P&Z Denies Second Hawleyville Gas Station, Convenience Mart
The Town’s Director of Planning, along with its Planning & Zoning Commission Chairman and at least one of his commissioners, is anticipating a legal appeal after a controversial second gas station and mini mart proposal was recently denied for a parcel just off I-84 in Hawleyville.
In a pair of back-to-back 4-1 votes June 4 with Commissioner Dennis Bloom in the minority, the P&Z Commission denied an application to develop a gas station and convenience store within the Hawleyville Center Design District (HCDD) zone. If approved, it would have been the second such facility under development in the immediate area of Exit 9, and adjacent to a new church and apartment complex in the vicinity.
Application 19.31 by 13 Hawleyville Road, LLC, sought a special exception for a property located at 13 Hawleyville Road to permit the development of a convenience store and gas station with associated parking and utilities. Chairman Don Mitchell and Commissioners James Swift, Corinne Cox, and Barbara Manville voted against the application.
The same four commissioners supported a motion to deny the application on the grounds that it did not conform with Newtown’s Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD).
Director of Planning George Benson, P&Z Chairman Mitchell, and Commissioner Bloom each told The Newtown Bee they anticipate the denial will be appealed in court.
In response to public opposition to an earlier version of the project, the P&Z had already unanimously rejected a previous gas station/convenience store proposal for the site. That proposal contained a 5,293-square-foot convenience store and 16 fuel-filling positions at adjacent gas pumps.
The fuel pumps would have been supplied by 40,000 gallons of underground fuel storage.
The more recent version of the project proposed a convenience store that would enclose 4,083 square feet of space, six fueling positions, 24,000 gallons of fuel storage, and an approximately 2,000-square-foot canopy to shelter the fuel pumps.
Although the developer had scaled down the proposal, opponents maintained it was not the size of the project, but public safety hazards that were the driving concern.
Opponents and the majority of P&Z commissioners voting on June 4 expressed that a facility of this nature so close to the interstate could generate traffic accidents because of increased congestion when roads in that area carry heavy commuter traffic, including those coming from or returning to hundreds of apartments in the adjacent complex.
Underlying the traffic issue was the specialized zoning district where the site lies — the Hawleyville Center Design District.
The HCDD Factor
The HCDD zone, which the P&Z created in 1999, is intended to foster creation of a neighborhood business district that includes mixed-use activities, improvements, and the development typical of a village center.
HCDD zoning is intended to encourage development with high-quality design that respects the environmental conditions and history of the area in seeking to achieve an integrated, cohesive New England village center, according to the P&Z.
Notably, in February 2019, the P&Z approved construction of a gas station/convenience store/café at 26 Hawleyville Road for NEMCO Limited Partnership. That 0.7-acre site lies about 2,000 feet north of 13 Hawleyville Road in the HCDD zone.
That project is under construction. In September 2018, at NEMCO’s request, the P&Z, in a 3-2 split vote, had modified the HCDD zoning regulations to include gas station/convenience stores as an allowed use in the HCDD zone.
The Zoning Board of Appeals previously approved separate “certificates of location” for the construction of both gas stations. But opponents of the project proposed for 13 Hawleyville Road maintain that Hawleyville does not need two gas stations.