Windsor Locks PZC moves sports complex forward

BY Anthony Branciforte | Journal Inquirer

PHOTO | Contributed
PHOTO | Contributed
A rendering of the proposed All Sports Village Complex.
The Windsor Locks Planning and Zoning Commission on Tuesday unanimously approved a general plan of development for the proposed All Sports Village complex.

Before the board approved the plan submitted by JABS Sports Management LLC, it set an extensive list of conditions that must be met for the project, which would be built at the intersection of Route 20 and Interstate 91, to move forward.

The proposed development includes indoor and outdoor areas for competition in several sports, as well as amenities such as dormitories for visiting teams, an entertainment center, sports-related medical officers, restaurants, and shops.

While about 50 people packed the Ella Grasso Conference Room in Town Hall, only a handful of residents spoke at the public hearing, which had been continued from Sept. 10.

First Selectman Christopher Kervick spoke in favor of the proposal, saying that the developer has shown an "impressive willingness" to make changes to the plan based on community feedback.

In August, JABS Sports Management withdrew its initial plan after residents objected to the developer's intention to use a portion of protected property abutting the development site in exchange for funding a large portion of a walking trail at the site. At Tuesday's public hearing, the plan was revised from the version submitted last month to address various concerns from the PZC.

Kervick called the approval an "early step" in a process that requires several different approvals from various boards, adding that there would be further opportunities for public comment and amendments to the plan.

Carl Schiessl, who chaired the group that lobbied to preserve the neighboring Waterworks Brook property over a decade ago, spoke out against the proposal.

Schiessl raised several issues, including potential lighting spillage, the vegetative barrier on the property line being inadequate for to block noise in the winter, and rubber material from the turf fields being washed onto the Waterworks property when it rains.

Schiessl said the town ought to require the developer to pay for independent studies and appraisals related to dealing with those issues, as well as provide a prospective calendar of sports events to be held at the complex. He received applause from the audience after his remarks.

Two more residents spoke against the project, raising some of the same issues while also pointing to potential strain on the town's sewer system and concerns that a proposed emergency services roadway, which would not be open to public use, would cut into a buffer zone in the area.

Attorney John Mancini, who represents JABS Sports Management, said all runoff from the site would meet water quality standards, and he said the site is designed so the buildings will be "framing and wrapping the fields" to prevent noise. As for lighting, Mancini said that the plan calls for full cutoff light fixtures, which are designed to shine directly down on the fields without emitting light that extends beyond the property.

Jason Cutler, president of the Windsor Locks Soccer Club, spoke in favor of the project during a second public comment period. He said that, in his experience, turf material does not stick to clothing as asserted by Schiessl, who said turf runoff from parking lots was possible because players would shake it off before getting into cars or buses. He also defended the lighting fixtures in the proposal, and he received applause at the end of his comments.

In response to concerns about strains on the town's sewer system, JABS attorney Paul Smith said the Water Pollution Control Authority would not allow the developer to put a major strain on the system.

"They're not going to give us their capacity," he said, explaining that the onus is on the developer to ensure that its plan is feasible. "That's just the way that's going to work."

Before the board unanimously voted to approve the plan, it agreed on a number of conditions of approval that were laid out by Town Planner Jennifer Rodriguez and Town Engineer Dana Steele. Those include requirements that storm water be directed away from residential properties, existing vegetation in the buffer zone be maintained, outdoor sports activities begin no earlier than 7 a.m. and end no later than midnight, and lighting near a neighboring residential development be low wattage.

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