P&Z Watch: Pecora’s 10-Unit 8-30g Approved at 237 Pemberwick Rd

The Planning & Zoning commission has approved Joe Pecora’s 10-unit 8-30g development at 237 Pemberwick Rd to the chagrin of numerous Glenville and Pemberwick residents who testified with concerns that focused on blasting they feared might damage the privately owned dam on the Byram River about 400 ft away.

Attorney for the applicant Christopher Smith Smith said concerns had been addressed in a letter from Jerry Cox from J&J Blasting, the blasting contractor.

“He did opine in that correspondence that in his opinion there would not be any impact to the dam,” Smith said.

Smith said that after a letter was received from a neighbor’s attorney, all the expert consultants on the project had submitted their resumes to P&Z.

“I’m concerned about the dam,” commissioner Nick Macri said, adding that the dam was designated by the state of Connecticut as a Class C high-hazard dam.

“Yeah, the blaster says he can do the best he can, but if it goes sideways, the downside of that dam failure is beyond comprehension to me,” Macri said.

“The ledge in town, from experience, is all interconnected. If you blast in one neighborhood, the other neighborhood is going to feel it,” Macri added. “I’m just very uncomfortable with that kind of situation.”

“The dam is over a football field away and, more importantly, the last thing my client would want to have happen was any impact to that dam whatsoever,” Smith said.

P&Z commission chair Margarita Alban noted that in addition to concerns of the commission, residents had submitted “a storm of emails” expressing concerns earlier in the day.

Peter Levy said blasting at a similar distance from his own home had resulted in a six-foot long crack in his newly painted dining room ceiling.

“And I was assured there would be no problem,” Levy said.

Smith said J&J Blasting Corp was established in 197, was fully licensed and insured, and met all federal and state and requirements to transport and use explosives in construction sites. He said J&J had had assured that the work could be done without any adverse impacts to any public interest or the public health, safety and welfare.

Smith also said there was a body of relevant case law from the State Supreme Court, and that the fire marshal could oversee the effort.

The Fire Dept is the permitting agency to ensure tha blasting work complies with state ordinances.

He said pre-blast surveys could be required as a condition of approval for protective measures for neighbors.

The applicant, Joe Pecora of 237 Pemberwick LLC, said by law the blaster was required to do pre-blast surveys within 250 ft of the property.

“Sometimes we would go beyond that. If there is a house is stucco, for instance, we’d probably go beyond that distance,” he said.

“And the blasting company has insurance that they’re doing their job and not causing any damage to any properties,” he added.

Ms Alban said the approval would note the applicant would follow best practices.

“I blasted at my own house, two houses ago, within five feet of my house,” Pecora said.

Town Planner Patrick LaRow said, “When a pre-blast survey is requested, it is highly recommended to let those persons come in and do the survey work and inspection.”

Otherwise, LaRow said, “…it is going to be a litigious battle to figure out if the blasting was the creation of the ceiling crack or the foundation crack, versus if you don’t let them in.”

“I have no way of evaluating this,” said commissioner Peter Lowe. “It seems like a potential problem.”

Ms Alban said she was not an expert either, but that there were established protocols by licensed professionals.

Commissioner Arn Welles suggested requiring a survey of the dam as a safety measure.

“I understand there is no owner, so if there is damage, who is going to claim?” Welles asked.

Mr. LaRow said the owners had indeed been identified, but the owners had differing opinions as to who was responsible for continued maintenance and inspections.

Mr. Pecora said the contractor would include the dam in the pre-blast survey, although it would be a challenge with water flowing over the dam.

He explained that a pre-blast survey was actually not an evaluation of the dam.

“It’s just a visual look at the dam. It’s not a study. it’s not a structural integrity evaluation,” he said. “Doing such is very expensive, which is probably why the owners are questioning whether they are responsible or not. It’s an old dam.”


Attorney for the applicant Christopher Smith said since the previous meeting, the applicant had updated ADA accessibility by adding a handicap ramp in the parking area to the sidewalk between buildings 1 an 2.

Parking Space #14

As for parking space #14 Mr. Smith said it might inconvenience delivery trucks to have a car parked there, but would not rise to the level of a safety issue.

Mr. Macri said he felt space #14 was “compromised” because it was designated on the plan to have no parking except after 7:00pm and before 7:00am.

“So, half the day nobody could park there. That’s still an issue for me,” Macri said, noting that parking is not allowed on Pemberwick Rd.

