If everything goes according to their plans, Dollar Tree could break ground on Stone Road in a matter of weeks.
The project, a proposed one-million-square-foot facility, will greatly change the landscape of a plot that has been zoned industrial since 1956, but maintains the look of its agricultural past to date.
The project has been a hotly contested issue over the past weeks, with the town council approving a tax abatement for the company with high hopes for the additional revenue brought to town and some residents up in arms about what they see as a project that could negatively affect the quality of life in their neighborhood.
According to Windsor Inland Wetlands Agent and Environmental Planner Cyd Groff, the quality of life could actually be improved for one group in the area: local wildlife.
The proposed site is right in the middle of land a handful of species call home, including birds and turtles.
According to Groff, many of the species travel down from Granby, head down the Farmington River, and spend much of their time migrating back and forth finding food and benefiting from the wetlands in the area.
It's a good life for many of the species, some of whom, particularly the turtles, receive a helping hand from those in the neighborhood to avoid human traffic from time to time.
The local wildlife will continue to be protected if Dollar Tree gets approval to break ground.
Yes, Dollar Tree's project details the construction of a one-million-square-foot building and surrounding parking lots and loading docks for trucks, but the project also includes more than two acres of new wetlands that will be created.
One plot, Groff says, is planned to be directly adjacent to a brook that already exists on the property and measures to be about 82,000 square feet or just under two acres.
Included in the new wetlands will be a number plants, hand-picked by Groff, that will provide new cover and food sources meant to ensure the animals thrive in their new landscape.
The eastern box turtle, an omnivore, will benefit from the establishment of berry and seed producting plants, said Groff, who adds that the new food sources will divert wildlife from the Dollar Tree site.
The Inland Wetlands Commission will vote on Dollar Tree's plans following a public hearing on April 5.
The commission's March approval of the plan has been voided, Groff said, to allow for a public hearing to be held.
The comission will take another look at the company's potential impact on local wildlife and the wetlands.
In early March, commission members agreed that the project would have minimal impact of the local wetlands and voted to approve the project, but it will have additional information to consider when it meets in April.
The commission has requested that Dollar Tree provide a report on the results of soil testing done on the site.
Dollar Tree representatives reported to the Town Planning and Zoning Commission that pesticides were found on the site during a shallow soil test conducted.
As the land had been used for farming for decades prior to it being zoned industrial, the presence of pesticides was expected.
According to Groff, there has been no deadline set for when Dollar Tree must submit their report, and the information will be available to the public at the Planning office.
According to Town Manager Peter Souza, neither the town nor the state requires soil testing to be conducted on a site that has not been documented to have a contaminant spill or have produced substances found to be harmful to the greater public, like the former Combustion Engineering property on Day Hill Road, which was used to produce feul for nuclear power plants.
In the case of Dollar Tree, the pesticide report will be used, in part, to guage the potential impact to drinking water in the area, said Groff, but the town holds no jurisdiction in the matter.
Any determination on the presence of pesticides would be made by the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, Groff added.
According to Souza, construction projects on sites that were once farm land — something that is not rare in this region — utilize a number of tactics to reduce exposure to any soil that may contain low levels of pesticides, including the transfer of contaminated soil to a part of the site that will be a parking lot, and paving over it.