Republicans recoil at emergency zoning bill for Milford

The Senate voted 22 to 12 on Wednesday for final passage of emergency legislation that negates a court decision involving a Milford project and restores local zoning control over solid-waste facilities.

Overcoming a general aversion to curtailing home-rule, every Republican senator voted no except Sen. Kevin Kelly, R-Stratford, and Sen. Michael McLachlan, R-Danbury, whose city is fighting a proposal for a second waste-transfer station.

“It affects a case in Danbury,” McLachlan said, succinctly explaining his break with the GOP caucus. “Having said that, I’m not at all comfortable with the process.”

The bill sped to a vote in the House last week and the Senate Wednesday without review by any legislative committee or being subjected to a public hearing, a rush designed to stop final permitting of the expansion of Milford recycling facility.

“Any time you go retroactive, that’s shameful,” said Sen. Anthony Guglielmo, R-Stafford. “Not good. Not a good day for this place.”

Sen. Gayle Slossberg, D-Milford, said the legislation is meant to correct a mistake made in the final days of the 2006 session, when a poorly drafted amendment inadvertently ended the local zoning control.

But Sen. Leonard Fasano, R-North Haven, said Slossberg was wrong, that the amendment in question affected solid-waste disposal, a legal reference to landfills, not solid-waste facilities, which refer to transfer stations and recycling.

By giving municipalities more control over such facilities, siting them may become impossible, Fasano said.

Sen. Edward Meyer, D-Guilford, co-chairman of the Environment Committee, said the legislation before the Senate does not give municipalities total control. Local zoning authorities, for example, cannot bar waste facilities under the bill, but it can impose conditions over their location and use.

“It’s a balanced bill,” Meyer said.

In the House, Republicans took turns rising to oppose the bill, decrying the process. But when the roll call was taken, their fealty to home-rule overcome their distaste for the process.

The bill passed 120 to 8.

In the Senate, distaste for the process overcame concerns about home-rule, although some senators want to be clear what their opposition signified.

“I am for local control,” said Sen. Scott Frantz, R-Greenwich. If that wasn’t clear, he added, “I am in favor of local control.”