Smaller Version of Hawleyville Gas Station Proposed
Undeterred by the Planning & Zoning Commission’s (P&Z) recent unanimous rejection of its large gas station/convenience store proposed for a site near the Exit 9 interchange of Interstate 84 in Hawleyville, a development firm has submitted a smaller version of that project for P&Z review and action.
Development firm 13 Hawleyville Road LLC’s new application for a special zoning permit for the 3.7-acre site at 13 Hawleyville Road (Route 25) is scheduled for a P&Z public hearing at 7:30 pm on Thursday, December 19, at Newtown Municipal Center, 3 Primrose Street.
Following a November 7 public hearing, at which the earlier proposal drew stiff opposition from the public, P&Z members unanimously rejected the development project, deciding that such a facility would create worse traffic problems in an area that now experiences heavy congestion during commuter rush periods. It was unusual for the P&Z to reject such a commercial development proposal, especially by a unanimous vote.
Residents from the Hillcrest Drive and Whippoorwill Hill Road neighborhoods had told P&Z members at the November 7 session that the area already has traffic problems that would worsen due to traffic flow generated by the presence of a gas station/convenience store. The site is on the west side of Hawleyville Road, just south of eastbound Interstate 84’s Exit 9 off-ramp.
The new development application for the vacant land seeks P&Z approval to construct a gas station, convenience store, parking areas, and utilities.
In view of the scaled-down proposal, Frederick P. Clark Associates of Fairfield has submitted a revised traffic report on the traffic impact of such a facility. Similarly, Artel Engineering Group LLC of Brookfield has revised its technical drawings for the project.
The P&Z rejected an application that proposed a 5,293-square-foot convenience store and 16 fuel-filling positions for a gas station. The revised project proposes a 4,083-square-foot convenience store and eight fuel-filling positions for vehicles. The current proposal for a convenience store is about 30 percent smaller than the initial version. The fuel-filling area would be covered by a freestanding canopy. An access point on Hawleyville Road would allow entering/exiting traffic, while a Covered Bridge Road access point would allow only entering traffic.
George Benson, town planning director, said December 2 that the currently proposed convenience store would be approximately the same size as a diner, which gained P&Z approval in 2015, but was never built there.
The 3.7-acre lot at 13 Hawleyville Road is the commercial component of an adjacent 210-unit rental apartment complex, known as Covered Bridge Apartments, which is being built by Covered Bridge Newtown LLC at a 22-acre site at 9 Covered Bridge Road.
The apartments and the diner project gained P&Z approval in 2015 under the Incentive Housing-10 (IH-10), zoning regulations, which allow high-density multifamily construction provided that at least 20 percent of the dwellings are designated as “affordable housing” and rented out to income-eligible people.
As such, 42 of the 210 dwellings will be deemed “affordable” and rented out at lower rates than the 168 “market rate” units in the complex. The rents for market-rate units subsidize the affordable rents. One of the “incentives” which the P&Z provides to developers to build multifamily complexes under the IH-10 rules is that such projects are allowed to have a commercial component, such as a diner or a gas station/convenience store.
(In its initial approval, the multifamily complex was to have 180 dwellings in six buildings, but a subsequent application resulted in P&Z approving 210 units in seven buildings).
The high-density development in that area was made possible by the town’s $3.8 million extension of the Hawleyville sanitary sewer system in 2016.
At the November 7 P&Z session at which the P&Z rejected the developer’s initial application, P&Z members heard from the public that such a facility is not needed because a similar project is under construction about 2,000 feet to the north at a 0.7-acre site at 26 Hawleyville Road. Both sites lie within the Hawleyville Center Design District (HCDD) zone.
As the town’s planning director, Mr Benson heads the town’s Planning Department. That department includes the Land Use Agency, which regulates local land use, and also the Economic and Community Development Office, which promotes economic and community development.
Mr Benson said the reduced number of fuel-filling positions and a smaller convenience store would indicate that the facility would have less traffic flow. He noted that the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) last March approved that site for gas station use.
There are areas of town that are zoned for commercial development, and Hawleyville is one of them, he said. Extending the municipal sanitary sewer system to Hawleyville to foster development was expensive, he noted.
Asked about the prospects of the project gaining P&Z approval from an economic development viewpoint, Mr Benson said. “We’re (the town) trying to develop Hawleyville... We have to look at [the proposal].” he said.
Asked whether he expects the P&Z to approve the reduced-size project, he commented, “I have no idea if it will be approved.” Mr Benson noted that the P&Z has three new regular members/alternates as a result of the recent municipal elections. “It’s really going to come down to the traffic issue,” he said.
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. The HCDD zone is designed to promote business activities that will serve the surrounding neighborhoods and to a lesser degree, accommodate services compatible with the zone’s proximity to Exit 9 of Interstate 84.
HCDD zoning is intended to encourage development with high quality design, which 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.