As an area businessman touted and numerous residents decried a planned industrial development along Route 44 Wednesday night, pressure continued to mount for a more narrowly defined zoning plan.
Wednesday night marked the beginning of a Canton Planning and Zoning Commission public hearing on Satan Kingdom, LLC’s application to rezone 30.386 of its 38.99 acres at 674 and 684 Albany Turnpike from residential to industrial. While the application is technically just for a zoning map amendment, much of the discussion centers on whether the change — and what could potentially happen on the property — is consistent with the Town’s Plan of Conservation and Development.
Owner and industrial park developer and builder Allan Borghesi spoke at length about his plans for the property and touted the plan’s economic benefits, his building reputation and more.
He also said previous activity on the land and surrounding uses show a pattern of industrial type activity. He also said it would in no way harm nearby neighborhoods or the Farmington River — environmentally or aesthetically. He also spoke about his plan for six lots and buildings that were smaller than 24,000 square feet.
He called the Farmington River “absolutely gorgeous.”
“Nothing I do here will interfere with the river,” he said.
He also reiterated his statements about jobs and the economy, stating that he estimated the town could receive as much as $30,000 to $40,000 a year for each of the six sites.
Before public comment, Borghesi also faced some questions from commissioners, including several about Canton’s option for a “design district,” which involves a master plan for the property that considers factors such as Canton’s historic, cultural and geographic qualities, buffers or transitional areas, a mix of compatible uses, breaking up the mass and scale of large areas and lots to reduce visual impacts, a safe and comfortable pedestrian scale environment and flexible and innovative design techniques. It could also include a more narrow list of potential uses than the industrial zone.
Borghesi reiterated similar thoughts that he shared with Canton’s Economic Development Agency the night before, that he is willing to work with the town but that it wouldn’t work if designs were too restrictive and the process too lengthy.
After some discussion on the matter, commission chairman David Bondanza asked Borghesi, “Is that something you’re willing to do or not?”
“Yes I am,” Borghesi said, adding that it would need to be a manageable process.
On Friday morning, Borghesi said he had not yet made a decision on whether to formally apply for a design district, which town officials said would require him pulling his current application.
One commissioner Lansford Perry also spoke to Borghesi’s reference to the area as an opportunity location. Perry said the farm field was an important characteristic for people and that opportunity location referred more to the possibility of a variety of uses for the property.
Numerous residents, and a couple of land-use professionals, then got up and argued against Borghesi’s assertions. Residents said the plan is not consistent with the area or the POCD and poses a threat to safety, the environment, home values and more.
Another speaker in opposition to the plan was George Logan of REMA Ecological Services, LLC. He and a colleague talked about the natural resources on the land and Logan disagreed with Borghesi’s interpretation of a 1951 aerial photo. Borghesi said the picture showed evidence of a gravel operation but Logan argued it was just some clearing.
The issue could be an important one as 1951 pre-dates Canton’s Zoning Regulations and could have implications on the process for sand and gravel removal.
Earlier in the meeting, Borghesi said it was just one example of business or industrial-type of activity in the area, including a motel, cell tower and windmill.
“We’re surrounded on three sides by business and/or industrial uses,” Borghesi said.
Resident Michelle Brophy said Borghesi was selectively quoting the town’s plan.
“There is more in the POCD that is inconsistent with this proposed change than is consistent,” Brophy said.
Eliot Bryan said the town could stand to lose more than it gains in tax revenue when 150 homes lose value.
“If our property values go down 27 percent is our assessment going down 27 percent? that’s the question,” he said.
For a sampling of more comments from the meeting see the above video.
The hearing was continued to Oct. 15. Town land-use officials said that if Borghesi chose to formally pursue a design district, he would have to pull his current application and re-apply. On Friday morning, Borghesi said he had not yet made a decision on that.
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