The Planning and Zoning (P&Z) Commission paid tribute Thursday to a local engineer who died last month after years of service to his community.
P&Z chair Chuck Andres opened Thursday’s meeting by honoring Bob Criscuolo (pictured), 61, founder of Criscuolo Engineering LLC in Branford, for his work in countless projects over the decades.
The P&Z also held a continuation of a public hearing for two proposed retail buildings at 250 North Main St. The commissioners and the public raised issues about the impact on traffic.
“We are deeply saddened, and we’re very appreciative of all he’s done for this town,” Andres said as he spoke about Criscuolo.
“As an engineer, he was Mr. Credibility. He did it right,” Andres said as he recalled Criscuolo’s dedication. Andres, who has served on the P&Z commission since the early 1990’s, said Criscuolo was a “mainstay presence” as he represented numerous developers and property owners over the years. His last appearance before the commission was about a month before his death.
Andres said Criscuolo was very humble and put the emphasis on the project, not himself.
Criscuolo founded the engineering firm in 1984, and was joined in the business by engineer Jim Pretti, who has also presented numerous projects to the commission.
Criscuolo died April 20, from complications of pancreatic cancer, according to his obituary. Among the survivors are his wife Sharon Firth Criscuolo, two sons and three granddaughters.
Traffic and Excavation Questions for Proposed Retail Site
A public hearing which began April 5, continued Thursday as John Schmitz (pictured), an engineer with BL Companies of Meridan, presented additional information about the North Main site. As requested by the commission last month, Schmitz submitted a new geotechnical report about the rock formations on the property.
The plans propose significant excavation and grade changes, including the creation of extensive lengths of exposed rock slope up to 37 feet high in one location, with most of the height averaging about 20 feet in other areas.
“Based on staff comments, we made a few revisions to the site plans,” Schmitz said, adding that he will submit the new plans at the next meeting. He said there will be some changes in the amount of rock cuts, and that 10 parking spaces have been eliminated. They are proposing more about 200 spaces.
The current plans call for two buildings, one would be 62,426 square feet; and the other would be 13,200 square feet. There are plans to install a traffic signal on Route 1 at the entrance to the site.
Town Planner Harry Smith said that reducing the footprint of the buildings would reduce the amount of rock cuts and slopes, and would also reduce the number of parking spaces needed.
The property is adjacent to the W. S. Clancy Memorial Funeral Home on one side; and United Tire Inc. and Greystone Manor condominiums on the other side.
Fred Greenberg, a traffic engineer with BL Companies, presented data from a traffic impact study. He said the project will also be reviewed by the Office of State Traffic Administration.
Andes asked about the impact on nearby Chestnut Street, which is a town-owned street. Town Engineer Janice Plaziak also requested information about Chestnut Street.
Andres also said the amount of traffic will change depending on the type of use. He asked if any tenants have been identified.
“We don’t have a tenant at this time. I’m not trying to hide something,” Schmitz said. He said the proposal meets the bulk standards for the zone and they do not require any variances. “We’re working within the parameters of existing code,” he said.
Several members of the public also questioned the increase in traffic and the amount of excavation.
“The traffic has gotten heavier and heavier, “ said Adrian Bonenberger, a Democrat who is running for the state representative seat that will be vacant due to the retirement of State Rep. Lonnie Reed.
Peter Henschel, a member of the Representative Town Meeting (RTM), said he is not against commercial development. However, he said he is concerned about the size of the project and the “relatively brutal” rock excavating.
Jacey Wyatt, who has run for several political offices, said traffic is a major concern. “There is so much traffic on these roads right now,” she said. “Route 1 becomes a parking lot” in the summer or when there is an issue on I-95. Is she still running for Governor? You may have to add that if true - I don’t know. She didn’t mention it.
The site is owned by Jeff Shapiro and family, who operate the Cedar Island Marina in Clinton. They have been attempting to develop the property since it was purchased in 1997. Costco looked at the site in 2003, and the town once considered it as a location for the Public Works building, which is still in a rental facility.
After several public hearings that began in May, 2014, the first phase of the project was approved by the Inland Wetlands Commission (IWC) in January 2015 ). That phase created an access road and central driveway on the property. The P&Z also approved phase one in 2015. The second phase was unanimously approved by the IWC in January 2018.
Schmitz said the IWC approval includes creation of new wetlands to replace the ones that will be disturbed. He said 66 trees will be planted in one wetland area, and 26 in another.
The public hearing will continue May 17 at 7 p.m. at Fire Headquarters.