North Branford Zoning Follows Court Order, Approves 60,000-Gallon Bulk Propane Storage Facility
In accordance with a court order, North Branford Planning and Zoning Commission (PZC) has voted to approve the installation of a 60,000 gallon bulk propane storage facility at 40 Ciro Road.
The vote was made by 3 of 5 PZC members in attendance at a May 5 meeting overseen by acting chairman Ron Siena. Siena also answered, in the affirmative, a question from the applicant that the three members present constituted a quorum. Voting with Siena were PZC members Charles Rubano and Robert Nowak. Members William Galdenzi and Tricia Mase were absent May 5.
The superior court order compelled the PZC to approve the application by May 5, 2022. The vote was taken during a regular PZC meeting.
The vote approved an application originally made to the Town in 2014 and revised in 2017; submitted by J.J. Sullivan Inc. of Guilford (doing business as 2772 BPR LLC) for the 40 Ciro Road property owned by Donald J. Fucci III.
"It seems like yesterday, but it's been a long time," said Siena. Siena is the only current PZC member who was also with the commission during past review of the application.
The discussion on bulk propane at 40 Ciro Road began in 2014 when 2772 BPR applied to amend the zoning regulations at 40 Ciro Road when the sale of the property was pending from then-Town Council member Fucci. Once those regulations were amended, 2772 BPR's site application to the town's Inland Wetlands & Watercourses Agency (IWWA) stalled, after the IWWA failed to assemble a quorum to vote on the application in 2014. At the request of the applicant, the proposal then went to the state Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (DEEP) for review, in January 2015.
In March 2015, the Town amended its zoning regulations to prohibit bulk propane storage throughout the town; although that action would not impact applications already under review, including 2772 BPR's. Nearly two years later, in February 2017, DEEP told the town to issue the wetlands permit to 2772 BPR. Issuing the permit allowed the 2772 BPR to move the site plan application to the PZC for review.
In March 2017, North Branford Citizens Against Bulk Propane Storage (NBCABPS) filed a lawsuit against Fucci, the Town of North Branford, and JJ Sullivan/2772 BPR, stating that because Fucci was on the Town Council at the time of the amendment, the regulations should be invalid due to conflict of interest. Later that month, the PZC voted to deny 2272 BPR's application.
Next, 2772 BPR appealed the PZC's 2017 decision. On Dec. 18, 2018, New Haven Superior Court upheld North Branford PZC's decision to deny the bulk propane site plan application; 2772 BPR then appealed the Superior Court decision. On Sept. 21, 2021, the Appellate Court sided with 2772 BPR, ordering the PZC to approve the site plan. In a final effort, on Oct. 25, 2021, North Branford PZC petitioned the state Supreme Court to review the Appellate Court decision. Early in December of 2021, the PZC was notified that the Supreme Court had declined review of the petition. In January of 2022, the Town of North Branford PZC determined it had exhausted its legal remedies to fight the court order, triggering the process which compelled the PZC to approve the application by May 5.
Meanwhile, the NBCABPS case, which had been on hold during the 2772 BPR vs. Town of North Branford PZC appeals process, went forward again in January, 2022. NBCABPS seeks a court injunction to prohibit bulk propane storage at the 40 Ciro Road site. The latest action taken by NBCABPS, recorded by the court in March of 2022, was to file a memorandum of opposition to 227 BPR's motion to dismiss the case.
The PZC Vote to Approve
At the May 5 PZC meeting, Town Planner Eric Knapp told commission members the PZC is "under strict court order" to approve the application.
"At this point, there's not much to discuss. There's been a lot of back and forth about this. There really is no wiggle room," said Knapp. "I have confirmed with the applicant [through attorneys] that this is the version of the plan that they would like approved. I have asked whether it would be possible to have even sort of marginal commission approval around the fringes, and the answer is no, they just want a clean motion to approve. So given where we are, there's not much else the commission can do, but to approve it, as it is."
Specifically, the PZC approved the following: Application #2014/15-6, Site Development Plan, installation of propane bulk storage facility office building, garage, and associated driveways, parking, lighting, utilities, stormwater management, landscaping and sign, 40 Ciro Road, Map 27, Lot 39-3, I-2 Zone. Owner: Donald J. Fucci II Applicant/Agent: 2772 BPR, LLC/Attorney Jeff Beatty. Pursuant to court order, approval of site plan as shown on a plan or survey entitled: Site Plan – Property of Donald J. Fucci II, 40 Ciro Road North Branford, Connecticut," Waldo & Associates, LLC, Scale 1" = 20', dated August 6, 2014, and revised through March 8, 2017.