In May, after nearby residents had publicly complained about the lack of a proper buffer near the Route 58 development where Costco is located, Haig Buchakjian of Brixmor — which owns the lot — spoke in front of the Planning Board, telling the body he would “make this right … Things will be different now.”
But members of the town’s Planning Board said on Thursday that after five months, things really aren’t too different.
At Thursday’s Planning Board meeting, Planning Board member Stan Carey said he visited the site before the meeting and walked along the northerly berm, where dozens of trees planted by the developer, Brixmor Property Group, have already died and were supposed to have been replaced by now.
“I walked about 100 feet and I stopped counting at 12 dead trees,” Mr. Carey said. “Not stressed trees. Completely dead.”
The trees were required as a buffer to the homes in the Foxwood Village development north of the shopping center. Residents had complained about dust from the development when the entire lot was clear cut, with Town Board approval, in 2013. The residents said they wanted a berm and buffer between their homes and the shopping center.
Brixmor is currently operating with a temporary certificate of occupancy, and replacing the dead buffer trees are just one of several guidelines Brixmor must meet in order to obtain a permanent CO. The temporary permit — which was granted at the end of June — expires at the end of the month, though the town can legally allow Costco to remain open for up to 18 months on a temporary CO, according to town planning and building administrator Jeff Murphree.
Whether the town would actually shut down the store is a legal question, Mr. Murphree said, that the Town Board and the town attorney’s office would have to take up.
The Town Board is thus far refusing to grant a special permit sought by Costco that would allow them to sell Christmas trees on the property from Nov. 1 to Dec. 27 because it lacks a permanent CO.
Mr. Carey said he also saw several open cesspool manholes on the property.
“They are open and about six foot deep,” he said. “I could have walked right into one.”
Vincent Guadiello, the consulting engineer for the Planning Board, said the cesspool rights were supposed to have been fenced and secured.
He said some of the dead trees on the easterly boundary of the property appear to have been replaced but not on the northern berm.
“Nothing has been done along the area that we expressed numerous times be addressed,” said Planning Board member Ed Densieski.
At a prior meeting, the Planning Board had suggested setting a $75,000 bond to ensure that Brixmor finish the work it is supposed to have done. Mr Carey suggested Thursday that number be at least $100,000.
Planning Board member Lyle Wells suggested $150,000.
“They just never do what they say they’re going to do,” Mr. Densieski said.
Costco is the only store built on the site so far, and Costco built that store itself and owns the pad it’s build on. The rest of the project was built by the property owner, Brixmor. Officials say there are no outstanding issues on the Costco pad, and that it is Brixmor that has failed to live up to its promises.
John Stark, one of the owners of Foxwood Village, suggested the town impose some deadlines to do the work.
“I’d hate to see our residents go the entire winter” with nothing done,” Mr. Stark said.
Peter Danowski, the attorney for Brixmor, said they “are in the midst of trying to comply” with the town’s requirements. He said he’s hoping the work can be completed in the next week or two, and that they will comply with whatever number the town sets for the bond.
Caption: An open cesspool pit on the grounds of Costco, on Route 58. (Credit: Tim Gannon)