P&Z Approves Additional Farm Apartments, Continues Gas Station Hearing
The Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) conducted a regular meeting in the Newtown Municipal Center’s council chambers, on September 2, to discuss three applications.
The first public hearing on the agenda was for Application 21.20 by Peter Paulos, of PH Architects, for 42 Taunton Hill Road. The applicant sought a text amendment to the Town of Newtown Zoning Regulations to allow two apartments per 11-15 horse stalls, three apartments per 16-25 horse stalls, and four apartments per 25 or more horse stalls.
Paulos explained that his family has a private barn in town with two current apartments.
“What we’ve been finding is that it is hard to take care of a farm with as many stalls and horses as we do. In designing other barns within the last five years… I’m finding that some of the other town regulations are different,” he explained.
He hopes to update the Newtown regulations to be more similar to other horse-friendly towns, such as Greenwich and North Salem, who have the ability to increase the on-site living quarters for their help.
P&Z Chair Don Mitchell noted that it sounded like the amendment was needed because horses specifically need a lot of care from handlers.
The proposed amendment would currently only effect one other farm in town besides Paulos’ property. Under the proposed regulation Paulos would be able to add one additional apartment.
After some discussion, including how it was not believed that the septic system would be impacted and that the operation would not affect the neighborhood negatively, the commission unanimously approved the application. It will become effective September 25.
The last two items on the P&Z agenda coincided with one another and were both submitted by Sundaram, LLC. They were treated as one public hearing.
The first item to be discussed was Application 21.21 for two text amendments to the Zoning Regulations of the Town of Newtown, so as to add a subsection “(e) combination filling station and convenience stores permitted by §4.03.317 with drive-through facilities” and to add a subsection “(g) except as permitted in the Exit 10 Commercial Design District.”
The second was Application 21.22 for a special exception, for a property located at 62-64 Church Hill Road, so as to permit a drive-through window as demonstrated on a set of plans titled, “Sundaram LLC Newtown Mobile Station 62-64 Church Hill Road Newtown, CT 06470.”
Attorney Bob Hall represented both applications.
“At the moment, the regulations have some definitions and the reason that the definitions are important is because one of them is the “gas station or filling station,” which is what we are, and then there’s the definition of a “restaurant,” which we are not,” Hall said.
These proposed text amendments would allow a drive-through pickup window, which are currently only approved off Exit 10 and not throughout all of Newtown.
Hall explained that to add a drive-through, the building’s overhang and pillars would be removed and the retaining wall would be pushed back for the driveway and bypass lane.
“There is no change being made in the driveway entrances,” Hall said. He also mentioned the drive-through updates would not alter the nearby intersection.
Mark Dymerski, co-owner of Dunkin Donuts on 6 Queen Street, who also has experience with Dunkin Donuts with drive-throughs, gave insight on how using a mobile app to pre-order can cut down on ordering time to positively help traffic flow for the drive-through.
“It definitely expedites the whole situation,” Dymerski said.
Builder Gary Doski then was invited to speak on behalf of the engineer. He said that there is “considerable work” to be done.
Concerns were brought up about tractor trailers likely getting stuck in the back while trying to make the turn, but it was noted that it is prohibited for tractor trailers to be in the back.
P&Z member Barbara Manville inquired, “How long would the construction take and will the business be closed?”
The business would need to be closed for about 30 days while all the construction takes place, including the replacement of the underground tanks.
Multiple P&Z members brought up concerns with the busyness of the site having a drive-through, in addition to traffic from the gas pumps, convenience store, and car wash.
Jay Patel, owner of the Mobile Station, said that there are different peak hours for various parts of the business.
Another representative for the application who spoke to the topic of traffic was Kermit Hua, traffic engineer with KWH Enterprises LLC in Meriden.
He shared that his traffic study found an estimated 17% increase for new trips to the proposed drive-through and that he used traffic information from the Starbucks on Church Hill Road from 2016 as a reference. His assessment was also based on his research of the area from July-August of this year.
Hua also commented on the quality of the gas station’s location in town being a great location for this drive-through proposal.
Mitchell later inquired if the drive-through would exclusively sell Dunkin Donuts products or convenience store items as well. Hall replied that only Dunkin Donuts products would be sold through the drive-through.
“It seems to me that the Dunkin Donuts is another use on this lot… and I suppose that can be a function of how you view it,” Mitchell said. He noted that gas stations have a one use per lot rule.
Land Use Agency Deputy Director of Planning Rob Sibley brought up concerns about the existing landscaping, light poles, and signs that do not appear to meet zoning standards. Hall said he would look into it.
The P&Z agreed that the public hearing for Applications 21.21 and 21.22 will need to be continued to the next regularly scheduled meeting.
It was unanimously approved, and the meeting will take place on September 16, at 7 pm, in the Council Chambers of the Newtown Municipal Center.
For more information about the Planning and Zoning Commission, visit newtown-ct.gov/planning-zoning-commission.
Reporter Alissa Silber can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.