UNCASVILLE – Some neighbors of a revived industrial property on the Thames River say a row of small trees planted along the property line haven’t done anything to stop noise coming from the site, as port operator Gateway Terminal continues construction on what it hopes will become a riverside cargo hub.
In January, a late night delivery of road salt woke up neighbors who said Gateway’s work on the site had eliminated natural sound barriers that had given the neighborhood some insulation from the industrial businesses that most recently occupied the site until the WestRock paper plant closed in 2016.
Neighbor Richard Daigle, who said he’s lived in the neighborhood his entire life, said the site has been mostly quiet since then – there hasn’t been a rush for salt during a warm winter with little snow.
But this week, truck alarms filled air in the neighborhood again, with neighbors saying the ring of 3-4 foot saplings planted around the property’s fence line did nothing to dampen the noise.
“They’re eventually going to grow and make a noise barrier, but those have been there since I was a kid and I’m almost 50 years old now,” Daigle said, pointing to another group of evergreen trees nearby. “It takes quite a long time.”
Montville Town Planner Liz Burdick said the site plan the Planning and Zoning Commission approved last year didn’t require any noise barrier, but Gateway planted trees around the edge of the property that should eventually provide some kind of buffer.
Gateway did not respond to a request for comment prior to publication.
The company also agreed to require salt trucks to not use backup alarms, but Burdick said all the trucks at the site on Tuesday were there for construction as Gateway starts work on “phase two” of the site development – digging up material on the other side of the railroad tracks from the salt pile before grading the site for new railroad spurs to help move materials between train cars and barges.
Burdick said she and Mayor Ronald McDaniel take the neighbors’ noise complaints seriously and said Gateway has been very responsive. She said the site has essentially always been home to industrial uses, and while neighbors may have gotten used to the quiet after the paper plant closed in 2016, it’s still an industrial site.
Daigle, who used to work at the paper plant, said maybe 30 trucks at most would go to the facility in a day – far less than the truck traffic they expect leading up to major snow storms, not to mention any additional traffic when the site is fully developed into a multi-modal port, with trucks, barges and trains all bringing materials in and out.
He said trees provided a natural noise barrier, and Gateway’s excavation to make room for its salt pile created a bowl that seems to magnify sounds from the property.
Another neighbor, Judith Kerttula said most drivers are respectful, but some of the trucks that have driven down the narrow, two-lane Depot Road through their neighborhood to get to the site have been speeding, blowing stop signs and using their Jake brakes – which they’re not supposed to use. She said it can make it difficult for her to back out of her driveway.
“I can’t believe this was approved,” Kerttulla said. I imagine they have the right to do that, but it was never really put out into the neighborhood that it was coming [until after it was approved].”
Burdick said construction usually picks up in the spring, and this was the first complaint she has heard about the site in months. She said she’s heard from another neighbor who said trucks for the paper plant were more disruptive.
But Daigle said they won’t really know how disruptive the site is until there’s a real demand for salt, and Gateway’s plans for a multimodal port are realized. Burdick said they will need another approval from the Planning and Zoning Commission for that.
This story has been updated and corrected to reflect that the trees were planted prior to noise complaints