Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Landscaper or landfill? Timber Ridge shut down

By Kym Soper
Journal Inquirer
Friday, April 4, 2008

VERNON — In December the town levied a cease and desist order against Timber Ridge Landscaping after they cleared trees and brush and filled the yard with up to 30 dumpsters, earthmoving equipment and trucks on the property located in a residential area near the entrance of a playground and the Hockanum River Linear Trail.

Enforcement of the order was temporarily suspended, however, allowing the owners to apply for a special use permit.

But Timber Ridge owners failed to present an adequate business plan at Thursday’s PZC meeting where a public hearing was held on the matter. Meanwhile, at least 10 neighbors showed up citing specific zoning violations made by Timber Ridge since moving in.

As a result the commission unanimously voted to fully enforce the cease and desist order

Formerly a carpet and flooring showroom, the 6,000-square-foot building located at 670 Dart Hill Road lies just west of Skinner Road and east of the Quail Hollow subdivision for residents age 55 and older.

The property is adjacent to the entrance road for the Hockanum River Linear Park, which ends in a circular driveway and a public playground at the building’s rear.

That is where Timber Ridge owner Ben Carlson says he plans to store his rotating stock of 14-by-8-foot Dumpsters rented out to homeowners and construction contractors. Carlson told commission members that he owns 66 of the trash containers and during the busy summer months, all are out at job sites.

When filled, Timber Ridge staff load them onto flatbed trucks and haul them to the Manchester landfill before returning the empty containers to the Vernon site, he said.

Commission members say they have environmental concerns, as there are no controls over what’s thrown into the Dumpsters. Also, the business planned to maintain and repair its vehicles and equipment on site in the building’s rear garage

The commission is also concerned over noise levels and when Dumpster loading takes place, as it can start as early as 7 a.m.

The storage of equipment, oil, and gasoline also needs to be addressed, as well as traffic issues, with trucks coming and going in an area frequented by children heading to the playground or hikers to the trail, commission members said.

Timber Ridge uses about half of the building for storage and office space, but planned to rent out the remaining 3,400 square-feet that is vacant, Carlson said.

When asked what he planned to put in there, Carlson responded casually: "What ever you’ll allow."

Carlson said that trucks would likely be loading and offloading twice daily, Monday through Saturday, and no more than three or four empty Dumpsters would be left in the yard during the summer. In the winter, when the contracting business slows, 20 to 25 could be parked on the gravel surface in the building’s rear.

As to the noise level, Carlson said that rolling Dumpsters onto the flatbed is no louder than an idling diesel truck.

And landscaping is planned to replace the tress and brush that were removed, Carlson added.

But neighbors say Timber Ridge should be shut down.

"A good portion of this business appears to be rubbish removal," Emma Lane resident Sue Perry said, pointing out that type of business is not allowed under town zoning regulations in a residential neighborhood.

"I have observed fully loaded Dumpsters going onto the site. Residential waste was left on the ground for days," said Perry, who provided the commission with pictures documenting her allegations. "Is this site really being used as a transfer station that will attract rodents, crows, and so forth?"

Most of the residents in the surrounding area are on well water, and possible leaking of hazardous materials is a great concern, said Mike Lowell, who lives across the street at 373 Dart Hill Road.

"I think you have a lot of work to do here," Commission member Watson "Chip" Bellows, Jr. told Carlson. "I have a whole list of things that I’m going to make you change."

"If you were living in that neighborhood, would you want to have all those Dumpsters out in plain sight," Bellows added. "You have to have some empathy for those people."

— A local landscaper has been ordered to shut down his Dart Hill Road business — which many area residents say is more of a landfill operation than a horticultural enterprise — until he obtains the necessary approval from the Planning and Zoning Commission.— suspending all activity at the business — and continue the hearing to their next meeting.— something they didn’t realize they needed a permit for.

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