By Andreas Yilma, editor-in-chief
NAUGATUCK – An Ohio-based freight shipping company wants to build a service center at the former Peter Paul factory site on New Haven Road.
R + L Carriers has signed an agreement with The Hershey Company, which owns the 36-acre parcel at 889 New Haven Road, to purchase the land. Details of the deal were not disclosed.
Jeff Beckman, director of corporate communications for The Hershey Company, said the companies were doing their due diligence to finalize the deal. He said the sale will not go through until R + L Carriers receives approval from the Naugatuck land use planning boards.
As of last week, R + L Carriers had not submitted any applications or plans to the borough, but around two residents living near the site got a glimpse of what the company plans to build in a meeting. June 10 at the Naugatuck Event Center.
Stan Richards, director of construction and facility maintenance for R + L Carriers, said the service center will include a 100-foot-wide dock for 53-foot-long trucks to unload goods, a workshop maintenance for minor repairs, a gas station and an office.
Richards compared the company’s operations to those of the US Post. He said the company did not stock any goods.
“We don’t bring in goods, we stack them and leave them there. When the freight comes in, it goes out, ”said Richards. “If the cargo stays there for more than 12 hours, then we’ve made a mistake.”
Richards said R + L Carriers is growing. He said that seven years ago the company was building two new service centers per year. This year, he said, the company plans to build 37.
“More and more people are ordering online,” said Richards. “The freight industry throughout the pandemic was seen as critical. “
R + L Carriers has around 120 facilities nationwide and more than 16,000 employees. The company has a service center in Meriden, but wants to build a larger one in Naugatuck.
Richards said the new center would have around 80 employees, including the relocation of employees who work in Meriden.
If the project goes ahead, Richards said it would take around 10 months to build the service center.
During the meeting, residents questioned the impact of the center on traffic, whether there would be additional noise or light pollution, and the hours of operation.
Richards said the company is planning to have a traffic survey done in the area. He said the plan includes a 50-foot landscaped buffer zone along the border with residential properties. Daily operations will end at midnight, he said.
Richards said the trucks would not encroach on the back of the property near the houses. He added that 70% of the company’s service centers are located next to residential communities.
Mike Bisson, a longtime Borough resident who lives on General Patton Drive, said his first impression after the meeting was positive. He thought Richards was transparent and honest in his responses to residents.
“I think the most important was the fact that they were proactive in reaching out to neighbors to give them the opportunity to understand what they are offering, share their thoughts and ask questions,” Bisson said.
Bisson said it was difficult to say he still had no concerns, alluding to the traffic problem in the area and not knowing the sound impact of the center. He said there is more to learn about the proposal.
“I think there is more to come,” he said.
The former Peter Paul site was once home to a 253,000 square foot brick and glass building that made Mounds and Almond Joy candy. Hershey closed the plant in 2007 and demolished it in 2011.
Naugatuck Economic Development Corp. President Ronald Pugliese expressed confidence that the proposed service center will go ahead.
“I think there were people who were concerned about certain things. I think Stan kind of toned down that, ”Pugliese said after the meeting. “I’m so glad we had this kind of conference and had a great crowd here tonight. “