at TMurchison@PlainvilleObserver.com.