MERIDEN — The Operating Engineers Local 478 union has presented plans to the city for developing a heavy-equipment training facility at 600 South Mountain Road.
The 36-acre former power plant site has been vacant since the plant, which never opened, was razed leaving a few foundations. The Local 478 Operating Engineers Apprenticeship Training and Skill Improvement fund purchased the property for $975,000 from Meriden Gas Turbines LLC in June 2019.
The union currently has a training facility on Cheshire Road that will remain open, according to city officials. .
The Local 478 presented a non-binding pre-application plan to members of the Planning Commission on Dec. 14. At that meeting, representative John Paul Garcia stated it was the union’s intent to use the property for a school and heavy equipment training.
“We don’t have a formal proposal yet,” said Assistant City Planner Brian Grubbs. “It’s a training site for various trades, carpentry to excavation. “I do know there is a heavy equipment training component for the proposal.”
The property is accessed by a mile-long driveway ascending Cathole Mountain. The proposal is for potential commerical drivers license training, a crane-training facility for different sized equipment, and training equipment to mimic different environments, and GPS training on site. No materials will be removed from the site, Garcia told the commission members.
“The reason for the pre-application is to find out how extensive the site plan needs to be for an application and if the commission has any concerns,” according to meeting minutes.
City Planner Paul Dickson shared staff’s concerns and the need for an updated conceptual plan showing how the development will be integrated into the site along with more specifics of operation and program curriculum.
Commission members discussed acessory uses, proposed training activities, performance standards for noise, determination of proposed use, noise monitoring and how extensive the application and site plan should be. Commission members suggested city staff work with the union to address comments and concerns.
In 2017, the commission also approved a request by Energy Advantage for a two-year period to evaluate the potential for solar panels on a vacant parcel at 600 South Mountain Road. Then City Planner Robert Seale said the project would require $13 million in improvements to the site.
The total appraised value of the property is $4.3 million, according to city property records.
In 2002, Meriden Gas Turbines applied for building permits, for warehouses and a factory for $9 million.
Since the late 1990s, a power plant project had been planned for the 36-acre site at the north end of the city. The 544-megawatt, natural gas-fired generating plant never came to fruition due to financial problems and the declining need for power generation, but the shell of two buildings stood for years.
While the property originally included over 700 acres of land, much of it was turned over to Berlin and Meriden and has been dedicated as open space.
Much of the plant and two storage tanks was demolished in 2014.
More than 100 acres in Meriden, however, is being slated for redevelopment as a "Research Parkway west," former City Planner Dominick Caruso said in 2014, citing the city's Plan of Conservation and Development.
“The property for future economic development is the city-owned part of the mountain,” said Economic Development Director Joseph Feest. “The engineers own part of the top “