Conservationist raises issue with proposed Route 7 storage facility

Pollution concerns about a storage facility — and whatever might be kept there — were raised by at public hearing on Saber Capital Management LLC’s proposal for a four-story two-building self-storage facility built into the hillside at 800 Ethan Allen Highway.

“I don’t know how they would prevent hazardous materials from being stored in the buildings,” said Conservation Commission member Jack Kace.

Kace addressed the Planning and Zoning Commission — which is also the Aquifer Protection Agency — at a July 30 public hearing. The property is in an aquifer protection zone, and is also across Route 7 from Little Pond.

The public hearing was continued until Sept. 10.

Two Planning and Zoning Commission members were recused from the proceedings: Joe Fossi, who owns the property 800 Ethan Allen Highway; and Charles Robbins, who is a neighbor to it, living at the Regency at Ridgefield condominiums.

The proposal is on a three-acre site that was previously approved for development as a contractor’s yard. Saber Capital Management, which proposed the self-storage facility, is a contract purchaser of the site.

Attorney Robert Jewell, representing the applicant, said that Chuck Saber, owner of Saber Capital Management, operated other similar self-storage facilities, and had it written into rental contracts for units that no hazardous materials were to be stored there.

“It’s not enough to put it on a sign, or in a contract,” Kace said.

Jewell rejected as absurd “the idea that a self-storage facility is a concern in an aquifer protection zone.”

He also said pointed out that the property was already approved for development as a contractor’s yard — which he said might be more likely to have hazardous chemicals stored in it than a facility that rents mostly to homeowners.

Kace reiterated his concerns about the aquifer.

“The building seems pretty well protected against leaks and spills — once you get in the building,” Kace admitted.

But what about spills in the parking lot?

“Pool chemicals, some of those are hazardous. Lawn chemicals,” Kace said.

“Once you contaminate an aquifer, there’s no easy, quick way to clean it up,” Kace said.”It’s contaminated forever. So I think we need to think long and hard about what gets stored in the building.”

Other Planning and Zoning Commission members and staff had many technical questions about “construction staging” during project, given its site, right on Route 7, that is steeply sloped and would require blasting, and removal of rocks, which would later be trucked back to the site for use in the project.