Traffic and Parking expert John Canning said prohibiting parking from 7:00pm to 7:00am was for the convenience for delivery vehicles.

“We projected a peak parking demand of 12 vehicles, it is two less than the 14 provided,” he said, adding that residential parking peaks overnight and during the day, there would be 11 vehicles at the most.

Ms Alban said typically delivery vehicles back into a site so they can pull straight out.

“If you’re not backing out onto Pemberwick, you’re fine. You back in, you stop all the traffic for a second, and this is what everybody does,” Alban said.

Public Comment: Blasting, Water Pressure, Flooding

Adele Rota said she was concerned that damage could occur beyond the homes proposed to be surveyed within 250 ft of the development.

“Should something catastrophic happen to the dam from blasting, the homeowners downstream who would be impacted, are they going to be covered by this?” Rota asked.

Ms Alban said she did not know about insurance and that was not the purview of the commission. She suggested Ms Rota contact her homeowner’s insurance carrier.

Alban noted blasting was a highly regulated process in the sate of CT.

Penny Cozza, who lives across from the development in a home built in the 1800’s, shared concerns about the dam, flooding and blasting.

“If there’s no insurance or nobody responsible for this damage, how are we going to get compensated?” she asked.

“We can’t make legal representations that are beyond our authority,” Alban said.

Frank Rota said a brook that flows through his property on Deep Gorge was owned by the state.

“Whoever owns the dam, shouldn’t we know who owns the dam?” he asked.

Mr. LaRow said the dam was not owned by the state, and that the Town had done a title search to help the state determine responsible parties for the continued inspections of the dam.

“The parties (owners) identified are arguing that they’re not involved,” LaRow said. “It’s on private property. Bi-annual inspections are needed, per state statutes. The town incurred their own expenses to do the dam inspection to make sure noting had happened since the last inspection.”

Ms Alban said the best person to contact about the dam was First Selectman Camillo. “Because he has been trying to get this resolved,” she said.

Mrs. Wallace said the neighbors already had issues with low water pressure. She questioned whether that would worsen if the development was approved.

“I’m also wildly concerned about what it means for fire hydrants in the neighborhood,” she said.

Alban said she would relay the concern about water pressure to the town administrator Ben Branyan who has been talking to Aquarion about water pressure in general.

Patricia Adams said she remained concerned about flooding, landscaping, loss of trees and the sewer line.

She asked if the blasting companies had experience blasting near fragile, historical structures, and asked if they would provide a list of jobs where damage had occurred.

As for the sewers, Ms Alban said the town Engineering Department had signed off on the application as meeting their standards.

“They will not give a permit unless they are able to handle the additional flow,” Alban said. “As for the flooding, we’ve covered the on-site drainage plan.”

Lynda Laychak said her concerns had not been addressed, including mature trees she anticipated would die because of changes to the grade on the property.

She said the blasting would be 10 feet away from her home.

“To me it is absolutely inappropriate not to have safety measures for the neighbors,” she said.

Ms Alban said neighbors needed to be vigilant and reach out to P&Z if any fences are displaced during construction.

Ms Jones asked if a pre-blast survey of the dam would be available and clarification of insurance coverage and length of time.

“Often the damage shows up much later – even several months later,” she said.

A letter was read into the record from Nancy Fantin who questioned whether giving preference for the 2 affordable units to seniors and disabled residents was compliant with the Fair Housing Act.

Engineer Tony D’Andrea said he did not foresee any issue adversely impacting the neighborhood as the result of their drainage plan, which he said had been done in accordance with the town drainage manual and reviewed by the Dept of Public Works.

He said Juan Paredes, head of the town’s Engineering Dept for drainage, had carefully reviewed the plan and approved it.

“We have demonstrated that we are able to reduce the peak rate of runoff for all storms, from the one-year storm through the 100-year storm,” D’Andrea said.

He said in the event the volume of water were to exceed capacity of what could be stored, it would enter into the catch basin on the street just south of the property and continue on down Pemberwick Road to its discharge at the Byram River.

Just before closing the application Ms Alban said she always tried to put herself in the shoes of the person who lives next door to a project.

Nevertheless, she said because the project was an 8-30g, “We are obliged to only (consider) life, safety and other considerations that may exceed the need for affordable housing, and that’s a very narrow standard.”

Alternate Arn Welles was seated in place of Peter Levy.

The development was approved 5-0 with votes from Arn Welles, Dennis Yeskey, Nick Macri, Peter Lowe, and Margarita Alban.

See also:

P&Z Contemplates Request from Check-Cashing Business