The president of a sand and gravel company is taking the town to court again to appeal two rulings by the Planning and Zoning Commission that thwarted his plans for a stone-processing facility on Industrial Drive.
Matt Kobyluck, president of , alleges in the complaints that the commission worked behind his back to undermine his application. He also said he believes racism played a part in the process.
According to Kobyluck, before he resubmitted his plans for to the Town of Waterford, he met with Planning Director Tom Wagner in a pre-application meeting.
In that meeting, Kobyluck said Wagner said he would “never allow” the stone processing facility to be built “in my town.” Wagner’s words, if true, wound up being prophetic, as both the and the rejected Kobyluck’s proposal.
“I can’t say I was surprised,” Kobyluck said in a Friday interview. “We hoped it would never have to go that way, but we knew the odds were stacked against us.”
Kobyluck has since filed appeals in Superior Court on the commission's decisions to reject his application for a special permit and to approve his application for a resubdivision with stringent modifications. Those appeals are on top of an appeal he filed against the Conservation Commission in June and an appeal he filed in December on a decision by the Planning and Zoning Commission to eliminate the use he was proposing.
The basis of all four appeals are essentially the same: Kobyluck alleges the town was against the project from the beginning and worked behind his company’s back to ensure it would never be built.
Kobyluck also alleges in his complaint that his race factored into the Planning and Zoning Commission’s decision. Kobyluck, who is a Native American, was referred to as an “Indian” by a member of the Planning and Zoning Commission in a public meeting in December 2011, an assertion confirmed by a town recording of the meeting.
Meanwhile, neighbors who live near Industrial Drive are thrilled with the decision, pointing out Kobyluck’s lawsuits in other towns and the potential of the stone processing facility for polluting Jordan Brook.
A Long History
In the summer of 2010, Kobyluck submitted an application to install a stone processing facility at 28 Industrial Drive. Neighbors of Industrial Drive came , and at a public hearing in November of 2010 state Rep. Betsy Ritter, D-Waterford, and state Sen. Andrea Stillman, D-Waterford,
The neighbors formed a group called Waterford Against Mining and hired an environmental scientist to oppose the application. The group also pointed out issues Kobyluck Brothers had in Salem and Montville, where the company paid out $225,000 in settlements after disputes with the local planning and zoning commissions and the state Department of Environmental Protection.
According to Kobyluck’s most recent appeal, in 2010 the Conservation Commission requested that a consultant review Kobyluck’s plans. The consultant took months to review the plans, forcing Kobyluck to withdraw the application as the application was reaching the time limits set forth by state statute, according to the appeal.
After withdrawing the application, Kobyluck met with Wagner, Environmental Planner Maureen Fitzgerald and Town Attorney Rob Avena to discuss what the town expected for the next application. In that meeting, Kobyluck alleges that Wagner said he would “never allow” the processing facility to be installed “in my town.”
The town did tell Kobyluck that they wanted more water testing done at Industrial Drive, a job which would span several seasons. During that time, Wagner and the Planning and Zoning Commission drew up changes to the regulations that would strictly forbid exactly what Kobyluck was proposing. Kobyluck said he was never told of the plans to change the regulations, and later told Patch he only found out the commission was considering the changes after reading an article in Waterford Patch.
At a Planning and Zoning Commission meeting in December of 2011, more than 100 people , with only Kobyluck speaking against them. Later that month, the PZC voted to adopt the changes that strictly prohibited exactly what Kobyluck was proposing at 28 Industrial Drive. Kobyluck .
However, Kobyluck resubmitted his application for , before the new regulations took effect. That meant the Planning and Zoning Commission and the Conservation Commission had to follow the old regulations while reviewing the application.
On Dec. 5, 2011, the Planning and Zoning Commission received the application. At that meeting, Planning and Zoning Commission member Thomas Ward said “Will the Indian be here?”, referring to Kobyluck, who is a Native American. Ward later recused himself from the public hearing.
The public hearings for both the Conservation Commission and the Planning and Zoning Commission went on for months, with neighbors again speaking against the proposal. An independent third-party scientist was hired by the Conservation Commission as well to review the application.
The hearings closed in April and on May 30, after a month of deliberation, the Conservation Commission . Kobyluck later
In July, to deny a special permit to allow a stone-processing facility at 28 Industrial Drive and voted to approve Kobyluck’s application to resubdivide 28 Industrial Drive with many modifications. On Thursday, Kobyluck filed two appeals in Superior Court on both decisions.
For the appeal, no new information is allowed in the record. Instead, a judge looks over the existing record and determines if the decision was made lawfully and objectively.
Wagner didn’t return a phone call and an e-mail by Patch asking for comment. The number listed for Ward on www.whitepages.com was out of service.