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Planning And Zoning Commission Reviews Signage For Starbucks



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Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) members at their June 21 session reviewed a variety of commercial signage that Starbucks Corporation wants to use to advertise its presence and to direct the flow of traffic at its coffee shop with drive-through window service, which is being built at a retail complex at 75 Church Hill Road.

Since last fall, extensive site development work has occurred at the site near Exit 10 of Interstate 84, where Sunrise Church Hill Road LLC, is constructing a 12,000-square-foot retail center planned for five commercial tenants.

The retail center's main driveway would be located at the traffic signal located at the intersection of Church Hill Road and the Exit 10 ramps for eastbound I-84. A secondary rear driveway for the retail center would connect to a new, as-yet unbuilt section of Edmond Road.

The retail complex is being constructed amid an ongoing state Department of Transportation (DOT) project that will shift the southern end of Edmond Road westward so that Edmond Road forms a conventional four-way signalized intersection with Church Hill Road and Commerce Road. The intersection realignment and other roadway improvements are intended to improve traffic flow in that area, which has the highest local accident rate.

On June 21, Justin Walsh, representing Tim's Sign & Lighting Service Inc, of Meriden, presented P&Z members with plans for the 12 types of exterior signs that Starbucks wants to install at its coffee shop.

Mapping for the project indicates the that the retail center would be oriented on a northwest/southeast axis, with the coffee shop drive-through window located on the northwest end of the building, nearer to the new section of Edmond Road. The motorists in line waiting for window service would be lined up northwestward along the rear wall of the retail center.

Various signs would be posted along the course that drive-through customers follow on the site, including signs advertising various menu items and signs directing traffic flow. Starbucks has a coffee shop at 34 Church Hill Road, but that property does not have drive-through window service.

Jim Swift, the P&Z's vice chairman who served as chairman on June 21 in the absence of Don Mitchell, told Mr Walsh that he would like to keep the number of internally illuminated signs at the property to "a bare minimum." When the retail complex was approved by the P&Z in October 2016, Mr Swift had many concerns about the presence of drive-through window service, its appearance, and how it would function.

P&Z member Corinne Cox said she would like a reduction in the number of signs proposed for the drive-through. "It's too much," she said.

Mr Swift noted that what happens in terms of the amount of signage posted for the Starbucks drive-through could set a precedent for future possible similar land uses elsewhere in town.

The applicant for the retail complex, Sunrise Church Hill LLC, received permission for drive-through window service by gaining P&Z approval for a new overlay zone, known as the Exit 10 Commercial Design District (X10-CDD), within which the site is located. Drive-through window service for eateries has long been a sensitive topic among local land use officials, with the issues of concern being traffic congestion and littering.

The only other eatery in town allowed to have drive-through window service is the Botsford Drive-In at 282 South Main Street. Drive-through service is allowed there because the eatery was in business before local zoning took effect in 1958.

P&Z member Robert Mulholland told Mr Walsh he does not see the need for certain signs proposed for the coffee shop.

Mr Walsh he would discuss with his client the P&Z members' concerns about signage.

The final decisions on signage for the business would be made by town Land Use Agency staff members under the terms of the special zoning permit which the P&Z issued for the retail complex.

The concrete footings in the foreground are at the site of a planned Starbucks coffee shop drive-through-service window. Starbucks will be one of five commercial tenants at the 12,000-square-foot retail center now under construction at 75 Church Hill Road. In the background are the Blue Colony Diner and Newtown Mobil. (Bee Photo, Gorosko)
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